So life is hard, tough and difficult. Dealing with debt collectors is stressful and often feels like we just can’t deal with yet another collection call or difficulty in life. Hell, there is so much crap we all have to deal with in a standard week that it often feels like the hurdles are too high, the obstacles, too many.
But what if you were in prison, now had a felony record, and need to build your life up again. Imagine how tough that must be.
So I had this opportunity to go and talk to some guys behind bars about their lives. I got on my motorcycle and made a 1,800 mile round trip to record this interview for you. The long ride gave me a lot of time to think about what I was going ask and reflect on what I learned.
Look, I’m not making any excuses for anyone that has made mistakes, got caught, and went to jail. But I really got to thinking about what life is really like, trying to get back on your financial feet after landing in jail.
After a long ride up to Springfield, MA I got to go in and sit down face-to-face with a couple of guys who have been in jail multiple times. What started out as a conversation about money, credit, and debt, soon turned to a very educational conversation about life on the streets, life in prison and things to come once released.
This was an hour interview but was full of so much good information. By halfway through I started to feel very positive for these guys, thinking they’ve heard and absorbed some good life advice. While they had made mistakes, they also had learned. Only time will tell if they will be able to break the cycle of prison.
We can only hope Bob and Angel find a better path in life.
Thanks guys for all that you shared and here is hoping your words and wisdom can find their way to help others.
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Interviewer: So I’m sitting here in Massachusetts, actually. We’re in – how would you describe this facility?
Angel: It’s a low security – it’s actually a place where they help you reenter the community, you know, from being locked up in the main facility.
Angel: So it’s more like a college to me. You know? Like a college dorm setting.
Bob: Like dorms, yeah. Yeah.
Angel: Yeah. You know, we got keys to our own doors. We don’t –
Bob: You get to wear your own clothes.
Bob: Your own sneakers. You know? And it’s awesome privilege.
Interviewer: And I’m sitting here with Bob.
Interviewer: And Angel.
Interviewer: Well, has it been awhile since you’ve been out?
Angel: I came in in January, so I actually went home in June and came back in June.
Angel: Yeah, it was a bad thing there on my birthday. I came back in. So I had a rough hit, but doesn’t matter how much time you do. You know? People say you know, you got a little small bit or a long bit, losing your freedom is losing your freedom and that’s the bottom line.
Interviewer: Do you think being in here impacts money, credit, debt, you know, bills you’ve got to pay?
Bob: Yeah, if you have responsibilities, family, you know, or a business, yeah, it slows it – yeah.
Interviewer: Did you have responsibilities on the outside?
Bob: Yeah, I got two daughters, you know, wife, kids. You know, I was – I’m receiving Westford Comp from an accident I had back in 1999 and when I got incarcerated automatically it stopped that, it stopped the payments. So the payment that was going to me I was giving to my wife and kids, I had to wait and get out and reprocess that whole thing again.
Interviewer: Do you think that you’ve got bills out there that you’ve got to pay?
Bob: Oh absolutely. Yeah. Economy’s down right now.
Bob: You know.
Interviewer: So are you being contacted by debt collectors at all, your family?
Angel: I’m not, but –
Bob: Yeah, I have a few. I have multiple letters. You know? I call it junk mail. You know?
Interviewer: Well, how do you deal with the? I mean, do you think about it? You know, here I am, I’m locked up, I don’t have my freedom and then I’m gonna get out and these things are waiting for me.
Bob: Yeah, start from scratch again, you know, but I was receiving child support, so I had ____ child support even though I’m incarcerated, so out of all debts, you know, child support _____ _____ because they managed to understand the situation I’m in. I’m incarcerated so they’re like, you know, “Okay, what we do is we’ll minimize the bill,” and they isolated my bill until I get out and that’s cool to me ‘cause all the debts will do that.
Interviewer: Yeah ‘cause otherwise in other states, they put you back in.
Bob: Yeah, and they put on one collector and they put you on another collector and the next thing you know, you’re on the line for, you know, they mark you and that’s not a good thing. Being incarcerated, you know, but –
Interviewer: Well, how about you, Angel?
Angel: Me personally, I try not to think about things that I can’t have an effect on while I’m here. You know? If I can’t do anything about it, why stress about it at the moment. You know, there’s plenty of other stresses going on. Why overwhelm myself. But I think mostly it’s harder once you’re released ‘cause here you know, it sucks. You know, you don’t have your freedom or whatnot, but you’re provided your meals daily. You know, you know what you’re going to wake up to tomorrow.
Once you’re out those doors, it’s a big world. It’s a world of mystery and everything hits you at once, all the time that you’ve missed while being in here, it’s like someone digging a hole the whole time you’re here and then they just throw you in that hole. As soon as you walk out, you’ve got to climb out of it. And that’s the overwhelming part. I think that’s why a lot of guys come back in because they’re overwhelmed and they don’t have – well, there is a lot of resources out there, but sometimes we don’t know how to get to those.
Sometime we see those things as they’re gonna take too long and we’re desperate at that moment to fix a certain situation because our family or our loved ones depend on it. You know? So with me personally, while I’m here, I just try to focus on which steps I’m gonna take when I’m out there. But I also know once I’m released, it’s gonna be a fight. You know, it’s gonna be a huge fight because the world is ugly.
Bob: For some people that they’ve been here incarcerated right now at this present moment, Think Hard is, you know, like sort of a hero situation because they do have the privilege to go back out there and take care of these debts that’s behind them. You know, like most people here, a lot of debts is buried. They have to wait to get out there and then they have to start with a shovel, you know, to get under and start from under to the top. But, you know, and most part, you know, people have been – this place has been a hero because you get privilege to go out and they can tell you this, I want my job back, you know, where I got fired at or I’ve been suspended. So this place gives the opportunity to work with you, you know.
Interviewer: Do you think that some people when they get out, that the pressures from bills and having to make money and pay – do you think that that kind of leads them to do desperate things again?
Angel: Yes, that and when you’re out there looking for work, you’re CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) follows you everywhere. And –
Interviewer: I’m sorry, your what?
Angel: Your CORI, you know, your arrest record.
Bob: Your record.
Bob: You know, your previous records.
Angel: We call it a CORI, and things look so horrible on paper. You know? If you could be in a certain situation and you know, we won’t get into detail, but you being a fly on the wall, it’s not, I mean no crime is right, you know, but on paper, it just looks so much worse. You know? So when you’re sitting in front of a potential employer and they lift your CORI up and look at it, they’re looking at you like they’re scared of you. You know?
So, they really – a lot of people won’t hire you because of that. They’re insecure that the person in front of them will cause them or their company harm and really we just want another chance. You know, so after so many closed doors, you know, knock and knock and people shutting doors in your face. They’re all, “We’ll call you, don’t call us,” you begin to feel hopeless and you look at your loved ones who depend – you’re a man. You want to provide for your loved ones. You know, that’s a man thing. And they’re just sitting there looking at you with those eyes and sometimes it leads you do desperate things.
Bob: Education’s an important thing, man. You know, education because back in, you know, 10, 20 years ago, you could get a job without a GED. You get hired or whatever at a job, but today you know, that’s the first thing they ask for besides a CORI. You know, “Do you have a GED? Do you have your diploma?” And then if you say no –
Angel: Now GED ain’t even good enough. You need some type of degree or certificate.
Bob: Yeah, but what I mean is GED is a start. It’s the first thing they ask for. You know?
Interviewer: So if somebody does want to hire you, they look at your CORI and they –
Bob: Absolutely. Yeah.
Interviewer: Are they gonna pay you less than the going rate or do you think that you’re getting screwed on that?
Angel: I don’t think they worry too much about money because I mean they can pay us a little less, but their worries are, can I trust him.
Bob: Yeah, the trust and attendance.
Angel: You know, can I turn my back or is he gonna steal something from my company, a machine or –
Bob: Or is he gonna came in every day to work or is he responsible? You know, a lot of jobs are for people ____ today. You know? Especially, the economy’s down. You know, they’re really looking for people that’s gonna be responsible and be accountable for their job decision.
Interviewer: So what do you say to an employer?
Angel: Well, half the time it’s hard to even get in to speak with them because on the application it says right there, have you ever been convicted of a felony in the past five years. If so, please explain. So you know, we’ve been told to put yes and we’ll explain that. And you know, so that way –
Bob: Or leave it blank.
Interviewer: So just check yes and leave it blank.
Angel: Right, so but a lot of them will see that and just throw the application in the trash. You know? So, it’s tough. It’s definitely tough.
Bob: Yeah, but people have been through – you know, there’s a lot of people that have been through this facility have been hired for jobs and completed a sentence and gotten released on their own and ______ the job and still today they’re still doing good after a year or two. I know a friend of mine that been in here and he been released two years ago and he still got that job. They gave him a raise and he’s about somewhere $14-15 an hour and he lives by himself and he says, “I’m doing all right.” He’s drug free, he’s sober and that was one of the most – fracture of his life was the substance abuse and the alcohol and next thing you know, he stopped all that. Now he’s living a productive, healthy – with a job that came through here. ____ release because it’s two guys here that does those things, Frank and Mark that helps you out to get these jobs. Man, the application –
Interviewer: What kind of jobs?
Bob: Any kind of job, you know, whatever they hire you at.
Angel: Yeah, they have a lot of employers who work directly with this place because they know they’re gonna be there on time and we’re still incarcerated. We have big privileges. I mean, a lot of guys get to jump on a bus and go out wearing their normal clothes, no inmate clothes.
Interviewer: It’s a kind of work release type thing.
Bob: Yeah, absolutely.
Angel: Yes, it’s a – it’s to get you back into the community. But they have a lot of places who work with you, but it depends on your crime also if they release you with that status where you can go about and look for work and stuff. But I think what’s important for guys in our situation is not to give up. In my personal experience, I mean I’m 24 years old. I’ve been here eight times and in my personal experience, I come back in right when I’m there. You know, I’ll be out there three, four months just working hard, working hard, looking for work, you know, finding a job that’s a full time job and I’ll be out there busting my butt and when I throw my hands up and I go do what I do and I come back in here, you know, like my girlfriend, it always happens, she’ll come visit me. “Yeah, well, you just had an interview for tomorrow,” whatnot or, “This so and so person came by looking for you saying they had a job, you know, and it’s just right there. You know? So we’ve got to just stay strong and know that nothing is easy.
Interviewer: How do you do that on number nine?
Angel: There won’t be a number nine. I pray there won’t be a number nine. You know, this time around, I’m actually one of the lucky guys who is fortunate enough to have someone who makes a good amount of money at home where she can take care of the both of us, you know, and we’ve got to let our pride go. You know, a woman can do that nowadays, you know, and I’m actually going to school, trade school. I want to be a chef, you know, that’s my passion and being in here, they have this new program where the government will pay for certain things like, you know, government sees this as the taxpayers pay for us to be incarcerated, so if they spend X amount of dollars on helping us on education, license and things of that sort, maybe we can take advantage of that and not come back and in the long run, save them money. It’s an investment on them, an investment on us and –
Interviewer: So it sounds like there are –
Interviewer: Opportunities here. Right?
Angel: There definitely is.
Bob: Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunities.
Interviewer: Okay, and so you feel that the sheriff wants you to get better and –
Bob: Absolutely. Matter of fact, excuse me, this is one of the – this is one of the, I guess the only jail that give out a lot of programs, a lot of opportunity. I guess I think it’s nationwide. Right?
Bob: _____ two.
Angel: People at other jails actually like – excuse me, administrative people from other jails come here and actually tour the place to see how it’s run. They say that this place is one of the best jails in North America. You know, so –
Bob: Yeah, because 95, 97, 98 percent is mostly all alcohol and drug usage, drug related, so there’s a lot of programs, a lot of opportunity ____. And ___ wasn’t really _____ want to do good and like I said earlier, I know people that left out of here successfully and never went back to drugs or alcohol or went to meetings and doing the things, network, programs and they became successful. So if one person can become like that, you know, a lot of people could. It depends on your, you know, it depends if you really want it.
Interviewer: Do you think after you get out that there will come a time where you might have to or want to apply for credit, buy a car or what do you think about that?
Bob: I would love to. I’ve never had credit, to be honest with you. I would love to. That’s a – you know, that _______ _____. Instead of going to a place, you don’t have $30,000.00 for a car, but it’s good, you know, if you’re working at a – like the minimum place, credit gets very important because you could _____ a payment and survive –
Angel: Own a home and good things like that in the long run. You know, you don’t want to rent forever. Credit’s definitely really important. I didn’t value credit when I was younger. You know, I took advantage of the system when it came to that and now I see that I was foolish with that. You know, like good things could have really came. I see I have a lot of friends who treated credit well and because of that, they have many nice things. You know? So that’s definitely something that I’d like to work on.
Bob: The important credit, like the car, you know, and stuff like that, but if you go get some, you know, some other credit that you don’t need to get, you’re gonna mess up and get tangled up in the long run with these high interest, you know, and anybody get caught with high interest –
Angel: Well, you’ve got to know what you’re getting into.
Bob: And you might be all right for the first year, but when the next year start’s coming ____ ______, you know, it’s gonna be that snowball going down the hill and next thing you know, you’ll be, “Oh my God, I’ve got to pay this,” and it gets ______ in jail.
Interviewer: You get out, we’re focusing on career and rebuilding your life. Have you thought at all about even to rebuild your credit, I mean looking at your credit score and trying to get that cleaned up?
Bob: Well, I’ll be honest with you. I’m 43, I’ve never had credit. But from what I see and from what I hear, how people went through these things and how they’re going through these things, it gives me sort of like a heads up just in case I get into a credit. So I have all this, you know, already – I’ve already seen all this so, for me it’s very interesting how to, you know, get into credit. It’s not like if I didn’t know nothing, I’d be, “Okay, you give me credit. I’ll pay you monthly,” and next thing you know, down the line –
Interviewer: Have you applied for credit?
Bob: No, I haven’t applied for credit. No.
Interviewer: How about you, Angel?
Angel: No, I think I was another situation to see that as something time consuming. Most people in our situations deal with straight cash.
Interviewer: I hear you.
Interviewer: So tell me, what is it you want to get out, you want to be a chef?
Interviewer: Tell me what your life – you want your life to look like in ten years.
Angel: In ten years? Well, I would love to own a home, you know, definitely if not my own restaurant, managing one. You know? I definitely –
Bob: That’s gonna take a process, right?
Angel: Oh definitely. I don’t, you know, that’s just the first step, becoming, getting skills to be at that point where I could run a place. You know, that’s just a first step. I think it’s important that when we begin our growing process that we don’t get comfortable in a certain position. We’ve got to keep growing. You know? And I think that’s what life’s about. So yes, with me, I’d eventually – like my overall would be owning a home or restaurant and starting a family. Very simple, you know, people in our situations, we’re just tire of the pain. We go through a lot of pain and our loved ones go through it just as much if not more and it kills us seeing them walk out of that visiting room with the look on their face. You know, they’re trying to smile for us, but deep down they’re hurt, you know, and that’s because of our misfortunes or our bad decisions. You know what I mean? So –
Interviewer: Well, what could you tell yourself – now your 24.
Interviewer: What could you have told yourself at 15 to have avoided all of this?
Angel: Well, wow. You know, that’s tough. I think I would have told myself that there’s nothing in the streets, nothing but pain. You know?
Bob: Should have listened to mom and dad. You know?
Angel: Right. Yes.
Bob: That plays a big role too, listen to mom and dad. ‘Cause I remember you know, I come from good parents, mother and father. I come from a family of nine and I’m sort of like the black dog of the house, ____ me, but there’s been times that if I could have listened to my dad, if I would have been more responsible with my ears, probably today I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. But yeah, it happened to, you know –
Angel: Once you’re in it, it’s so easy to fall back in. You know, they say this is a revolving door, you know, and once you fall, it’s so much, so much easier to fall right back in and I think for the young people listening, you know, I would say to them to get into some type of hobby. Find older people, you know, positive people to be around because there’s so much more in this world than being behind bars. This cannot be it. You know, people come to jail and it’s kind of sad. You know, I look around, people get caught up in the jail politics. You know, who’s the biggest guy here or who runs this joint or that. And it’s like it really – they treat it like their life. You know, like they’re the president running a country.
Bob: And you have young adults, man, that’s coming in at 19, 18, you know, by the rackets, you know, and they’re coming in every day. You know, the late 30s and the late 40s, that’s like me, including me, it’s like I’m fading away from that, but today, it’s a whole different generation, man. You’ve got 19-year-olds coming in with 20 years, 15, you know, and this is by – it’s unbelievable what I experienced this bid, how people are coming in. “How much time did you get?” And one guy told me, “Oh, they gave me seven,” and they take it like it was nothing. Like, you know, like –
Interviewer: Do you know anybody who prefers it to be in here?
Bob: Very little people, yeah, especially for the ones that, you know, abuses drugs and alcohol. They look – that’s a lifesaver.
Angel: A lot of people are scared to be released. The unknown is – you know, people say that people would rather live with fears that they know than the unknown.
Bob: Yeah. Absolutely.
Angel: And people become institutionalized after so many times landing here. You know, like I know a couple people who I run into them in the street, you know, we go back or whatever and they just tell me they don’t feel right on the street. You know, they’ll do whatever it takes and usually end up back in here. They’ll be back – they won’t last more than two months. You know?
Bob: And not having education’s a bonus. You know? For, you know –
Interviewer: Not having education?
Bob: You know, what he just said about, you know, that people’s that’s scared to live out in society can do time. So many times in jail _____ not have education, they get put back out there again to reprocess that is, you know, it’s like it’s a big burden. You know, it’s a big stress. So they wouldn’t mind to come back to jail, do another five or six years.
Angel: Right, don’t feel adequate out in the real world.
Bob: Yeah, you know, they get three ____ _______, you know, so you know, but me as an individual, you know, jail for me easy enough.
Interviewer: Are there creditors in here? I mean –
Bob: There’s a few people here that got big credit problems, man.
Interviewer: No, but I mean is it – can – is it possible to owe somebody in here and then you know, have to pay up whether it’s I don’t know, some sort of privilege or –
Angel: If you have means of doing that, there’s always ways of paying, but there’s not a certain person in the facility where you go to them, look, I’ve got to pay this. Usually you’d have to write some type of – appoint somebody power of attorney, get it notarized by the notary here.
Bob: Yeah, or your family.
Angel: That’s basically as far as it goes.
Bob: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right.
Angel: They don’t go that far with –
Bob: Or you have a family that do have money or like you said, lawyer. But besides that, you know –
Angel: That’s also another scary thing, like who can you trust?
Angel: If you have a certain amount of – X amount of dollars, who can you trust to do the right thing with that money? You know?
Bob: Look what happened to Madoff. Right? It could happen anywhere. Right?
Interviewer: Well it also happens to people in the military. You know, they get sent overseas and they have to leave somebody back home to pay their bills. They don’t know what’s getting paid.
Bob: Yeah, they get the __ ___, huh?
Bob: What happens is ____ _____ sad story about Edgars, Sergeant Edgars.
Interviewer: I don’t know him.
Bob: Oh, the one that had the prosthesis in his legs, got in a car accident. He’s from Chicopee. Yeah, he had low insurance and he had to depend on his family because the military couldn’t pay – you know, they would only pay a certain portion of the insurance and he had a problem with that and talking about that, yeah. And it’s hard man just on your own to do things you did, but then again, who’s gonna be your cosigner? Who’s gonna be your copayer?
Interviewer: Who would you ask?
Bob: Absolutely. That’s a big thing.
Interviewer: So, you’re on a work release program right now?
Bob: Yeah. Right.
Angel: Certain people. It depends on your status. There’s different statuses on a person’s release.
Interviewer: If somebody is on a work release program right now and they’re outside and they’re making money, do they get to keep that or –
Bob: They do, but over here, they only ask for a very little fraction of it, right? Not much.
Angel: Yeah, if you’re working and you’re bringing in a paycheck every week, they actually charge –
Bob: For example, from $10.00, they take like $2.50. That’s not bad. You know?
Angel: No, it’s responsibility.
Bob: But if you did like 18 months here all that you worked for, the rest is yours. So you get out of here with, you know –
Angel: There’s been guys that ______ with $5,000.00 or even more.
Bob: Good pocket money.
Angel: You know, it’s good for people who are in that position.
Bob: Yeah, ______ to go out there in society, go back in society, recovering from a drug or alcohol problem and then got his life back together and then with seven or eight thousand dollars in your pocket, you know, that’s a good start. You know? That’s a good start.
Interviewer: Well, do you think with that kind of money in your pocket, it would be easier to get in trouble back on the streets?
Angel: No, because when we leave here, we leave with a clear head. We have our goals in mind.
Bob: Good state of mind.
Angel: We’re in the right state of mind. We’re positive. What puts us in that negative thinking is the constant failure, you know, the constant trying to succeed in whatever area of your life that needs, you know, work, education, family, and the constant getting put down is kind of what makes you just throw your hands up and, you know what, screw it. Hit the bottle or do this or do that or sell drugs, or, you know, whatever your demon is or whatever your poison is. That’s what pushed you to do that. So, if you leave here with a head start, you know, I mean, I guess it depends on the individual, but for most, I think it’d be helpful. You know?
Interviewer: Have you learned about money in here, preparing to be released?
Bob: Yeah, there was a guy names –
Angel: Yeah, they were speaking about him.
Bob: Yeah, what’s his name? Yeah.
Interviewer: But do you have any questions about dealing with money or credit or debt?
Angel: See, I’m horrible with money.
Interviewer: Why? Why are you horrible with money?
Angel: I spend before I get. You know? And you know, a lot of us don’t even know how to write a check. You know? ATM and that’s where it goes, but yeah, I spend too much. I don’t keep track of where I’m spending what and, you know, I don’t plan ahead, you know, this needs to be paid on this time. I don’t get paid ‘til then, so this –
Bob: Ignoring coupons, you know, stuff like that, those are important things. You know?
Interviewer: Well, do you think that you have an impulsive personality?
Interviewer: I mean, are you just taking money out and living for now because you don’t think ahead in other parts of your life?
Angel: I think that’s more of a habit. I’ve been like that since, you know, I left home when I was 13, so I had to take care of myself on the street. I think that’s just more of a habit, you know, the way – style of living that I’ve had. You know, certain things are hard to break. But as you grow, you mature more and you know, like now I’m starting to see things that I was completely ignorant to before. You know, when it comes to money and saving for the future.
Interviewer: So how are you gonna change that?
Angel: Well personally, my girlfriend has a bachelors degree in business, so you know, she’s mostly in charge of all that, thank God for me, but you know, I just watch what she does, you know, have her explain things to me more and you know, just like anything, you know, you try it, you try it, you try it and you get better at it. You know? It’s practice makes perfect, you know?
Interviewer: So do you have any problems with putting your money together with your girlfriend and sharing it and managing it together?
Bob: No, I’ve been with my wife 28 years, so you know, she’s part of me. I’m part of her, so you know, _____ sometimes, you know, I would be a good idea if you like, for example, if I get my check, she gets hers and say, “Hey, let’s make a plan and get this and be committed to it, be faithful to it,” and we had done that. You know, once I went to Kmart and spent five Gs and just layaway, you know, stuff that we needed and it was a one shot deal and then it took us like three to four years to pay that and it’s been paid. You know, it’s been paid, you know, but that comes with commitment. You know? And without her or her without me, paying that bill, it just falls. You know, it just crumbles. So –
Interviewer: Well, some people they get married or they live together and they keep their money separate. They don’t tell each other about it.
Angel: I think that’s –
Bob: A personal thing.
Angel: Yeah. People like that, I think they value money too much. You know? I think money is important, obviously, but I don’t think –
Bob: Powerful as well. Powerful as well.
Angel: I don’t think it should come between a relationship like that, you know? What’s mine is yours, what’s your is mine, you know. Not off the bat, you know, but once you develop a bond, you know, some people were together for, you know, nine months, a year or so, I could understand you not fully telling the other how much you made or how much you have, but you know, in my situation, I’ve been with my girl for six years. There’s nothing she doesn’t know about me and likewise. You know? And I like it like that. You know what I mean? We can rely on each other.
Interviewer: So let me give you a situation. This is someone who contacted me recently and she’s been married. Her husband is a farmer. They have eight children together and he won’t tell her how much money he makes and he won’t show her his tax returns and she has to make her own money and live on her own allowance. What does that say to you?
Bob: Oh, probably there’s a trust issue there.
Bob: Yeah, like I don’t know, like for example you said about the guy that’s _____ his paycheck stub or whatever, it sounds like one day this lady might like bite him back or something, like if anything goes wrong, he’s probably scared that she might get all his money.
Bob: Because today, looking at the TV and the news, there’s a lot of divorces, man, and ______ like beautiful example, man that worked 20 years hard, you know, have saved all his money you know, and next thing you know, she’s entitled for half of that.
Angel: Right. Could be a lot of things, you know, he could have another life that she doesn’t know about. You know, it could be anything. That situation right there, that doesn’t strike me as normal. You know> Eight children together, that’s, you know, but hey, to each his own.
Bob: Whatever goes down, money has to do with it, you know, and –
Interviewer: So does money buy you happiness?
Angel: No. It can buy you nice things, but I don’t think so. You know? I think actually –
Bob: I don’t think _____. That’s for _____. That’s for me ____.
Angel: I think actually the more money you have, the more problems you have.
Interviewer: I’m sorry, the more money you have, the more problems you have?
Angel: Yeah, definitely. You know. They say, you know, “You have all this money. You know, with big money comes big responsibility.”
Bob: Absolutely yeah, I believe in that. I believe in that.
Angel: Yeah, I don’t think it buys happiness at all.
Interviewer: So how much money do you want to make? I mean, not the dream, not the lottery, you know, what do you think you’d have to make each year to have the life you want?
Bob: I’d be fine with if I was to go back out there and if I could work, I’d be fine with – I’ve got two girls, one is – my daughter’s work. I got one, she’s 21 and one is 19 and my wife works at the library and been there for 13 years and me with a job with – I’d be happy with a job with $17.00 an hour. I’d be happy. I’d be there. Absolutely. I’d be comfortable just with that. There with my wife and my kids and all together, I’d be great.
Angel: Something like $40,000.00 a year, 35, something like that, you know, just to live comfortable. You know? That’s –
Bob: And have no problem paying no kind of debt or credit cards. You know, that you could faithfully be happy and, “Honey, fill this money order out and pay these people.” You know, not that stress, that anger, that, “Oh man, I’ve got to pay this guy. I’ve got to pay this dude. I’ve got to pay this,” and not live like that. You know?
Interviewer: Have you lived like that in the past?
Bob: Oh, in the moment, yes it was. Yeah. There’s been times yeah, frustration. Man, it’s not a healthy thing. It’s not healthy. You know?
Interviewer: So you had street collectors, you didn’t have debt collectors.
Bob: That’s the truth.
Angel: They’re even more persistent.
Interviewer: So living on the street doing whatever it is that you did, there was the opportunity to make quick, easy cash. Right?
Interviewer: So, what happens now? Let’s talk about Angel, let’s talk about you being a chef. What happens now? You want to make 40 grand a year. You’re gonna work 16 hours a day in a hot, sweaty kitchen. I mean, it’s a tough gig. Are you prepared to do that other than spending time and having fun?
Angel: Oh definitely. I grew up fast, you know. I grew up real fast. You know, people say that I grew up too fast for my age, you know. There’s guys my age who still fool around, joke around, you know, and your experiences in life mature you faster. You know?
And in my situation, right now I’m welcoming the stresses, you know, the hard times that are to come to be able to succeed and achieve my goals, you know, because I’ve been through mostly anything you can dream of in the streets. I’ve already been down that road. You know, I’ve felt all the pain; I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. You know, so why not do it the right way? You still go through certain struggles, but this – nobody can take that from me. Nobody can take my education. You know, they can’t throw me in jail for that.
So that’s where I’m at with that. You know? I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and I know you know, when you grow up in the streets, there’s certain people, you know, you can cut certain people out of your circle, but there’s certain people you can’t. They’re more like family. And they’re still involved in the street life and you know, it comes to, you know, when I was released last time, my first day out, I’m walking home and a buddy pulled – “Get in.” Shows me a bag. I’m not even gonna get into it, but I could have made it home with an easy thousand dollars within a half hour. I’m like, “Oh man.” You know? How do you turn that down? It’s tough, but you’ve got to stay focused. You know? Because, you know, the money comes fast, but it’s not worth it.
Interviewer: Is there – when you were living on the streets and you were making quick money and stuff like that, is there any sort of thought about, “I should save some of this money or put some of it aside,” or is it all just about living in the moment?
Bob: Well yeah, it’s about the moment because you know, you make a thousand, two thousand a day easy money. You never think like that ‘cause you know that you have faith that you know that this money’s coming in like that every day for long term. You know? As long as you don’t go to jail.
Bob: You get this money coming in. You know? And it’s long term money.
Angel: It’s definitely the lifestyle. You know? If you’ve got your head on right, you can save. You can, you know, make something with it. I know plenty of people who’ve done it, but for the most part, for the majority, people get caught up, you know. With big money comes women and great times and it’s easy to fall into that cycle. Real easy.
Bob: You know, what happens again also every day is people that stay – you know, like the street life, they save so many money and when they wait ‘til they get like good, close to a million dollars, that’s when the authority comes in –
Angel: Right, and takes it all.
Bob: Takes it all right back, all that you worked for, all that you hustled, takes it right back and leaves you broke and you’re in jail now, broke.
Interviewer: So does crime pay?
Angel: Crime doesn’t pay.
Bob: No, it doesn’t. No, not at all.
Bob: Not at all.
Interviewer: But you see the kids out there and they all want to be the badass and you know –
Bob: Right now, out there’s all about guns and money now.
Bob: And guess what? Guns is winning today over money now. Before, I ______ before you make 5,000, your bound to get shot in the butt. You know?
Bob: That’s what’s going on right now. That’s the style right now. Look at the news today right now. Pick up the newspaper right now. As we speak, you look at the newspaper right now and you’d be like, “Wow, look at the age rate of these murders. Unbelievable.”
Interviewer: So you get out, your life has been a certain group of friends or certain friends or a certain neighborhood. Do you turn your back on them or do you go someplace else? How do you break out of that cycle?
Angel: You see, like in my situation, there’s this – it’s called after incarceration support services and the area where I used to make money at and where I live is – it’s in between that spot, so you can’t avoid every place that will trigger you to – or, you know, memories where you made money or did certain things, you know. I think it’s important to try to avoid as many as possible, you know, avoid as many people as possible who you know that you know, could bring you down, but you can’t entirely do that. You know? It’s not possible to avoid everything. And you know, people try that whole geographical cure, you know, move to another place. That doesn’t work. I’ve tried it.
You know, no matter where you’re at, you’re gonna get in where you fit in. You know? The game doesn’t change anywhere wherever you’re at. You know, maybe the style a little bit, but you see it for what it is. You know? You’re there a week or two and you’re already have the whole area scoped out and I think that’s even worse because these people don’t know me. You know, I can get in and out real fast, but I think it’s just – mainly you’ve just got to stay focused out here.
Interviewer: That’s a good point. You get in where you fit in.
Interviewer: So you get out, you’ve got a job, you’re making money and you start to feel like you’re money’s getting out of control a little bit. You’re getting behind on your bills. Who do you call? Where do you go for help?
Angel: That’s good.
Bob: That’s a good question there.
Angel: Most of us ____ the guy we usually call to make that extra buck, but you know, most of us don’t have the – how should I put this, the resources –
Bob: Or the financial skills.
Angel: Right. Like I said, most of us don’t even know how to write a check. So we don’t have history with saving and banks and we don’t have good credit history so there’s no bank gonna give us a loan. You know, and they might. There might be something –
Bob: The old fashioned is all about putting their money into the mattress.
Angel: Right, right.
Bob: And saving it, forget about it. You know?
Angel: There’s probably things out there we know nothing about but I think in our mind, that’s just something that doesn’t pertain to us.
Interviewer: So you’re in this work release program. What if there was help to start a savings account and just put money away while you’re in here? Would that be of any benefit? Would that be educational at all?
Angel: Yeah, of course. Any experience like that would definitely be beneficial.
Bob: Especially if you’ve got something saved up and you want to put it on a prospective use, you know, that’s excellent.
Interviewer: Is the education that you get here, is it more talking at you or do they help you to achieve things?
Bob: It does. Yeah, they give you – like I said earlier, it’s an opportunity, man. Opportunity, man.
Angel: Yeah, it’s just like anything else. You have really really passionate people. There’s a good amount of people here.
Bob: There’s the guy that runs the class from Good Payer, you know, financial classes. They call it, what is it, financial wellness.
Angel: Yeah, you guys know him.
Interviewer: Yeah, Todd ____ at Cambridge Credit.
Bob: Yeah, he’s a good man and at the same time, he’s giving out classes and he’s like, “You know what? I have to meet this criteria and I’m giving this class,” and it’s true. Man, makes us think ____ Wait a minute man, this is reality, man. This is the real picture. This is life right here.
Interviewer: So in that class, do you actually write a check or –
Bob: I don’t even know how to – me as an individual, I don’t even know how to write a check out, but there’s people like you said, that don’t know how to write a check out.
Angel: He’s given out flyers. Not so much flyers, like worksheets, you know, explaining certain things and he’ll do it on the board. You know, there’s a lot of – like you said, there’s a lot of talking at you, but there’s a lot of working with you. It all depends on the person. I think that’s anywhere you go. You know, some people love their job. Some people it’s just a check to them. You know, but in this facility, I can say that there’s a lot of passionate people who love their job and will go that extra step for you if you’re willing to do it for yourself.
Interviewer: So you get out, God forbid you screw up again. Have you let down just yourself or have you let down these passionate people too?
Angel: You know, they definitely do look at you in a – but like a little disappointed, but the great thing about them is that they brush it off and they’re like, “All right, what went wrong this time?” You know? It’s like they know you ____. I mean I’ve been here eight times, so they all know me first name, you know, and it’s nothing to be proud of, but they know my personal issues so when I sit down with them, they’re like, “All right, what went wrong?” And they can identify certain things and help me out in that area. You know?
So, you know, each time I come in, I come in on something different. You know, it’s I’ve already mended this and it stays mended, but I have this weakness. You know, I feel this time I’m – I feel whole. You know? And as long as I keep my mind right, stay away from certain people and I think I’ll be all right. I’m sure I’ll be all right.
Interviewer: All right and just what percentage of people in here do you think make money while they’re in this facility?
Angel: There’s different kinds of jobs here. There’s –
Interviewer: I mean, are you guys making money while you’re here?
Angel: No, we’re in – me personally, I’m reentry, meaning that I’m getting ready to walk out this door. I have less than 20-something days, so right now, I’m getting together, excuse me, resumes, you know, we’re out doing sample applications. We’re doing –
Bob: Appearances on the job, _____ to a job.
Angel: Sample interviews. Like, we’ll actually sit there and role play interviews and, you know, things of that sort, you know, getting ready for the real world. But people who have a longer stay, you know, there’s different kinds of jobs. There’s institutional work. You know, you can work in the kitchen. You can work on-grounds maintenance. You can work out in the street picking up trash, cleaning up the streets. You know, they pay – certain jobs pay as little as a dollar a day or a stipend pay of like $200 a week.
Interviewer: So what does it do to your ego to be out there getting minimum wage, picking up trash versus being the guy with all the flash on the corner?
Bob: Yeah, well –
Angel: I think it all depends o the way you see things. You know, you can be optimistic or pessimistic and I believe that you know, I’ve worked before and making that small check was more fulfilling than having that big wad of cash in my pocket because you worked hard for it, you sweat for it. You know, there’s more value in that money. You know, when you go to the store and you go to spend it, you actually watch yourself, like, “I busted my butt for this.” You know?
Bob: And it’s a lifesaver because, you know, it might save you temporarily. God is good and a job came in right in the nick of time, you know, and you’ve got to be grateful with that, you know, yet. You know, and there’ve been times that I had minimum jobs, low pay and I still needed more money to meet the other bills and –
Interviewer: So what’d you do?
Bob: I duked it out. I just had to wait. You know, it probably made me think, like do other crazy things, but I’d rather not because my wife and kids and my wife says this and _____ take it easy and just hoping and praying that somewhere down the line that things will be relief. You know, and it has. You know, it’s like anything else in life, there’s bad times and there’s good times. There’s struggle times, but it all depends what you input in it, you know, and what you make of it. If you want to go ahead and do second choices of going out there and selling drugs or whatever, that’s on your will. But then again, if you get caught and go to jail, you’re gonna wish you was back in that minimum job being faithful and paying the bills and being you know –
Interviewer: Yeah, but at the time somebody might be selling drugs, are they thinking about getting caught or are they thinking about how much cash they’re gonna have in their hand in an hour?
Angel: You know, it’s funny ‘cause when you’re in that cycle –
Bob: Yeah, the attitudes are all or none. You know?
Angel: Yeah. Once you’re in that cycle, you feel almost as untouchable. You know? People watch movies, a lot of movies, you know and when you actually live the life, to me, you know, people say the movies, they overdo it, but to me, and certain aspects yes, but to me and the way I’ve lived I think they under do it. You know? I think they under do it. They don’t see the real picture and you feel like you’re in another world. You know?
Interviewer: Untouchable you say.
Angel: Untouchable. Nothing applies to you. You know, you look at everyone around you going to work, doing their daily thing, you know, almost as in Goodfellas say, suckers. You know? We’re out here getting it. You guys are slaving away. We’re actually kind of laughing at these people. But he who laughs last laughs hardest.
Bob: Yeah, and today to be honest, I mean, you pick up the newspaper man, the economy’s down, man.
Interviewer: So you’ve got to be thankful for what you’ve got.
Bob: Absolutely and it’s not easy to go back out there and just thinking that – it’s not like back in the ‘70s and ‘80s man when you can get fired from a job and get another one the next day. You know? It’s – back in the ‘80s you know, there’s so many jobs out there for you. Like in New Jersey, I’m from New Jersey, you know, and jobs is everyday. You know, F-you. I got hired last week from – I mean, _____ for another guy, but today, you get fired from a job –
Angel: It’s tough.
Bob: Go ahead and try to find – ____ in and apply, you know, fill out an application, give them your resume and you’d be surprised how long you be waiting. You’d be like, “Honey, have they called me?” No, nobody.
Angel: Right. You’ve got people with college degrees waiting tables.
Bob: Yeah, man.
Angel: You know what I mean?
Angel: And doing whatever they can to make that dollar.
Bob: Have _____ 15 years in the military and has like _____ and has trays and cooker. You know, it’s people that _____ jacket, but they get a job. You know, the economy’s down.
Angel: I think right now though, I think right now, logically, we probably have an upper hand because people who are overqualified, you know, a lot of people are too overqualified for certain jobs, they’re not gonna get hired. You know? They can’t afford that person for certain job. You know, I think they look at we might have an upper hand in this economy right now. You know, we’ve just got to stick to it.
Interviewer: Well, you’re willing to work hard. You’re willing to appreciate what you can get.
Bob: Yeah, we’re living a healthy life.
Interviewer: What’s the biggest misperception or misconception about you?
Angel: About me?
Interviewer: Um hmm.
Angel: Wow, you know, I’d have to say that people look at me, most people look at me and I don’t know. You know, it’s really weird because out on the street, I get random people all the time, like I remember this one time, I was in the grocery store with my girlfriend and this elderly man comes up to me and he starts speaking to me out of nowhere asking me about some soup. He wanted to get it for his wife and he couldn’t get her too much sodium or whatnot. Like, people actually cling to me on the street, like just random people talking will talk to me about random things. Then you got the people who I’ll be walking down the sidewalk and the old ladies will grab up their purse and try to shift away from me, like if I’m gonna snatch their purse or something like that.
Bob: Or lock the door to the car.
Angel: Right. You know, and that’s – it used to bother me a lot. You know? Like, I’d actually say something to them, but then that’s giving them what they want. You know what I mean? Like, I just try to greet people in the street and, you know, “Hey, how you doing?” You know, yes ma’am, no sir, you know, and they can take it for whatever they want. You know, whatever you think of me doesn’t mean anything to me.
Interviewer: What’s the biggest misperception about you?
Bob: The lifestyle I used to live. You know, right now if I – you was to tell me that, right now if I was to leave today, I’d feel positive. I feel like I know who I am today. I know, you know, what kind of person I could – what I could do, what I could give. But if you was to tell me that a year ago, you know, it would have probably been hard for me to answer that question because the lifestyle I was living, you know, the drugs and the drinking, that’s honestly it.
Angel: Yeah, most people probably think they _____ change or we make a lot of empty promises and that we’re not gonna change and, you know, they look at us. You see it in their eyes. You see it, they want to believe us.
Bob: The question you told me and if you was to tell me that question again and if I was to go out there today, I feel as though 95 percent I will get a job. You know, that’s my feeling. I know I will. You know, the appearance I put on to sell myself at a job. You know they got classes here how to sell yourself. It might sound funny, but it’s true. You get your resume and you get to reentry and ______ about how to sell yourself. Wear a nice shirt, nice tie, don’t curse. Go in there with a positive attitude, you know, keep your head up. You know –
Interviewer: No cursing is important on an interview.
Bob: Yeah, because where I come from, cursing’s part of my life. You know? Yeah, but so _____ it’s all about selling yourself at a nice place and then you go in there and you sell yourself nice, you know, and guess what buddy, come in Monday.
Interviewer: All right, so let’s say that you go out and the only job you can find is some fast food place and you’ve got some teenager telling you what to do. How does that make you feel?
Bob: Well, yeah.
Angel: That’s tough because we come from a –
Bob: You have to suck it up.
Angel: – environment here where your guard is always up and there’s a lot of guys who play that big tough macho thing, but really aren’t about it. You know, so we’re on our toes every day.
Bob: Yeah, ‘cause pride can become an enemy.
Bob: You know, it can mess up a lot of things.
Angel: So when we’re in a certain situation like that, you know, like you got this little pipsqueak over here telling you, you know –
Interviewer: You just want to smack him, don’t you?
Angel: OH yeah, because –
Bob: Well, you’ve got officers here that’s way younger than me that’s 19 and telling you that hey, listen, you’ve got to lock in. That’s a hard something to swallow.
Angel: I remember a lot of these guys when it was their first day and you get a certain feeling of like you have no clue who I am and what I am capable of too, but that’s the thinking that you’ve got to get out of.
Angel: That is definitely the thinking you’ve got to get out of because it’s so easy to react to a certain thing like that. And then you’re the one dealing with the consequences, not him. You know what I mean? Well, I think in a certain situation like that, if that’s the only job you can get, take it because that just opens another door. You know? It’s a stepping stone.
Bob: Yeah, for now.
Angel: They say it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. You know what I mean? So, you know, somebody else will hire you if somebody took a chance on you. You know, just do well in that job, take it as a stepping stone. You know what I mean? And I think that’s where it all comes down to what you value.
Bob: Yeah, you just told me – you just said that – what happens if a younger person comes and hires me and, well I wouldn’t take it, absolutely because, you know, that’s something better than nothing. You know, this is the opportunity that like you said, it could be a bill that could be paid. It could be a debt that could be paid. You know, you got people out there living today that don’t even know how to pay a debt.
Interviewer: So what do you say to the woman who said to me not too long ago that it wasn’t worth her time to get out of bed for any $7.00 an hour job?
Angel: It’s not worth it to get out of bed for a $7.00 an hour job. Tell her to ask the children across seas, you know, who work for pennies a day.
Angel: I think that would change her mind some ‘cause the guys here work for a dollar a day. You know, scrub toilets, bust their butt for a dollar a day.
Interviewer: Um hmm.
Bob: You got people doing life that don’t have that opportunity no more.
Angel: There’s people who would beg for that job, that $7.00 an hour job.
Bob: And when I see a city bus anymore and ____ no more doing 25 to life –
Interviewer: So is a job a right or a privilege?
Bob: Well, it depends I guess how you – you know, well –
Angel: I think to me it’s definitely a privilege.
Angel: ‘Cause just like with anything, you abuse it, you lose it. You know? And if it’s, you know, I think it should be a right. I think the world would be a better place if everybody was mandated to have a job, but I don’t think they can really do that.
Interviewer: So is there anything that you can tell that kid, that 16-year-old kid or the kid on the corner, is there anything that you can tell them that would lure them out of the life they’re in with easy money right now?
Angel: I would say it all looks good right now. You know? Fast money –
Interviewer: Yeah, but they feel untouchable.
Angel: It all looks good right now, the cars, the women, but guaranteed, without a doubt, you’re gonna lose it and you’re gonna fight always to get it back and you’re gonna lose it. Work hard now, save money, do right, study. You’ll have all those things and nobody can take them from you later, nobody. You know?
Bob: Absolutely. But everything’s a process. You know? Everything’s a process whether it’s good, bad or bad and good. You know?
Angel: Some people learn by example. Some people got to live it.
Interviewer: All right, so you go out, you’re doing interviews now. Let’s say that you go on 20 interviews, you get 20 no’s, 20 rejections. What’s your mindset for the next one? Are you –
Angel: It’s easy to think that you’re gonna be rejected on the next one and that goes back to where I said earlier, you know, and my past experience is I give up right when that door would open. You just got to stay persistent.
Bob: Yeah, just keep the faith. Just keep, you know, keep striving. You know?
Angel: Right. Somebody’s gonna say yes.
Interviewer: Now, this is gonna sound crazy and I offer it only if it’s helpful, but what I’ve seen work for a lot of people is every time they get a no, they’re thankful for it because they know that every no is one step closer to that yes.
Angel: That’s logical. It makes sense.
Bob: Yeah. Fair to say.
Interviewer: Yeah. You just got to make it through all the no’s.
Angel: Yeah, I think it’s – the big important thing is –
Bob: I feel better already by you just saying that.
Bob: That gives me a – you know what I mean? It just – it’s just – it gives me a bright feeling. You know? Everything’s gonna be all right. You know?
Angel: I just think it’s important that people – you know, some people burned all their bridges, you know, so it’s harder for them to be able to keep going through those no’s. You know what I mean? Like, they actually have to survive and they have nothing. And no one’s willing to help them. Those are the people who have it the worst because –
Interviewer: You got a girlfriend?
Angel: Yes. Me personally –
Interviewer: You got a wife?
Angel: Me personally, I’m fortunate. You know, and I’m thankful for that, but I know a lot of guys who are not. You know, a good friend of mine was released last week. I said to him, “So what are you gonna do? Where you gonna go?”
“I don’t know, man.”
Bob: Yeah, these people that said, “God bless America,” –
Angel: “I have nowhere to live.” This kid had nowhere to live. And I’m looking at him and I know him from awhile back and what do you say to someone like that?
Interviewer: What’s his path? A homeless shelter and drugs?
Angel: Right. And the crazy thing about it now, the homeless shelters here, they’re full of drugs and full of violence. You know? It’s rough out there.
Bob: It’s like Julio ______ including me, to be honest with you. I’ve struggled with drugs and alcohol, you know, and today, I don’t live like that. You know, and thank God for that, but Jolio is a lot of kids that don’t have parents, that never see their parents and you’ve got to look at their – you know, a lot of parents had drug issues, never had time with the kids. They never, you know, never seen their kids and that’s like, you know, it’s you know, it just – it’s everyday living.
Angel: Right. A lot of kids are having kids now. You know?
Bob: Yeah. Girls having sex at 12 now.
Bob: Believe it or not. You know, what happened to the old days? You know? Your parents used to tell you, “Hey, wait ‘til you’re 21. Wait ‘til you’re 18.” You know, father and your mother’s on your back –
Interviewer: I’m sure you waited ‘til you were 21.[Laughter]
Angel: That was good.
Bob: Wow. No, when I was 15, I was on my way. [Laughter]
Angel: Yeah, but I think ______ things from people not being parents. You know, fathers not being fathers, mothers not being mothers.
Bob: That takes a big responsibility.
Interviewer: Well, what did your parents tell you about how to manage money? Did they ever show you or tell you or nothing?
Bob: Well my father told me years ago, “Listen, save some money. You’re gonna need it for a rainy day. Save some money.” One time he told me, “Hey, I gave you $40.00. What did you do with it? You blew it already?” You know, “Save some money.” It doesn’t matter how much amount. It’s all about waiting to use it wisely, how to use it wisely. I think that’s life in general.
Interviewer: Yeah, but do you think that your parents –
Angel: No, the way I grew up, my mother wasn’t really active with us. It was my stepfather and he was a drug dealer himself. And I’d walk into a room and him and his friends are counting piles of money and I’d see a bunch of stuff laying around and you know, I grew up I that environment. You know, it’s kind of crazy to say it, you know, a lot of people don’t think so, but when you grow up in that environment, you kind of want it. You know, I remember being a kid and I used to watch how they lived and that’s what I wanted for myself. It really was.
Interviewer: Well, how did their story turn out?
Interviewer: And how about your parents?
Bob: My parents – my father just passed away.
Interviewer: I’m sorry to hear that.
Bob: Yeah. Passed away and he was sort of like a Brady Bunch kind of guy, like the father. He was like that. My mother as well too, but I was a – well, I’ve got brothers and sisters. My brother, he just did 25 years in the Navy. My sister’s a correctional officer. So they’ve been all successful. I was the only one that in and out of jail.
Interviewer: How many times you been in and out?
Bob: I’ve been here seven times. Yeah.
Interviewer: Okay, so –
Bob: Mess with the ___ drugs and the drinking. That’s why. You know?
Interviewer: So what do your brothers and sisters say to you? Do they embrace you when you come out and they say –
Bob: Absolutely yeah. You know, they’re gonna love me ‘til the day they die. You know, I love my sisters. You know, this is the way we are. But being upset with me, yeah, they be upset with me.
Angel: Of course.
Bob: You know, that love-hate thing, you know. Yeah, but they’ve been good to me. Thank God for that. You know, but you know, well, I love my family and my family loves me, but if I was to get let loose today, I could live on my own with my wife and kids, you know, and they say God bless America. You got people living in New York City, you know. I’m saying again, people say God bless America, it sounds like United States is the place to live. You know, other countries look at it like, “Oh, I heard United States got good jobs, got good schools,” which is true, but you got people living in New York, you know, can’t even get in the shelters, man. You know, they’re out in the streets, man, and that’s on a daily –
Angel: That’s everywhere.
Bob: That’s everywhere on a daily basis, man, and I’m like wow. You know? And today’s newspaper, they talk a lot about shelters, man. People’s flooded, man. The economy’s down, man.
Angel: I think it’s important for people in our situation going home for them not to be afraid to ask for help. You know?
Interviewer: What about that pride thing?
Angel: You got to let that go.
Bob: Yeah, you’ve got to let it go.
Interviewer: You’re a badass drug dealer.
Angel: You’ve got to let that go.
Bob: Yeah, man. Pride can become an enemy, man. Yeah.
Angel: It is, definitely. You know, people are willing to help, take that help. And I say for the people who are allowing someone to come back into their life, coming from our situation, you know, if you’re giving them the opportunity, you’re taking them back in, don’t throw in their face their past mistakes. That’s only gonna make them mess up again. Encourage them. Give them the love they need to grow. You know? You know, when you point at someone in their face and you tell them a certain something so many times, they’re gonna believe you. You know? And I think it’s important for people to encourage you, even though it may be hard for them. Because they’re used to you saying, “Oh, when I get out, I’m gonna do this, I promise. I swear. I love you.” Get out, do right for a few months and then you’re back to your old ways. So it’s easy for them to – I mean, you can’t blame them, you know, but I think it’s important for them not – if they love you enough to give you another chance, then really give you that chance. Don’t give you a half a chance.
Interviewer: Do you have any kids?
Bob: Yeah, I got two girls and all – my lifestyle when I was a drug addict and an alcoholic, my kids don’t live like that today. It took me to be scrape and asking for pennies and dimes for me to get a drug or a drink and through my experience all those years, my daughters don’t live like that today and thank God for that. You know, and _____ I told my daughter, “See the way I look? See the way I am? You know, this is because of drugs and the booze.” And today, my daughter’s, the one who’s 21, she’s a ____. The other one, she just graduated. She’s going to school for culinary arts. She wants to become a chef. You know, my daughter, she wants to become a chef. She says she loves doing that. She says she loves baking cake. That’s what she wants to become.
And I thank God for my – the struggles I’ve been through that I could live today and talk about it. You know? Today, people that’s 20 year old, 19, they’re dead now, you know, because of the drinking and the drugging. You know, and here I am saying, you know, I’m grateful for that.
Angel: I think it’s important for us to pass on the word.
Bob: Yeah, absolutely.
Angel: You know, get yourself together and give back. You know? There’s a lot of young kids, you know, like you said, what would you say to a young kid, there’s a lot of kids right now in the juvenile system. You know, my first arrest was at 12. So I think it’s important for a person like myself, once you get yourself stable enough to put some time to help the youth because that’s definitely the next generation, you know.
Bob: Yeah, and my daughters still come to visit me today with unconditional feelings. They say, “Listen daddy, I love you.” I ask my daughter. I say, “How come you really do love me? Tell me what it is that.”
“Because of – because how you’ve protected me. The things that you tell me, what to do, what not to do,” and that for me means a lot.
Interviewer: Well, I’ve got to tell you, after spending an hour with you talking about this, I’m really hopeful for you.
Angel: Thank you.
Bob: Wow, thank you. Thank you.
Interviewer: And I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I’m really proud of you.
Bob: Well, thank you very much.
Interviewer: You have learned such good lessons. The thing is now just applying that.
Bob: Absolutely, yeah.
Angel: That’s definitely the thing.
Bob: That’s gonna – has to come with commitment now, you know, patience and no drugs and no using and stuff. You know, you’ve got to live it, man. Life is once and it’s short, man.
Angel: Wisdom is knowing where to apply your knowledge.
Bob: Yeah and I truly thank God, I’m a spiritual man. I truly thank God that he gave me the opportunity of life. This says it’s not how many times you fell. It’s how many times you get up, brush off and continue on.
Interviewer: Right. Remember that on the interviews.
Bob: Absolutely. Okay.[Laughter]
Bob: Yeah. Yeah. You know and I think God yes, I still have another, hey, life is good for me right now even though I’m incarcerated.
Angel: Right. It’s another chance.
Bob: Another chance starting with yourself, you know, start with your _____ and stuff like that. That comes first and then everything else falls in place, man. Like I said, if you tell me, “Yo, Eddie, I want you to go out there and put a shirt and tie on, go out there and get a job,” they’ll be surprised ___. I will come back with a job, man. That’s just the way I feel. That’s a big thing, man.
Angel: It’s important for people to work on themselves first. You can’t change the world if you can’t change yourself.
Angel: You can’t change the things around you. Change yourself first and everything will come with it.
Bob: And that’s the truth.
Interviewer: Well, I’ve interviewed and hired, I don’t know, a couple hundred people in my life and there’s the big secret that I have learned is that most people come in feeling like, “Well, what am I gonna get out of this job? What are my benefits? You know, how much time do I get off?” The people who come in and they say, “I want to work hard and this is your business and I want to make you money.” Those people are rare.
Interviewer: So, you come in and you’re telling them what you can do for the boss, gives you a chance.
Bob: Right, absolutely. That’s a ___ yeah.
Interviewer: All right, gentlemen. Tom, you got any more questions?
Interviewer: No? Okay. All right, thank you very much.
Angel: Thank you.
Bob: Thank you.I Go to Prison and Talk to Bob and Angel Behind Bars About Life, Credit, and Debt by Steve Rhode