Former inmates, lifelong addicts stay sober for 1st time thanks to SMART program at Flagler jail

First-ever jailhouse drug treatment program is keeping inmates from coming back

The many faces of 59-year-old Billy Doran are posted on the Volusia County Jail’s website – the mugshots of his many arrests over the years, mostly for theft, mostly related to drugs. He’s been arrested as many as 60 times in Volusia County and sent to prison seven times.

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – The many faces of 59-year-old Billy Doran are posted on the Volusia County Jail’s website – the mugshots of his many arrests over the years, mostly for theft, mostly related to drugs. He’s been arrested as many as 60 times in Volusia County and sent to prison seven times.

The faces of despair and anguish were what his family and friends grew to know. They lost trust in him and chose not to be around him.

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Doran admits to using drugs for 46 years of his life.

His latest arrest landed him at the Flagler County Jail at the beginning of the year.

But three months after his release and graduation from the newly-created S.M.A.R.T. program at the jail, the face News 6 saw was a different Doran: hopeful, happy, even excited.

What made this visit to jail different?

“I just got tired,” Doran said. “I got tired of living in a tent in the woods. I wanted something different. So when I came here, there was no program at that time. I came here in January and the [S.M.A.R.T.] program started in March, and they asked me, ‘Do you want to give it a try?’ and I went in there and after three days I packed up and said I didn’t want to be there. Almost quit, but I didn’t thank God.”

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Successful Mental Health Addiction Recovery Treatment. Inmates with substance abuse and alcohol abuse problems live together and learn together with counselors and recovering addicts-turned teachers.

Doran graduated from S.M.A.R.T. and was released at the end of May. For the first time in his adult life, he has stayed sober for more than three months.

“I would say it [S.M.A.R.T.] made a big difference because now we can work together on a recovery,” Doran said. “Whereas other places they would just say here’s your homework.”

Daniel Dacosta was the first inmate to graduate from S.M.A.R.T right before Doran and has also stayed sober.

Dacosta began abusing alcohol and drugs when he was 16. Today, he’s 28.

Tonda Gardner, recovering from a meth addiction, graduated from S.M.A.R.T. and was released from the jail around the same time as Dacosta and Doran.

“And if I hadn’t gotten in trouble, I would probably be in a really bad shape,” Gardner.

Because of the support that started inside the jail in the S.M.A.R.T. program, that continues on the outside. All three have become unlikely friends, holding each other accountable. They even text each other “gratitude lists” daily.

Doran read his latest list:

“Today I am grateful for having a lifestyle I am not used to having because I had sold my lifestyle for way too cheap,” Doran said.

Flagler County Jail Chief Daniel Engert, who runs the jail for the Sheriff, said his early number show results.

Since June, 31 inmates have graduated.

Eight of the 31 have relapsed and have been rearrested; that’s around 25%. But Sheriff Rick Staly said on average the relapse and rearrest percentage is much higher, more like 50%.

Twenty two of the S.M.A.R.T. grads have kept in touch, out of trouble and off drugs.

“We put them in their own housing unit which is intended to start that peer-inspired living where they eat, breathe, sleep recovery,” Engert said. “That’s where they start counting on each other, that’s where they start learning focusing on others instead of themselves.”

Doran was clear – he counts on the support every day. And every day is still a struggle. Sometimes, each hour is a struggle.

“Just one day at a time, that’s all I do,” Doran said. “Sometimes I have to get on my knees, I have to pray because the urges come and they come. I want to go get high, but you know what, I don’t act on it.”

News 6 profiled two of the eight inmates who were rearrested after graduating from S.M.A.R.T. Both previously promised they would not be arrested again.

Chief Engert said upon release, the graduates started off strong but then decided they were going to try to make it “on their own.”

Engert said their mistake was giving up on the support that has been so vital to the other grads’ success.


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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.