Women Get Help Staying Sober from Volunteer Ministry


UPDATED: Tuesday May 21, 2013 6:50 PM

Nearly 10 years ago there were, on average, 10 women who ended up in the Fairfield County jail on drug charges.

Today, there are more than 60 behind bars facing charges related to drugs.

Jail time means they will get clean, but the challenge is staying clean once they are released.

Jenessa Cassley, 26, and Tiffany Runge, 23, have both been locked up for drugs three times now.

“Just to stay sober is a battle every day in itself,” Cassley said. “I have a 3 year old that needs me.”

Runge said she talks to volunteers at Grace Haven Ministries for support to try and sober up.

“I heard a few of the girls say that they’ve been in here more than once, they especially need hope,” Grace Haven Ministries volunteer Kathy Meyer said.

Jail administrators said nearly 90 percent of the female inmates have drug addictions that led to their crimes.

Meyer and seven others in the ministry go to the jail every week to pray, minister and motivate them for their eventual release.

Many women return to the streets, and that can add up to activity that landed them in jail in the first place.

“We have people die on the streets all the time through overdoses, so at some point, they’ve got to understand this is for their life,” Executive Director of Grace Haven Ministries Loretta Phalen said.

Phalen, who is the wife of Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen, said this life-or-death battle is why she expanded the ministry to two houses, where up to eight women can stay for a year, as long as they remain drug free.

“They go to AA meetings, we have several classes and things for them and really the only thing that makes someone better is their own determination.

A woman named Bethany said she turned her life around after beating an addiction to prescription Percocet. She later turned to scoring it off the streets, which is why she went to jail twice.

“I’m not so far away from it that I’m removed from it,” Bethany said. “It’s an everyday struggle and battle that I have to deal with.”

A way of life these women hope to embrace once their time behind bars is up.

“(I want) to be a better mother, to be a better daughter, wife and do better with my life and get a job,” Runge said.

78 women have gone through Grace Haven in the five years of its operation, and 20, including Bethany, remain drug free.

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