At Franklin County Jail, 'I have a second chance at life'

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GREENFIELD — Four women in the Franklin County Jail's 1-year-old substance abuse program say they needed more than treatment.

To stop using, they had to be forced into it by a judge, after being sentenced for crimes like stealing to pay for their heroin habits.

Kendra Reyes, 31, of Holyoke

Backstory: Reyes came to the jail on a charge related to her heroin addiction.

Outlook: She said she feels increasingly better with each day since she has been in Greenfield, as she no longer has to spend her time waking up sick and trying to find a way to get high. Reyes, who has a daughter, said the inner work the program requires of her is meaningful. It's not only about good behavior, but about personal revelation. "How you've changed inside and how do you want to progress on the outside."

Verbatim: "Living a normal life is not easy, but it's much easier than living the life of an addict."

Brandy Karras, 34, Athol

Backstory: Karras, who has three children, has been in and out of drug treatment homes, and jail, for offenses related to smoking crack cocaine.

Outlook: Karras said the difference now is the support before release. "Before, you would just leave," she said. "There was no housing, counseling ... now, there are people to bring you to appointments." Karras said facing people after relapsing can be "embarrassing." Karras lost a friend to addiction this month. "I'd rather come back than be buried."

Verbatim: "I will try not to come back."

Krista O'Brien, 25, Northampton

Backstory: O'Brien came to the jail after passing counterfeit money to fuel her heroin habit, and also had violated probation. She was arrested while homeless on the streets of Holyoke. She had developed health problems.

Outlook: In her cell, with books stacked on the top bunk, she talks about her passion for reading about World War II history. Her great-grandfather was in the infantry, and her 96-year-old great-grandmother, who has come to visit her, has a photo of him sitting on top of Adolf Hitler's bunker. She pulls out a Truman Capote novel a counselor recommended and holds up "Orange Is The New Black."

Verbatim: "I just became a heroin addict and lost it all. Now, I have my family back and I have a second chance at life."

Ashley Booher, 30, Westfield

Backstory: Booher said her heroin habit started as a depressed teenager who began "hanging out with the wrong people ... it sucked me into this other world." Booher came to the jail in May, and expected to be there for one more week before she will be released to a recovery home, on a GPS bracelet, until her sentence is up.

Booher said she has been to jail before for "doing horrible things to get money — my addiction was so bad I was stealing from everybody." Her family cut ties with her. She overdosed multiple times, even in a courthouse parking lot after release from the women's jail in Chicopee. "In 2017, I weighed 93 pounds." The overdosing led to seizures.

Outlook: Booher is hopeful. She wants to rekindle relations with her family — her younger sister might come visit. She said she has strong support in place for her release. But she knows the risks. "Every time I try to get better, I do sincerely try."

Verbatim: "We can't even picture each other doing drugs. When we're clean, we're completely different people."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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