Repeat DWI offenders graduate in prison

They've gone through six months of intense counseling and rehabilitation.  Monday, more than 130 repeat DWI offenders called themselves graduates after completing the In Prison DWI
Recovery Program.  In September, KLTV 7 told you about the first DWI graduation at the MTC East Texas Treatment Facility in Henderson.  Monday, the remaining offenders received their certificates.

They didn't wear a cap and gown, and they didn't receive a diploma, but nothing can take away from the accomplishment these 130 men have made.

"It's a hard task for them to actually talk about their problems and their treatment plans, and going through the program for six months is not an easy task, so this is what we do every month," said Program Director Stacey Taylor.  "We do a celebration, or graduation for these offenders."  These men are the last of the original 500 offenders to graduate from the In Prison DWI Recovery Program, but the first in the state to undergo such treatment.  Omar Contreras of El Paso says the program has changed his way of thinking.

"A lot of things that I thought I was thinking, or doing right, were not, and I've realized that," said Contreras.  "This opportunity to come to this program has really opened my mind to make the right choices and wise decisions."  Contreras says he's confident he will live a better life, something State Senator John Whitmire, who was instrumental in obtaining funding for the program says he hopes to hear more of.

"They got to do it for themselves and the people that follow in their footsteps," said State Senator, District 15 John Whitmire.  "I have to sell this to our colleagues in Austin.  There are some that don't want to hear about it, so I need evidence.  I need examples of where it works, so I can do more."  More treatment for non-violent offenders like Contreras who says he's grateful for a second chance.

In January, Senator Whitmire says they will conduct a study on those offenders who went through the program.  The inmates are non-violent offenders who have been charged with three or more DWI's.

Molly Reuter, Reporting