The 560 inmates housed at the Onondaga County Justice Center may be in there for different reasons, but they share in common– opioid addiction.
A program exists at the Justice Center to give inmates a shot at breaking the jail-heroin cycle.
“You’ll see people will be coming in and you’ll look at the charges and you’ll see robbery or things of that nature. You’ll see the robbery could be they were looking to get money to feed the addictive behavior that’s the underlying cause,” said Chief Deputy Esteban Gonzalez of the custody department.
For people with a history of drug misuse, experts say the risk of going back to opioids is 80 percent within a month of release from prison.
One woman is determined not to be included in that statistic, vowing to never go back to jail, or the darkest days of her life.
Amy DeJohn, now a mother of two young boys, had one goal in the past– getting high on heroin. Her addiction led to a downward spiral that landed her in jail.
“At this point, I look back and my everyday was just disgusting. Some things I just look back and I’m very ashamed of. There are things that I try to forget about. I think that person is dead and gone,” DeJohn said.
She credits this for saving her life– Vivitrol. It’s one shot, once a month and non-addictive.
Once injected, it blocks receptors in the brain, curbing the craving for opioids immediately.
“No cravings. I don’t crave heroin. I’ve been put in situations, stressful, that would have made me fold any other time, but with Vivitrol, I’ve stayed clean,” DeJohn says.
It requires a full detox first, and it’s not cheap– $1,000 a shot.
There are other notable cases of success, with the more than 200 inmates who’ve volunteered since the treatment program began.
“We have not had any of them become recidivists, thus come back to the jail, once they’ve been in the program and gotten the counseling and reported on the outside to their counselor and continued with the shots,” Gonzalez says.
While it’s the mission of the jail to reduce the staggering recidivism rate, DeJohn says it’s her mission to better herself.