HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Eric Simpson says he was serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq when he was shot in the knee. It’s an injury that led Simpson on the path to addiction.
“I got put on narcotic prescription painkillers and within a couple years I was using heroin on a regular basis,” said Simpson.
Eventually, the addiction and drugs led Simpson to a cell in Pamunkey Regional Jail.
“Did my time, got out, got reintroduced into society and within a couple months I was right back in Pamunkey,” said Simpson.
But in his 2nd visit things were different. This time, the jail had partnered with the drug recovery center The McShin Foundation and created a recovery program for inmates with addiction. Since then Simpson’s been sober for 18 months and out of jail for 81 days.
“I am completely grateful that it’s there, it saved my life,” said Simpson.
Simpson’s success is not unique. New numbers show that in the past two years only 31 percent of inmates who went through the program came back to jail, that’s compared to 53 percent of regular inmates.
“I was kind of blown away, I mean those are numbers that are not indicative of what we see nationwide,” said Hanover County Supervisor Sean Davis.
Davis says the effects go beyond the inmates. He says the program improves public safety.
“Whether it’s theft, or breaking and entering, sometimes the catalyst for that is the drug use,” said Davis.
“Stigma has prevented other jails from getting these types of programs sooner,” said John Shinholser, head of The McShin Foundation.
Shinholser says more communities are finally starting to see the benefits of treating addiction in jails.
“I think now the lid’s about to be blown off and every jail in the commonwealth should at least offer this type of program.”
Similar programs in Henrico, Richmond, and Chesterfield have also found success.