Escapes from court-ordered rehabs a common occurrence
by Rachael Brown
rbrown@annistonstar.com
Jul 17, 2013 | 3382 views |  0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A woman was still on the lam today after escaping from a local drug rehabilitation center in June, she was court-ordered to the program by a judge in exchange for a reduced bond.

Mia Rea Sims, 22, of Sylacauga, was charged with first-degree robbery by the Oxford Police Department in April. Sims was one of four suspects charged with robbing the Samco gas station on U.S. 78 in Eastaboga. A crowbar was used during the robbery, Oxford police said, but no one was injured.

Oxford police Lt. L.G. Owens said today that Sims was outgated by a judge to an Oxford rehab facility following the robbery charges.

Shortly after she entered the rehab, Sims and another resident of the program “walked off,” the lieutenant said.

A felony third-degree escape warrant was issued for Sims on June 14, according to Owens.

Owens said warrants for rehab escapes are issued through the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. Sims’ warrant includes a nationwide extradition, Owens said, which means if she’s discovered by law enforcement anywhere in the U.S. she will be extradited back to Calhoun County. Owens said suspects who are ordered to participate in rehab are still considered in custody.

“Part of their release into the treatment facility is that they don’t leave,” Owens said.

Owens said rehabs don’t force residents to stay in the program, and many of the residents are required to work outside the facility to pay for their lodging.

“There’s no law enforcement present. Is it looked at the same as an escape from a detention or correctional facility? No, I don’t believe so,” Owens said.

Online court records include a handwritten letter from Sims addressed to District Judge Chris McIntyre stating, “My original bond was $100,000 cash, but you advised me you would reduce my bond to $10,000 conditionally if I agreed to enter rehab.”

The letter is dated May 22, 2013 and is included with a notice from Real Life Recovery, a rehab located on Hamric Drive in Oxford, of Sims’ acceptance into the “12-step oriented, faith-based program.”

Attempts to reach Amy Robinett, director of Real Life Recovery, Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said he’s had 18 rehab escapes reported to his office in the last year.

Amerson said a majority of people that are sent to rehabs commit property crimes and are “not considered a threat to society or the judge wouldn’t have sent them there.”

The sheriff said rehab programs are an opportunity for offenders to change their behaviors and redeem themselves, but clearly defined rules are needed to run the facilities. Amerson said the programs vary in quality and some are not supervised at the level law enforcement officers deem appropriate.

Lt. Jon Garlick, a mental health officer with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, said it usually doesn’t take law enforcement officers long to locate suspects that escape from rehab because they generally return to their friends and family.

“They’re not thinking in terms of it being escape. They’re drawn to go do what they want to do,” Garlick said.

Garlick said once an escapee is found they return to jail, but it’s up to a judge whether they return to the rehab or remain behind bars.

Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.

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