“Miguel” arrived at Dismas House from prison optimistic and ready to end a decades-long cycle of incarcerations. In each of his prior releases, Miguel had immediately absconded from parole and returned to a life of drug sales and cocaine addiction. In all his life, he had never once reported to a parole officer. This was also the first time Miguel had entered a post-incarceration program like Dismas House. His hopes were high that, with help, he could break the cycle.
Always calm and respectful, Miguel began to rebuild his life. He faced each task with his head up, but was met with repeated challenges. He would be offered jobs that always fell through after a background check. There was a death in the family. He was approached constantly by his former cocaine suppliers and customers trying to lure him back to the quick and easy money of drug sales. As Miguel was denied job after job due his felony record, the temptation to sell drugs became difficult to ignore. However frustrated by his situation, he remained determined to stay on track and “walk the line.”
Miguel is a man who thrives on helping others. When new clients would arrive at Dismas, with nothing to their names but prison sweats and an old pair of tennis shoes, Miguel would welcome the arrivals and offer them dinner. One particular housemate of Miguel’s was a young man with pronounced behavioral issues that caused disruptions in their house. Miguel was incessantly patient with this young man, coaching him on proper housekeeping, how to get along with other residents, and giving him polite reminders of what needed to be done each day.
On Thanksgiving Day, Miguel spent the holiday with family and had offered to repair the brakes on his father’s truck. While he was under the truck, it slipped from the jack and crashed to the ground, nearly landing on his head. However, the brake drum did catch his ear. It was a severe wound, resulting in 50 stitches. Miguel not only dealt with this with his usual degree of quiet humor, but he also refused all pain medications at the hospital so as not to inhibit his recovery.
As he neared the end of the 3-month Dismas program, Miguel faced a lack of income and dwindling options. Characteristically, he would state nonchalantly that he was fine discharging to a shelter. However, Dismas staff members were very concerned about his future welfare. But Miguel’s tenacity and optimism paid off at the 11th hour. Days before his discharge, he found full-time work at Goodwill. In addition, he was cleared by his Parole Officer to live with a family friend. Today, Miguel remains securely housed, employed, and sober. In one year’s time, he will have completed his parole and begin the final stage of his transition. The staff at Dismas House have no doubt that Miguel will continue to move his life forward.