Being incarcerated at the age of 18 means when you get released 24 years later, the person walking out of prison may still be, in some ways, a teenager.
Sometimes leaving prison leads to an unexpected journey, helping to serve the very people who are suffering like you once did.
Tawana Pope and Nicholas Crayton had their own unexpected journeys and challenges, but continue to push for a better life. Pope is the founder of the nonprofit Diamonds In The Making Outreach and previously had been in and out of jail, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Crayton was released from prison just last year from the Life Skills Re-Entry Center in Kewanee, Illinois.
Pope and Crayton participated in FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison, a series of stories of people facing life after incarceration.
In the four months that he’s been out of prison, Crayton says nothing major has tripped him up, but he points out the small nuances that people who’ve never been incarcerated take for granted. Things like getting a driver’s license.
“When I went there, they were like, how is it that you’ve never had a license? Like this is ridiculous, And so I had to be forthcoming and say well, I was incarcerated,” he said.
Crayton says part of rebuilding his life is learning seemingly simple things like paying for a credit card and paying his rent online. Lessons he would have learned at the age of 18, when he began his 24-year sentence.
Pope said being incarcerated and having children has an impact that can never be erased.
“You’ve got to make a decision: Am I going to stay stuck? Or am I going to put one foot in front of the other and continue to reveal from that broken place to create something beautiful by changing who I am from the inside out?” Pope said.
Watch Pope and Crayton’s full stories at wttw.com/firsthand.