AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas describes Rhea Nixon and Sara Shook as two of the unsung heroes of the Potter County Detention Center.
Each day, they work with those incarcerated on life skills by addressing issues with their past or mental health through a 12 week long inmate program.
The end goal: ensuring they won’t return to jail after they serve their time.
“We teach them life skills, we teach them programs called house of healing, different things like that,” said Sheriff Thomas. “It goes back into their past and kind of gets rid of some of those hurts and angers that they’ve had for so long. And we try to get rid of those, and we work through those and trying to find alternative routes besides alcohol abuse or drug abuse to take care of those problems.”
Sheriff Thomas nominated the duo for Above and Beyond, saying their job is one that can be difficult to understand.
“It does take a little bit to understand why we’re teaching a 30 year old person how to deal with life skills or how to control their anger,” he said. “Most people have never had to deal with that. Most of [the inmates] have grown up on their own, single parent or no parent or what have you, and the only way they knew how to do things was however they could do to survive. So we’re trying to teach them how to survive in a real world like you and I do.”
He’s not the only one who believes they’re making a difference. Some of the inmates they mentor helped NewsChannel10 thank them for a job well done with a surprise.
They all had positive things to say about the inmate program. Overall, the women say they’ve become a family through sharing their pain.
“This is the miracle, this is the change that makes a difference in our lives,” said one participant Marisela Lopez. “You can go in this closed minded and think ‘I just want the certificate,’ but like when you go through this process, it goes deeper than that.”
Nixon said the participants are worth every ounce of change they put into it.
“I couldn’t be more lucky to be able to work with them and watch them grow in their journey,” she said. “And I guess for the community, or Amarillo at large, what I would like them to know is that there’s a lot more to a person than just one part of their life and that there’s some really incredible people in jail who want to be different and do different and they need support to do that.”
Shook echoed that statement.
“Like Rhea says all the time, we both love what we do anyways and it’s just a bonus that the sheriff pays us to do it.”