WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — One local jail is taking a unique approach to help inmates with addiction. And those in the program say it has saved their lives.
It’s called the WAITT — We Are In This Together — program at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. Completing the program is just the beginning for the women there. They’ll also get to live in a new recovery home in Richmond once they’re released.
“It started with prescription pills when I was 16 and hanging around the wrong crowd, so I started doing what they were doing and it eventually led to more intense using and that was heroin,” said recovering inmate, Elizabeth Bellamy.
“My older brother came into my life and he used so he showed me the ropes,” said recovering inmate, Kayla Mcmamus.
“I was working as a pharmacy tech; I had the keys to heaven an addict would say. I was able to get into the controlled closet; I stole Fentanyl patches, dioxin, I would go to the bathroom and snort Percocet and all that,” added recovering inmate, Angela Lynch.
Three inmates at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, with different stories, but the same enemy: addiction.
Angela Lynch says she was an addict for 20 years and it came with a price.
“I lost everything. My parents have my children, lost a marriage of 10 years, lost my career and banned from practicing in that field. Now I’m a three time convicted felon,” said Lynch.
In addition to a history of addiction, the three women have something else in common.
They are all graduates of VPRJ’s WAITT program. The rehab program is offered inside the jail itself.
The inmates say it actually works because it gets to the root issues.
“Everytime I’ve gone to jail I’ve done absolutely nothing productive with my time. This is the first time I’ve been able to do something that I wake up every morning and I’m feeling hopeful,” said Bellamy.
VPRJ Superintendent Tony Pham says they bring in resources from across the area, to help the women dig deep within themselves.
The program is only one of two in all of Virginia.
“We want to be able to give them the opportunity to recover their lives and stop coming back and break that revolving cycle of coming back to a jail,” said Pham.
“I just said if I don’t give my all in this right here right now what’s left for me to do but die? Honestly and I’ve given it all I have and it’s completely transformed me,” said Lynch.
The WAITT program partners with Real Life based out of Richmond.
Real Life is a non-profit that helps people who have been impacted by incarceration or homelessness, or who are battling a substance use disorder like the women at VPRJ.
Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, the founder of Real Life, took a WAVY crew through their recently opened female transitional recovery house. That’s where the women will go once they’ve completed the program and are released from jail, giving them a helping hand every step of the way.
“We just want to treat humans like humans and give everybody an opportunity to do something different, so we provide them the tools and just hope they use them to change their life,” said Scarbrogh.
Until they can get on their feet, the women from the program will get to move into the Richmond home for free, but will be monitored.
“Through here is our house manager’s room; Misty is her name. She will live in here and supervise the house making sure people are here for curfew and attend the appropriate meetings and engage in service hours as we’re supposed to,” Scarbrough showed 10 On Your Side.
It is structure they say they need.
“If they were to let me out tomorrow, if it wasn’t for a recovery house I would have nowhere positive to go,” reflected Bellamy.
Both Bellamy and Lynch say because of the WAITT program, they’d like to ultimately pursue careers in counseling so they can help others like they’ve been helped.
The second round of inmates graduated from the program last week.