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Instilling Change: Marlon Suttington

Marlon Suttington is the picture of a family man. I met him in his apartment, where he was with his young stepson and his newborn. While we talked, he cradled his newborn son in his arm, sitting on a couch covered in baby blankets. We talked over the sounds of his other child watching a children’s show in the background. He told me about cooking for his family and about his kids loving his creations in the kitchen. Everything he’s done, Marlon told me, has been for his children. In the past, that meant selling drugs. Today, with the help of Second Chance, he has new and better ways to provide for his family.

Growing up, selling drugs was one of the only ways he saw to support a family, so that’s what he did as an adult. While this may not be a conventional career choice, Marlon was good at it. He made good money, saying that he took his family shopping every week. Fast money, though, is spent fast. He didn’t know how to save money or plan during this time in his life, and that wasn’t the only downside. He describes a stressful life of paranoia, carrying a gun and looking over his shoulder, worrying about the police. And although what Marlon wanted was to provide a life for his family, he was unable to be there with them.

Marlon was incarcerated several times before he came to Second Chance and taken from his children. Whenever he was released, he would try to “beat the system.” He would return to selling drugs and instead of working with his PO, he would try to get around the rules. He was dishonest with his PO. Over time, though, he got tired of living this way. His kids grew tired of seeing him in and out of jail. When he was incarcerated in Kansas, his final incarceration, there was talk of federal charges. That was when Marlon knew he needed to find a new way.

After his last incarceration, Marlon found a job in manufacturing. He says it was his first real job. It was his first step on a new path, but the rest didn’t fall into place right away. In his previous life, he was used to getting money fast and spending it fast. He didn’t know how to manage a paycheck. He also wanted to raise his credit and find a house but didn’t know how to do it. Working with his PO, he asked for a recommendation to a program, and was pointed to Second Chance.

Since Marlon was already employed, he came to Second Chance just to find housing. However, to find housing, there were new skills he needed to build. One thing that stuck with Marlon is a question his Resource Specialist asked in their first meeting: “How do you eat an elephant?” He immediately knew you can’t eat it whole; the answer is bite by bite. He was trying to make all his payments at once, without thinking ahead. The bite-by-bite approach at Second Chance helped him learn to save money and ultimately find an apartment. Beyond that, it helped him look at problems in new ways.

Today, Marlon is proud to show his children, in his own words, that “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you don’t have to go through what I went through.” He’s active in their lives. He encourages them in school, and his three teenagers are succeeding there. Looking to the future, Marlon wants to continue building up his credit and own his own home. He also hopes to open a food truck and bring the culinary creations that his family loves to his city.

At the end of our conversation, his newborn needed to be fed. We chatted while he held his baby, bottle feeding him. It’s clear how motivated he is by his children. Thanks to his second chance, he’s looking at a better future, spent with them.

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