Passion for weightlifting helps Danville sheriff's deputies rehabilitate inmates

Deputies' weightlifting provides positive reinforcement for inmates

DANVILLE, Va. – On Oct. 22, Danville sheriff's deputies Maj. Matt Wyatt and Sgt. Shawn James won multiple first-place titles in the national Iron Boy Powerlifting competition.

This is Wyatt's 4th national title and James's 3rd.

They got into weightlifting about 20 years ago as a way to build confidence and relieve stress, but it's now also helping increase communication between them and the inmates.

"When I go back doing rounds during the day, they'll ask me, 'Sgt. James, how'd you attain that size?' Just hard work and dedication," James said. "They'll say, 'Can you make me out a routine or help me out?' I'll say, 'Sure!'"

"We talk to all the guys and we end up building a pretty good rapport," Wyatt said.

So much so, in fact, that some of the inmates come to work out with the deputies after getting out of jail.

"It is positive reinforcement," Wyatt said. "If they can find an outlet instead of being out on the street, and get in that gym and work out, then absolutely. Any time we can keep recidivism down, that's a good thing."

Weightlifting has also helped them provide positive reinforcement to the inmates in jail.

"Your physical presence alone commands respect and most of them follow suit," Wyatt said.

James said he would recommend weightlifting to anyone.

"It's helped me in my job so much; staying focused, staying mentally positive. In all ways of life it's helped me in my job," James explained.

Wyatt and James now plan to go on to the world weightlifting games in 2019 and compete in the deadlift and bench press competition.

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