Emanuel Price: “My Story”
“I have been asked, ‘why SCAFÉ?’ I respond with my story . . .”
My junior year in college @ Virginia Union University was the year things turned around. Summer of 1999 I returned home to Portland Oregon, and I immediately began to work and save money as I had to return to VUU in the fall. I somehow began to hang with old high school friends, which ultimately turned into a situation which landed me in a correctional facility. As a college educated, God fearing, responsible young man raised in a two parent home of college graduates, it should have been enough reason for me to not engage in criminalistics behavior. Unfortunately I hadn’t avoided the behavior which is why I served close to five years in Oregon Correctional facilities. While incarcerated, despite the stories you hear about rehabilitation services, there were not many programs on the inside that would correct your behavior, or prepare your return into society. Correctional facilities do not reform, empower or support felons transitioning back into a healthy and sustainable life; it’s the opposite. Society reduces your value, oppresses, and strips you from being a United States Citizen with the inability to vote or work even after paying your debt to society.
In 2003 I returned back into society and there was little to nothing available to me. My employment search resulted in very few choices, with jobs/careers. However, I found some re-entry programs that assisted in my transition into the community. They helped me to find stable ground to stand on. I never realized that my past would be such a barrier to any future goals, working opportunities, and or the right to vote. Such an unforgiving past made it hard for me and many others to gain the trust, respect, and community support that is needed to break the cycle of recidivism and move forward with our lives. It is extremely difficult to sell yourself to the public, gain trust, and renew relationships, when what the public see’s is a blemish on your life’s resume without knowing the details and facts. This leads to being judged before you get a chance to make a first impression. And that was one of several hundred encounters I faced finding employment, housing, or resources. Unlike me, there are many felons released into society that do not have the formal education, tools or such a strong support group to get things back in order. If we can empower and educate men through training, formal education, computer literacy, social awareness, and community involvement, that would reduce some of the recidivism and help men who want to change reclaim their lives while breaking the cycle of recidivism.
I returned to society 10 years ago, and still struggle with finding employment; not because I am ill equipped or not qualified, but because my background inhibits my forward progress, regardless of how long ago it happened, it still follows me. I have moved clear across the country only to find employment opportunities in other states, knowing my felony wouldn’t follow me out east, or down south. I returned to school in hopes of securing a better job and expanding my future. I have volunteered my time in various areas, faith based, non-profit organizations, political and religious sectors, and many other programs that I felt would enhance my job readiness skills. I feel this will make me and others more desirable to companies, or organizations that are looking to hire. I have accepted my responsibilities for my past actions and have paid back my debt; but my biggest challenge does not stop with me, the bigger challenge resides in public society and its perception of those transitioning back into society, and how welcoming or how helpful the state and government will be in assisting these men (who want change). Many men released everyday are extremely eager to work, provide for themselves, and their families. When they are met with disapproving looks, or feel there isn’t help for those who are seeking help, it gets depressing. Their pride may get in the way and then soon the cycle of criminal thinking can and will creep into the crevices of one’s mind. Several men have and will continue to experience such hardships. They will experience how difficult it is to gain the trust of society. Some men will relapse committing various crimes, or will simply give up and give into depression, feeling helpless, unwanted, and hopeless. This is true because I had experienced every emotion and feeling of unworthiness as I tried hard to change the life I left behind. I wondered if any other person felt my struggle of shame and pain. In fact everyone has, not just those with a challenging background, but those who were also out of work and looking to find employment in such a trying economical time.
I personally have experienced most of what these men have gone through, which is why it is so important for me to provide assistance and support in securing the resources they need. Although many doors have been shut in my face, I too am looking for a second chance at life. Empowering, educating, and employing men with felony or challenging backgrounds is what we (they) need, and SCAFÉ is in existence for that purpose. Second chances are for everyone, I am a testimony to this fact as I have created SCAFE for that purpose.