“Felony” by Danny S., IPWW student

“Have you been convicted of a felony?” I have found these words to be the most vicious words said to me since my release in February of this year. I sat there, once again, defeated as I typed in the answer to that question, knowing what the response would be: “How long ago?”

“Twenty-eight years ago,” I reply.

Then I do my best to give them the elevator speech I was taught in my pre-release classes. Abruptly, I receive an answer of: “What were your convictions?”

Feeling the sense of defeat turn to agitation, I remain calm as I answer, “At the age of 16, I was convicted of murder and robbery. I served 28 years and have recently been released.”

I am tempted to terminate the e-mail interview at this point because I dread the response I know will come. Within minutes, I see: I’m sorry, sir, we cannot hire you with a robbery conviction.

I thank them for their time knowing that they will likely not even read the last message I have sent. I turn to my notepad that has the many qualifications and notes I have made preparing for this interview and add a hashmark in the margin that indicates my 92nd denial for work due to a nearly 30-year-old crime.

I am once again filled with shame and loathing for myself and my past. As a dark cloud threatens my mind and all of the stability I have built there, I take a deep breath and start typing again. I remember my path, my mistakes, and my anger. I remember how easy it is to give up and live in those moments. Yet, I also remember people I barely knew cheering me on as I prepared for my release and how they were there to help as I struggled to change and understand the world.

In my darkest times, the memories I have are of the men left standing in that dark place wishing and hoping for that one chance to be free and thinking of all the mistakes they wouldn’t repeat again. My resolve hardens as I send yet another e-mail. I will make it. I will survive and prevail, if not for myself then for the man I once was who sat in misery wishing, hoping, and waiting for that one chance to be free again.

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