The first time Kimberly Davis went to prison, she was 18 years old. She had picked up a ravenous heroin habit as a runaway in California and returned home to Cincinnati—addicted and broke.
Desperate to get high, she helped a boyfriend rob a fellow drug dealer at his home, breaking in and tying up the people inside. She was convicted of robbery, sent to prison in Marysville, Ohio, and released after six months.
For the next 20 years, Davis’ drug habit kept her desperate and on the edge of the law. In 1989 she earned a second trip to prison, this time for two years, on charges of prostitution and a parole violation. Ten years later, police caught up with her again. This time, she was brought before a judge on a drug charge. Turns out it was the best day of her life.
Instead of prison, which she describes as “just a continuous walking around the same circle day after day,” she was sent to River City Correctional Center where she received treatment for her addiction and counseling for everything else that was wrong in her life. It got her body clean and her mind right. That was 13 years ago. “That’s what saved me.”
It also led her, ultimately, to Xavier, where last May, after four years of night classes, she completed her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a minor in criminal justice. At commencement, she stood in awe at the sight of her name on the marquee.
Davis, who was the first woman to complete River City’s six-month program, is now giving back. She was hired by River City last year to be a case manager, helping other addicts get their lives back. River City, in Cincinnati, is one of 19 community-based correctional facilities in Ohio that keep low-level felons close to home while providing rehabilitation and treatment aimed at reducing recidivism. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it worked for Davis.
“River City showed me I didn’t have to live like that anymore,” she says. “I really thought I was going to die being a dope fiend, but they treated me like I was somebody and allowed me to see that if I wanted to change, I had to take responsibility for myself. I found I really wanted to live. I just didn’t know how.”
Now, she’s using her past to help other women find their futures. “I feel this is my purpose and this is where God wanted me to be,” she says. “This is the same ground I went to jail on and got recovery on, and now I’m an employee here. It’s very liberating.”