You’ve been waiting to hear these words for 4,015 days. For the past decade you’ve been on your best behavior to earn the power those words contain. Time has changed you and taught you to never go back to the substance that brought you here. Finally, the prison guard utters the words you have spent those long sleepless nights yearning for: “You’re free.”
Free to feel the golden beams of the sun dance along the curves of your face. Free to taste the crisp fresh air beyond these prison walls. Free to never go back to the addiction that imprisoned you. But for the majority, being free means having to go right back to where you started. Did you know that, according to the National Institute of Justice, 43% of released prisoners are rearrested within the first year? In Salt Lake County, this recidivism rate rises to 72% within the first year.
The Irony of Freedom
For Jason, being “free” was like a joke and re-arrest was the punchline. He had spent 11 years in prison on his first charge, only to return seven years later to do another year in prison and yet another year in jail a year after that. “I just couldn’t go back out on the streets again after being incarcerated…”
And who could blame Jason? He was among the 72% of Salt Lake County’s released inmates who did not have a stable foundation to go home to after prison. Freedom is ironic because it isn’t guaranteed. One needs a supportive place to go home to in order to rebuild a successful life without falling back into old habits.
Jason grew up as the oldest of nine in a strict religious home where he suffered regular physical abuse. In 1976 he used drugs to cope with the nightmares of these events which led to his first arrest. Jason was left to struggle with the patterns of recidivism by constantly going in and out of prison. Before he knew it, he had gone through three marriages and was excommunicated from his church which he calls a blessing in disguise.
“When I didn’t have any support or family, because they all left me behind, I ended up doing it on my own with my Heavenly Father. A big part of recovery is knowing there is a higher power to help you. Day-by-day, minute-by-minute.”
Jason had to call upon the strength inside him and relied on a higher power to get through. It was then in county jail where Jason found MentorWorks.
“It took me 40 years to want sobriety… I realized, I’m tired of being an addict. I’m tired of the same routine, losing everything I ever owned and the people close to me. Heavenly Father is the only one who got me through the ups and downs of my life. He gave me a second chance. He gave me the opportunity to come to a place where there is structure, rules and regulations to follow. I needed that in my life.”
Because of MentorWorks, Jason is now able to enjoy being free. Free to get re-baptised on his birthday in March. Free to answer his phone to help others who are going through what he did. And free to live a sober life.
You can take the irony out of freedom. Don’t make someone like Jason wait 40 years for their second chance. Reach out to fight the patterns of recidivism today and help someone finally feel what it’s like to be free.