Not every Homecomer meets with success. As Cortez’ story demonstrates, a person must want to change his life – truly want something different – or else all of the help and assistance by the Homecomers (or by any other organization) will likely result in failure – often evidenced by re-incarceration.
National Homecomers Academy works with individuals to kindle the spark, and to nurture the flame of the spirit. Sometimes the process is jagged -- two-steps forward and one step back. That’s what happened with Jerry. The Homecomers had welcomed Jerry who had tried to help him stay on the straight path. And, for a while, Jerry went through the motions – but the Homecomers knew and Curtis Watkins (the Homecomers’ Director) knew and Jerry, himself, knew – that his desire to change wasn’t complete. Curtis Watkins pleaded with Jerry – urging Jerry to leave Washington, DC and to relocate to Wisconsin where he had family and children. Curtis feared that the fast life of DC and its drug trade would be more than Jerry could handle.
Jerry did move to Wisconsin for a while, but, he wasn’t ready to stay away. Instead, he came back to the nation’s capital. Soon after arriving back in DC – and avoiding the Homecomers -- Jerry returned to his old ways – dealing drugs, wearing flashy clothes and driving a fancy car purchased with drug money.
A couple of months later, Curtis received a letter from Jerry – written from a jail cell. Portions of the letter are excerpted here:
Mr. Curtis, What’s up? I’m sitting here looking for a way to start this letter, I guess it’s hard to tell someone that they was right . . . Sometimes I sit here and just zone out and think, what if I would have listened to you and never got on or off of that plane and stayed my ass up in Wisconsin.
It’s like it snowballed into something much bigger than I ever wanted and it started to play on my greed and my selfishness and it blinded me, and long story short it took almost everything from me and at the end of the day it never was really worth it. They took my car, I lost my apartment. I lost my so called girlfriend, my kids and their mother, the ones that loved Jerry for Jerry.
You know life is funny with its twists and turns and jail will force you to see it in a different light (if you let it), you start to see people and things for what they really are, you start to see the meaning of your life, what’s your purpose. It takes the blindfold off and if you allow it, makes you want to be better (and never come back).
Man, real talk. Most of the things I’m proud of in life come from our relationship and the things I have done through the Center. You know me (the real me), the things that you have had me be a part of mean a lot to me. I tell my story and our relationship to a lot of people. I tell them about our program and how we used to help the community, the football team I used to coach, the people I talked to, to help us get money for the kids and programs. I also tell them about how you all sent me to Wisconsin and how I went to school and even up there I worked with kids and mentored them.
I wanted to contact you a while ago but I was kinda ashamed to, I can remember the last time I saw you, we was in the parking lot at Phillips. You seen my car and shook your head.
Never give up on people like me. We don’t have that many people who care about us, so in some of our lives you are a hero and very special. We need you out there to save our kids. They need you and that program more than ever.
Thanks for listening,
We won’t give up on Jerry or the 750,000 inmates who return to society each year. We will continue to find the Homecomers whose hearts have changed. We hope to count Jerry in that group in a few years hence.