Hancock County inmates discuss addiction behind bars

Cory Ferrell (WISH Photo)

GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — The cells of jails across Indiana are filled with inmates serving time for heroin-related charges. Some of the inmates are serving time for using or selling drugs, others for crimes they committed in order to get their hands on more heroin. Many inmates are addicted to the deadly drug by the time they are arrested.

Jail officials said there has been a spike in heroin-related arrests over the past two years.

24-Hour News 8 went inside the Hancock County jail and sat down with three inmates, who all admit they are addicted to heroin.  Each of them wanted to share their story in order to warn others how far heroin will make a person go, and how quickly it will destroy lives. For these three inmates, and many others, jail is their only chance at breaking the habit.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS: YOUR HEART STOPPED. YOU WERE DEAD.

Christopher Williams was booked in the Hancock County Jail for the first time on his 18th birthday and has been in and out of jail ever since. Williams is now 36 years old, addicted to heroin and in debt to the county jail. He has three daughters who he rarely, if ever, sees.  His daughters’ mothers want nothing to do with him. He said his parents don’t come visit him when he’s in jail.

Christopher Williams (WISH Photo)
Christopher Williams (WISH Photo)

“I have no one here. I don’t get mail, I don’t get phone calls or money put on the books,” Williams said.

He wasn’t always this lonely. The friends who encouraged and, at times, fed his addiction are now all gone.  Williams said he began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana when he was 13-14 years old with his cousin. After he saw his cousin overdose, he started doing heavier drugs.

“A little bit of pills here and there, and then it progressed to harder drugs – as in ice [meth]. Then, the one drug I said I’d never do– heroin,” said Williams, “I started out…smoking it. Then snorting it, then the one thing I said I’d never do – shoot it.”

He still can’t believe how quickly the addiction took hold.

“Six months ago, I never had a needle in my arm,” said Williams.

The second time Williams ever shot up heroin was almost his last.

“All I know is that I came to in the back of an ambulance. I asked the ambulance driver what happened, and he said ‘Your heart stopped. You were dead. You were blue.’”

Williams had shot up more heroin than his body could handle. Emergency crews were able to revive him, but the experience didn’t keep him away from the drug.

“Even after going through that experience, I still got out and did it again. I can’t explain why. It’s that I just enjoyed the fix and the feeling that it gave me…now that I’m clean, it’s something that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” said Williams.

CORY FERRELL: I TOOK AN AXE AND I CHOPPED MY FINGER OFF   

Cory Ferrell told 24-Hour News 8 his mother turned him into police officers, hoping he could finally get clean.

Cory Ferrell (WISH Photo)
Cory Ferrell (WISH Photo)

He was living on the streets, barely weighing 100 pounds and searching for his next high, when his mother invited him home for dinner and a shower. When Ferrell got out of the shower, police officers were waiting. Ferrell said he had a needle and drugs on him, and officers arrested him.

“I wasn’t mad at her. It was probably bad for her to have to see me like that. I don’t think she wanted me to catch more charges,” said Ferrell, “She didn’t know I had anything on me.”

Ferrell has been addicted to heroin for about five years. He said he started taking prescription pain medications after a shoulder injury in high school. Soon, he started buying his pills on the street. Shortly after, he started doing heroin.

Ferrell has been in jail almost every year since 2007. Every time he’s locked up, he gets sober – but when he gets out, he relapses.

“I’ll be doing good, I’ll have a good job, I’ll be making money. I’ll have a relationship with my family, but the only thing that can make it better after a while, is if I’m high while doing it,” said Ferrell, “I don’t even call it sobriety. It’s just dry.”

As soon as he’s back in jail, the withdrawals hit.

“It’s bad. You’re depressed. You’re sick. You don’t eat. You just…it’s bad. You forget it though, after you go through it. You forget what it’s like when you start getting high again,” said Ferrell, “You don’t remember how bad it was because you’re not going to feel like that on the street. You’re out there getting high. You’re doing what it takes to get high. You won’t ever feel like that.”

There’s a scar on Ferrell’s hand – it is proof he’ll do whatever it takes to get his fix.

“It got to the point I chopped my finger off,” said Ferrell. “I took an axe and chopped my finger off. You’re going to do what it takes – you’re not going to be sick. I went straight to the hospital and they gave me Dilaudid. Immediately.”

Doctors were able to sew his finger back on, and Ferrell had a temporary cure for his withdrawals.

REANNA COOK: IT WILL RUIN YOU. IT WILL CRUMBLE YOU.

Reanna Cook, a mother of four, holds on to photos of her old life. In jail, the photos are the closest she gets to seeing all of her children together. Cook sees her youngest child occasionally, when her parents bring her to the jail to visit. She almost never sees her oldest daughter, who is now 15 years old.

“She thinks that I’ve chose drugs over her, her entire life. And that’s not the case. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t discriminate how much I love or care for me kids – or want to be there. Something takes over me. That addiction. That need,” said Cook.

Cook is addicted to heroin. She’s been in jail periodically since 2013. She started taking prescription pain pills, but she turned to heroin when her pill habit became too expensive.

“It takes over completely. You’re thinking the way you think. Physically it takes over. It makes you sick if you don’t have it, it makes you crazy if you don’t have it,” said Cook.

Reanna Cook (WISH Photo)
Reanna Cook (WISH Photo)

Now that she’s sober – Cook said it’s painful to think about everything she’s done to get her hands on heroin.

“It makes you lie, cheat and steal to get it from whoever — you hurt the people closest to you. Not just yourself…kids, my parents, I’ve done a lot of bad things to a lot of people,” said Cook. “ I’ve stolen from people that mean the most to me, and things I can never replace. I can manipulate people.”

Cook begged anyone who hears her story to never even try heroin.

“Stay away. It will ruin you. It will crumble you. You, your family, anybody you love and everything you’ve ever known you won’t have it anymore. That lifestyle that you live, you know – this [jail] is where you’ll be.” said Cook.

GETTING CLEAN BEHIND BARS: THIS PLACE SAVED MY LIFE. 

All three of the inmates said in some way, they’re grateful to be in jail. Behind bars, they’re forced to get clean. The process is brutal.

“You are so lonely. You’re so by yourself. It’s a horrible feeling. You’re just very sick. You shake, you have the chills, you’re vomiting, you’re sick to your stomach. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You might go four, five days without sleeping. Your body hurts you’re so achy,” said Cook, “Nobody wants to detox in jail. That’s a horrible place to detox.”

The withdrawals are too much to bear on the outside, where a fix is just a phone call away.

“Sometimes not even that. Sometimes I can just pull up to a gas station and there it is,” said Cook.

“You’re not going to feel like that on the street. If you’re out there getting high – you’re doing what it takes to get high. You won’t feel like that,” said Ferrell. “The only time I’ve been able to successfully kick the habit is when I’m in here. You can’t call your dope man in here. He’s not going to accept a collect call.”

Ferrell said he’s grateful, looking back on the night he was arrested.

“It was the best sleep I’ve had in a while. It was just a relief actually. It was over for a little bit,” said Ferrell,” I’m very happy. It’s cold outside, for one…it’s a reset button every time.”

These three inmates see Indiana’s heroin crisis sitting in the cells around them.  All three grew up in Greenfield, and they each say the problem has grown dramatically worse in the past few years.

“I see a lot of young kids that are coming in – 19, 20 years old – hooked on heroin, detoxing from it,” said Cook.

The inmates could be in jail on drug charges, or for crimes indirectly related to heroin, like burglary or theft.

“I would steal vehicles, sell them to chop shops,” said Williams.

“I sold drugs,” said Cook.

“You’ll be doing something to get high, knowing you’re getting ready to go to jail for it – be pawning something, knowing you’re getting ready to get caught, but you don’t care at the time,” said Ferrell.

No matter how painful a jailhouse detox may be, it’s better than the only other option heroin has to offer.

“All you’re going to do is end up in jail, prison or lying in a casket with your family grieving for you,” said Williams.

Each of the inmates knew several people who have been killed by heroin. Ferrell could name 10 people he knew personally.

“You’re playing with death every time you shoot up. You don’t know how strong the stuff you’re putting in your arm is….what’s real terrible, is that if you have a buddy OD, the first thing you want to know is where he got his [expletive] at,” said Ferrell,  “This place [jail] saved my life. It really did.”

Each said they hoped their most recent detox would finally be their last.

“I would love to learn how to live life sober, I feel like…I don’t know it,” said Cook.

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