By Stanley Scott
What’s the first thing that runs through your mind when you think of jail? I know you’re probably envisioning fights/stabbings, cells with bars, guys with tattoos on their faces and, well, just total chaos. In some ways, you’re right. But for me, prison is more of a mental war. If I were to try to really explain what we go through in here, most people wouldn’t believe me. And at one point in my life, I was in the nonbeliever category myself!
You see, I have nine brothers (six of them older) and every one of them found their way to prison before me. When they told me about jail, I thought, “Man, they’re just trying to scare me.” I figured, if they could do it, I sure could. And that’s the problem right there. I looked up to my brothers. They were the flyest money-getting, women-getting guys I knew — my heroes. And just like most people who come from my type of environment (7th ward, New Orleans), I looked at jail as a rite of passage, a natural occurrence.
But I don’t want my son to ever think or feel like this.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Stanley Scott. I am 29 and I came to prison when I was 20. As you’ve probably already calculated, I’ve been in prison for nine years. And last Father’s Day, me and my cellie were locked behind the door (the prison was on lockdown, as usual), talking about what we would do if we were in the free world. That led us to ruminate about the importance of positive role models for kids.
I now understand that the example my brothers set for me was wrong and led me straight to this cell on Father’s Day with a sentence of 40 years. I don’t want my son, who just turned 8 last summer, to ever look at me in that light and follow in my footsteps. This is why I didn’t even tell him I was locked up at first. But he surprised me one day, when out of the blue he asked, “Daddy, you kill people?!” (I was convicted of murder.) That cut to my heart and scared the hell out of me, since this is not the example I want to set for my son.
So, a couple of years ago, I figured I’d better start using my time to become my best me, so I’ll be able to give my son something else besides all the BS my brothers gave me. As a start, I started surrounding myself with positive people who can teach me something and are on the same path. (After all, as they say, birds of a feather flock together.) You see, for my first couple of years in prison, I was only around my peers and institutionalized older dudes who showed me how to “do time.” All I got out of this was an understanding of the politics of jail, a lot of trouble and how to make a knife. After seeing where this was heading and being in and out of the hole [solitary confinement], I started surrounding myself with mature guys like Rob [co-founder of More Than Our Crimes] and my worldview changed. I saw him reading, studying, taking college courses. I saw him conduct himself with dignity, helping other guys by tutoring them. So, I started to listen and do that too. Since I already had a GED, I got a job in education and followed in his footsteps and became a tutor. Man, you cannot imagine what that did for my confidence and outlook on life! It taught me a valuable lesson: You can be respected for doing positive things (not just being tough), and it feels much better.
I love walking the yard and having one of my students walk up and say, “what’s up, tutor?” Or when guys ask me for help. It makes me feel good; for once in my life, I am doing something constructive. I’d always been the popular guy, but for all the wrong reasons. This showed me I could still be respected while doing right. And this is what I will teach my son. I don’t want my life for him, and as long as I can help it, he’ll never think that prison or the street life is cool!
Rob started sharing his blog posts with me when he came back to Coleman [the Florida prison where both are held] and saw how much I’d grown. And it inspired me to write one myself. I am going to write more. Even though I have 40 years, I’m seeing laws change and what’s happening with Rob and his friends from D.C. [who are being given a chance for early release due to a second-look law]. I know my day will come too. More Than Our Crimes will advocate for guys like me!
And when my opportunity for a second chance comes, I’ll be ready to show the world the new me. Ready to be a positive influence on my community. And most importantly, ready to be a hands-on role model for my son. I’m so ready!