In the opinion spotlight column of The Mountaineer, a group of pastors wrote "A lament over possible jail expansion." As a Christian, a mother, counselor, and a citizen, I would like to comment.
I have been going into the Haywood Country jail for over five years in jail ministry on a weekly basis until COVID-19 hit last year. I also have gone into the Open Door to give devotion for four years.
I have served on the Board of the Haywood Pathways, and now am a counselor at ABCCM in Asheville. But the biggest role I have played is a mother of addicted children.
Every one of us would love for our loved ones to be clean and sober and in good mental health but that is not the case or reality in a world infested with drug dealers, broken families, broken minds, and most of all a "will of our own."
I have battled with drug abuse as a mother in my family for over 35 years. I have seen firsthand in the roles I have played in this community what REALLY is the case of building a bigger jail or not.
I would love to ask each of the pastors that committed in The Mountaineer or the people opposed to the expansion of the new jail how many times they have talked to a homeless, addicted, oppressed person on the street?
How many have children or loved ones in addiction with a mind of their own? As the old saying goes "you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink."
I have a daughter that has been homeless and on opioids for years. I have pleaded, begged, and almost would do anything to have her here at home with me or in a safe place. But all my efforts have gone lame because SHE is not willing to give up her drugs. What everyone seems to forget is we all have a choice, and our choices cannot be swayed if we do not want them too.
Jesus, The Lord Almighty cannot intervene if that person does not want Him to be present in their lives.
I have sat down with many homeless people, one on one and asked 'why?' Why they choose to be homeless when there is so much opportunity to become more. Their response is "I don't want anyone telling me how to live and what to do. I do not want the responsibility of paying bills, I can do what I want when I want to do it."
Enough said! And even if they wanted help, they want the help they choose, not the help people want to impose on them. Most of us that have a full-time job or two cannot afford the housing cost that surrounds us now.
In the jail, you see the same people in and out almost weekly, each time they come in for weeks, months or years, they are completely clean when they leave the jail, and you would think this is the time to go straight, but they go back to the same friends, family, neighborhood they left, because it the choice they choose so, they keep coming back.
Why? Because they do not want the life you want them to have. Some like to stay in jail because they get three meals a day, there are medicines, health, and they want a regimented life, and maybe deep down they want to change but cannot for whatever reason that has taken over their body, mind and soul. Let us call it Satan.
Most of the inmates will tell you when talking to them when they get arrested, they are glad they are where they are because they would be dead. You think they do not want this life, but ask yourselves, why do they keep ending up in the same place? Because of their free-will.
I have asked many times what about getting some help with your mental issues, would that make a difference? I had the opportunity just this last November when I was giving my sermon to a group of inmates. I asked how many have been on mental health drugs? All raised their hands. I asked how many took them when they were prescribed, none of them raised their hands. They had them but did not take them.
The only time they take them is when they are in jail. I asked how many have sought out drug rehabs, etc. All of them raised their hands. All the counseling in the world cannot make a person change if they do not want too.
I know a man who is 45 years old been in addiction since he was 13, been in and out of jail and prison most of his life. Then two years ago he finally made the choice, all by himself to change and get clean and since that time. He says sometimes he wished he were still using because reality is so much worse.
The Haywood sheriff's office has no other choice but to expand. It is the people that break the law that is causing this expansion. The officers arrest the people breaking the law, but the courts say what happens to them.
If they do not pay child support, the judge and the jail have their hands tied by the Department of Social Services. They stay there until the money is paid, but how are they supposed to pay if they are in jail? Have not worked because they are in jail?
So not only do you have the ones that got arrested for whatever reason, but you have inmates in jail for long periods of time because the Department of Social Services tell them when they can get out. The cycle never ends.
They are still going to commit crimes to get what they want. So, building a bigger jail only means there is more drug dealers, drug users, people repeating the cycles passed on from other family and this is the life thy know and if we have no where to put them because the jail is already over its capacity, then what.
More mental health, more programs, more what? If they don't want it, then what?
They will not go to the homeless shelters because most of them have been there and done that, some after only a few days will leave because its not their time to change.
They cannot go to family, because most family is fed up with them and refuse to bring them home. Then the ones that are homeless want to be there because it is all they know; they will go live with others addicted and the cycle continues.
You would be amazed at how many mothers and daughters end up in jail. The cycle itself needs to be broken. We want them to live this joyful life, get a job, support their families but it is not their reality.
I was homeless many years ago. Not by my choice but by extreme life circumstances, but I choose to rise above it. Those are the ones that will have the strength to pull themselves up above on their own self and then seek the help they need.
I love on our inmates, I love on the homeless and I pray for them to change their hearts, but until they are ready, Satan and the drug dealers win them and when they break the laws, the jail houses them. God cannot change us unless we want to be changed.
Psalm 146:7 "Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free."