The first thing I noticed when I read my indictment were the bold letters across the top of the officially stamped pages. ” The United States vs. Nathan Deshawn Henderson “. Can you imagine the chill that went down my spine when I read those words ? It was anything but easy.
Learning that the country is against you is scary. I thought the Feds meant the federal government was after you, not the whole country! After doing time and listening to the stories of so many violators, I understand now. Once we get out of prison the United States is still against us. I’ve been inside with men who had their futures planned out before leaving. They gained skills that would help them start over, so they thought. Each one of them said the same thing after returning. “It’s hard out there bro…” The good paying jobs weren’t giving these men a chance to prove their worth. It’s ironic because there are a lot of companies/people saying they want men to come out of prison more productive citizens, yet they aren’t willing to take chances on us. It’s no different inside prison. We have team meetings that suggest we take classes that will help us transition back to society. Sometimes that makes us sound like animals that need to be converted. We keep clear conduct to prove we’ve changed, yet not too many staff members even acknowledge our efforts. Most of the time our past is still used against us. If the people that are supposed to help us transition back to society don’t believe we can make it, where does our hope lie? Long prison terms aren’t helping people; it’s just housing us. People can help us if they choose to look passed the “criminal” label.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. I read about a man named Jeff Henderson who left federal prison and became a Top Chef at a casino in Vegas. Jeff even has cook books published. He beat the odds and used what he learned in prison to become a very good chef. My only problem when I read about Jeff is the fact that “ex prisoner/convict” is always attached to his name. I’m sure that part of his life is behind him. Surely he’d rather be known for his accomplishments verses his past criminal history. Society seems to always want to label us as if we’re less of a person because of prison. I don’t accept that. I think a man can be a better person after this experience. It’s on the person to change. It’s on the United States to accept that change.
When I came to prison I met a guy who was from the area I lived in Arlington. After talking to him for a while I found out he worked with my ex. He asked me not to say anything about him being in prison to her. I asked if he was ashamed. He explained to me that it’s not necessarily shame, it’s more of not wanting to be labeled “Convict/Prisoner/Criminal”. I didn’t clearly understand what he meant until years later. When you’re label, it feels like your life depreciates in value in the United States. I guess that’s why your indictment reads “The United States vs….” You’re not considered an equal citizen anymore.
I never want to forget this experience, but I’d rather not be related to it each time my name is mentioned. When my life is handed back to me I want to be known as Nathan Deshawn Henderson; the successful man in whatever I choose to be. I want the people of the United States to accept me for me, not who I used to be…I want prisoners to look at my life and think, “I can get my life back on track after prison…” Prison is a bump in the road if the road you’re on is headed towards success.
Learn More About the Author of this Blog: Nathan Henderson, CLICK HERE
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