I have been living in prison for the last eight years; the nights were the hardest, when you’re all alone staring at the steel bars, feeling the chill of the cement walls, and thinking of home. As I lay here I can hear the moans, the screaming, and the crying, mostly from the newbies who just arrived today. Then I hear the clanking of the gates opening and closing as the guards move about the corridors keeping watch over us. It’s always been hard to sleep here…some men get used to it, some don’t...I never did. I’m here because I made a choice that I can’t change, driven by addiction, no job, little education. I broke into someone’s home and robbed them to get more drugs. I’m glad I got caught - jail rescued me from myself.
Last week I went to a parole hearing and they told me I’d be going home soon, back to Rochester, and I thought “Back to what?” Nothing has really changed for me; I’ve taken some educational courses, some skill trades training, even completed my drug and alcohol addiction counseling, but I’m 36 years old. Who wants me? Who wants to hire a felon? Where do I live? How do I get food? I’ve got nowhere to go… I don’t know if I want to leave jail......The Field Parole Officer came to see me today and said that I could go to this place called “Grace House” because I didn’t have a valid address. He said they help men stabilize, get jobs and help men find housing. I thought about it and agreed to go, but I knew that I’d just use them so I can get out.
I reported to “Grace House” in June of 2011, the caretaker showed me all of these papers I had to sign, then put me in a dorm with 3 other men. The next day I met with Pastor Don, he didn’t seem to be too bad and he explained to me the plans that “Grace House” had for me and the opportunities that were available for me. Then I met a lady named Dianne, a case manager, and she seemed pretty nice to me, too. So I thought I’d give them a chance to help me. Pastor Don told me follow the rules, make your appointments and they would help me start a new life...I thought “yeah right!”......I really didn’t want to be here. I have to in by eight at night can’t leave until eight in the morning, I have to wash my dishes, keep my room clean, go to life skill classes, man this is terrible!
But something happened after a couple of weeks, I started looking forward to seeing Pastor Don, Dianne and the caretakers. I noticed they didn’t judge me, and I started feeling something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt wanted, cared for...these people really want to help me......That was a few months ago, today I’m living on my own, still on parole, I have a job and am going to school part time and I’m happy. I had forgotten what it was like to enjoy life. I’m not addicted to anything now and I met a nice lady at a church I have been attending.
As I write this article I would like to thank all the people who support “Grace House.” Pastor Don was always telling all of us about the food, clothing and money that supporters give to help him with this work, so just to let all of you know, “Grace House” has changed me forever and I thank God every day for that Parole Officer that sent me there.
Signed: John Doe