MADISON - Following the mock crash event at Madison High School April 27, students went to the gym and grew silent as three inmates from Grafton Correctional Institution entered in hand and leg shackles.
They came to speak as part of the Grafton “Dope is for Dopes”
youth outreach program. They said dope stands for “death or prison eventually.”
The three men, who requested anonymity, told their personal stories of how they ended up in prison because of the choices they had made.
“We want to encourage you to not be like us, because if you’re making the same choices we made, there’s only one of two thing gonna happen: death or prison,” said Inmate #1, a 35-year-old man doing 17 years for selling drugs.
He said one problem is young people “have lost a sense of respect,” and they see it when the 18- and 19-year-olds come to prison.
“What we don’t fix and we don’t change, our children will inherit,” Inmate #1 said, adding adults need to set good examples.
He said kids think they know everything and are invincible and nothing bad could happen to them. He never thought it would happen to him, but it did.
Inmate #1 asked the students who had experimented with drugs or alcohol to raise their hands and many went up. He asked how many thought doing those things would lead to prison and not many hands went up. He told them they would eventually get addicted and they would never see it coming.
“Not one day in prison has been easy,” Inmate #1 said.
The next speaker, Inmate #2, was 27 and serving a four-year term for aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.
“You get away with it until you don’t,” he said. “One day, you find yourself in prison or you find yourself in a casket and your family’s crying over you; or you find yourself in the hospital. I’m lucky. I’ve got a chance to change now.”
His father was an alcoholic and his parents finally divorced. Kids thought less of him because he had to wear hand-me-downs. He just wanted to be accepted by the “cool” kids.
Although he was not drinking or doing drugs, he thought he could be around it and not do it.
When he got to high school, a teacher saw his potential and encouraged him. He brought up his grades and enrolled in pre-med at Akron University. He spent too much time and money going to parties did not have the money to stay in school.
His mother kicked him out and he began working at an emergency. He was not having much of a life for awhile and a buddy told him it was time he started drinking. Unfortunately, he did.
“I put my life in jeopardy several times because of it,” Inmate #2 said. “Drinking takes over your life.”
He and his friends used any excuse to get drunk or just drank to get drunk.
One night he played vodka pong, became unconscious and had alcohol poisoning, and his friends should have called 911, but they did not. He awoke face down in vomit.
He went to work hung over and vomiting. A coworker gave him a breathalyzer and he blew a .08 – 20 hours after he had stopped drinking. He estimated at his drunkest he had a .412 blood alcohol level.
A week later, after working 17.5 hours, he went out with friends. He thought he was being responsible by not drinking too much, but when it’s last call, people down as much as possible before they go.
Again, he thought he was being responsible by spending a 30 or 40 minutes talking in the parking lot and “sobering” a little.
“I took the back roads home because they were faster,” Inmate #2 said. “The reason they were faster is because I was speeding the entire time. I’m doing twice the speed limit and I thought I was going to get away with it too, until I was stopped by a police officer.
“Now it wasn’t lights or sirens that stopped me. I hit him doing 65 mph (and killed him.)”
Inmate #2 was in a coma for two weeks and did not know who he was. He recovered, but he had killed an officer going home to his wife and three children.
Inmate #1 said the lesson Inmate #2 was priceless. They should not drink and drive or ride with an impaired driver. He said they should not give in to peer pressure and drink, because the people who pressure them are not their friends.
“People care about what you do,” Inmate #1 said. “Understand the importance of getting an education and making better choices.”
He said alcohol and drugs are the “destroyer of the living and creator of the living dead.”
Inmate #3 is 35 and serving 10 years for aggravated drug trafficking.
He said emotions like hate, embarrassment and loneliness can control people’s lives and send them down the “wrong path.”
Despite being very poor, living with his mother and two sisters, he did well in school. He had perfect attendance because he was fed at school.
Inmate #3 was embarrassed because he had to wear his sisters’ clothes, but he was more embarrassed now at wearing prison clothes.
His home had no running water and they warmed the house with the stove which is dangerous.
When he was 14 and living in a neighborhood with lots of drugs, he began selling drugs. His grades went down and at 17 he was arrested and went to juvenile detention.
“I go to court, the judge said, ‘You’re in the 12th grade, I’ll give you probation and let you graduate,’” Inmate #3 said. “But, before the ink even dried on the paper I was already (selling drugs).”
Over the next few years he fathered two children and sold drugs to support them, but he was not a real father. He only gave them gifts, not his time.
He tried going to welding school but decided, as a felon, he would not get hired and returned to dealing. He also began drinking daily. Some time later he went to a tech school, had a 3.78 GPA and got a job, but he was afraid to succeed the right way.
Finally Inmate #3 was arrested and sentenced to 10 years at Grafton. His 17-year-old son was shot in the head when he was 16 and is following in his father’s footsteps. His 15-year-old daughter is very disappointed in him and he hardly knows his 6-year-old daughter who was about 6 months old when he was arrested.
“When I’m released, I’ll be 40 years old,” Inmate #3 said. “I wasted 25 years of my life on the streets.”
Inmate #1 said they were responsible for the decisions they made and parents will not be going to prison with their children, they will go alone.
Some parents enable their children by allowing them to drink and smoke pot since they prefer they do it at home, but that was not right.
He told the students when they drank or did drugs and then drove, their vehicle was a weapon.
“It’s not just about you,” Inmate #1 said.