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This program is helping Henrico inmates recover from addiction: 'I know I can make it’

"It has given folks the opportunity to get a handle on their life and make plans to give them a better chance of success when they re-enter into the community."
Posted at 6:10 AM, Sep 08, 2022

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Overcoming addiction is one of the toughest fights many people will ever face. In fact, it often means life or death.

However, one group of incarcerated women is celebrating a big milestone as they work to overcome their struggles with substance use.

For Anisha Minor, the journey to this moment was a tumultuous one.

In her 30s, Minor said she developed substance use issues, lost her house in a fire and in 2018, her daughter, Sherece Cook, was murdered.

"She was a wonderful person. One of my best friends," Minor said. "I just was devastated. And just honestly didn't know how to live continue on living my life without her."

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Anisha Minor (September 7, 2022)

Minor said once her daughter passed, her life spun out of control and she ended up in the criminal justice system. Now, here on a probation violation, she said she tried to turn things around.

"I was just sitting there and I have grandkids and kids, there has to be something better for my life and I want that," Minor said.

Part of that meant beating her addictions, which she has done through the jail's RISE Program, completing the minimum 12-week course in July where she said she learned that addiction can happen to everybody.

Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said RISE -- which stands for Recovery in a Secure Environment, has been running at men's jail since 2000 and in the women's since 2002. With the help of county mental health clinicians, it is a peer-run group with those, like Minor who have graduated, leading others on the journey.

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(September 7, 2022)

"It has given folks the opportunity to get a handle on their life. You cover things like life without a crutch, anger management, alcohol anonymous, narcotics anonymous. I'm trying to give them the tent poles and principles that you'll find in the community," Gregory said.

She added the completion of RISE is required for inmates to enter the larger ORBIT (Opiate Recovery Based on Intensive Tracking) Program. "What that did was incorporated the RISE program and added the element of the community workforce, in addition to the possibility of getting work release and working in the community, with the latter part being the opportunity to finish and complete your sentence on home incarceration. And so it has given folks the opportunity to get a handle on their life and make plans to give them a better chance of success when they re-enter into the community."

Gregory said while the program is scheduled for 12-weeks, some people can (or need) more time to finish it.

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(September 7, 2022)

"In a given year, you have upwards of 1,200 folks to go through — if you count, some folks going through multiple times, having to double back." said Gregory. "I often say we can say a lot of things, but when you do — a lot of them are at a point in their life where actions speak louder than words — and to actually commit to something. We all want to do better, right? But actually doing something that shows that we're working on being better and actually completing it, you know, for me, it's overwhelming, because we get to show them that, yes, you can turn it around, you know, things can be different. You have people that support you, people that believe in you."

The program also incorporates a spiritual component and participants celebrated completing that portion on Wednesday. It is currently led by Reverend Deborah Simmons, an associate minister at Mount Olive Baptist Church.

"A part of the ministry that God has given me is called GRACE Ministries. And it is an acronym for growing, restoring, accepting, and equipping women for life. It is a journey to wholeness for women that are in transition," said Simmons. "The purpose of the journey to wholeness for women and transition program is to equip, empower and encourage women in their transition from incarceration to a successful reentry into the community."

Wednesday, Simmons hosted a graduation ceremony for the group of women who completed her first program, which runs for 12 weeks.

When she spoke to CBS 6, Simmons was wearing a butterfly brooch and said it signified the journey these women go through.

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(September 7, 2022)

"A butterfly goes through so many transformations to get to a beautiful butterfly, but we don't know all the things that that butterfly has to go through," said Simmons. "A butterfly starts on the ground, where it's dirt and people stomp on them. And then they go into this cocoon where it's darkness, it's wilderness, it's lonely. But, in the process of time, that butterfly begins to break through that cocoon out of the darkness...They're struggling right now to break through to...get into that new life. But, if they keep with the struggle and they will come through like this butterfly and be able to fly and be free."

For Minor, she said Simmons helped restore the spirituality that she lost.

"Wonderful. It gives you hope, you know, and I feel like I know I can make it, I know I can do this," Minor said.

Minor said she is due to be released some time in the coming months and once out, intends to continue help people overcome addiction like she did.

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Reverend Deborah Simmons hugs Anisha Minor (September 7, 2022)

"Let them know that it is a better way. I promise you if you want it, it won't be easy. But you can have it," added Minor.

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