Albert Einstein beautifully captured the concept of successful prison reentry when he famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. Second Chance graduate, Ryan Meeks, embodies opportunity out of struggle, having taken intentional and brave steps towards a new life.
Existing in a 23-hour lockdown offers little opportunity for growth, and like so many others in a similar situation, Ryan spent the first several years of his incarceration depressed, with no direction, and very little hope for the future. Thankfully, the despair did not last indefinitely. Ryan one day decided, “The least I can do is get my GED”, so he applied for a transfer to another institution and began his journey of recovery and education.
During this period of his transformation, Ryan says his “aha” moment was realizing that he had been living in the opinions of other people, referencing his violent social associations and drug usage prior to incarceration. This “aha” moment solidified his dedication to moving his life forward and he even began working in the hospice wing of JCCC to give back and remain humble. Ryan believed he was able to see the result if he did not take his remaining years in prison seriously: death was a possibility. His transformation took off, allowing him to transfer to a lower-level security institution, where he enrolled in Toast Masters, became a facilitator of Impact of Crime on Victims Class, and continued to work in the Enhanced Care Unit.
Ryan first heard about the Second Chance Program at the Maryville Treatment Center and began planning with prison staff for his life back at home. He had dreams of a construction career but did not have a clear plan. He knew he wanted more than just an education, he needed to work. Ryan was released in November 2020 and within a week of his release, Ryan contacted Second Chance and put his faith in the process of the program. Through his relationship and work with his Resource Specialist, Ryan was able to secure a job within two weeks of enrollment, obtained work clothing, got enrolled at Metropolitan Community College, and began saving money for a vehicle. Ryan also remained sober, a point of pride that he says helped him to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.
According to Ryan, the most helpful part of his program participation was that he was not allowed to become complacent. He has stayed busy, focused and goal oriented. He received honest feedback and the right amount of help in a prompt timeline. Most importantly, Second Chance did not place the traditional program “red tape” that he was used to; rather, empowered him to make something of himself he could be proud of. Ryan Meeks is now realizing his dream job working as a Union Carpenter at the KCI Airport project. He also completed his first semester of college, maintaining all As and Bs with excitement heading into his Fall semester.
When asked what advice he would give others wanting better for themselves, Ryan said, “You think you’re grown, but if you’ve been to prison like me, you’re still thinking like a child. Have a goal, have a plan, and stick to that plan.”
As of May 31st of 2021, Ryan Meeks will be free of all criminal justice involvement for the first time since he was 16 years old, successfully completing his most recent 18 year sentence. He plans to continue to maintain his relationship with the Second Chance Program and help to offer positivity and hope in the community. We could not be more excited to continue his journey with him as a graduated member of the Second Chance family!