GETTING CLEAN IN RIKERS

August 09, 2018 at 5:00 am

One recovering heroin addict credits a stay behind bars with helping her get clean and sober. We have her story.

Aired on August 8, 2018.

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>>> THERE ARE ABOUT 950 INMATES
ON RIKERS ISLAND CURRENTLY
ENROLLED IN THE PRISON'S DRUG
TREATMENT PROGRAM.
"LADY" IS ONE OF THE PROGRAM'S
SUCCESS STORIES SENTENCED TO
EIGHT MONTHS BEHIND BARS FOR
PETTY LARCENY.
HER TIME IS QUICKLY COMING TO AN
END BUT SHE SAYS IT WAS PRISON
THAT HELPED SAVE HER LIFE FROM
HER HEROIN ADDICTION.
TAKE A QUICK LISTEN TO HER
STORY.
>> JAIL BECAME TO ME LIKE A
REHAB, BASICALLY.
>> YES.
>> JAIL WAS MY REHAB.
JAIL MADE ME REALIZE HOW MUCH I
COULD LOSE.
DAMN SURE I DON'T WANT TO PICK
UP [ BLEEP ] NEVER AGAIN.
OR THAT NEEDLE.
>> WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU
WERE SOBER LIKE THIS, FOR THIS
AMOUNT OF TIME?
>> 2013.
>> SO YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING
ESPECIALLY SINCE WE'RE TALKING
ABOUT RIKERS ISLAND HOW COULD
PRISON BE THE REASON FOR HER
SUCCESS?
WHAT WILL WHAT SHE'S RELEASED?
AN ARTICLE FROM "THE DAILY NEWS"
DELVES INTO RESOURCES AVAILABLE
TO ADDICTS NOT BEHIND BARS
COMPARING IT TO HER SITUATION.
HERE WITH MORE, STAFF WRITER
FROM "THE DAILY NEWS" RICH
SHAPIRO.
THANKS FOR BEING HERE.
>> THANKS TO HAVING ME.
>> FASCINATING ARTICLES, WELL
DONE.
GREAT REPORTING.
>> THANK YOU.
>> BEFORE WE GET TO HER IN
PRISON AND THE PROGRESS SHE'S
MADE, I WANT YOU TO TELL US
ABOUT YOUR FIRST CONTACT WITH
HER.
WHICH WAS FOR A DIFFERENT
ARTICLE EARLIER.
TELL ME ABOUT THAT.
>> RIGHT.
SO MYSELF AND EDITORS WERE
TALKING ABOUT THE OPIOID CRISIS,
HOW IT WAS PLAYING OUT IN THIS
COUNTRY.
WE KNEW THAT THERE WAS A
POPULATION IN THE SOUTH BRONX
THAT HAD BEEN USING HEROIN ON A
HEAVY BASIS FOR DECADES, AND
THOSE STORIES WERE LARGELY
IGNORED OVER THE YEARS.
HOWEVER, AS THE OPIOID CRISIS
STARTED SPREADING OUT INTO MORE
SUBURBAN COMMUNITIES, IT
BECAME -- BECAME REALLY PART OF
THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION.
THESE PEOPLE WERE NOT A PART OF
THAT NATIONAL CONVERSATION.
SO WE DECIDED TO GO OUT AND TRY
TO TELL THEIR STORIES AND TRY TO
CHRONICLE HOW THIS POPULATION
WAS ACTUALLY LIVING AND WHAT IT
LOOKED LIKE, AND THE WAY WE
DECIDED TO DO THAT WAS BY
FOLLOWING A EMT CREW IN THE
BRONX.
IT JUST SO HAPPENED THAT OVER
THE TWO DAYS WE WERE WITH THESE
PARAMEDICS IT WAS RAINING, VERY
LITTLE HAPPENED.
HOWEVER, THEY KNEW OF THIS
LOCATION WHERE PEOPLE LIKE LADY
RIVERA GOES TO USE AND TOOK US
THERE ONE AFTERNOON AND MYSELF
AND MY COLLEAGUE PHOTOJOURNALIST
MARCO SANTOS WERE STUNNED BY
WHAT WE SAW.
IT WAS --
>> READING THE ARTICLE YOU SAID
THE GROUND WAS LITTERED WITH
USED SYRINGES AND THE CAPS FOR
SYRINGES.
ALMOST AS FI YOU WERE LOOKING AT
KIND OF A, THE GLITTER FROM A
PARTY ON THE GROUND CLEARLY IT
WAS NOT THE KIND OF PARTY WE'D
BE TALKING ABOUT.
>> THAT'S CORRECT.
THERE WERE SYRINGES LITERALLY
EVERYWHERE YOU STEPPED.
EVERYWHERE YOU LOOKED.
IT IS A HARROWING, HARROWING
PLACE, BUT IT PROVIDED SOME
SOLITUDE AND A PRIVATE
ENVIRONMENT WHERE THESE PEOPLE
COULD USE OUTSIDE THE VIEW OF
PEOPLE ON THE STREET, AND WHERE
THERE IS A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
AMONG THE USERS.
>> YOU MET HER THERE?
MET LADY RIVERA THERE?
>> CORRECT.
>> GIVE ME A QUICK, IF YOU WILL,
COMPILATION HOW SHE LOOKED AND
WAS DOING THEN.
>> SURE.
WHEN WE MET HER SHE WAS JUST
EMERGING FROM A STRUCTURE OF
TARPS SHE WAS ESSENTIALLY LIVING
IN AT THAT TIME LAST YEAR.
SHE WAS IN THE PROCESS OF
LITERALLY MIXING A -- SOLUTION
OF HEROIN AND SOME SALINE TO
INJECT, AND MYSELF AND MY
COLLEAGUE MARCUS SANTOS WALKED
UP TO HER, EXPLAINED WHO WE
WERE.
EXPLAINED WHAT WE WANTED TO DO
THERE AND WHY WE WANTED TO TELL
HER STORY AND SHE IMMEDIATELY
STARTED TALKING, AND WAS QUITE
WILLING TO DELVE INTO WHAT HER
LIFE WAS LIKE, HOW SHE GOT THIS
POINT, AND HOW SHE HOPED TO COME
OUT OF IT IN THE END.
AND IT BECAME VERY CLEAR TO US
SPENDING WHAT BECAME SEVERAL
HOURS OVER MULTIPLE DAYS THAT
THIS WAS SOMEONE WHOSE LIFE
REVOLVED AROUND HER DRUG HABIT.
>> WE SAW THE CLIP OF HER.
THAT -- THE PERSON WE SAW THERE,
HOW DIFFERENT IS THAT FROM THE
PERSON YOU SAW WHAT THEY CALLED
"THE HOLE" WHERE THEY WERE ALL
SHOOTING UP?
>> TELL YOU, WHEN SHE FIRST
WALKED OUT INTO THE VISITOR'S
ROOM, WE DID NOT KNOW HER.
I DID NOT KNOW WHO SHE WAS.
WHEN SHE WALKED OUT OF RIKERS,
IT WAS SOMEONE WHO HAD LIFE
BACK.
HER EYES KIND OF, YOU KNOW,
GLIMMERED, AND HER FACE WAS
FULL.
>> HOW, THEN DOES A PERSON LIKE
LADY RIVERA GO IN THERE FOR
EIGHT MONTHS, AND BE SO
TRANSFORMED TO WHAT WE SAW AND
WHAT YOU SAW IN OR CONVERSATION
WITH HER?
>> ADDICTION EXPERT, I TALKED TO
NAMED DR. CUNNINGHAM.
PUT IT TO ME THIS WAY.
ONE PLACE TO GO AND GET
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE.
EVERYBODY GETS UNIVERSAL HEALTH
CARE AT RIKERS.
THE REALITY IS, LADY RIVERA GOES
TO RIKERS, FOR THE FIRST TIME
HAS VERY CONSISTENT ACCESS TO
METHADONE.
SHE HAS ACCESS TO ALL KINDS OF
COUNSELING SERVICES, MENTAL
HEALTH SERVICES.
SHE HAS SOME CHRONIC HEALTH
CONDITIONS SHE'S GETTING
MEDICATION FOR ON A REGULAR
BASIS.
THIS ENVIRONMENT FOR HER IS, THE
FACT IT'S ALL UNDER ONE ROOF, IS
SOMETHING THAT FRANKLY EXISTS IN
ONLY VERY, VERY FEW PLACES IN
THE CITY.
>> SO IF SHE WAS OUT ON THE
STREETS, AND HAD THE WILL, SAID,
ALL RIGHT.
I'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING TO HELP
MYSELF, CHANCES ARE WOULD SHE
HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET THE
SAME TREATMENT AND THE SAME
MANNER, UNDER ONE ROOF, SHE
ACTUALLY GOT ON RIKERS ISLAND?
>> IT WOULD BE VERY, VERY, VERY
DIFFICULT FOR HER AND YOU HAVE
TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF THESE OTHER
SOCIAL FACTORS SHE'S DEALING
WITH.
HOUSING IS KIND OF CHAOTIC.
SHE HAS LIMITED ACCESS TO MONEY.
SHE HAS LIMITED MONEY TO
TRANSPORTATION.
SO SHE WOULD LIKELY HAVE TO GO
TO MULTIPLE PLACES TO ACTUALLY
GET THESE KIND OF SERVICES.
>> IF YOU LOOK AT HER CHANCES,
IF YOU WILL, AND YOU HAVE A
FASCINATING AND REALLY TROUBLING
QUOTE OF A NUMBER IN YOUR
ARTICLE.
TELL ME IF I GET THIS RIGHT,
THAT DRUG USERS, INMATES, WHO
ARE RELEASED FROM PRISON ARE 129
TIMES MORE LIKELY THAN NON-USERS
RELEASED TO ENGAGE IN A FATAL
OVERDOSE WITHIN TWO WEEKS OF
THEIR RELEASE?
DID I GET THAT RIGHT?
>> CORRECT.
>> THAT'S A DAUNTING NUMBER.
WHAT ARE HER PLANS, AND WHAT DO
YOU THINK HER PROSPECTS ARE?
WHAT ARE GOALS FOR HER AND WHAT
COULD BE THE POSITIVES FOR HER
GETTING OUT?
>> SHE HAS A LONG ROAD AHEAD IN
RECOVERY.
THE OTHER BENEFIT THING AT
RIKERS ISLAND IS YOU HAVE WALLS
SEPARATING YOU FROM YOUR DRUG
DEALERS.
NOW SHE'S THRUST OUT IN TO THE
WORLD BEYOND THOSE WALLS.
AND THERE WILL BE TEMPTATIONS
THAT WILL BE GREETING HER ALMOST
IMMEDIATELY.
RIKERS ALSO IS KNOWN FOR DOING A
GOOD JOB OF TRYING TO CREATE A
VERY POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR
PEOPLE TO COME OUT INTO.
SO SHE WILL HAVE HER METHADONE
PRESCRIPTIONS.
THEY WILL BE CONTINUED.
SHE'LL BE REENROLLED IN
MEDICAID.
SHE WILL BE ENROLLED IN A
PROGRAM HELPS YOU REINTEGRATE.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THAT
SHE CONTINUES THIS CONSISTENT
TREATMENT WITH METHADONE OR WITH
ANOTHER DRUG KNOWN AS
BUPRONEFRIN OR NAPROXEN.
>> A COMPELLING STORY WITH
SIGNIFICANT MORALS AND WARNINGS
FOR US TO DECIDE WHAT WE NEED TO
DO.
OUR HOPE IF YOU'RE GOING TO
FOLLOW THIS UP WE CAN GET YOU
BACK IN SOMETIME AND AGAIN HOPES
THAT THE SUCCESS STORY
CONTINUES.
AGAIN, MARVELOUS REPORTING.
GREAT STORYTELLING.
APPRECIATE IT AND LOOK FORWARD
TO TALKING AGAIN.
>> THANKS.
>> THANK YOU.