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Drugs in Marion County - A second chance

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Drug addicts are learning how to live a sober life at the Marion County Detention Center

By Stevie Lowery

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the local drug epidemic in Marion County. Only the first names of inmates are being used in this story to protect them and their families. Warning: Some of the content is extremely graphic.

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Inmate No. 1
Name: Michael
Age: 29
Charges: Manufacturing meth
Sentence: Nine years
Family info: He’s the father of a 15-month-old daughter who he’s never even held because he’s been incarcerated since she was born.

Michael has been addicted to drugs since before he was born.
A recovering meth addict, he’s currently serving a nine-year sentence at the Marion County Detention Center.
“I was born a crack baby,” Michael said. “I was pretty much addicted before I took my first breath of air.”
As a teenager, Michael began smoking marijuana socially, but that soon progressed to using meth. Initially, he snorted it. Then, he smoked it. In search for a more extreme high, he started using a needle and shooting it up.
“Once I started using a needle, it was all downhill from there,” Michael said.
His addiction consumed his entire life. It controlled his every move. And it made him an extremely paranoid person. He would see shadows and think people were coming after him. One night, he saw a shadow across the street and he was convinced it was a person coming after him. So, he grabbed his gun, crawled around to the back of his house and hid in the bushes until the next morning only to find out that the shadow he saw belonged to a mailbox, not a person.
“If that mailbox had moved I would have shot it. I was completely prepared to do that,” Michael said.
Michael, who has been a meth addict since the age of 20, learned how to make meth while serving time in jail for a previous burglary charge. A fellow inmate showed him how to make it while they were out on work release.
Today, he’s been clean for approximately 10 months. But, in the past he admits to smuggling and using drugs in jail. He said he would cut the fingers off of rubber gloves, pack them full of marijuana and Suboxone and then insert them into his rectum so that they would be undetectable during strip searches. While it was embarrassing and degrading, Michael said the drugs controlled his every move.
“My addiction drove me to do a lot of things I never thought I would do,” he said.
According to Michael, smuggling drugs into jail gives you immediate power.
“It moves you up the food chain,” Michael said. “It gives you power over other people. They are going to do whatever you ask them to do to get that drug you got. It gives you power on the streets and in jail.”
Today, Michael is working on understanding and dealing with his addiction as a participant in the Marion County Detention Center’s Substance Abuse Program. He’s thankful for the help he’s receiving at MCDC, which is not offered at many other jails.
“I come from a jail where they hand you a mat and a blanket and put you in a cell and lock the door,” Michael said. “Throwing us in a cell and locking a door behind us – that’s not going to solve the problem. Here, people want to help you. They give you respect. They look at you as a work in progress rather than just a failure.”
Michael said he’s realized during his time in the Substance Abuse Program that he has to want to change for himself, not anyone else.
“As much as I love my daughter, I have to do it for me first,” he said.
The Substance Abuse Program is giving him the tools he needs to live a sober life, Michael said
“Nothing is going to get done unless you have the tools and a plan,” he said. “You have to admit there is a problem. You have to have the open-mindedness to come up with a solution. And you have to have the willingness to act.”
Michael said when he’s released from jail, he desperately wants to make amends with his family and be a good dad for his baby girl. He also wants to help other addicts.
“You have to look at it as being a disease. If one of your family members had cancer you wouldn’t turn your back on them and push them away,” Michael said. “You have to help them get the help they need. I want to pull somebody else out of the shadows. For me to help the next guy would mean the world to me.”
Michael is hopeful that when he’s released from jail he’s given a second chance.
“We can change and we can be productive members of society,” Michael said. “All we want is that chance.”

Inmate No. 2
Name: Timothy
Age: 29
Charges: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of heroin.
Sentence: Three years
Family info: He has a seven-year-old son.

He was first introduced to drugs when his alcoholic mother offered him pain pills when he was only 15 years old.
His sister was also a drug addict. Drugs were just an every day part of his family’s life.
He used pain pills, smoked marijuana, drank alcohol and eventually progressed to shooting up heroin. He sold drugs and after getting in some trouble, was a participant in drug court in Jefferson County. But, the program didn’t work for him. He would just pay off drug court employees to help him pass his drug tests. He also smuggled drugs into jail. On one occasion, he swallowed two bags of heroin.
“It was a completely rational thought at the time,” Timothy said. “I double bagged it like a person who naturally double ties their shoes.”
Fortunately for him, the bags stayed intact and he passed them 72 hours later while in jail. He and other inmates put on rubber gloves and searched through his (and other inmates’) feces to find the bags of drugs.
“It’s morally degrading, but it immediately put me into a position of power,” Timothy said.
He’s been clean for almost a year – since March 19 of last year – and he credits that to what he’s learning in the Substance Abuse Program at MCDC.
“Without it, I know I would be hopeless,” Timothy said. “Drug addiction is like experiencing a horrific car wreck but you survive and you make a daily choice to go back to that same situation. It’s only a matter of time before you die if you keep going the way you’re going.”
Timothy has learned that the most important thing is how he values himself. He’s also learned that helping others is a huge motivator in overcoming his addiction.
“My main objective is to just help somebody, to be honest,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what keeps me sober. I know that where ever I go that God has got me and as long as I try to help other people I know I’ll be okay.”
While at MCDC, Timothy has started a Bible study with 10 to 20 fellow inmates, and he’s helping other inmates study for and pass the GED exam.
“I went to church Sunday morning and all afternoon I spent tutoring people in math to get ready for their GED test,” he said. “When you have a grown man come to you in tears because he didn’t have his GED and I helped him accomplish that. It instills values in you that you can’t learn from a book.”

Inmate No. 3
Name: Charles
Age: 31
Charges: Possession of controlled substance (cocaine), three counts of burglary, two counts of criminal mischief and possession of firearm by convicted felon
Sentence: 15 years (Total of 40 years to run concurrent.)
Family info: He has a 2-year-old son.

Charles was raised in a good family, but his dangerous, addictive activities with drugs began at a very early age. He began smoking pot, drinking and taking pills in middle school – at just 12 years old. In high school, he began doing cocaine. And, by 18, he was smoking crack and snorting coke.
In 2013, he was going to school and working full-time, but was hooked on Suboxone. He soon began using needles and shooting up meth and heroin at the same time.
“Within a month, I quit school, quit my job, and was kicking in doors, stealing anything I could get my hands on to get high,” Charles said.
He even began robbing drug dealers, anything he had to do to support his habit.
“Anything I had to do to get it, I was prepared to do it,” Charles said. “I was prepared to die. I had no regard for anybody else’s life. I was going to get high. That was my only goal.”
During his most recent arrest, he escaped from police custody in an attempt to get back to his friend’s house to get his drugs. He didn’t care about going to jail or the consequences he would face from running from the police. He just wanted to get high one last time.
“I just wanted to get high and stay high,” Charles said. “To stay numb.”
Police caught him and while he was being given an eye exam at MCDC he tried to steal medicine out of a medicine closet.
“I looked over and saw a bunch of pills in a closet,” Charles said. “I ran over and got in it. I just knew there had to be something in there to make me feel better. They had to Tase me to take me down.”
Charles has been at MCDC for 20 months, and he’s done meth since he’s been in jail. Another inmate brought it in, and he snorted it.
“If I had a needle, I would have shot it,” Charles said.
He’s been clean since June of 2016.

Inmate No. 4
Name: Rob
Age: 46
Charges: Robbery
Sentence: Seven and a half years
Family info: He’s the father of four daughters – 24-year-old twins, an 8-year-old, and an almost four-year-old. He hasn’t seen them in two years.

Rob’s addiction didn’t truly begin until he was prescribed opiates after having back surgery.
After his prescriptions ran out, he continued to buy them but eventually began having difficulty finding them, so he began using heroin. He snorted it at first, and then began injecting it, which produces a high within seconds.
His addiction spiraled out of control and he hit rock bottom.
He lost his construction company and within one year he spent his life savings - $214,000.
With no more money of his own, he began robbing drug dealers, businesses, whatever he had to do to get his next high.
He was arrested for robbery charges and is serving a seven and a half year sentence.
He’s also used drugs in jail. He got Suboxone from another inmate. But, he’s been clean since November of 2016.
Rob said he didn’t really understand addiction and how to control it. He actually wrote letters to Jailer Barry Brady three times, requesting to serve his time at MCDC because of the treatment programs that are available, which aren’t offered at many other jails. He said he’s been to six different jails, and MCDC is the cleanest in regards to drugs being smuggled in.
“I was at a facility where a guy overdosed and died and he was left dead there for days before they found him,” Rob said.
Rob said the staff at MCDC are respectful and try to help inmates learn about their addiction and how to change. He completed the Substance Abuse Program in February of last year. He said before an addict can truly make a change, he or she has to want to quit.
“You have to be willing and want to quit,” Rob said. “Unless you’ve had enough, it’s not going to happen. I don’t care how good of a recovery program you go to. You have to want to quit.”
Rob said once he’s completed serving the rest of his time, his ultimate goal is to get back to his children and get back to work.
“I want to give my kids stability,” he said.