ST. LOUIS – Forty-nine-year-old Everett Washington sums it up in a three-page letter. He says he’s never been afraid of anything or anybody but he is afraid of what he might find with freedom – outside of prison walls.
After serving 12 years for robbery, he’s coming out in December. He allowed us to record his phone call in which he said, in part, “Believe me, I’ve been through it before. I’ve been out four times and every time I get out – I’m lost.”
“Mentally and psychologically, I just crumbled, because again, when I got out I was scared. Then you got a lot of us, we get out, we don’t have no family. We don’t have people welcoming us saying, ‘Let me show you how to do these things.’”
It’s Ken Chapman’s job with the Missouri Department of Corrections to help people like Washington.
“I smiled when you said you got a three-page letter. I get a lot of those and I respond to all of those individually and I try and give them real things that will help them and to encourage them in that process and so I’ll just be honest with you, I’m going to reach out to Everett and I’m going to let him know about the resources that I have,” he said.
Chapman says there are more transitional programs now than ever but many are frozen because of the pandemic.
“Those reentry services are still available,” Chapman said. “They’re going to be limited just because some of our providers are limited – you know, they’ve been closed!”
Washington wrote in his letter that he could get the most benefit in a transfer to another prison that offers hands-on job training he needs. Transfers are also currently frozen because of the pandemic. Chapman says he’ll work on other solutions.
“When inmates take that kind of initiative, we want to applaud that,” he said. “That’s called advocating for yourself and that’s advocating for yourself the right way. That’s what we want them to do.”
While Washington is nervous, he’s also hopeful. It’s why he’s speaking up.
“There’s so much I know I can do, but you can’t just let me go in the world and say bye,” he said.
We’ll stay in touch with him as he fights to succeed in the free world.