I remember him… His name was Chuck. I remember when he was my neighbor. Chuck was in his mid thirties and left here about two or three years ago. He wasn’t unlike a lot of inmates who had a rough upbringing and found his way into a life of drugs. He would talk about that part freely. He always hated that drugs were a part of his life. It was one of those things that factored into him coming in and out of prison. He had been doing that since he was a kid. While in prison, he fell into the trap that happens to a lot of kids who find their way to prison early and he aligned himself with the less desirable types. Not so much gangs, but those that might be viewed as a lower class, less educated, anger over all else, generational strife type, maybe even classified as simple white trash. The people he absolutely related to. Chuck hated that, too. By his thirties, he had a different vision for himself. But he still had some wheels in the rut and that was a hard habit to break for him.

I remember talking to him on a walk one day about how he saw his life becoming better and how to become different. He was enjoying a victim’s empathy course I had taken and he was asking my advice on how to really embrace what he was learning. He said he was driven to be clean and sober and he wanted to be a real dad and be a person of business, but he had one major thing holding him down. Something he wanted me to keep under wraps. Something he didn’t share much.

Chuck was a sex offender on lifetime community custody for an assault with sexual motivation that he committed when he was a teen. He felt the same about it as if he raped someone. To him, it didn’t matter how far he fell and recovered, because he was never going to outrun the stigma of his first offense. He was never going to be good enough to be released from DOC’s overbearing stipulations, so why really try. Truth be told, it kept him from engaging more in gang life in prison because they don’t accept those crimes either. It kept him from engaging in success, too. But Chuck’s heart was just that of a poor kid from a poor life who could dream big about everything except the shame of his sex offense and the weight he had around his neck. To him, the lifetime parole ensured he would always come back to prison, time after time, for a drug habit he picked up to deal with himself. He was a nice person at heart, though. He dreamed a wonderful dream. I lost track of him as soon as he left. He wasn’t someone who kept up with folks after his release. I think for most people, he just assumed he’d be back and see them again.

Tonight I heard that Chuck committed suicide. I see his face and I think about our talk that day on that walk. I still see the shame in his face. Not of being a poor kid from a rough background who dealt with drugs as a demon, but of being stigmatized as a sex offender that society, the system, even prison culture said is irredeemable. I hope he’s free of the stigma now. Rest easy, Chuck…

by Rory Andes

Stories like this are so fucking sad…

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