I was arrested at 20 years old. Young and immature, I thought I had it all figured out. So you can imagine how shocked I was when my judge sentenced me to spend the next 40 years of my life in a federal prison.
“That’s my whole life,” I remember saying to myself over and over. “I’ll be 60 when I get out of here.”
This was my first time in prison. And with the sentence I received, I’d have to live my life twice over before I could get out and actually start living.
To set the stage, up until this point in my life I’d never really “lived.” Everything I did was just a sort of obligation. The drugs, money, and everything that went along with it — it was just how it was. My entire family not only approved of my lifestyle, but for as far back as I can remember, they expected it from me. I didn’t think I had a choice. So I happily obliged. And by the time I was 20, I was so far gone that Death himself probably couldn’t stop me.
Prison helped me to change that perspective, odd as it may sound. And I don’t mean the famous, “prison humbled me,” spiel. I mean to say that because of these circumstances, i realized that I had a choice to do good.
I’ll never forget my time in the county jail, just seven months after being arrested. For the first time in my entire life I was able to sit down on my bed with a sober mind and consider my options. The way I saw it, I had three of them: take my life; do like most and get involved in prison life, just to pass the time; or take advantage of the many tools and programs offered to me and change my life.
With my new-found perspective, I committed to the latter. Though the environment I was in made it very difficult and promoted everything except positive personal development, I decided to do what I had to do to make something out of my life.
Twenty years later I am still committed to seeing myself grow in every possible area. Today, I can proudly say that I’ve accomplished things I never thought to be possible. I’ve earned my GED, an Associates [sp] Degree and have received multiple certifications. I’ve taken over 6000 hours of classes, some of which have taught me how to be a more effective leader, how to better manage my money and even classes that have taught me how to be a better father.
All of these things have given me a renewed hope. Things I thought were impossible for me are possible now. I can dream. And I do dream! And I’m confident that one day I will see those dreams be a reality.
As far as I’m concerned, the past is in the past, and the only thing to look forward to is the future. Prison has served its purpose for me. I’ve been rehabilitated. Now I’m excited to live the rest of my life for others, not just myself. — James C.