“I had to decide what kind of memory I wanted to leave for my kids. Would it be of a man with problems, constantly in and out of prison? No, it would not.”
Pictured: George Braley and fiancé Yolanda Beyerlin
George started his path to prison early in life. Growing up with divorced parents who did not establish boundaries, he didn’t take life seriously or participate in what he calls a “manners education.” He completed high school and went on to attend a welding trade school, but he had already become involved with the wrong crowd. When he felt taken advantage of, he would retaliate. This resulted in several minor assaults, leading up to his eventual incarceration.
His first three months in DOC were spent in a minimum-custody facility, crowded with people and seemingly no opportunities. He became very depressed, unable to see how he could better himself. His counselor suggested he transfer to a different minimum facility with an OCE program where he could utilize his welding skills. Not knowing whether he would be accepted in the program, he weighed his options and asked for the transfer. He arrived at the new location where he found he would have to apply for the OCE program the same way he would apply for a job on the street: fill out an application.
While he waited to see if he would be selected for an interview, he enrolled in DOC programs he could immediately attend: AA, Al-Anon, and Celebrate Recovery. He also began attending religious services. He soon got the break for which he was searching. He was interviewed and selected for the OCE Machine Shop. He started off as a painter and immediately discovered working in the OCE program felt like having a real job. He was treated like anyone on the outside – with a few more boundaries.
While assigned to OCE, he took advantage of several opportunities. First, he enrolled in the jointly-run DOC/OCE BOLI Welding program. Second, he enrolled in the DOC Threshold program, where he learned to stop objectifying himself and let go of his criminal mindset. Next, he enrolled in the DOC Nonviolent Communication program. This was one of his favorite programs. It taught him that words are where violence starts. He developed interpersonal skills, such as empathy, listening, and a servant attitude. In all three programs, George dug deep inside himself, did the needed work, and was successful.
It was his personal development success, along with his welding skills, which led OCE staff to work with an employer in the community to give George a chance. The employer interviewed George at the Machine Shop, and when George released, he went to work the very next day. George has since moved on to a different employer, but stays in contact with the man who gave him a second chance. Because of his success, the employer stays in contact with OCE, looking for new referrals.
When asked what made George decide to change his life, he had this to say: “I had to decide what kind of memory I wanted to leave for my kids. Would it be of a man with problems, constantly in and out of prison? No, it would not. Someone once asked me what I wanted carved on my tombstone. I want it to read, ‘He was a good man, calm and caring.’”
Read more AIC success stories and learn about OCE training programs and projects by visiting our STORIES PAGE.