Behind The Badge: Jail Inmate Work Crew Life-Changing For Recovering Heroin Addict


29-year-old William Parson never believed he would find himself dressed in a Winnebago County Jail jumpsuit.

“I turned to heroin at a pretty young age,” he said. 

Not once, not twice, but three times he’s served in the county jail for non-violent offenses.

“When the money ran out I had to get it someone so I started doing burglaries.”

All related to his addiction to heroin.

“I had two overdoses right before I came in here and it scared me pretty bad.”

Now he’s more than 65 days sober, serving a six month sentence after he was arrested for an outstanding warrant in the process of losing everything including his home, his wife, and his kids.

“Jail is the only way to get clean for me. I can’t do it on my own out here.”

But after three times ending up behind bars, he’s serving his time in a different way, not only walking away with a unique experience, but also hoping to walk away for good.

“I think I got it this time. I just want to get out and do right. I’m sick of this life, it’s miserable.”

He’s part of the Winnebago County inmate work crew. Monday thru Friday he and another inmate hit the streets with Correctional Officer Russell Kirby watching over them, doing a variety of tasks including picking up trash along the streets to setting up for Greek Fest.

“It’s preparing me for getting out there and working. I just want to get out here and get a job right away as fast as I can.” 

Ofc. Kirby runs the program. He’s seen inmates come and go, but each one leaves knowing their hard work and dedication can go a long way while finding a better path in a life where jail became normal.

“Whenever someone leaves my work crew I give them my business card. I tell them this is not a get out of jail free card, but what this is…is if you go somewhere to get a job you can say you can call this guy and he can give me a reference,” Kirby said.

Being apart of the work program, Parson realizes there’s much more to life than being apart of the cycle of drugs and jail, finding a positive outlook in life and his own self-worth.

“It feel really good giving back to the community and being productive and helping out people in the community,” said Parson. 

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