Local Profile: Dr. Sarah Scarbrough And 'REAL' Recovery Enhancement

Local Profile: Dr. Sarah Scarbrough And 'REAL' Recovery Enhancement

Is it possible to change the lives of the incarcerated community before release? Dr. Sarah Scarbrough's "Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles" Program (REAL) just might convince you.
50
views

RICHMOND, Va. (VCU Odyssey) – Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, internal program director at the new Richmond City Justice Center located downtown near Mosby Court, is innovating her “Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles” (REAL) program to provide RCJC residents with the tools and skills to succeed after their release.

There’s soft spring in her step as she chasses through the echoing hallways of RCJC to collect homework assignments from her class of residents.

Scarbrough’s intense nine-to-five style program includes job training, talent shows, collegiate classes, mock interviews, resume writing workshops, and a 12-step system and broken up into four “phases” to assure when they’re released from jail, they never return.

During class, residents discuss what they have written for this week’s assignment; many have different ones.

“So, phase one. Do you have that for me?” Scarbrough asked one of her residents.

“Yes, I do,” he replied.

“We asked you to do phase one to get a jumpstart on your motivation,” she said. She then asked him to talk about what he wrote this week. She listens to the resident attentively.

“Even when I’m trying to push that positive side, I’m still left with the negative,” said the resident, explaining how positivity motivates him. “I’m trying to push more positivity.”

Her passion to assist residents back into the community has given her nicknames such as “mom” and tasks such as helping one open up his first bank account at the age of 40 or organizing the DMV to stop by and make IDs.

Sometimes more "tough love" is required – most of the time, the bright smile doesn’t escape her face.

Scarbrough works closely with RCJC residents involved in REAL's Fatherhood program. © Sidney Randolph for The Odyssey at VCU

When Scarbrough’s graduate assistantship supervisor suggested she obtain her Ph.D. after a Master’s in criminal justice, Scarbrough originally scoffed at the thought of studying another five years.

“I listened to her advice,” Scarbrough said, stifling a laugh, “and through that I was really able to dive in deeper and figure out what I wanted to do.”

While working on her Ph.D. in public policy from the Virginia Commonwealth University Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Scarbrough focused her research on recidivism rates among drug and substance abuse offenders.

The National Institute of Justice defines recidivism as “a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”

The program she studied was offered through the Richmond City Jail and sponsored by the McShin Foundation, taking “the worst of the worst” and guiding them away from illicit substances in order to keep offenders from returning to jail after their sentence ends. According to John Shinholser, president and board member emeritus of McShin, the foundation sponsors five recovery and reentry programs in the metro Richmond area.

Scarbrough admits she was “terrified” when she first entered the room.

“I was in [the housing unit] with 120 convicted felons,” she said. “But the moment [I] walked in, I realized this was not scary anymore.”

Five years of research, hundreds of hours spent at the jail, and 223 pages of dissertation later, Sheriff C.T. Woody offered Scarbrough a full-time job as internal program director. What went from a requirement to fulfill a degree turned into a life-long passion.

When Scarbrough stepped into the old Richmond City Jail, she knew the programs needed an overhaul. The previous jail closed in early 2014 to make room for the current 1,032 bed Richmond City Justice Center.

State and local governments across the country pay thousands of dollars to house one inmate in jails and prisons. The United States is currently the world leader in incarceration, with one in 36 adults behind bars in 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This equates to roughly 2.3 million imprisoned. In Virginia, the cost of arrest costs more than $5,200, according to a 2013 study by the Justice Policy Institute.

Scarbrough said the old jail was “built to warehouse people." Despite efforts and programming to assist residents, Scarbrough was concerned the “1960s mentality” of “locking up and throwing away the key” wouldn’t be the most effective.

“There was never a holistic plan to address these behaviors,” she said.

Scarbrough seeks to provide REAL program participants a "holistic" approach to addressing their behaviors. © Sidney Randolph for The Odyssey at VCU.

According Shinholser, there is a total recidivism reduction of 18 percent and cost savings of nearly $8 million after residents went through the extensive program. A reduction as significant is credited to Scarbrough’s REAL program, which she dubs “a full time job” for residents. REAL is not funded, she said. Each facet of the program is donated by patrons within the community.

“[Residents] start at 8 a.m. with a cell inspection,” she said, pulling out the jam-packed schedule, “then they have their first meeting at 8:30...they go until 7 p.m.”

Residents who do not show up to the first meeting on time are not allowed to participate in any scheduled activities that day. Scarbrough said the purpose of punishment is to “ingrain structure” into residents’ lives and ultimately carry those skills once released.

Seventy-eight percent of the population of RCJC is there due to drug addiction, she said. REAL’s system is designed to strip the behaviors still existing even when the physical addictive substance is taken away during a sentence.

Scarbrough said Virginia claims to have the second lowest recidivism rate in the country. However, she said her personal time spent at the jail competes that claim as only prisons are calculated in that figure, not jails.

In 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a 22.8 percent reduction in recidivism in Virginia. The figure, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections, is based on an offender’s repeat incarceration within three years of release.

“That is only reflective if they have gotten out of prison and they go back to prison,” she said. “The numbers are very, very skewed.”

REAL has been in effect just under two years. In 2015, 849 men and 79 women went through Scarbrough’s extensive program, which roughly calculates to about 10 percent of the City of Richmond’s population. Scarbrough said she does not have sufficient data yet, but is working on an evaluation for current residents.

Residents, however, speak highly of their experiences thus far.

Cary Deslandes, a current resident at RCJC working on his addictions, said he came into the REAL program “to keep his family together.”

“I wanted to give my wife some hope,” said Deslandes, “that I came to the Richmond City Jail doing something productive, rather than just sitting in a chair doing nothing.”

Deslandes said each “phase” of the program – which is based on the 12 Steps – tackles different problems from substance abuse, to motivation, to relationships, and more. He said he “continued to grow” throughout the phase work.

Another resident, Lynn Evans, 59, said he had been using drugs all his life before entering REAL.

“I’ve never seen a program like this before,” said Evans. “It motivates you to want to do better in life.”

Both Deslandes and Evans said they have faced numerous challenges throughout their duration, but are grateful for the support system and learning opportunities.

“The REAL program means life,” said Deslandes. “Not just existing life -- but living life.”

“[REAL] means a way of life,” Evans said. “It’s showing me that even though I’m incarcerated, I still have a chance.”


REAL program participants, Cary Deslandes and Lynn Evans talk about their experiences with addiction, incarceration, and their tenure in the program.

Carlos Jackson, a graduate of REAL, was sentenced for selling and possession of drugs.

“[The “REAL” program] is designed to enhance recovery,” Jackson said. “But, you have to first know what you’re recovering from.”

Scarbrough said Jackson “truly embraced every opportunity” while incarcerated. Under her supervision, Jackson was awarded RCJC’s first housing scholarship; his first two months’ rent was covered, and was donated furniture, toiletries, and food to kickstart his life once he officially released.

“If this intervention didn’t occur, he would have been homeless upon release,” Scarbrough said.

Jackson said he was “never big on drug abuse,” but did sell them. He was in the program about 10 months. Later, he went on to become a leader in group sessions to assist newer program members.

Jackson said he was denied food stamps once his life began to stabilize.

“They have a new system,” he said. “Now, you have to at least maintain a job no less than 20 hours a week. When I got out, I didn’t have that.”

In order to become eligible for the food stamps, Jackson had to attend workshops weekly for a minimum of 20 hours per week. He said that now he has two jobs, his income is steady enough to support himself without food stamps.

“Without the donations, it would have been really hard for me,” he said.

Scarbrough said with a program this extensive; there are always challenges, especially with younger residents thinking they’re "invincible." Residents like Deslandes, Evans, and Jackson prove how more offenders are seeking change.

Her tone shifted dramatically as she mentioned how disheartening it is to tell a resident about to release that they are unable to get housing.

The average cost of rent in Richmond was $871 in 2013, according to national statistic site City-Data. Scarbrough gave an example of the unsafe housing many residents are forced to live in post-release. Homeless shelters are often "too competitive" of a solution.

“I have a guy who was able to move out of the projects...he’s since moved back to the projects,” she said. “Not because of a desire to be in the projects in a dangerous area where he can’t play outside -- he can’t afford it.”

Scarbrough announces which residents were selected for this year's father/son event. Male residents will be playing basketball with their sons at an exclusive event on June 22, 2016. © Sidney Randolph for The Odyssey at VCU.

Scarbrough has worked alongside housing officials to find safe and reliable housing for her released residents, but is often unsuccessful finding anything less than $500 per month in what she considers a “semi-decent neighborhood.”

The same resident for whom she found housing was cursed to watch a 12-year-old girl fatally shot outside his back window.

She suggests the city look into permanent housing and “intermingle” them with safer neighborhoods.

She also mentions how the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) refuses to rent to felons. RRHA has been contacted for comment, however they have yet to respond.

The city, Scarbrough said, has hundreds of initiatives in place, but she believes they are not doing “the right thing.”

“You’re talking about someone with horrible credit, someone who is a felon...who is going to want to rent to them?” she said. “So, they’re all illegally living with girlfriend, or baby mama, or whomever because no one will rent to them. The city needs to truly think about this.”

But Scarbrough manages to remain positive. She said the larger issues with housing and locating jobs can be draining, but smaller issues such as gathering donations or buying toilet paper balance it all out.

On Wednesday, May 18, Scarbrough (second from left) brought in two local Holocaust survivors to speak to those in the REAL program. © Keyris Manzaneres for The Odyssey at VCU.

“There’s no typical day,” she said in reference to her daily schedule. “Expect the unexpected.”

Scarbrough remains humbled by her job, and continues to learn every day from the residents and their response to the program. Some days, there are residents unwilling to change. But other times, her phone explodes with calls, text messages, and emails thanking her for the work she does.

Despite doubters, Scarbrough said 95 percent of people incarcerated will be released (Bureau of Justice Statistics), therefore it is vital to assist reentry while still incarcerated.

“The question is,” she said, “do you want them coming back as a better criminal, or a better citizen? We interact with the criminal justice community every day. You or I could be the next victim.”
Cover Image Credit: © Scott Elmquist, Style Weekly (2014)

Popular Right Now

This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
196979
views

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Double Standards Are Plaguing Our Society

What and how are double standards hurting our society?
137
views

Why is that when a female has many sexual partners she is considered a slut, but when a male does it he is celebrated as a king? Why is it when a male wears makeup or paints his nails his shunned by the world, but when a girl does it she looks bomb? How can the pope support ending the gender gap, but refuse to allow women to hold spiritual leadership roles? It’s because we live in a world filled with double standards.

What is a double standard? Merriam-Webster states it’s “a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups.” We see in our society that there are many double standards between races, religions, sexualities, and genders.

Many double standards are hurting our country and even our world. Many people are blind to the double standards that plague our community especially if isn’t affecting them, while some just accept these as okay in our society, but they aren't okay. Here a few double standards that are seen in today's society.

Gender.

  • Women are paid less than men for doing the same exact job.
  • If a man cries he is considered weak, while it’s alright for a woman to do so.
  • When a male is sexually harassed by a woman he is lucky, while it happens to women it’s considered rape (I’m not denouncing rape that happens to women)
  • If a woman asserts any kind of dominance she’s a bitch, but if a guy does it he’s a leader.

Religion.

  • If someone of Muslim faith kills someone the headlines are “Muslim Terrorist Strikes Again!”, but they never announce if the killer was a Christian. They say he was a “lone wolf”
  • If a Christian teacher tried to make the class pray it would be okay, and millions would support them, but if a Muslim teacher tried that the world would go crazy.
  • the KKK (who are “Christians”) is okay, they can recruit through their website which isn’t blocked in any way and even endorsed our current president

Race.

  • If a black person does anything they seem suspicious, but when white people do it, it’s okay.
  • When NFL teams win big games their fans destroy cities, but if any peaceful protest happens it’s a riot and police decide to throw tear gas.
  • If a white person uses weed their considered a stoner, but if a black person does it they’re a criminal.

Sexuality.

  • if a straight couple does anything it’s normal. If a gay couple does it, it’s an abomination.
  • Straight couples can mistreat their own kids and it be okay, but if a gay couple wants to adopt a kid all hell breaks loose.

Weight.

  • If some bigger over eats their considered fat, and unhealthy, but if a thinner person over eats no one says a word.

Of course, there are so many other double standards that affect other groups of people, but just having these few is too many. We have to do something about this! If we allow one group of people to do something we must allow all other groups to do so as well. This must change to allow everyone to feel equal if we claim to be an equal opportunity country.

It isn't impossible to change these double standards as we have seen double standards in the past be changed. such as a male could be a doctor, but a women couldn't. Or even a white person holding a higher position in work and black person couldn't. Therefore, we see a change can happen, but only if we choose to make it happen.

Cover Image Credit: Ashley8053

Related Content

Facebook Comments