By MEG KINNARD Associated Press COLUMBIA -- In and out of prison for the past 30 years, Brian Shores had all but given up hope that he'd ever have a life without crime. His temper, coupled with a dependency on alcohol and drugs, landed the Aiken County man in prison time and again, most recently for aggravated assault and battery and threatening a public official. But Shores, who is to be released Monday after a five-year stint in a South Carolina prison, says he now has a new lease on life thanks to the solace he's found in a faith-based prison recovery program. "I'm here because God sent me here," said Shores, 52, his forearms covered in the swirling black tattoos worn by many inmates. "I know about drug addiction and alcoholism. And I guess it just takes whenever you finally hit bottom and you give up. You've got nothing left but God." Shores is one of 32 inmates who graduated earlier this month from the Potter's Clay Faith Based Addictions Treatment Unit. Attended by people in their final 60 days in prison, the program for inmates with addictions ranging from alcohol and marijuana to meth and heroin is one of only two like it in South Carolina prisons. During the program's sessions, inmates split into groups. In one room, the men meet with the Rev. Kerry Breen, who leads a discussion about the importance of faith in beating a substance addiction, once and for all. "The alignment of our will with God's will must happen at a heart level, not at a head level," Breen told the men as he scrawled "sacrifice," "asceticism" and other terms on a dry-erase board. "At the end of the day, it's all about you and God." Next door, another group of men sat in a semicircle around instructor William Harrington, who takes a more clinical approach. During an exercise on communication, Harrington has two inmates sit back-to-back, with one describing an image on a piece of paper to the other, who tries to replicate it himself. "We are trying to show them a way of re-entry into society, that you can't go back into society with some of the same things you brought in here with you," said Harrington, who tries to impress upon the men the physical and mental horrors drug addiction can inflict and also holds private counseling sessions with them. The physical withdrawal symptoms for the inmates, many in prison for years before entering the program, have long since dissipated. But Breen and Harrington strive to keep the men from slipping into familiar, destructive patterns once they're released. Breen tries to get the men set up with a church or other faith community to continue to foster the reliance on a higher power that he sees as crucial to their overall recovery. And Harrington tries to place the men in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous groups in the areas where they plan to live. The Potter's Clay program is South Carolina's first faith-based program in state prisons, and prisons chief Jon Ozmint says the agency is open to others. For the past few years, Ozmint and other officials have been meeting with groups from Prison Fellowship, which helps pay for faith-based prison dorms in other states. It's something he wants to get started in South Carolina. Officials hope the addictions program will help inmates stay clean, out of trouble -- and ultimately out of prison. In Florida, officials say inmates in three entirely faith-based prisons committed 30 percent fewer infractions than comparable inmates elsewhere. A definitive success rate for the program, in its second year, is yet to be determined. But Harry Prim, who manages the grant money that funds the program, says he can already see positive results. "Having a component that has a spiritual base or is faith-based, coupled with a more traditional secular medical model, has really provided every participant the opportunity to talk about how addiction and recovery needs to be addressed by the total person," said Prim, who also serves as a lay minister in the Lutheran Church. "This program is a recovery support program." South Carolina's lawmakers seem to have faith in the program, too. This past budget year, the state Legislature opted to make the $100,000 needed to fund the programs annually part of the prison agency's recurring funding. Ozmint hopes that eventually will boost his department's ability to treat addicted inmates. "We need more addictions treatment beds, actual inpatient programs," Ozmint said. "We're putting too many inmates back on the street who we know need to learn how to manage their addiction." Nationally, federal experts estimate that two-thirds of inmates released from state prisons are re-arrested for serious offenses within three years, and 52 percent go back behind bars. Faith-based program proponents say lower rates are possible, but there's little supportive data on the issue, and some skeptics say the programs "cherry-pick" motivated inmates who would be less likely to re-offend anyway. While he acknowledges that the recidivism rate is high among any inmate population, Breen says he still feels his efforts are worthwhile. "If we make a difference in four or five or six guys who leave prison and don't even use again and don't come back, not only have we made a difference in six guys' lives but their kids' and their kids'," he said after one recent session. "You have the opportunity to change a while generation." As his release date drew close, Shores' eyes gleamed as he talked about the life that awaited him on the outside. He's set to occupy one of the 32 beds at a live-in counseling program connected with Breen's church. Once there, Shores says he hopes to be able to nurture a drug-free life and serve as an example for others struggling to overcome addiction. "I've got faith in God. I know he's taking care of me," he said. "I'll take God with me when I go. I'll just drop on my knees and pray and call somebody that I trust. ... My faith is growing more and more every day."