Heroin dealer hopes others learn from his mistakes

Jahod Thomas is serving time at Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City for dealing heroin.

Week after week,
makes headlines.

Overdoses are all-to common and dealer arrests have become the norm.

Right now, there are about 31,250 people incarcerated in Missouri.

Many of those struggling with a alcohol and/or drug abuse problems.

Jahod Thomas is serving time at Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City for dealing heroin.

"It just relaxes your whole body,â?? Thomas said. â??That's the reason why it can be so addicting fast. Because that first feeling, you'll be like 'man, I feel great'."

After the first time Jahod Thomas tried heroin, he was hooked. His life, in a downward spiral. Surrounded by barbed wire, he's spent the last 20-years on and off behind bars. That's more than half of his life.

"I started selling heroin because it was hard to find a job,â?? Thomas said. â??So, I knew this was the easiest thing for me to get money."

His latest arrest was in 2010 during a drug raid in Rolla.

Thomas was charged with possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, it happened within 2,000-feet of a school.

He was sentenced to 10-years behind bars.

According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, after his release, he will be just one of the 15,400 people on parole and 34,600 on probation who need substance abuse treatment.

"If I went to Rolla, St. Louis, anywhere you've been and I said 'Jahod Thomas', would people know who you were? Were you a big dealer," KRCG 13's Meghan Lane asked.

"No, they wouldn't know who I am," Thomas said.

"Why," Lane asked.

"Because you said Jahod Thomas," Thomas said.

Thomas was known under a different name, an alias.

â??They called me 'D',â??Thomas said.

Mug shots from his multiple stints in prison riddle his files, many of them, a result of his heroin addiction.

Instead of pictures from his sons football games, or his daughters' birthdays, Thomas has an array of mug shots.

He reflected on one taken in 2005.

"What was going on in his life," Lane asked.

"Staying from house to house, doing anything I can to get high,â?? Thomas said. â??I didn't care about who I hurt or anything, stealing this and stealing that, it was just really bad then."

"If you could say something to the person you were in this picture, what would you say," Lane asked.

"Wake up, wake up,â?? Thomas said. â??I was walking dead right there."

A different imprisoned heroin dealer, this one from Jefferson City said we need to focus on the addict, not just the dealer.

â??You can still focus on the dealers for getting the drug off the street, but until you start getting people off the drug, it's not going to affect what's on the street," the inmate who wished to remain anonymous said. "Somebody else is going to step up. They are going to go find that drug, ya know, they are going to go find it. That's how addictive it is. It's a very addictive drug."

Jahod Thomas said educating the public on the deadly drug is imperative.

"How can you tell me something that you've never experienced," Thomas questioned.

But the right person has to do the talking, the right person he says, is a dealer or an addict.

"They will be more in tune with you because you know what you are talking about. You didn't read about it, you didn't hear about it,â?? Thomas said. "To actually let them see first hand, this is what it will do to you, this is what is going to happen. Ain't nothing good coming out of you using heroin."

Thomas said this time when he gets out of prison, it will be different, he's different.

But given his past, many could argue his future looks bleak, actions speak louder than words.

He will get the chance to prove himself in the coming months.

The statistics are not in his favor, according to the department of mental health within one year of release, about 26% of offenders with a substance abuse problem returned to prisons.

Jefferson City seems to be a stronghold for heroin supplies.

Last year the Jefferson City Police Department started educating the public more with their H.O.P.E. Campaign, which stands for Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education.

They also launched an aggressive enforcement effort.

While they've seen a dramatic drop in the number of reported heroin overdoses, there's an increase in the number of cases and arrests associated with heroin.

In Boone County, sheriff's deputies said they've seen a surge in the white powder after Oxycontin became difficult to manipulate for injection.

Drug detectives there said a lot of the heroin they see is coming from the capital city.