WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. — When the cell doors close inside the Winnebago County jail, officers hope it’s the start of the road to recovery.

What You Need To Know

  • Winnebago County Sheriff's Office is offering a free STAR (Sobriety Treatment Assisted Recovery) program to inmates

  • The STAR program includes all kinds of substance abuse addictions

  • Solutions Recovery reported 1,993 interactions from the jail last year

Lt. Amber Rozek has been with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office for 21 years. She said substance abuse problems are a reason some people break the law and end up there.

“What we were seeing is kind of a revolving door of people with addiction issues coming in for property crime… theft, burglary and it’s directly related to them trying to feed this addiction that they had to a substance,” Rozek said.

There were 47 overdose deaths in Winnebago County last year, according to Rozek. That’s 13 more than a year before. 

It’s a trend that officials are trying to reverse. In 2022, the county jail partnered with the organization Solutions Recovery as part of the STAR program.

“So, the STAR program stands for sobriety, treatment, assisted, recovery. We’ve expanded our Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program to be inclusive to all kinds of addiction,” Rozek said.

The STAR program is voluntary and is available to an inmate any time after the booking process at no cost.

“They have free phone calls to Solutions Recovery. Anytime that they have day room time. They can make as many calls as they want. They will meet in person with the recovery coach up to two times a week,” Rozek said.

It was a flyer inside the Winnebago County jail about the program that caught William Winters’ attention. Winters said after 20 years of struggling with addiction, he wanted to change his life.

“I was really tired of living the way that I was. It started for me with posting on the jail wall a free phone call anytime,” Winters said.

Winter said he made the call for help. A year later, he said he’s clean. Winters said the STAR program has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

“I get to be a good dad. I get to be there for family members. Again, I get to help the new guys that are coming into the program who are just as scared as I was,” Winters said.

Rozek said it’s great to see people like Winters undergo such amazing transformations.

“Seeing them at their lowest moments and watching them when they come in, this is the one time that you get some satisfaction out of your job knowing that you did some good,” Rozek said.

In the STAR program’s first year, Rozek said 399 inmates inquired about the program, 63 returned and continued with the program, and 29 people are still in recovery.