It’s often difficult for justice-involved individuals to stay connected to their loved ones. Incarceration can tear families apart. As a result, many children grow up without the support of both parents. But my story shows that, with hard work and persistence, it is possible for justice-involved families to maintain their bonds, even with years and miles of separation.
I was incarcerated for 20 years, and was moved between several different prisons in upstate New York. Thankfully, my wife and children still found ways to visit every three months. These visits gave me hope– I will always be grateful to them for their unwavering support.
In prison, I vowed to be productive so I could support my wife and children when I was released. I developed a passion for cooking and ran seven miles a day. I also obtained a college degree, constantly read books, and tutored others.
When I came home in 1993, my family welcomed me back with open arms. I soon obtained a culinary certificate and found a job as a cook.
Unfortunately, I later came in contact with the criminal justice system again for drug involvement. This time, I went to The Fortune Society and entered into their Treatment Services program. Fortune’s staff gave me all the resources I needed to help overcome substance use. But before I could really succeed, I had to be determined to change– and I was.
Now, I give back to my family, who have supported me all these years, with gratitude. Our bond still remains strong. Fortune gave me the second chance I needed, helping me become a supportive grandfather to 15 grandchildren. Fortune’s willingness to accept all people, no matter how many chances they need, speaks volumes.
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