RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Getting back to life on the streets after a jail term is not easy for a lot of people, but there is a program at the Richmond City Justice Center helping to guide them so that when they get out, they stay out.
“Y’all know my message is always the same when I come on up here in this jail,” Richard Sparrow speaks to dozens of residents at the jail. He can speak from experience that change is the key to getting on the right path after doing time.
“If I can do it, they can do it. People deserve second chances,” Sparrow explains. He was in and out of the City Jail from 1987 to 2010 on drug and robbery charges.
When Sparrow was released that last time, he and some buddies from the cell block founded ROOTS, Reinventing Ourselves Outside the System. It is a program that takes them back in to address behavior modification, anger management, substance abuse and more.
“It’s a hope builder, it’s a hope builder, it’s a motivational builder,” says Travis Mines, another ROOTS Co-Founder. “We have found a way out, and we want to share that.”
Inmates, like Markeith Woody, listen with an attentive ear. “For them to get out and them come back in to share that message of strength and hope, it’s very inspiring.”
This is the third time the 41-year-old has been behind bars since age 19, but Woody says this is it for him. ROOTS offers structure that he needs. “Discipline, it instills a sense of self-worth, it teaches you how to cope with every day life situations.”
Virginia’s recidivism rate was 31.3% in 2007, but last year Governor Terry McAuliffe announced it dropped to 22.8%, largely due to programs like this one.
ROOTS focuses on job readiness, how to budget money and other skills men and women behind bars need for life on the outside.
“When a person can reach down inside themselves and find out who they are and get away from some of the stigma that keeps us binded and holds us hostage, then we can begin to make the changes that we need to make to become productive citizens,” says Sparrow.