There are nearly five thousand people out of prison and under state supervision in Connecticut. Each week, parolees across the state descend on an old building in downtown Hartford to check in with the people who check in on them. With the third in our series on life after prison, WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.
Just because you've got a ten year prison sentence doesn't mean you'll spend ten years in prison. For a lot of reasons, people leave prison on parole each year and serve the rest of their sentences in the communities. On one day in Hartford, parolees crowd a lobby, waiting for their turn to meet with their parole officers. This is one of Officer Anthony Williams’ reporting days, when men come to his office to talk about what got them there and what comes next.
"Keith Wilson, 41. It was really a fight. You know, I got into it with some Jamaicans over a little area. They was trying to tell me that I couldn’t hustle in the area that I grew up in and we got into it. I ended up busting one of them in the head. I got one assault on my record but I be coming back and forth to jail like most of my life was drugs, selling drugs."
"I started young, you know at the end of it, I have nothing. It’s I ain’t going to say embarrassing, but you know it’s crazy, you know, because I should have been learned my lesson. I just kept doing, you know, hanging out in the streets of Hartford, just trying to get by in life."
"Freddie Evans. 64. I’m doing life parole.
"I had a murder conviction back in ‘75, and it’s a gift to be out here and the least little thing will send you back in there so you cherish every minute you’re out here trust me. You cherish it.
"I can walk down the street with you, right? You can go in a bar, but I can’t, and in a way I’m glad I can’t. Drinking is one of the things I can't do, which sent me to prison from the beginning, because I’m violent. Now, I just walk that straight road, do I what I have to do, stay away from the crowds that I used to be with. I’m just a loner now.
COHEN: "You’re probably older than a lot of the guys who you wait in the waiting room with."
EVANS: "Oh, I’m the oldest."
OFFICER WILLIAMS: "He has a nickname out there. Everybody calls him 'Old School'."
EVANS: "Best way to describe it, don’t break the law or these are the consequences. Especially to them young kids out there now – they don’t have a chance. 'Cause you get more time, and you figure I’m doing a life bid, but what is 25 years, 30 years? You get 25, 30 years that’s a lifetime being incarcerated. Because you age quicker."
"Anthony Thompson. 36, be 37 in May.
COHEN: "How long did you serve in jail?"
THOMPSON: “Eight and a half years. It was a bar fight gone really bad. I been on parole for 15 months. I had 18 months of parole and 72 more days I’ll be off parole. That’s my new birthday, June 14 will be my new birthday from here on out because it’s like the beginning of the rest of my life.
"Yeah. But I got probation, but they’re not as tough as Mr. Williams over there.
"I’ve been reckless for a long time so it’s time to grow up and be responsible. I want to make myself proud, my children proud, my parents. I actually started my own company. That’s my glamour story. I started a trucking company with the help of Mr. Williams because he allowed me to get my CDLs, that allowed me to drive for another company. And I was able to buy my truck, start my LLC, so it was a slow process because money make money and I don't got no money, but I’m driving to make money and it’s going to work out. You’re going to hear about Thompson. Mintss. Mints trucking is the name of the company. Mintss. MINTSS is the acronym for my wife and children's names…"
(Thompson says the names of the people in his family.)
"But my wife she stood by me the whole time. Communication was the key, you know. And she stayed in touch, she did it. So now it’s my turn to do it for her. She my queen, now it’s time to be king, you know…"
WNPR's Jeff Cohen prepared that report. It's the third in a series on life after prison. You can hear more on our website, WNPR.org.
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