Life After Jail

He did the crime, then he did the time. Now what?

When Joe Marshall was released from jail on August 17, 2016, he was determined to get his life back on track. His relationship with his family was worn thin. They tried to be supportive, but for a grandmother, a mother, a father, and two brothers, seeing someone they love in such a self-destructive place forced them to keep their distance.

During the seven months he was held at the Hamilton County Justice Center after pleading guilty to three counts of felony drug possession, Marshall reflected on the choices that put him there and the substances that fueled those choices. “When I was in jail I had my mind made up,” he says now. “I knew that I wanted to get clean and I knew I wanted to integrate back into society, I just didn’t know how to do it.”

Illustration by Matt Murphy

As of late last year, approximately 315 inmates were already scheduled to be released from Hamilton County jails throughout 2018. At least another 1,000 prisoners from Hamilton County were slated to be considered for parole. The most recent recidivism rates from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in 2014 report that 10.66 percent of released offenders returned to prison within a calendar year. Nationally, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in 2015 that roughly 30 percent of federal prisoners end up back in prison for violating probation or supervised release. Marshall was determined not to be another statistic. “I had enough,” he says.

Illustration by TIm McDonagh

He moved into the Talbert House halfway home in Roselawn, where he stayed with eight roommates and the house manager, Steve Pullins. They would become like family for Marshall. “It was a blessing, because I wouldn’t have had anywhere else to go,” he says. The Talbert House put a roof over his head and provided crucial connections he needed to feel like a person again. He and Pullins clicked, and when Marshall felt the urge to use drugs again, the two would work out together.

In order to stay at the halfway house, Marshall needed to find work. Like many, unfortunately, his criminal record made finding long-term employment nearly impossible. From Amazon to Valvoline, job interview after job interview followed the same pattern, he says. “I got into these interviews and they liked me personally, but as soon as they saw my record it was another story.”

Meanwhile, temp work with the Kingsgate Marriott near the University of Cincinnati helped Marshall pay his way. He found himself interacting with people from all walks of life, from upper management and hotel guests to guys who, like him, have been through the justice system. But work was a constant balancing act, he says. “I had to pretend like [going to jail] wasn’t a big part of my life.” His manager knew his past, he adds, but also saw his potential and his work ethic. With her support, Marshall became a full-time Marriott employee and saved up enough money to move into his own apartment.

Every morning he wakes up, Marshall says, he’s thankful to be alive and for the people around him. He’s feeling like himself again, rediscovering his passions for music and media. “Right now, where I’m at I see limitless possibilities,” he says. “I’m genuinely excited to see what I can make my life become.”

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