Choosing a New Path in Life

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Derek spent many years battling a substance use disorder and each year his substance abuse and arrests seemed to be taking him down a little lower. After a string of convictions that centered around supporting his heroin addiction, he was sent to prison. It was a strange feeling, but Derek accepted the fact that going to prison was kind of a blessing in disguise. It forced him to face his addiction and really think about his life and his future.

When he was released from prison he was sent directly to a Pioneer work release. He said, “I was worried about what I was going to do for work. Who was going to hire me now that I had a felony on my record? How was I going to go about making all the right choices this time?”  Derek realized he had to make some hard decisions – did he want to join society and make something of himself after his release, or continue on his path of self-destruction?

Derek stated, “I remember standing there at the work release door when I was released, it was kinda sunny outside, and I found myself at this crossroads that I’d been at so many times before. This is where, in the past, I always made the wrong choice. I sat there and thought about what I was going to do. I called another friend who’s been through the prison system before and was doing good, and I explained to him how I felt. I was hurting and full of anxiety. I knew that I could survive on my own, but if I walked out of that work release by myself, I would go down the wrong path again.”

Thankfully, Derek’s friend and sponsor received the call and told him not to move an inch from the work release as he was coming to pick him up. It was an interesting day and one that Derek remembers as the day that his sponsor saved his life.

Once at Pioneer's work release, Derek found employment at a recycling center. However, being a career machinist, he knew that this job would only be temporary. While living in the work release, he heard about Pioneer Human Services and an available machinist position at Pioneer Industries. “When I heard that Pioneer Industries had an opening and was hiring for a machinist, I applied through the local WorkSource office and then proceeded to call Pioneer’s production supervisor almost daily requesting a job with the company. I remember the supervisor telling me that I had left him with no choice but to hire me if he ever wanted to stop receiving calls from me. It’s like they say - the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Looking back, Derek would never have predicted he would be where he is today. “Back then I had no idea where I was going to end up. It didn’t really dawn on me until about six to eight months after I got released that I was where I’d always kinda wanted to be, or at least I was going in that direction.”

Today, Derek has a stable job as a machinist in aerospace manufacturing at Pioneer Industries, two cars, a roof over his head, nice furniture, a beautiful woman in his life and his kids can come over and see him any time. “I mean I was just a heroin addict who was living on the streets and doing crimes to fuel my addiction. I was shooting up with toilet water. I guess I broke the chain of returning to that life with the support from positive people in my life and Pioneer.”

There are many barriers to a successful reentry that Derek feels should be improved - many obstacles that he had to really navigate and work around to create a successful reentry for himself. One of these items he feels strongly about is eliminating interest off any Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). He explained that the current system puts too much burden on an individual released from incarceration and he said, “Don’t let me out of prison with all of these conditions that set me up to fail.”

When asked about what advice he would give others being released from prison Derek was pretty blunt. “I could tell someone everything under the sun, I could give them a great path, and they won’t hear it unless they’re ready to hear it. If I were to say something to someone who was getting out of prison and didn’t know what to expect, I would tell them to expect the exact same thing they got inside prison. Live your life, follow your heart and do what’s right. The rules don’t change because you leave prison. Have respect for other people, have respect for yourself.  Seek out services and organizations like Pioneer and WorkSource, and ask as many questions as you can.