Yesterday was a very special day for 7th Step. While we are happy to help any prisoner transition into the community, our primary activity is supporting 7th Step members. It had been over two years since one of our own was released from prison. So Terry, Sandi and I were thoroughly pleased to be standing outside OSP yesterday morning watching a new dawn of freedom for Danny Walker.
Danny went to prison in 1989, a year before I did. I came to know him well over the years before my own release in 1999. He worked hard to change himself, and yesterday, he received the reward for his efforts. After twenty one years, he walked out the door, a free man. It was an honor to be the first to shake his hand. (He’s the tall one with the ear to ear grin.)
Terry and Sandy were thrilled as well, but Danny had the biggest smiles of all.
I asked him how he felt, and he was clearly overwhelmed, as all he could say is “really good.” We took him to breakfast and introduced him to real food again. The pleasure on his face was most evident. His quote of the day was, “It’s surreal. I can look out the window, and there are no bars.”
Sandi and I took him to Portland, helped him check in with his Parole Officer, ran several errands with him, so necessary for that first day, and got him settled in temporary housing.
Danny faces some major challenges ahead. He will have to find work, no easy task in an economy ravaged by greed. He will have to find a permanent residence. And most of all, he will have to learn to manage his own time. In addition, the world has changed dramatically. He has much to learn. 7th Step will be there to support him. That’s what we do. Helping prisoners learn to change in prison and helping former prisoners establish themselves as productive citizens makes our communities safer places to live.