Meet Us Monday: C.T. Woody, Jr., Board Member
For this #MeetUsMonday we’re introducing you to Board Member Sheriff C.T. Woody, Jr.
Sheriff Woody didn’t expect to have the impact he had. He grew up in Hanover County, VA being afraid of police officers, never thinking he’d become one. After high school he went into college with an athletic scholarship. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the military for two years where he learned about leading and discipline. Afterwards, he was desperate to find a job – and accepted the first one he offered. This was a job, he never thought he would do – being a police officer. However, through this job, he learned to communicate with citizens, including those in low-income communities and those who were mentally ill. “I fell in love with it. I loved talking to the victims, those I arrested, working with the families….I learned so much about how to give back.”
After many years in the police department, working as an investigator in the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and an attempted retirement, Woody was convinced to run for Sheriff in 2006. Winning came as a surprise, and quickly he had to learn how to run a jail. It was then that he learned about what many of the jail residents were facing. “They were sleeping on the floor, there were rats, no air conditioning…it was awful and unfit for anyone” In Woody’s words, “a complete revision had to be done. My goal was to make the jail safe to help the jail residents become better citizens, not better criminals.”
He really believed in programming and providing opportunities to change life. He was determined to stop the revolving door of incarceration among generations. Allowed comprehensive programming, which at the time, was not often seen in other jails. When asked why he allowed it, he responded: “I wanted to make a difference.” During the earlier stages of his being sheriff, Woody authorized a father-daughter dance at the jail. “People thought I was crazy but it shook me up, it shook the world up. It showed the fathers that they needed to be out of jail for their daughters and showed the daughters that they couldn’t give up on their fathers. It was heartbreaking, but it was great. It showed the importance of family.”
Over his 12 years as sheriff, Woody states he learned a lot. Prior to his work, he held stereotypical notions about the people in jail, “I thought they were mean and that they wanted to take advantage of people, but I was wrong. These people have just been neglected but with love, guidance, education, and treatment, they can change.” More than anything, Woody understands the truth of what it means to be human, “all people are human, and all people make mistakes.”
During his tenure, REAL LIFE was founded in the community as a means to helping those who were released from programming inside of the jail. Woody happily joined the board when he was no longer Sheriff.
When asked how his past and working with law enforcement has influenced his passion to be active with REAL LIFE, Woody’s response was “I know both sides. The side of the abused, mistreated…so with REAL LIFE, the people are like me. If I can be successful, so can they.”
“I love REAL LIFE because it teaches you how to live, not feel sorry for yourself. The blame game does not work, it’s about you. You can make a difference. It’s never too late to change, change is a work in progress.”
While looking back on his life with law enforcement, Woody says that “it’s been a great experience, a loving and caring experience. I enjoyed it and would do it again.” He stresses the importance of family, love, education, and never giving up while crediting REAL LIFE for changing lives. “REAL LIFE is the real program, the real deal.”