Research Aims to Develop Resources for Substance Abuse Offenders

For seven and a half years, Dani Moody worked at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. She started out as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, before later serving as a detention officer, sheriff’s administrative assistant and assistant jail administrator. Now, as a graduate student in Western Carolina University’s clinical psychology program, the Hayesville native goes to jail for a different reason. Under the direction of associate professor Albert Kopak of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Moody interviews inmates at the Jackson County jail and compiles the data. Unlike her previous job at the jail when she was seen as an authority figure, Moody said inmates are much more willing to talk to her.

Dani Moody begins her day traveling an hour from Hayesville, three days a week, to conduct graduate research at the Jackson County Detention Center. Dani enters the Sheriff’s station, ready to begin her day conducting comprehensive evaluations of any substance use disorders and common mental health disorders that are seen within incarcerated populations. The information she collects will be used to investigate the link between substance use disorders and other mental health problems with recidivism, being re-arrested.

Waiting for admittance into the jail, Dani prepares slips of paper that will house the names of inmates who have been processed within the past 24 to 96 hours. Security restrictions limit her supplies to one pen, unbound paper and a couple of envelopes.

After checking his weapon into safety lock boxes, Sheriff Hall escorts Dani onto the premises of the Jackson County Jail.

A sign-in sheet must be complete with name, date, time of entry and her purpose for visit before the interview process can begin.

Dani enters Main Control, the most secure area in the jail, to access the roster of processed inmates for the day.

In the jail’s attorney bond room, Dani prepares the lists of names by separating them into gender categories, placing priority on female inmates. By using a structured interview instrument called CAPE 5: Comprehensive Addiction and Psychological Evaluation, Moody collects data from a list of questions related to an inmate’s lifestyle and addictive behaviors.

Moody selects the first name and requests shift sergeant Christy Sims to retrieve the inmate for interview.  Moody mentioned that jail staff have been very supportive of her research, working with her to minimize time delays and provide security during the process.

Inmate Carolyn Loftis, who is serving time for misdemeanor probation violation, shares details with Dani about past addictions and reasons for wanting to seek rehabilitation. Moody notes that most inmates are willing to volunteer for the interview since they are in lock down from 1 to 6 p.m. without normal communications.

Moody has been interviewing inmates three days a week since May. The information she is gathering also will be used for her thesis, focusing on the female population, which Moody said tends to experience more negative outcomes. Kopak said he hopes the data can be used to provide more resources to inmates.