So you walk up to the bench as the judge on the other side looks through his glasses at his documents. He looks up at you and says “Ma’am, I see you're a diabetic?”. “Yes Sir” is your reply, as you hang your head in shame. He then proceeds to remind you that your blood sugar is sky high into the 300 levels. The gavel hits the bench and there is your fate! You're told you will be spending the next six months behind bars in your local county jail for you disease. Completely absurd, correct? Yes drugs are criminalized and yes stealing is a crime, but my disease IS NOT.
My name is Jessica Hall and I am the Director of Judicial Programs for the McShin Foundation. I am also a person in long term recovery from substance use disorder. This mean I haven’t used a substance in over three years. Being a young person in recovery has given me a life of a million open doors with my name written on them, and for that I am grateful. My lost dreams have truly been awakened, but it's the new possibilities that continue to baffle me. Who would have thought, me, a high school drop out, could be this beautiful young woman that I am today. So please give me a moment to tell you a little bit about why I love what I do.
Picture this little girl, scared and alone, in the back of a police car being transferred to a big girl jail on her 18th birthday. Not to sure how she got there but also having to wear a brave face because life just got real. Felony conspiracy to sell, manufacture, and distribute a controlled substance on 4 counts. I would think that some one would see this and think “Hmmm this may be a problem”. NOPE. I was slapped on the wrist and told to go home and be “a good girl”. My disease was fully alive and well at this point and no-one stopped to take the time to be in the solution. I wish I could tell you that this was end.
Moving forward a few years I find myself in and out of multiple local county jails around Virginia, but still, no help. Overtime 10, 30, 60 days behind bars!! Yes because that is completely the solution.Would you find it crazy for me to tell you that upon every release I was met with a pill or a pipe, fully loaded and ready to get back to business. What if… Just what if someone had said wait….and reached out that hand to tell me that I never had to use agin. If someone had seen the disease running rampant in my life and I was caught in the grips, that my days on earth were numbered, why not take the chance to pull me from the trenches, to plant that seed. I can’t tell you if it would have helped then, and don’t get me wrong, I love MY story because it is mine, but I can’t help but wonder, what if.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then it is apart of my duty, and it is also my honor, to be that hand. When that 19 year old girl walks through the jail doors with her chin in her chest, just as scared and alone in her own prison, to be able to take her into my arms so that she knows there is a way out, I am that light today, and so are you. For me, being that seed, is what makes me wake up everyday with purpose. I could be angry at the world for watching as mush as I could myself, or, I can be in the solution today. I mean there is a reason that I found my way out of the same hole right?? I believe that reason is right here.