Family relapses into system

Mother, son in jail at same time; they want to break cycle

Joey Matthews | 9/26/2014, 5:55 a.m.
The mother and son were separated by the walls and windows at the Richmond Justice Center in Shockoe Valley.
Patricia Hicks Photo by Sandra Sellars

She said a new program called REAL, or Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyle, is being implemented throughout the jail under Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. to offer a comprehensive approach “to address their addictions and behaviors, while appropriately modifying their thinking.”

Sheriff Woody, a 46-year veteran of law enforcement, calls the generational cycles of addiction, criminality and incarceration “heartbreaking.”

“For years, I have seen the same people cycle through the system. There are mothers and sons, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents — all incarcerated at the jail at the same time. Constantly, we have family members who are reunited behind the bars of the jail.”

He said seeing inmates grow comfortable behind bars has sparked his desire to have Ms. Scarbrough and others implement more programs to help the inmates break those institutional cycles.

He cited a renewed focus in the Justice Center on family outreach and integration, educational opportunities, parenting classes, addiction classes, mental health services, faith-based programs and job training as a means to reach those who have earned the title of “career criminal” and providing them opportunities for change.

The focus is on inmates like Ms. Hicks and her son.

“It’s all I know — that and being on the streets,” Ms. Hicks said.

“I feel like I’ve been in captivity my whole life,” Mr. Jones said.

They have vowed not to accept imprisonment as a way of life.

Ms. Hicks, 52, has been at the jail since June 24 on her current charges. She has been to the penitentiary six times, estimated she has been in the city jail about 15 times and was in juvenile detention twice. Her latest charges garnered five years, with nearly four suspended.

“I can’t say why I display this behavior,” she said. “I know I have a mental disorder. Maybe I was just born this way.”

She blames most of her crimes on attempts to fuel a heroin habit. She recalls first injecting the drug at a young age. Her mother, she says, would put her to sleep by giving her beer.

Her mother died when she was 12 and her father, who was in and out of prison most of his life, died two years ago.

Ms. Hicks said she deeply regrets not being a better example for her son and not being around to steer him from trouble.

After her release, she said she hopes to enter a drug treatment program to get clean and to become a better mother.

“I want to show the court I’m a changed person,” she said. “I want to live life one day at a time and live the life God has given me. I want to be rich in spirit and help others through my experiences.

“I want to tell my son that I love him so much and want to be a real mother to him.”

Ms. Scarbrough said this time will be different for Ms. Hicks when she re-enters society.

“We will not let this woman go back to where she was,” she said. “We will get her into a very intensive, rigorous” drug treatment program.