Success Stories

Dave

Dave worked 41 years for the opportunity to walk out of Angola’s gates. In August 2022, he did just that, leaving a much different man than he was back in 1979. Since leaving prison his journey has brought him full circle, ironically, to new but familiar surroundings.

Dave began training as an electrician in 1991. He worked on the high lines for 30 years, servicing all of the generators and transformers on Angola’s 18,000 acres. During his last 12 years in prison he was the lead mentor for the reentry program’s electrical school.

Today, Dave is the electrical supervisor at Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as “Parchman.” He supervises a crew of eight men who are learning the trade while incarcerated. Dave knows the opportunity is much more than just a job, for the men he works with and for himself.

As the electrical school instructor at Angola, Dave helped more than 125 students earn their certifications. He maintains contact with many of them, including those who have also been released. “When I see guys going into prison in their 20s, I see them as kids now. I just look at them and say ‘Man what’s going on?’” he said. “This ain’t what’s happenin’, the penitentiary ain’t what’s happenin’. I have to look through different eyes now. I’ve been there and done that.”

“I’ve had a lot of guys that reach back to me and say, ‘thank you so much for standing me up and teaching me a trade. I’m out and I’m working on the Mississippi River bridge,’ or ‘I’ve opened my own company,’” Dave said. “One of my guys has his own solar panel company. They’ve gone into a number of areas, and I’m really proud of the guys that graduated under my instruction.”

Dave embraces the opportunity to help others create better futures. During his own incarceration he saw how mentors and supporters inspired hope. That hope made the prison safer and motivated men to succeed after their release.

“We’re trying to bring some new, fresh air into this prison,” he said. “In the time that I’ve been here we have seen major change come to this prison.”

As Dave begins his workday, he walks by a reminder of his past — a lone cell sitting just inside the entrance of Parchman. When it’s empty, as it is most days, Dave walks by and clocks in. But the best days are when he sees someone sitting in the cell and waiting. It means he is going home.

Dave takes a moment to chat with the men who will be leaving to share one last bit of wisdom. After more than 40 years of waiting for his own release, he knows all too well how much the moment means. He finishes by praying with them, wishing them good luck, and then heads once again into prison for the day’s work.

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