New community center working to keep Richmond inmates from returning to jail

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new community center hopes to help former inmates rehabilitate and re-integrated into their communities.

The REAL Life Community Center is set to open its doors on Main Street in December.

Day after day in the city of Richmond, someone is put behind bars for committing a crime.

And day after a day people are released from jail, with nowhere to go and no help to navigate their new found freedom.

“You must have somewhere for them to go to continue their treatment the aftercare is critical,” Sheriff C.T. Woody said.

That’s where REAL Life comes in, it is a non-profit that helps inmates transition from life behind bars.

It’s through the REAL Recovery House that they found an even bigger need: somewhere that addresses the deep-rooted issues these individuals are facing.

“Obviously, different people have different needs and it’s not one size fits all,” REAL Life founder Sarah Scarbrough said. “So, it will be very case-management heavy to develop an individualized plan for folks to help them overcome whatever their greatest risks and needs are.”

The center will offer mental health services, addiction recovery, family counseling, financial advice and faith support.

Richmond’s recidivism rate is high, and they hope this new center will reduce that number.

“We need to be upfront to prevent them from coming into the jail to get that type of treatment,” Sheriff C.T. Woody said. “The treatment should be outside of the jail, and it will keep them from going into the jail.”

Many don’t understand how difficult returning home can be for someone trying to make a change.

“Just looking at us and saying he’s never going to change, but every day we have people breaking ground, every day people are staying clean, every day we are trying constantly,” said REAL Life program member Arsenio Harris.

Arsenio Harris was just recently released from jail. It is a place he’s been before, but a place he’s hoping to never go back to.

“It’s not that a lot of us don’t want to change, it’s that we don’t know how,” Harris said.

Harris lives at the REAL Recovery House, and is working to overcome his addictions. He is just one of many people who will benefit from this new center coming to Richmond.

“To give people that option or that chance to realize that you are not alone, that there is help because some people just want to know that somebody else cares,” Harris said. “That does matter because nobody wants to be alone.”

The center stems from a partnership with the REAL Program that’s inside the Richmond jail, but the center will be open to the entire community, not just former inmates.

The center is funded by the REAL Life non-profit and does not use tax-payer dollars.

For more information, visit their website.

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