The new Richmond jail opened in July. The facility was build with less beds in the hopes of keeping more people who commit crimes out of jail and getting them the help they need.
That’s also why the Richmond Day Reporting Center (RDRC) opened. It’s an intense program that serves as an alternative to jail.
In January, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and other top city officials had dinner with people they are used to arresting and putting in jail. There, Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring honored 21 men and women. Herring says that his office decides to go through the program is on a case by case basis.
“This is a huge milestone. The alternative for these people was jail. It wasn’t probation and it wasn’t some other program. It was a cell at the old jail quite frankly. So this a huge accomplishment for them and a step in the right direction for the city.”
34-year-old Lincoln Whitaker attended the dinner with his mom. Whitaker has been sober on for 254 days.
And on the day of the dinner, instead of going to jail for crimes he committed, he’s graduating from RDRC.
“I feel good,” Whitaker told 8News investigative reporter Darrielle Snipes. “I feel happy.”
While this is the end of Lincoln’s alternative sentence, the work is just beginning for him as he tries to stay out of trouble. And that’s why the city started the program.
Lincoln says it was a challenge for him and he learned some important life lessons.
“I learned in the program that I need to change my negative thinking,” Whitaker explained. “I learned that I can’t change things that I have no control over… I have to let that go and that was the biggest thing for me. That was one of my biggest triggers.”
The city has a contract for $860,000 for re-entry services to run RDRC. It’s a first of its kind here in the Commonwealth.
Anyone who walks through the RDRC’s doors must show that they are not using and they take a series of classes at least four days a week. One of those classes includes an employment class — a requirement to participate at the Day Reporting Center. Other classes include life skills, anger management and parenting classes.
“Students” here go through several classes to get at the core of their criminal thinking to help understand why they do what they do so they can change, Program Manager Stephanie Saucier says.
“What we are trying to do is get at their criminal thinking, criminal personality. Have them go through different steps to address loyalty, honesty, acceptance,” Saucier says. “They have workbooks and as they do their work inside the class and outside the class they can progress through the program.”
Classes are also cognitive based to reduce recidivism.
“Teaches people to think differently,” Mario Woodard, liaison for the city of Richmond, told 8News. “How to make choices differently and getting people to change how they have run their lives and lived is not an easy thing to do… I have told some clients it might be easier if you stayed in jail. Because this is hard work.”
Hard work that keeps those small time criminals out of jail.
Sheriff C.T. Woody says alternative sentencing is fixing the problem, not putting a bandaid on it.
“You put an addict in here that needs to be treated for heroin addiction, he is still going to have the same problem when he gets out. So alternative sentencing works, it is going to work. I think it is a great way to actually help citizens realize their problems and keep them from coming back.”
Right now there are 193 people going through the program and there is room for 300 more.
Since its inception last year, roughly 59 didn’t complete the program. And only time will tell if those who did will remain out of trouble and out of jail.
“You treat the cause and then you prevent them from actually coming back in here. It works. I am proud of it.”