“I want you to see the person that I still am, not the monster the media would have you see. My crime is not who I am.“
I used to be an ordinary person, like you. I owned a business, I had a wife and kids, and I paid my taxes. I used to wake up and kiss my wife and kids good morning, spend my days working to better my business and provide for my family, enjoy my weekends relaxing and socialising, and planning the next big thing we were going to do as a family.
You know the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, it is. I made a decision that would change my life forever. I got involved in a deal that I thought would make me some easy money. I convinced myself that if I wasn’t doing it, someone else would be, so what was the harm? I’ve since learned that the legal fraternity call this the “drug dealer’s defence” – which, by the way, isn’t actually a defence.
Not only did my decision change my life, but it also changed the lives of everyone in my family, and untold other people’s lives as well. As with many drug deals, things turned nasty and violence ensued. Threats were made and there was no way out. I was in too deep. The end of this story is, I am sitting in jail serving a sentence for murder, because what I thought was self-defence is in actual fact unlawful killing when the circumstances are stacked a certain way.
But that’s not the end of the story. It is really just the beginning, because sitting in jail for 20 years is in itself a story that needs to be told. Everything that you are about to read, you will probably be thinking I deserve because I’m a criminal and no one cares what happens to a criminal, but you have to remember that I still have a family and people who love me.
It’s tough to describe how it feels to miss out on things in here. Since I have been in jail, I have missed my three daughters graduate from high school, I have missed one of them getting married, I have missed the births of three grandchildren, I have missed the funerals of three grandparents and an aunt, and I’m bound to lose and miss more before I am released. These are the things that I bury and try not to think about because they hurt too much, but when they are happening, to say that it feels like having your heart torn out is an understatement. Feeling like the world’s biggest failure stabs in there to make it hurt just a little bit more.
My family have all been through counselling to deal with their pain of losing me and the loss they feel every time I can’t be at an event I should be at. All the plans I had to be there for all the important events in my daughters’ lives and celebrate their happiness with them are now just photographs. Not being able to have my grandkids for sleepovers or get that chance to piggy back them across the hot sand at the beach was something I never thought of years ago, but now is a very real heartache that reminds me exactly what I am missing.
“Not being able to have my grandkids for sleepovers or get that chance to piggy back them across the hot sand at the beach was something I never thought of years ago, but now is a very real heartache that reminds me exactly what I am missing.“
This doesn’t mean I haven’t been a part of all these events, because I still have the support and contact with my family and loved ones. What this does mean is I can only hear about it and will never have the memories associated with any of those events. This 20-year sentence will be a hole in our lives that can never be filled, but I’ve made my peace with it, and I am working towards my life when I am released.
Some of the things I have achieved since I have been in prison is a Diploma in Business, OH&S and Project Management, a Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment, and a Certificate 4 in Fitness. I have also become proficient in IT and graphic design through my work with Green Fox Training Studio. I have only gained these things because I am driven and seek them out; nothing is offered in here to assist anyone to better themselves or prepare for life on the outside.
However, I have lost all knowledge of how anything operates outside. I have forgotten how to look after myself with things like cooking, laundry, shopping and budgeting. I have also lost the confidence to communicate with others outside the prison environment. I have never used a smart phone and have never seen a touch screen. To say this gives me anxiety is an understatement. How do I function in a world that is now alien to me? How do I learn new technology that has advanced decades since I last saw it? Apparently, there are no more toll booths on toll roads: how do I pay for that? There are no more street directories in book form: how do I program a GPS? Smart phones hold your entire life and I don’t even know how to use one, plus I will have no money to buy all these things. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to stay in jail.
Luckily, I have family to assist me to reintegrate or I would probably become another number in the statistics of reoffenders; those who leave here with nothing and with no help from anyone, which currently in Queensland sits at about 47%. Almost half of the people who find themselves in jail will find themselves coming back, because once you are in the system, you can lose everything and are given no way of getting it back.
Imagine being labelled for the rest of your life for one mistake that you made one time when you probably had the chance to do something else. We’ve all been there, but for my mistake I will be branded forever as a criminal and never given a chance again to be the person I once was. I want you to see the person that I still am, not the monster the media would have you see. My crime is not who I am; this is something I have done, and I am paying my debt to society.
When I am released in 2029 I have a home to go to with my wife, and I have employment prospects to get me back on my feet. I have all my family and I have new memories to make, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I am lucky that, despite all I’ve lost, I still have the ability to make a difference once I am released – to make a difference to mine and my loved ones’ lives and also make a difference to society by once again contributing to the community in which I live.
If I could go back in time and change everything I did, I would. Unfortunately, that is not possible. I will have to live with this decision for the rest of my life, and continue to face the consequences of that decision in every aspect of my life. Nothing can undo what has been done, but I can make a conscious effort to better my life every day and never look back.