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Retiring sheriff plans to take new job, helping those battling addiction

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight plans to head up First Step, a nonprofit that provides behavioral health services.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Retiring Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight won't be kicking back on a beach somewhere after his last day on Jan. 4.

He's already lined up a new job as the President and CEO of First Step. It's a nonprofit that provides behavioral health services to those who struggle with addiction or mental health conditions.

Knight says he saw a revolving door at the jail, with inmates who just needed someone to take the time to offer some help.

“It feels better to help people than to incarcerate people,” Knight said. “This is insanity. If we don't look for a better way to keep people out of trouble, we're part of the insanity ourselves in law enforcement; so let's try to do something different and not do the same thing over and over again.”

In 2009, the county started recovery programs inside the jail. It now has 54 different programs.

Knight sees the divergence of the courts, corrections, law enforcement and mental health services as a good thing to help fewer people commit crimes again.

He starts his new job on Jan. 25.

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