Experts advocate for leaving addicts in local jails

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Some experts are calling on more people to leave their loved ones in jail if they’re an addict. They say it could be the difference between life and death.

A mother 8News spoke with said when her son, Austin, who is an addict, was arrested a few months ago on drug charges, her first instinct was to bail him out as soon as possible as her mind raced with images of him in jail.

“That’s what I know is what I see on TV and people getting hurt in jail,” she said. Any parent’s instinct is to save their child, to rescue their child.”

“You think you can fix it, and you cannot, you cannot fix it, but you can make it worse.”

She called her friend, John Shinholser, president of the McShin Foundation, an addiction recovery center, who told her jail was the best place for Austin and to leave him there.

“You don’t let a drunk driver back out on the road when they’re still drunk, why are you going to let an addict back out in the community when they’re still toxic?” Shinholser explained.

Shinholser told Stephanie that unlike what she’s seen on TV, jails in our area have all implemented programs designed to help addicts and that bailing him out could cost him his life.

“Let them stay there and fully detox, don’t bail out and addict that’s toxic and doesn’t have a better place to go to,” Shinholser said.

“What am I going to do and how am I going to feel, and how am I going to get through life if I bail my son out of jail and he dies?”

Austin says he begged his mom to bail him out for weeks.

“For three weeks I called her every day about 10 times a day,” Austin said.

That was before starting Henrico jail’s addiction recovery program, “RISE.”

“Once he got into the program he was a different person,” Stephanie recalled.

“When I was released finally after not getting bonded out, I knew for a fact I would have used again if I would have been bailed out,” Austin said.

Henrico County inmate Jessica Schulze says staying in jail saved her life.

“One time I died for seven minutes and they had a body bag waiting for me, when I woke up I looked over and there was a white body bag,” Schulze said.

Schulze says she’s lucky to be alive. She is currently in Henrico County Jail’s recovery program, but the first time she was arrested, her parents bailed her out. She stayed clean for a while but eventually started using.

“I used four times, and three out of those four times I overdosed,” said Schulz.

Last year, Henrico County saw 14 people die from an overdose between their arrest and preliminary court hearing. Schulze says she’s had friends die after being bailed out.

“In this past year and a half I’ve had seven of my close friends and my fiancée pass away from a drug overdose,” said Schulze. “When you’re out on the street, using or drinking it just, your rational thinking is out the window.”

She says if you have a loved one that’s an addict in jail, think twice before bailing them out.

“As much as jail sucks, it’s a temporary thing and I know that it saved my life and it saved a lot of other people’s lives,” said Shulze.

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