( Intermediate Level )
Mark had spent most of his life behind bars. His life was quickly taken away from him when he was twenty – one years old. Now at forty – two, he lives free.
If only he could rewind his life to that night he would. The night his life stopped. The night he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Every Friday, after a long week at work, he would go to the local pub near work. He would meet up with a few coworkers, drink a few beers and shoot darts. It was a great way to relax after a long stressful week.
One particular Friday, he remembers, his life and how he knew it, had changed. Something terrible occurred. A fight broke out. In the end, two men were injured and one lay on the floor clinging to life. The police and ambulance were called.
Mark had tried to help the one who was seriously injured. He knew he was one of the regulars at the pub. He had seen him there almost every Friday. As for the other two men, this was the first time he had seen them.
Once the paramedics arrived he let them take over. His work shirt and hands were stained with blood. He drifted over to the bar and began wiping his hands off with a few bar napkins. He was still at the bar when the police arrived.
Eyewitnesses gave their statements. Somehow, Mark had become the number one suspect. He tried desperately to tell the police he was just trying to help and this was a mistake. He was not part of the incident.
As for the three men, two of them were treated at the hospital then sent to the county jail. The other, who was seriously injured, had died on his way to the hospital. All the circumstantial evidence pointed to Mark. And so his fate was sealed.
He consistently told the judge, “It wasn’t me.” His words fell on deaf ears. The twelve jurors had found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. His life changed with one simple word. Guilty.
Mark spent twenty – one years behind prison bars, and now he walks free. His release came as a surprise to him. All the turn-key said to him, ” After new evidence presents itself in your case, you are to be released immediately. On behalf of our State’ we offer our deepest apologies.”
He remembers the day he walked out of prison. He looked up into the sky and felt the warmth of the sun on his face. He had fresh air. The smell of the cell no longer tainted his nostrils.
He didn’t want to stay bitter about what had happened. Instead, he felt he should regain his life back as best as he could.
He needed to find a cheap hotel where he could wash the feeling of the prison off of him. After he cleaned himself up he would find some type of permanent living arrangements.
More than a month has passed since his release. Somehow, he needed to find his path. When life stopped for him, the world outside continued forward. The city had changed. Where would he go? What would he do?
The State had given him a compensation check for his wrongful conviction. He was annoyed by this offering. It would not bring twenty – one years of his life back. He knew, though, he could use this money to get back on the right track.
Finding a job turned out to be very difficult. It seemed every application for employment had the question that asked, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime and found guilty?”
He never had the opportunity to explain the situation. He was never called for an interview. He thought about just writing no as his answer to this question but he was an honest person even after everything he went through.
Mark used his money wisely. He lived in a simply furnished studio apartment. His mother had passed while he was incarcerated so he didn’t have other family members in his city.
Even though he missed out on a lot of living he wanted to get the most out of the rest of his life. He, still, was unsure which direction he should go until one night he was watching the news on the television.
The newscaster spoke,” In a recent fourteen – month investigation of the city’s prison system, documents show that many of the prisons had not prepared their inmates for life on the outside. The money allocated for rehabilitation was not used for this purpose.”
” Those inmates who were close to being released should receive training and classes to help them integrate into society once released. There has been a recent increase of repeat offenders going back into the system. The Governor has requested a complete breakdown of the expenses…”
Mark turned the television off. The breaking news continued but he had heard enough. He knew at that moment what he was supposed to do. He knew how difficult it was for him to adjust to living on the outside. Now, he wants to help other inmates.
In the next few months, Mark had a lot of planning to do. Who could help? What did he need? Since his lifestyle was simple he had some money left from the compensation check. Now, he could put it to good use.
After sixteen months of meetings, planning, and construction Cecelia’s Halfway House was ready to open its doors. Within a week he would receive his first, newly released, group of inmates.
Many people had volunteered to help him start his journey. A journey he knew would be difficult at times but he wanted to help make a difference and give every inmate a fighting chance to regain a normal life.
He named the halfway house after his mom. It was his way of commemorating her and thanking her for instilling the values she had given him.
“When life is unfair, you need to move forward and forget the past and help others along the way.” This was his Momma Cecelia’s way.
Written by: Angel
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circumstantial evidence – noun: evidence of facts that the court can draw conclusions from
deaf ears – idiom: to fail to be heard
guilty – adjective: charged with a crime
turn-key -noun: keeper of the keys in a prison; a jailer who presides over inmates
tainted – verb: contaminated or polluted
bitter – adjective: angry, hurt, or resentful
feeling – noun: emotional state
compensation– noun: money awarded to someone as a gesture for loss
back on the right track – idiom: to move in the right direction
convicted – noun: proof that a person is guilty
incarcerated – verb: imprisoned or confined
newscaster – noun: a person who reads broadcast news stories
allocated – verb: distribute
integrate – verb: live, coexist and be as one
adjust – verb: to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result
halfway house – noun: an institute for people with criminal backgrounds to learn the necessary skills to re-integrate into society
commemorating – verb: show respect
Question ( s ):
Has this situation ( wrongfully convicted ) happened in your city or country?
What are your thoughts regarding Mark paying it forward and helping other released inmates adjust to life on the outside?