As a lot as I hate to confess it, jail has been a blessing in disguise for me. Earlier than my incarceration, my life consisted of drug dealing, drug utilizing, carrying a gun and working from the police. It was like I used to be dodging bullets whereas chasing loss of life.
Once you come to jail, two issues can transpire: You possibly can both develop into a greater human being or you possibly can develop into a greater prison. For my first two or three years inside, it was the latter for me. My sole goal was to community with drug sellers from out of city, work out how a lot they have been paying for his or her dope, and undercut their provider by providing them a considerably lower cost. If I used to be profitable, I may develop all through the state.
Finally, I grew to become mentally and emotionally fatigued. I went to jail in 2014 as an offended 18-year-old, sentenced to 4 years for a probation violation. I grew to become unhappy when, eight months later, I obtained three extra years for an ammunition cost. I used to be shaken to my core 18 months later when a grand jury indicted me for homicide. I pleaded responsible, and on October 27, 2017 I used to be sentenced to twenty years. I used to be numb at first, however that evening, in my cell, my thoughts absolutely registered that I had a complete of 27 years. The voices in my head have been relentless: “27 years! 27 years! 27 years!”
Between the severity of my scenario and being betrayed by the buddies I as soon as ran the streets with, I used to be lastly able to look within the mirror. The individual wanting again at me was half man, half menace, the bullied turned bully.
I do know now that I ended up in jail as a result of I by no means addressed my underlying points — concern of abandonment, lack of belief in others, social nervousness, anger, PTSD and despair.
I had by no means healed from taking my mom off life help after I was 14. Her organs failed at age 40 because of the sickle cell anemia she was born with and the AIDS virus she contracted from a blood transfusion, however I felt like I killed her as a result of she’d at all times advised me that if something occurred to her, I shouldn’t pull the plug.
I by no means handled my dad getting out of jail solely to die of a drug overdose. I used to be 17 and couldn’t go to his funeral as a result of I used to be in jail for promoting medicine. And I by no means handled my stepmother dying of kidney failure 4 months later. I couldn’t go to her funeral, both.
These occasions took an amazing toll on me, and I by no means correctly grieved. I got here dwelling from jail with a chip on my shoulder and indulged myself in Percocet and weed. Medicine helped masks the ache.
Have you ever ever heard the expression, “You are taking you wherever you go”? I consider that is true, however I additionally consider that folks, locations and issues matter. After spending three years at Sussex Correctional Establishment in Delaware, I requested and was granted an interstate switch to SCI-Chester in Pennsylvania. That transfer jump-started my therapeutic.
At Chester, I obtained drug and trauma therapy. And I seen early on that the interplay between the guards and the lads housed right here may be very totally different. Employees in Delaware had refused to work together with the lads in a civil method. Their motto was management and confrontation. At SCI-Chester, a lower-level facility, we communicate and giggle with each other. A few of us even shake palms. I feel the interplay right here is totally different as a result of many of the guards come from the place we come from. They will relate to our issues and know that they might have simply ended up the place we’re.
This jail additionally gives all kinds of packages. I’ve been in a position to earn a visitors administration certification, and, by the Licensed Peer Specialist (CPS) program, I’ve realized to help males who’re dealing with psychological well being issues, drug abuse and different points. Friends can name on me 24/7, and I’ve entry to the entire jail, together with the Restricted Housing Unit and the infirmary.
As well as, SCI-Chester’s schooling division is much more hands-on. We get to work together with our lecturers extra, and we actually have a principal who helps facilitate our studying. I really feel just like the educators really need us to succeed, and generally that makes all of the distinction.
I’ve been in a position to earn faculty credit by Widener College. And the Inside-Out Jail Trade Program right here has allowed me to take Swarthmore School programs. Sitting in a classroom with professors and college students is horrifying, humbling and thrilling. It has modified my life.
I must be a idiot to not benefit from these life-changing alternatives. And that is what all of it boils all the way down to — alternative. To actually change, I needed to alter my mind-set. However with out alternatives, I’d be an individual with an excellent head on his shoulders in the identical place.
Sending somebody to a jail with out high quality packages, psychological well being assets and alternatives to construct expertise is like placing a baby on punishment with out giving them a proof. Once you let that baby off of punishment, they may do the identical factor since you didn’t give them the instruments they wanted to right their habits. So that you punish them once more.
In fact, I’d slightly be dwelling, however SCI-Chester has given me the talents, instruments and assets essential to achieve success upon my launch. That’s why I think about it a blessing in disguise. Who knew a flower may develop from the concrete?
Jy’Aire Smith-Pennick, 25, is initially from Wilmington, Delaware. He’s working towards changing into a licensed private coach. Throughout the pandemic, he took a writing course with Widener College and found he had a present. His work has appeared within the Kitty Knight Home in Germany. Observe him on Instagram at @FREE_JYAIRE_SMITH.