I come from a nice, religious family. I had high ambitions; in fact, I was going to school back in 1994 at Sojourner Douglass College. But at the time I wanted to live a fast life and I didn’t want to settle for a mediocre job. I wanted to sell drugs but it wasn’t working- I got caught up and I ended up with a very serious charge. While in court I had an epiphany while thinking about my family; I had come from a certain moral upbringing and I realized that what my family was teaching was right: I shouldn’t be ripping and running the streets. Prior to going to court I had a realization that I needed to do something different.
When I heard about the Turn About Program (TAP) it struck my interest You are either going to do two things in prison, continue the lifestyle that got you there or turn around. People will say they are going to change but I kept seeing the same thing. I decided that I needed to receive training and go to school in order to change and better myself.
The TAP program provided the discipline and structure that I needed; you have ability to leave, but if you stay it is definitely worth. The workers at TAP will help coordinate a plan distinctly for you, which may include: drug treatment, outpatient counseling, or housing. I followed the plan in order to get my life back on track after being in prison for so long. It is hard for those who have been incarcerated for more than a decade to interact normally with society. I was unaware of how to go to re-enter society using social services (food stamps, bus pass, MD ID) TAP helped me put things in place step by step. If you come out of prison and go too fast you are going to get tripped up, there is too much to do. TAP has helped me immensely.
When I entered the TAP Program they sent me to a support group that at first I resisted, but in the end, I learned a lot about myself. The TAP program provided the opportunity to be an advocate. Through TAP I’m a board member of Out for Justice and I’ve participated in rallies supportive of prison reform.
I would say that my main accomplishments so far are that I am a Wilson Presidential Scholarship recipient and have been admitted to the University of Maryland on this scholarship. I was requested to be member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, which requires a substantial GPA. When I went home, TAP encouraged me to go to school, it was expected of me.
In about 5 years people will call me Dr. Cooper. Like my father said, “aim for the stars and if you fall you will land among the clouds.” Being involved in Out for Justice Outreach has influenced me to become a grassroots organizer, I know that life is boundless when it comes to moving forward. The ex-offenders need to run programs, speak to congress, and change laws. People coming out of prison need to be a part of the process.