Tomorrow begins today…
By Deputy Jenny Parker
LPSO D.A.R.E. Officer
As around 200 LaSalle Parish 8th grade students sat in the multi-purpose room in front of two trustee inmates at the LaSalle Correctional Center on Tuesday, May 13th, this is what one inmate said to them, “Tomorrow begins today.”
The 2nd Annual Youth Crime Awareness Program’s goal is to make this consequence a reality to the students so hopefully they will make “wise choices” in life and not have to endure such a devastating outcome, which is prison. The students toured one of the facility’s dorms and holding cells then listen to the personal testimonies from three inmates.
“Prison is not for me! This is the last time I will ever set foot in this place.” is what was recited by students when the presentation started. The inmates started their testimonies with announcing their prison number. “You become a number in here.” A name is no longer needed when you lose your freedom as you enter the correctional facility. You are known only by the number assigned to you. So many people take freedom for granted. But once you have lost it, you realize how important it is. Freedom and privacy are two things the inmates have missed. You never plan to be in jail. The inmates both said they never thought it would happen to them.
Two different backgrounds but the same situation was what the inmates shared. Inmate Will came from a one-parent family where the mother took the children from his abusive, addicted father. “She is a hard working, Christian woman who wanted her children to be safe.” But, when Will’s mom left for work, she would lock the children in the house and tell them not to leave. As she left, a young Will would admire the children playing outside. He wanted that too. So he began disobeying his mom by sneaking out as she left for work. This was the first wrong choice made, sneaking out of the house.
Will stated, “I made that choice. You have to live the life you choose. Tomorrow will be affected by it. Tomorrow is affected by the present.” Will shared that he started to look at what others had and wanted more so he would sneak out more. Then the next wrong choice made was to start smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol which lead to smoking marijuana.
By the age of 16, a young Will wanted the life the neighborhood drug dealers was living: cars, women, money. He didn’t see what it cost him. Only saw them as his role models, the wrong role models to have. And then Will started selling drugs.
Even though Will finished high school, he never saw prison as a consequence to his actions. His future was not what he thought it would become. Jobs didn’t work out because of his addiction. He couldn’t commit to a relationship and got women pregnant because of his bad choices that started to affect others. He soon was easily influenced to start using cocaine. All Will wanted out of life was to be cool, to be down like the other drug dealers. By his 20’s, he had four kids. He had missed his teen years because of his bad choices. Will tried rehab and wasn’t committed to it either.
“Finish what you started,” Will stated. He kept turning to the streets and moved further and further away from what he originally wanted out of life. “Your choices affect others.” His choices have affected not only his life, but his mom’s, his children’s and the mother of his children. Will didn’t have to do drugs, he chose to do drugs. Will didn’t have to sell drugs, he chose to sell drugs. Will hopes the students hear what he and the other inmates say today so the students will not make the same mistakes as they have.
“You have no excuses for the choices you made.” Will stated he chose to be here (prison) because of the choices he made in life. It is not his dad’s fault, it is not his mom’s fault, this is all on Will. “Eliminate the excuse! While others are playing, you need to be planning. This is not the future designed for you. If you choose to fail, you will fail. You can choose to succeed.” stated Will.
“It is a defining moment that changes your future,” stated Jason, inmate at LCC. His story is different from Will’s. Jason comes from a wealthy, Christian family with both parents still in the home. He had a stable job. But, it was that first moment when he was 13 years old that he made the choice to smoke marijuana.
Even though the peer pressure was on him, he still made that choice and it became his defining moment. When he was 20 years old, again he was smoking marijuana and driving a car. A four year old girl ran out in front of him and he ran over her. She died several months later from complications. He wasn’t arrested for this accident but it became another defining moment in life.
As Jason got older, he worked and had kids but he wanted more and more. Jason wasn’t satisfied with his life. After an accident, he became addicted to pain pills. His defining moments went from smoking weed, to pain pills and now Oxycotin. He was soon homeless and a full blown addict injecting heroin. He blames the defining moments that lead him down more bad decisions. “Drugs is not prejudice, it doesn’t care about your status, ethnicity, gender, finances.”
He blamed God for what happened to him. But, God showed him that through Samson, he put strength. And through Jason, God has given strength. God showed Jason that his life has purpose but it also comes with accountability. Before, Jason never thought he would end up in jail. And even though the food hurts his stomach and the bed hurts his back, he thanks God for sparing his life. And now he sees jail as a place to prepare and re-establish.
Both inmates have regrets for what they have done and what they have lost. They have left their children and other loved ones as well as losing their freedom and privacy. But, Will and Jason are thankful for God being in their life and saving them from the life they once were living. Their nightmare was living with drugs and the addiction. God is giving them something to hold onto.
When a student asked the inmates why they wanted to do this, Jason replied, “I can’t be there for my daughter but God gave me 100 kids to be there for today.” Another student asked if they had any regrets. Will replied, “I would take back that moment I made the bad decisions but I wouldn’t give anything for the transformation that happened to me in jail.”