An ex-con stumbles on the road to redemption

    Suddenly I was having a hard time reaching Colwin Williams.

    Not good, I told myself. Something seemed a little off last time I met with the ex-con I’ve been keeping tabs on.

    But then, the guy was just two months out of prison after an 18+-year stretch. And he was worried about his son, who was getting into trouble.

    Considering how much Williams was dealing with, he was doing remarkably well.

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    And then he called to say he screwed up. He violated his pre-release by smoking marijuana.

    “No excuses,” Williams tells me. “I made a bad decision.”

    The statistics predict this. They actually predict worse – more than half of the state’s inmates are back behind bars within five years of being released. Many for violating conditions of their supervision.

    So, Williams messing up is not a surprise. But it’s still disappointing.

    At first, Williams says, he denied smoking marijuana. He thought he might be able to get away with it. His drug test could come back clean. He could beat the system like he had so many times in the past.

    But then, he says, his conscience got to him. He realized that even if he did get away with it, he’d just be putting himself back on that road he’s struggled to put behind him.

    So he went to the director of the halfway house and came clean.

    “I told him I needed help.” 

    In the two months since his release, Williams has introduced himself to the mayor, gotten his IDs in order and amassed a stack of business cards from people who want him to share his story.

    What he hasn’t gotten is drug or mental health treatment – two things he readily admits he needs.

    He felt his anxiety building. He was getting overwhelmed. But he says he always felt better when he talked about his experiences.

    ”After all those speeches though, I still had to lay my head down at night and I couldn’t keep away the thoughts and memories of those 18 years,” he says.

    “It all caught up with me.”

    So when another housemate asked if he wanted to try synthetic marijuana, and as a bonus said it wouldn’t show up in his urine, Williams went for it. Three times, he says.

    His social passes were revoked. No family visits. No more speaking engagements for a while.

    He told the halfway house director he feels like a hypocrite.

    Williams says the director told him he shouldn’t think that. He told him that this was going to be a long journey. This stumble was just part of his story.

    The Department of Corrections may not be as forgiving. They could send Williams back to prison. He’s waiting to hear.

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