A Day in Prison Life: Helping battle addiction

DICKINSON, N.D. Addiction to painkillers has increased at an alarming rate, with deaths from overdoses tripling in just three years.

The rescue drug Narcan may save a life, but it doesn't end the dependency. Too often, people get the treatment they need after they've seen a judge.

Nothing about Kerry Lehman says inmate. Her eyes are bright, her smile infectious. She works hard, 50 hours a week at two Dickinson restaurants and pitches in at her new place; a transitional home called Hope's Landing.

It's hard to believe that just two months ago, she worked in prison industries.

"I was addicted to pain pills. Opiates," said Lehman.

Kerry was incarcerated at the Dakota Women's Correctional Center in 2011 with a maximum sentence after her third drug conviction in 20 years.

"The day I got arrested in 2011, the night before I got on my knees, and I begged God to intervene somehow and help me. The next day I got arrested and I've been clean ever since."

She detoxed the hard way in a dormitory room that housed 16 others. That was hard, but getting over the emotional dependency was worse. She says it took her two years in prison before she saw a sober life as a better life.

A lot of them have been abused," said warden Rachelle Juntunen. "They've grown up in families that have been neglectful and a lot of chemical dependency issues, so it becomes generational and they really get trapped in that."

Juntunen started out as a counselor here. She says therapy helps for those who choose it. Sometimes part of the answer is even simpler than that. Like the therapy dog, Frankie.

You have certain expectations when you come into a women's prison, but what you don't expect, is Frankie's unconditional love.

"He came in as a stray, and he's been here ever since," said Juntunen.

But even Frankie can't cure all hurts. For that, the women here say they depend on God, on rehab and their own will to live for a better day.

"I honestly believe you'll either end up in prison, and if that doesn't save you, you will die," said Lehman.

Now that she's out, Kerry spends a lot of time talking to others, helping them to stop the cycle before it's too late.