AUSTIN, Texas - On Friday, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition expressed faith in the seemingly irredeemable at a day-long program meant to humanize substance abuse.

The audience at the State Capitol heard from people who have walked the difficult path to recovery.

Reggie Smith, 52, was released from prison less than a decade ago. He now has a bachelor’s degree in social work and is working toward his master’s. 

“I was someone by all indications was a throwaway person so if anything my life and what I’m doing now proves that people can change," said Smith.

The “Treatment First: A Day of Awareness” event emphasized support for rehabilitation as an alternative to jail.

"Having had my first child in jail, I feel like there could have been a different response to that that allowed me to be a mother to my son," said Lauren Johnson, of the Reeentry Roundtable program.

Criminal justice advocates argue that the taxpayer dollars that go into the high cost of incarceration could instead be reinvested into community services and pretrial treatment programs. Supporters say that's what reduces recidivism.

“We know that, that 62 percent re-arrest rate is a very real thing and we’re essentially just throwing away tax payer dollars," said Shakira Pumphrey, of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

It's a reality motivating advocates hoping for redemption.