May 26, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

Returning Home: A Long Bus Ride, Junk Food and a Mother’s Tears

5 min read


picture of man

Habakkuk Nickens. Picture by Mike Greenlar

Currently being here, suitable now, continue to feels unreal. Almost nothing compares to the sensation of acquiring my independence back.

Last thirty day period, when the correction officer confirmed up at my prison mobile and asked: “Nickens, do you want to go household currently?”

I took it as a joke, right up until he followed up, telling me: “Pack your things. You ought to be out of in this article by 3 o’clock.”

And positive adequate, I was.

The date was Could 3, and I was introduced all of a sudden because of the First Stage Act originated in 2018, but not entirely applied until finally 2022. It offers eligible inmates the prospect to generate credits by participating in recidivism reduction applications.

The gained credits can be used towards early launch. Developed for non-violent offenders, the law observed a lot of alterations, inevitably supplying support to offenders like myself. This led to my immediate launch. Just after serving 10 years and two times, the moment I had been ready for was ultimately below.

The reason I was blessed with this kind of a big reduce of my time is mainly because I fully commited the time I served to rehabilitation. I researched difficult and took in excess of 50 courses, this kind of as parenting, solutions to violence, sufferer impression and additional.

Then when I gained the understanding, I established and led my individual lessons to educate other folks.

My neighborhood ties ended up another element in bringing me dwelling.

Study Past Article: “Former Gang Member Encourages Cease-Fire”

During my incarceration, I started an group referred to as Males Educating Neighborhoods. Our mission is to bring recognition to gang violence, gun violence and any violence influencing the nation.

Our 1st initiative was Procedure Ceasefire. We worked on truce conferences, violence awareness days and avoidance. I completed all of this from powering the wall.

Walking Out With out Cuffs

Walking out of the front entrance of the Federal Correctional Institution at Beckley in West Virginia without the need of cuffs felt abnormal. A taxi was termed, and 10 minutes afterwards I was on my way to the bus station, ready for a Greyhound. During the 6-hour hold out, I walked all around the small town, halting in a gasoline station, a McDonald’s and a Household Dollar, getting all the junk meals I haven’t expert in a decade.

I used $50 on meals on your own.

I uncovered the bus ride to be calming and calming. It was not until eventually the subsequent day, May perhaps 4, that I designed it out of just one point out and to the future, because my bus did not arrive until eventually 10 p.m.  My route went from West Virginia to Columbus then Cleveland, Ohio and onto Buffalo, N.Y., and lastly house: Syracuse.

In overall, I spent 48 several hours driving in buses.

To an regular citizen this would have been exhausting, but to me, I viewed the excursion like traveling in some gorgeous, overseas nation. I satisfied a single couple who ended up so solid in their religion and adore of God that they felt compelled to assistance me in my problem.

The husband gave me the jacket off of his again and an extra hat that he experienced. I was not cold, but he felt this is what God required him to do.

That is when it begun to sink in that I’m not in prison any much more. I’m all-around all kinds of folks, some who have compassion, empathy and really like.

I took it as a signal that I was meant to be absolutely free.

My bus from Columbus to Cleveland was delayed — scheduled to depart at 8 a.m., it did not get there right until 6 p.m.

Even now, this was no trouble to me. I was absolutely free and nothing at all was heading to take that joy from me.

During the wait, I satisfied a youthful guy from the Bronx. We talked the total time. Just by on the lookout at my overall look — my baggie denims, skippy shoes and baggie T-shirt — he understood appropriate away I had just gotten out of prison. We talked the overall time about God, my expertise and my options. When my bus came, we embraced like we’d acknowledged each and every other forever.

I eventually designed it household around 10 p.m. on May 5.

My mom met me at the bus hub in Syracuse and cried as soon as she observed me. The feeling of this is real began to set in.

When we obtained back to her household, my 17-yr-aged daughter was asleep and I tiptoed into her place, contacting her. She awoke, scarcely in a position to see me. In a reduced tone, she reported “Dad,” and then recognized it was genuinely me.

She commenced screaming “Dad!” although crying and holding me in a hug.

Actuality actually begun to kick in. My brothers greeted me with extended embraces, and my 19-year-previous son cried in my arms with tears of pleasure. My youngest, my 14-yr-outdated daughter, held onto me with a content, uncontrollable cry. She would not allow me go.

In this instant, I felt how significantly my existence experienced been skipped by my household.

Now, that I’ve received a 2nd likelihood, I strategy to keep on on a route to be a strong impact in my neighborhood. I’ve come to have an understanding of what that can take and see what should be finished to adjust the prevalence of violence in our metropolis.

I am an ally, and I am here to assist.

This essays mixed the first two columns of a job documenting the return property of former incarceree Habakkuk Nickens, who was  sentenced to 20 many years in federal prison immediately after he was convicted on racketeering expenses. The columns initially appeared in The Stand. The Criminal offense Report will publish other columns in the sequence as they appear.


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