Every Christmas Day, I share the stories of two men in Jackson, MS who were released from prison the day before in. They had no plan, no money, no where to go. But at that moment they were both clean and sober.
They had hard lives and did bad things, but this time they wanted to stay free. As they opened up five years ago, they wanted to share their stories so maybe something good can come out of what they have been through. They wanted people to learn from their bad decisions and maybe understand some of the reasons behind what they did.
Christmas is about the gift of love, mercy, and redemption. I hope these men found it.
“I got out of prison yesterday. This time I did four months for allowing an unauthorized person to operate a vehicle.”
“What is your plan?”
“There is no plan. How can you have a plan when there is nothing to start with? We are four hours from home and haven’t had anything to eat. They gave us a bus ticket to Jackson. I am wearing prison shoes and the other clothes we got out of a dumpster yesterday. We slept under a bridge last night and are trying to hustle up enough money to get a motel room tonight. It is depressing to be this way on Christmas. We want to get back to Tupelo. It is my fault. I have been in and out of prison. I was on drugs and told my family I needed help, but they pushed me away. I have been clean for 120 days, but it is hard to get off of drugs. It is a demon and every day vice. It is a weakness and if I can get away from people doing it, I am good. I wish I had never started drugs. My dad died in 2013 of melanoma. I was just doing drugs on weekends, but my dad was all I had. After he died I went downhill fast.
The first time I went to prison was for breaking into houses. I had just graduated from high school and I idolized my older cousin. I picked him up and we went to a house in the country that was across the street from his house. I thought he was stopping by because he knew them, but he kicked the door in. I put the car in reverse, but couldn’t leave. I didn’t want to get made fun of for leaving him. I made a dumb decision and went in with him. We got caught and he put it on me. I was sentenced to 20 years, but did 10 and got out. You can’t do 10 years in the penitentiary and then pick up where you left off. When I got out, I learned that my dad and aunt had cancer and then things went bad with my girlfriend and she got pregnant with my best friend. I couldn’t cope. I broke into houses, got some dope, and started running with the wrong people.
It’s the substance that makes you do dumb things. Me sober, I wouldn’t steal nothing from nobody. It’s low down and dirty to steal anything from someone who worked their butt off to get it. I can work my ass off like anyone else and get it myself. But instead I got high and took things from other people. That’s low down. That’s my crime. When I am on dope, I am a shitty person. I wouldn’t hurt you, but I would take something you worked hard for. The kids that live in those houses, I took their security away. That is where they felt safe. How are they going to feel safe after someone kicks their door in?
I hope that someone reads this and gets something out of my story. I want to stay clean. I was raised better than this, but I made bad choices. I would rather live under a bridge and have nothing than hurt somebody, steal from somebody, or go back to prison. Anyone who has done time knows freedom is everything. I will figure out something.”