QUINCY — Alvin Palmer always has believed he’s a good person.
Now, after nearly 20 years of battles with the police, courts, alcohol and drugs, Palmer says he’s simply ready to make better choices.
“I’ve learned to love more,” he said after Wednesday’s graduation ceremony for the RISE program, administered by the Adams County Probation Office. “I’ve learned the real true importance of life. I don’t want to waste my life.”
The event in the Adams County Courthouse recognized Palmer and four other graduates — Alicia Damico, Jessica Jones, Lachanda Louis and Jamie Cummings.
RISE, which stands for Reinforcing Behaviors, Individualized Case Plans, Skill Building & Engagement, addresses criminal behavior in regard to the criminal thinking aspect, with the goal of lasting behavioral change. A $405,383 grant from Adult Redeploy Illinois, created in 2009 as part of the Crime Reduction Act, supports the program in Adams County. The ARI program increases alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.
Individuals must meet with probation officers multiple times per week
In exchange for grant funding, sites agree to reduce by 25 percent the number of non-violent offenders sent to the Illinois Department of Corrections from their target populations. It targets people with a history of prior probation sentences and/or commitments to the Department of Corrections.
Individuals must meet with probation officers multiple times per week and submit to numerous drug tests. They must complete substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment as necessary, along with Moral Reconation Therapy — a 12-step behavioral treatment approach referring to the process of making conscious decisions.
Justin Brock, a probation officer for the county who handles the RISE caseload, says the first 30 to 60 days of a person’s involvement with the program are critical.
“The most important part is getting them engaged,” he said. “In that 60-day window, you’re going to find out if they’re in it or if they’re out of it. This is a last-chance probation.
“I tell everyone if you mess up, talk to me about it. Don’t just feel like you’ve messed up, you relapse, you use, and then you just disappear. I can’t work with that. If you come in and say, ‘Hey, I just used last night,’ Now, you’ve given me something to work with, right? I’m not here to say, ‘Oh, you’re going to jail.’”
Program typically takes between 12 and 18 months
Brock says completion of the RISE program typically takes between 12 and 18 months. The program in Adams County started in 2018. Wednesday’s graduation class was only the second in program history.
Palmer, 40, was found guilty in July 2019 for possession of methamphetamine. Instead of heading to prison, he was sentenced to the RISE program.
Palmer described his life before entering the RISE program as “Chaotic. Sadness. Despair.”
“I was living a life that was just non-existent to everyone else,” he said. “It was non-progressive. It always stayed the same. Worse is worse. Bad is bad. It don’t get no worse than what I was living.
“Now I’m clean and just living life and moving forward.”
Palmer: ‘The process would scare most people’
Palmer said the RISE program gave him much-needed support.
“I’ve been in and out of that rehab thing for a while,” he said. “Basically, they held my hand to make sure I made it across the street. Once I got used to making it across the street, then I could cross the street on my own.
“The process would scare most people. Change is serious. It’s not easy. You do a bunch of strenuous stuff, you get used to doing it. Your reward is you get to take a break from what you were doing before, and before you know it, you get another break from what you were doing before. They hold your hand so you can get used to something new.”
Palmer realizes more challenges lie ahead, and some will continue to doubt him because of his checkered past.
“Don’t matter what they say. I don’t care what they say,” he said. “I’m living my life, doing my things. What you think and what you believe doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
Brock is proud of the new program and its graduates.
“These graduations … the best part of my job,” he said. “I wish I could have more of them.”