Lucy Allen Seabolt/ Martin and /Rita
Jerome Morris the director of vocational education for the Cleveland school system
Bobbi James the radio personality
Having been a con I knew that cons would definitely steal from other cons, so at the first meeting of the FreeBird Group I left my wallet at home. I carried a five dollar bill and my phone. The five dollar bill was in case for some reason I needed gas, and the phone was for any other emergency.
I arrived early so that I could set up the coffee pot and make the coffee. I also had plenty of time to set up the ten chairs. Jerome and I had settled on that number in our housekeeping day. It was the day where I learned where the coffee pot was stored. I was told to bring a roll of paper towels and a sponge to use when cleaning up after the group.
I did remember to bring those as well at a dozen donuts. They weren’t all that fresh but they were fresh enough, I was sure. While I waited from shortly after five until the beginning time of six pm I relived my first day off the tier.
Living in the coming out trailer alone was both a relief and a comfort. I was still on the grounds of the prison and free from it’s rules, but I had access he the dining hall and library. I spoke with only those I wished to speak to, but I was also available to the staff for counseling and briefings by the Southern Justice people.
It was almost exactly six when a man of about forty came through the door. Even though the weather was warm, he was wearing dirty jeans and a long sleeve sweat shirt. I had a sweat shirt like it in my back pack, because I would be riding home in the night air.
“Welcome,” I said rising to shake his hand. “I’m John.”
He shook my hand and mumbled something which I didn’t understand. “You’re the guy who got out after twenty years?” he asked.
“Yeah, how long were you in for?” I asked.
“I did eight, but I didn’t do it,” he said.
“Well, we are not about guilt or innocence here, we are about helping each other come home. I mean really come home. The bus ride didn’t really do it.” I said.
He just nodded and moved to the coffee pot. He come in and sat down. He was the only one who showed up, but he was a start. We spent the next thirty minutes talking about his new life.
“I been out a month and I can’t find work. I make cigarette money doing odd jobs for cash. I been digging holes with a plumber friend of mine recently, and I help cleaning out vacant houses for another friend. I really got no place to squat. It’s hard to get a job when you use the homeless shelter as an address,” he explained.
“I can only imagine. I got lucky I had a lot of help when I walked out of prison. My sister never gave up on me, and she helped me fit in. Maybe you can find someone to help you. Check with the shelter to see if they know anyplace you could rent a room with some help from the county. That would give you some stability. Then look for a job that didn’t seem too large a stretch. To be honest I need to check around to see what’s available out here. I’ll do that after the meeting tonight. Next week maybe I’ll know more. Are you on anything?” I asked.
“Shit no. I have a beer when I got the money, but I seldom got the price of a beer,” he said.
“Alcohol and drugs will put you right back inside, so don’t let them get the best of you,” I said.
“You sound like a preacher,” he said.
“I’m not, but good advise is where you find it,” I said laughing.
“That is true,” he replied. “Thanks John.”
“Not a problem,” I replied.
“I don’t suppose you got a few bucks for a fellow ex-con?” he asked.
“I’m sorry man, I don’t but I’ll keep a good thought for you,” I said.
“Fuck you man. You just like the rest of them,” he said.
“Yeah maybe so,” I said.
He moved faster than I did, but I had more experience. He pulled the shank made from a razor blade embedded on a toothbrush handle. He waved it about as he demanded money.
“Now you are doing something that will put you back inside for the rest of your life. Put the shank down and let’s talk. I didn’t bring any money cause I know cons and how we think. So if you plan to use that thing, I plan to take it away from you. So let’s get it on, and see who walks out of here.” I said high on an Adrenalin rush.