‘I feel free’: Program offers hope to incarcerated inmates in Henrico County

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s no secret that addiction and crime are connected. But 8News recently learned just how bad of a problem that combination is in Henrico County.

The local sheriff’s office surveyed inmates in December and learned that 87 percent of the people inside their jail claim drugs had something to do with their arrest.

Nora Burnett, for example, has been serving time since 2016.

“This is the best thing that could have happened to me,” said the 58-year-old, who added that addiction drove her to steal thousands of dollars from her elderly employer. “The employer trusted me. Someone that took to me like a daughter. I deceived her. I took from her. I hurt her.”

There are stories like Nora’s everywhere inside Henrico County Jail, where a recent inmate survey showed 80 percent of inmates reporting that drugs led to their downfall.

“It tells me as a whole how big the drug problem is in the community and how it affects everyone,” Burnett said.

The drug of choice? Opiates. Nearly half of the inmate population claimed that’s their go-to fix. That’s precisely why Sheriff Mike Wade initiated the ORBIT program for incarcerated inmates. It treats the drug problem and helps prepare addicts for life outside of jail.

“There’s not a single person in any prison or jail in the country that’s being charged with being an addict, they’re charged with the consequences of it,” Sheriff Mike Wade said.

Since it’s launch two years ago, 25 people have graduated and not one has returned to jail.

“I feel new. I feel free. I feel free in here because I don’t have those things that haunt me.”

The ORBIT program goes beyond treating just addiction. It gives inmates coping techniques, teaches them job skills and maintains control over their lives until the addict feels ready to take the reigns.

8News spoke with foud different inmates who said it is the most hope they’ve ever had.

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