I can’t tell you who that kid was that made poor choices in his childhood, but I can tell you about the Josh I met three years ago in a prison recreational gym.

Having close to twenty years in myself, it was very unusual to be approached by someone who spoke to me in a normal social tone. Josh introduced himself…a normal thing to do in society that’s not normal in prison, and inquired about my buddy Yeager. Yeager was, at the time, a six-month old German Shepherd puppy that I was raising for our prison puppy program. The way Josh spoke led me to believe that he must have just come off the street. It wasn’t until later through mutual acquaintances that I discovered that Josh had over 20 years in too! So who is Josh? Josh is a socially conscious individual.

It was clear that Josh loved dogs. He applied for and was accepted into our prison puppy raising program. This was where I really got to know him. During his time as a voluntary puppy raiser, Josh’s organisational and leadership skills became evident. He was quickly nominated to be our unit and puppy representative (for over 90 prisoners). Josh pushed hard for new policies when a puppy suffered for 48 hours and died of water on the brain, while the prisons Unit Manager did nothing. (After 2 days Josh pushed hard enough that the Deputy Warden of the facility came in to pick up he puppy at 11 o’clock at night). Unfortunately as often happens with prisoner reps, Josh was removed from our unit and the puppy raising program. So who is Josh? Josh is an activist, leader, and fighter for those who often have no voice of their own.

While volunteering for our puppy program, Josh decided to pursue a degree in business administration. With the support of his family, Josh surprised himself by getting 4.0’s in his classes. Coming from an unstable environment he experienced as a child he never really had the opportunity to discover that he could succeed in school. Imagine that…a disenfranchised kid on the streets of the United States of America actually had educational potential!

Again, Josh’s organisational and leadership qualities showed through in the college program. Josh quickly stood out amongst his peers by becoming a VLA (vocational lab assistant – teaching Computer Skills in the CIS class) and a student ambassador. Inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society…if you ask me – who is Josh? I’d say that he’s not only a leader and socially active member of our small community, but I’d also say Josh is smart!

And finally, as my co-worker in our Employment Readiness reentry class, I can say with gratitude that Josh is a disciplined, consistent, and highly motivated employee. His great work ethic, focus, and drive to help others is refreshing in an environment where people like him are a rarity. So, if you ask me, who is Josh? Personally, for me, I call him my friend.

Troy Leversee (DOC 289633)

*Troy and Josh both teach in the Employment Readiness Class.