Habilitat Hawaii turned around some of the State's most hardened criminals
For much of his life - David Matthews lived and knew of only one way of life - behind bars.
KANEOHE, Hawaii - It has turned around the lives of some of the state's most hardened criminals.
"Habilitat Hawaii," a last chance for some inmates and one of the toughest programs in the state, there's much at the Kaneohe Recovery Center.
"Being at where I was at the time before Habilitat, it was kind of like lights out," Dave Matthews, Habilitat graduate said.
We asked Matthews what brought him here. "Some bad choices, in a sense," he said.
For much of his life - Matthews lived and knew of only one way of life - behind bars.
Locked up for more than 13 years on multiple state and federal charges including theft and firearms violations.
In 2013 - he reached a breaking point.
"When I last went in and saw the judge he was saying, ok, you got a 40-year mandatory coming up," Matthews said.
Facing that long-term return to OCCC, Matthews grasped at a final lifeline. A 2.5 year program at Habilitat.
"It's a tough program. We're pretty much known as the toughest program in the State of Hawaii," Jeff Nash, Habilitat Executive Director said.
The first six months of treatment are arguably the toughest, mentally.
"People think we're caged animals, little do they know we're learning how to become men and become women," a woman in the program said.
Through a gauntlet of seminars and group counseling, residents are taught to process their emotions rather than lashing out.
Habilitat's approach treat the underlying collection of psychological issues and the drug addiction will cease to exist.
"In a lot of those cases, they need more than just plain drug treatment, they need a life overhaul," Nash said.
Like most of the counselors here, Jeff Nash speaks from experience.
A graduate of the program in 2000, he's now Habilitat's Executive Director.
"What we found is when they know that we've sat where they sit, we felt like they feel, and we've gotten passed it, there is no more powerful example," Nash said.
Recognized as one of the nations top rehabilitation centers. Habilitat Hawaii possess a success rate three times the national average. What started out as eight people living in a home in Kailua, has transformed into this one acre property in kaneohe that houses more than 100 people.
The key is the skills they learn.
After that initial six months, residents can enroll in vocational programs like culinary arts, computers, business, construction and carpentry.
Outsourced contracts through those trades allow Habilitat to be self sustaining.
It costs $66 a day to house each of its residents.
A fraction of the $140 per day it costs per Hawaii prisoner.
It also provides a second chance for graduates like Matthews who now heads Habilitat's construction program.
Just a few weeks ago, his crew completed an overhaul on a campus bath house.
We asked Matthews if he has ever imagined three-to-four years ago that he would be able to do something like this? "Oh no, no, not at all. Looking at what we do now, I'm really proud of what I do," Matthews said.
Pride was hard for Matthews to come by a few years ago. Even his closest relationship was failing.
"I remember that day I got arrested. I called her up and asked, "will you wait for me?" I didn't say hi. I said, "will you wait for me?" so we were passed that losing point already. Because they were already gone," Matthews said.
Now, he and his fiance are shopping for a wedding ring and he's preparing for his son's graduation. Opportunities he say would have never happened if he returned to OCCC instead of Habilitat.
"It became a family, a home, somewhere I found a niche in life. Made it my own and here we are today," he said.