Meet the Resident: Jason

The Journey from a “Second Prison” to a Second Chance

Patterns are often said to occur in threes, but for Jason, a pattern of life-altering events unfolded in a series of fours. Over the span of fourteen years, he experienced four instances of incarceration, each leading him deeper into a vicious cycle that, without intervention, seemed destined to continue indefinitely. This cycle was on the verge of repeating when a near-death experience, necessitating four life-saving sprays of Narcan, starkly changed his trajectory.

The Roots

The pattern started for Jason in his early 20s. He shares that he fell in love with his son’s mother based on a mutual interest in narcotics and stimulants – something he’s not proud to admit. Though the relationship didn’t last, the love affair with drugs persisted. “I was in a really bad place, made regrettable choices, and ended up behind bars. I lost custody of my two-year-old son. That’s when things started falling apart.'”

Despite being in a place of confinement, Jason found drugs more accessible than ever before. He shares that the absence of support and recovery programs inside the prison system not only fails to address the issue of addiction but often exacerbates it.

Reentry: A Second Prison

“When you get out of prison, you can be in worse shape than when you went in. You haven’t rehabilitated, and you’re returning to the world after experiencing a new level of trauma. You’re essentially told, ‘Good luck.’ Most people don’t have a dime to their names when they get out, and many don’t have help from family or friends. You need to hit the ground running to make money for housing and food. You need to find employment, but a lot of employers overlook people with a criminal record. You’d think you’d be happy to be free, but coming back to society can feel like a second prison.”

With no support in sight, Jason found himself trapped in a relentless cycle. “It felt like a never-ending loop. I continued finding myself in the same situation again and again. I was responsible for my actions, but I thought I might never truly experience life again. Or worse, ever be in my son’s life again.”

A New Lease on Life

That changed dramatically following his last stint in prison. “I ended up behind bars for a fourth time, and I was just trying to cope – trying to drown out what my reality had become. I was completely addicted, and I ended up overdosing.”

The severity of the overdose, which nearly claimed his life, served as a profound wake-up call for Jason. It spurred a commitment to change, catalyzed by the realization of the potential loss his death would mean to his loved ones. This was the moment Jason decided he was “over it” and ready to embark on a new path.

The Support That Changes Lives

“I basically got a second chance at life. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of turning it around. But I knew something would have to change this time when I got out.”

Discovering Dismas House marked the beginning of this new chapter. The comprehensive support and programming offered contrasted sharply with his past experiences, providing a foundation for growth and stability previously unimagined. “It’s unheard of. The help we receive here is a game-changer. It’s the type of support that’s really needed to break the cycle. I’ve been helped with the recovery process, legal support, and all sorts of things. I tried doing this on my own three times before. It wasn’t until I landed here that I could really make a game plan for changing things around.”

Crafting a Future

After settling into Dismas House, Jason quickly found employment with Red Rock Tileworks, marking yet another pivotal second chance. “I had no idea I could find the type of job I have now. I told them when I applied that I had a background, and they accepted me for who I am – not for my past. I’m coming up on a year there now, and I love it so much.”

Jason’s newfound passion for tile-making not only provides a source of income but also a form of artistic expression. “I make custom tile every day and think about how it’s going to outlive me. It’s cool thinking about how I’m a part of making something that’s going to live in people’s homes – in areas their families enjoy and where these interactions happen that they care about.”

“People have been working with clay for thousands of years, and architects find these ancient pottery pieces all the time. They’ve stood the test of time. I’m a part of that cycle of leaving something beautiful behind like that.”

And so, a new cycle begins for Jason, where the enduring nature of his work symbolizes his own transformation and hope for the future.

The Power of Second Chances

Jason’s remarkable journey underscores a critical reflection for us all: the power and necessity of fostering second chances within our society.

What if, instead of a cycle of re-incarceration, we cultivated a culture of support and rehabilitation? By championing an environment where past mistakes are not life sentences, we unlock the potential for redemption, growth, and contribution.

Creating supportive communities dismantles the stigma of incarceration and sows seeds of hope, enabling families, like Jason’s, to thrive together once more. “After fourteen years, I’m working on regaining custody of my son. To some people, I might be formerly incarcerated, but to him, I’m a determined dad.”