Working to reclaim a life: Ex-RSW inmate focuses on future, starting with job at jail

Capt. Joshua Jacobson of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, left, chats with inmate trustee Timothy Berry as Berry polishes the floors inside the facility. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – At 49 years old, Timothy Wayne Berry is working hard to reclaim his life.

Drugs and alcohol took everything from him.

“When I lost my wife and my son, that’s when I knew I was an addict,” Berry said referencing his divorce.

His son was about 10 years old the last time Berry saw him. His son is now 30.

“It breaks my heart I can’t be around my boy. I might get that back but I won’t get him back with a needle in my arm,” Berry said.

Jail inmate Timothy Berry was freed from jail on Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Berry was at a concert with his cousins the first time he smoked marijuana. He was 9 years old. He used cocaine for the first time when he was 15.

Eventually he began using heroin.

Berry has a history of criminal charges in Maryland and in Virginia going back years. He used drugs and then started selling drugs to support his own habit.

“Where I am from in Baltimore, everybody hustles,” Berry said.

People who are incarcerated often talk of their time on the streets as a way of building up their credentials on the inside. Berry does not.

“I did nothing glamorous,” he said.

Berry overdosed in 2015 at a Comfort Inn in Baltimore.

“I had a needle in my arm two days later,” Berry said.

He came to Virginia with his father.

Berry was arrested and booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on July 29, 2015, on burglary, vandalism and larceny charges. He was released on Thursday.

“I am scared to go out but I am a different man,” Berry said.

This is not his first incarceration. He has served time in three different penitentiaries, mostly for drug-related crimes.

While in the penitentiaries he was able to obtain and abuse methadone.

On his left arm he has a large prison tattoo, given to him by another inmate during a  penitentiary stay. It is of the grim reaper holding a scythe. Above it reads Life of Crime.

On the right arm is another prison tattoo, a sword with his son’s birth date above.

But this incarceration at the RSW jail was different.

He did not use drugs while in jail. Staff at the jail talked to him and treated him as a person.

“In here I feel I have a support system,” Berry said. “They tell me, ‘Berry, you are not a bad person’.”

They ask how he is doing, is he having a good day, does he need anything.

“I feel I have a support system in jail,” Berry said. “They put trust in me and then a little more trust where I can do more.”

Part of that trust was allowing him to clean the floors of the jail.

He attended the programs they offer, such as coping skills and basic drug education. He talked to Elisabeth Gochenour, a mental health professional who works for Northwest Community Services.

“She is a great lady,” Berry said.

He grew up during his 33-month stay at the regional jail. On Thursday, he was set free, but he will still be seen at the jail, this time as an employee cleaning the floors.

Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison and Capt. Josh Jacobson went to bat for Berry, supporting him in his quest to live a good life outside of jail.

“Everyone on the staff is pulling for this guy,” Gilkison said.

Growing up and accepting responsibility for his actions and his life is a big step for him. He said he wishes he had done it 20 years earlier.

“Heroin is an endless road. You will end up here or in the grave,” Berry said.