I’m a 53 year old man now. When I first went to prison I was 26 years old. I spent half of my twenties and all of my thirties and half of my forties in prison.
The eighteen years was for a murder and the two years was for felonious assault. I spent twenty years behind bars. I served eighteen years straight for the murder case and then after being released I landed a job in the state of Michigan, I’m from Ohio. The job was obtained through a temp service. I was released on the 14th of August, 2001. Shortly after being out, this temp service sent me to Michigan at a recycling factory. I was working there for about 90 days and then found myself in an argument with another worker which ended up with me catching a felonious assault case. I was arrested and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in Michigan.
I am here to tell you that I learned more about myself in those two years I spent in the Michigan penal system than I did in those eighteen years. I say that because, this is when I began to change the way I think. I received a letter from a very dear friend and he began to tell me that “I lived a certain way for so long until that was all I knew. My belief system was all distorted and if I was going to change I must change the way I think, first”. After reading and re-reading those words something began to sink deep into my soul. I began to enter different programs dealing with a cognitive theory approach to life’s situations. I knew then that I was on the road to recovery and rehabilitating my sense of self-worth.
However, the previous eighteen years in prison were not spent doing nothing. I received my G.E.D. and then went on to obtain my Associates Degree. I did feel good about my accomplishments but still there was this anger problem I had to deal with. So, after being released from doing the eighteen years, I thought I was good to go. But still, there was this anger problem that had not been addressed. And, this is where I re-offended.
When I was released from the Michigan penal system, I landed a job at a local Wendy’s restaurant. I worked for about a couple of months and then I enrolled in school at the University of Toledo. I graduated with a GPA of 2.89 in the Social Work program with a Bachelor’s Degree. I am now employed as a Corrections Officer in a Treatment Facility which house inmates who are at risk of going to prison. This facility is a prison diversion program with an 80% decrease in the recidivism rate of offenders.
My testimony is this, “People” can change! I am living proof of this fact. And yes, we as ex-offenders do need help from society and our love ones. When I go in to work, it is not just a job but I go in with the hopes of having an intersecting moment with whoever will be willing to hear my story. And, there are those individuals who listen with intent ears and when these particular inmates can see with their own eyes that some one who has gone through the system and turned their life around, they can begin to have hope, hope of changing their way of thinking with the tools and skills provided through our program.
There are days when I go and volunteer at my job on my off days and share my story in our aftercare program. I do this because I truly believe that people can change with the necessary help. I really like helping those individuals who are or may be going through what I experienced as an offender and now an Ex-Offender.
I have started this program called Generation X. Generation X is a cognitive theory based program that is designed to reach those who are at-risk after being released from prison. When I say at-risk I mean in terms of the choices and the decisions that are made without thinking about the consequences.
Generation X’s goals and objectives are to enhance and equip the individual with the necessary skills and tools so that the individual will be able to make better choices and better decisions when faced with the different choices and decisions in life.
And so, I believe that I can give back to society by being a living example that people can change their lives. Change from being a felon to an X-felon or X-whatever the individual want to change about themselves or the way they think.
Society really wants to help those who are disadvantaged and struggling, but at the same time society wants to see results of a changed MIND resulting in a changed person. This is where Generation X comes in and gives the individual the necessary tools and skills it will take to change that old way of thinking into a new way of thinking.
So, this is my story in short.
Sam R. Ford, BSW