Jeramee, Program Graduate and Peer Educator at Mansfield Correctional

Jeramee is a program graduate who was also trained as a peer educator, helping to run and facilitate the because I said I would correctional program at Mansfield Correctional Institution. He shared his personal promise story and the profound impact the program has had on his life through a heartfelt letter. The letter reads…

“My name is Jeramee Hudson. I was raised by my grandma on the west side of Columbus Ohio. My grandma was someone who was very honest humble hardworking passionate dedicated loving and loyal. She was very reliable and dependable and she had a great deal of Integrity. She never tried to take the easy route or shortcut and she never put forth half effort into anything that she was trying to accomplish. This was the way that she operated at all times even when no one was looking. I could go on and on listing her qualities this is just a short list of the many great values that she not only modeled but truly embodied. Needless to say she was my hero and she still is to this day. When I was a kid she tried to instill all these same values and principles in me. Unfortunately, she had to work 10 to 12 hours a day to ensure that there was a roof over our head and food on the table. I never met my dad or had him in my life. My mother was pregnant with me when she was just 15 years old. She got into trouble with the law when she was just 18 or 19 years old. So she was in and out of my life for extended periods of time. I would eventually venture out into the neighborhood as a young boy desperate to fit in and gain acceptance. This would ultimately change the trajectory of my life. By way of being taught, learned or mimicking the wrong people I would adopt values opposite of what my grandma tried to teach me. Values like lying stealing cheating and taking easy routes and shortcuts. These particular values would eventually earn me a hefty prison sentence and a whole lot of Heartache. My bad decisions landed me in lock up back in October of 2002. I’ve remained incarcerated ever since. I’m getting close to being released where I plan to create a platform to speak to younger kids who are headed down the wrong path. My goal is to persuade them to see a better path and to prevent them from ever entering the jail system. Sadly my grandma and my mom both passed away while I’ve been incarcerated. My grandma passed away on my birthday in 2004 a little over 2 years after I got locked up. She was in the hospital at the time because of some heart issues she was dealing with. She took a 15-minute phone call with me that day. We conversed for a while and she wished me a happy birthday. She also related to me that she was tired not in a sleepy sense but in a tired of being in pain sense. When I went to call her the next day she was gone, passed away overnight in her sleep. That news hurt my heart more than anything I’ve ever felt… it crushed me. After struggling with her absence for quite some time I would eventually do what she taught me to do… find the positive in every situation and focus on that. The positive was that at least she did not have to suffer any longer, she moved on to a better place. Before passing she was in a lot of pain for many years. Mostly from heart issues diabetes and arthritis. To my regret, I’m sure that I contributed to causing her plenty of worry and stress.

I viewed my mother’s departure through a similar lens as she suffered greatly in her short life. When I was 16 years old my mother was shot two times through her bedroom window. The man who shot her claimed that it was over an earlier dispute with one of my mom’s friends. One of the bullets severed her spine paralyzing her from the waist down. She would spend the next 14 years in and out of the hospital frequently fighting off bed sores and infections before finally passing away from a severe infection in 2010, at the very early age of 48 years old. It hurt to lose her too but I know her suffering ended and she went to a better place. When I look back on my grandma it is still painful of course but I sometimes marvel at her last act. She went out in her typical heroic grandma fashion and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from her. Here she was in the hospital for an entire week and could have left any day yes she fought until my birthday which was always an important day to her before letting go. Every time I think about that I picture the million times throughout my life that she told me “Never put forth half effort into anything give it your all”. She would have felt that it was putting forth half effort if she were to check out before my birthday. That was a true testament to her strength and dedication. Back when my grandma tried to teach me these values I did not truly understand the importance of them, now I do understand. Everyone values or would value someone in their life that has the same values and qualities that my grandma had. And that it would be safe to say that universally in relationships of any capacity honesty, dedication, Integrity, hard work, compassion, and dependability are almost amongst the most coveted qualities that one would want others to possess. Yet many of our neighborhoods and communities are filled with individuals who are not being taught or learning these particular values. Throughout my life and all my experiences, encountering individuals who exhibit these particular characteristics has been quite rare and rather elusive as there have been very few. All of this shines a light on the glaring need for this destructive cycle to be broken. That had to start with the very one thing that I could control… myself.

When I reflected on the earlier version of myself I recognized that the values and lifestyles that I had adopted caused me to be extremely unreliable, undependable, and very unavailable considering I’ve spent a large portion of my life in prison. I had to take a hard look at myself and spend a great deal of time on self-reflection. One of the most powerful lessons that my grandma left me with was birthed out of her constantly encouraging me to try and find and focus on the positive out of every situation. It was this seemingly simple piece of advice that I would later discover is actually an extremely valuable and profound piece of wisdom that should be applied to all aspects of life. As I continue to nurture and refine the concept of this method… I came to the realization that a mistake is truly only a mistake if you do not learn from it. If one can train themselves to extract a lesson out of every mistake or perceived failure they will eventually come to possess a great deal of wisdom. Mistakes can simultaneously serve as lessons if one learns to frame them correctly. This helped me to become the man I am today. I was able to recognize that it is not my mistakes that define me, it is what I do afterward. I had come to the conclusion that I was not happy with the version of myself that I had become. I’d let down my grandma, my mom, my little brothers, my community, anyone who looked up to me, and myself. But I knew this didn’t have to define me. I would go through the process of identifying all the errors of my way and gain lessons from them. I realize that I had built myself on a bad foundation and that I would have to put myself under construction and rebuild on a proper foundation. I began with the values that my grandma taught me and I would utilize every resource available to me to add to that foundation. Today I’m proud to say that the values my grandma embodied are heavily ingrained into every fiber of my entire being, they are truly the foundation of who I am. Even though my grandma and my mom are not around to see the man that I became I know they are smiling down on me and I find great solace in knowing that I will live out the rest of my life being the best man I can be just like my grandma raised me. I feel like sometimes it takes you to go down the wrong path to get to the right destination. And all of the pain, struggle, and adversity that you endure along that path can be turned into strength wisdom, and integrity with the proper mindset. ” Out of suffering emerged the strongest souls the most massive characters are seared with scars”-Khalil Gibran. That is my favorite quote one that I connect to rather intimately. As I feel it accurately represents the long hard journey to help me become the man I am today. A journey in which overcoming seemingly insurmountable circumstances and the many scars that I acquired along the way both contributed to creating a man who now possesses great character.

I have spent the last 10 years taking every possible program, reading countless self-help books, psychology,CPTSD, and counseling books, and utilizing every educational resource available to me. Today I have completed over 60 programs. I’m currently at Mansfield Correctional Institution where I work as a facilitator and Mentor for the recovery services department. I also facilitate a program called P.E.A.R Association ( People and Environment Affecting Your Reality). The program is geared towards helping individuals recognize how the people they associated with throughout their lives influence their behaviors and contribute to them going to prison. I have also earned a college degree through Ashland University. I recently completed the necessary training to become a certified peer support specialist through Ohio Mental Health and addiction services. I’m in the process of earning a certificate of education for chemical dependency counseling assistant. It was here at Mansfield that I had the privilege of attending an event where Alex Sheen shared his story. I also completed the because I said I would program as well as the training to become a facilitator for the program. It was through the program that I was able to meet a couple of amazing individuals from the because I said I would organization and share with them a piece of my story and how their program and organization has impacted me. I greatly appreciate because I said I would amd all the dedicated people who work for them for providing a platform for everyone to honor the heroes like my grandma, Alex’s dad and countless others who showed us how valuable a promise truly is. Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to pledge our promises for the world to see. That is important for me personally as a young man who went down the wrong path. My mistakes and behavior were once on display, now it is my story of change and redemption that shines brightly.”

Because I said I would Chapters in prison focus on building self-control through character development workshops and volunteerism. We hope our programming can decrease criminal activity and reduce recidivism rates with the inmates we serve.  Thank you to all of our donors who help make this program possible. You are helping keep communities safe.