“How many more generations need to pay for the mistakes that I made as a child?”

When I was a kid, I didn’t have my family. I didn’t have anywhere to go to get a home cooked meal or to hop in the shower and lay my head. I found ways to make money and survive. I’m not excusing anything I did, but I am a different person now.

I am trying to do things the right way, but it feels like it’s too late because I have this criminal record. A felony will slowly kill you – it destroys all opportunities that come your way. People look at me differently because of my criminal record and then I can’t get a job. I go from job after job after job, they are like temporary jobs…they usually aren’t fulltime. I want something steady, something I can have for years. When I try to get a job like that, they look at my background and I can’t get past the interview.

I know I can succeed. I’ve worked really hard to get as many qualifications as I possibly can. I have state and federal certifications for asbestos and lead removal. I don’t want to be a burden to society, I want to climb up the ladder – be a productive member of my community. I want to work.

Having a criminal record isn’t just a barrier for me; it’s a barrier to making a better life for my son too. This is what the net [in my photos] symbolizes. I don’t care about me anymore, it’s all about him. Money doesn’t always take care of everything, but it helps. I want him to have a father growing up so that he doesn’t have to go to the streets to find money and a family. I don’t want everything to just be given to him, but I want him to have a better life than I had growing up. I want it to be fantastic – a better, fantastic life.

Being automatically charged a youth as an adult has made it very difficult for me to succeed. I know that I needed to be held accountable for what I did, but for how long? It’s been 10 years — how many more generations have to pay for the mistakes that I made as a child?

– R.R.