Smart Justice Idaho Stories: Eric

Eric moved to Idaho from South Carolina ten years ago to reunite with his son. After having difficulty finding employment he went through a twenty-eight-day program at the VA and started his own transportation company. Eric enlisted in the Marine Corps right after high school in 1985 and stayed there for two years. He then did a lateral transfer and went to the army. He has two honorary discharges from two different branches in the U.S. Armed Forces. But he later got caught in the criminal legal system and was charged for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacture, and selling within close proximity to a school zone. He received three years, suspended and was put on probation, but during that time he was so deep in addiction that he couldn’t pass his drug tests, resulting in parole violation. He has been in and out of prison throughout his life and it wasn’t until the birth of his daughter that he decided to change his life around.

What was the turning point for you; when did it hit you that the lifestyle you had wasn’t what you wanted anymore?

My ladybug [his daughter] …I am no example for a father. I have five boys and one little girl. I figured that somewhere along the lines I had to change, I had to do something different. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I did with them with her. That’s my little girl. When you have been out there as long as I have, you see some things where you cannot with a clear conscious walk out on that little girl or see her upset. I can’t do that. I also have grandbabies now and my mom is getting older. I am getting older.

Was your relationship with your family different when you got out of prison?

Not really. I stayed in constant communication with them this last time I was inside. If any changes were going to happen this time around they had to start with me. That way, when I came home, people would see the change and see that is a genuine change. I’ve been out for thirteen months now. I have never stayed out for this long before. All of these things that I have accomplished since I’ve been out, I’ve never been the one to say, “I’m proud of myself.” Because everything I do is what I’m supposed to do. You don’t need a pat on the back to be doing the right thing. They [family and friends] didn’t treat me different [in the past] because I had to treat myself different. When people see you treating yourself better, people will treat you better.

After you returned home, was finding employment difficult?

It [being previously incarcerated] makes it impossible trying to find a job. You put all this money on rehabilitation. Your tax payer money pays for that. If I’m supposed to be rehabilitating through the program, that you put me through in prison, what’s the point of going through the program, but then after I’m out I’m faced with preconceived notions of who I am--faced with the box? Thank you, Senator Buckner-Webb, for being able to recognize that that is some, excuse my language, some B.S.

I’m still looking for a part time job. I want a job to keep my hands busy. Keep my mind busy. But with having to check that box, it closes so many doors for me.

If you had the opportunity to speak with a lawmaker what would be something you would like to tell them or ask of them?

I know you got that money. Stop taking that money and put that money where it’s supposed to go. This is the United States of America, there is no reason why nobody that has attempted to better themselves don’t have a place to live, don’t have food on their belly, and a shirt on their back and a decent job to support them. We are created equal, but how come some people are sitting up there with all this power eating steak and then you come out here shake my hand, pat me on the back, and say “Atta Boy.” Don’t touch me, get your hands off me, because your hands are dirty and you leave in foul. You don’t care about me until its time for you to keep your job.