JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A drug rehabilitation program is on the chopping block due to budget cuts and Sheriff John Rutherford says that will impact public safety.
Nathaniel Acker says that he was the first black engineer for Florida East Railroad. He was on the fast track, but his career got derailed thanks to crack. After 28 years tied down by the drug, he had enough.
"I flagged an officer down on the street, I wanted to live," said Acker. "I was high. I had been on a binge for two days."
After a handful of arrests, Acker wanted to get clean. He checked out of his drug-fueled life and in to the Matrix House at the Community Transition Center. The Matrix House is a nationally recognized drug treatment program for 135 inmates at CTC. But due to city cuts, Sheriff John Rutherford says he will have to regretfully close the rehab facility.
According to numbers from the sheriff's office, the Matrix House treated 356 offenders in 2010. In the year following their release, 60 criminals, or 17 percent, were re-arrested on drug and/or alcohol related charges. Sheriff Rutherford says that's proof the program works.
"These cuts by the mayor are taking police officers off the street and putting drug addicts back on the street and that's why it's so important that we save this drug treatment program," said Sheriff Rutherford.
Former and current clients tell Action News that the long term benefits from the program should outweigh any temporary savings the city would get by cutting it.
"I feel like if I didn't come to this program, my family would come see me at my own funeral," said Tina Prater.
Acker returns rejoins his family in the real world on Monday. And for the first time, he says he is prepared to get a clean start.
"Just doing things that I know are right to do now, as far as my addiction is concerned. The program has been a blessing to me."
The Matrix House has been treating male and female prisoners since 2005.