Interview with Curtis Jones
Lovinah Igbani Perkins interviews Curtis Jones about his life and what he experienced after incarceration. Curtis Jones currently resides in Houston, Texas. In this interview, Jones discusses his family and upbringing, as well as the events and practices that led to his arrest. Jones also describes the lasting impacts of incarceration, such as securing a job, shifting family dynamics, mental health struggles, and coping with the outside world. Jones also talks about how all of these experiences have impacted his outlook in life and talks about future goals while providing advice for incarcerated individuals transitioning to the world outside of prison.
CURTIS SCHOFIELD JONES: [00:00:20] Okay. My name is Curtis Schofield Jones, 93, 79. I'm a Virgo born right here in Houston, Texas -and I met Lovina at Free Indeed church, and she's been a blessing the whole time.
IGBANI: All right. Well, thank you so much. So I think I want to start off with just you - just share a little bit about your upbringing, your childhood. Like, how are you? Who were you raised by? Maybe some influential people in your life, or just tell me how your child who was
JONES: My childhood coming up? Man, my childhood was great. My father, my mother - [00:01:02] I used to stay with my grandparents a lot. I never understood why, but I knew at my grandmother's it was more peace -it was a lot of food. We eat good and stuff like that. Find out, my daddy was a hustler. My mom, she was a high school graduate, Veronica Jones - a smart woman from Kashmir Guard. My father was from Fifth Ward. Well, I was mainly raised by my grandmother, Rosemarie on Ranch. My father was in and out of prison. I remember I used to cry when I used to go see him in Harris County and we have to put our hand on the window and I used to see how my mom was affected by it and my Grandma Rose. I was a straight A and B student coming up in Kashmir Gardens Elementary, the elementary school I went to. And I loved it, and we had fun. But what happened - I get to go visit my other grandmother, Miss Bobby, my dad's mom - at Kelly Courts and then 605 Barry Road. Over there when I will visit - like they would be doing a lot of cool stuff - hanging out at night, playing hide-and-go-seek, and go [00:02:16] get stuff - you know, like drinking and stuff. I could do that kind of stuff at my grandma's house. It started getting boring when I go back to my grandma's house. I want to go back where I could get away with stuff, you know,
IGBANI: Right, have a little bit more freedom.
JONES: Right. And then in doing that, I had ended up going to school over there. Well, when I went to school over there in Burbank, my father went right back to prison for 25 years [00:02:48] and they came out with timetable, in Miss Ferguson's class, in the fourth grade. I was good with science, yeah, all the subjects - I love them, but I hated timetables.
IGBANI: [00:03:00] Yeah, you hated math?
JONES: Yeah, I hated math. And after that they would keep coming, teaching me, telling me two plus two, you know. I can go up to 10 and 11, but they was telling us it was a sequence to it, and people will remember, and I got - I used to raise my hand and raise my hand- because Ferguson love me, but it started getting embarrassing and I couldn't get it.
IGBANI: Uh, huh. And you couldn’t get it right.
JONES: Right, so to be honest with you, at that point I dropped out of school.
IGBANI: How old were you when you dropped out?
JONES: I was in the fourth grade. [00:03:40] Whatever age that is, what, eight - nine?
IGBANI: All right, so, [00:03:47] your childhood - you were mostly raised by your grandparents, and then stopped going to school around fourth grade. [00:03:54] And then I'm going to fast forward to right before prison. Well, first of all, how many times have you been incarcerated?
JONES: I've been incarcerated - I've been to prison three times. I've been to State Jail, twice; five times.
IGBANI: Alright, and are you currently on parole or probation right now?
JONES: Oh no, [inaudible] [00:04:19] I haven't been in probation or - I never qualified for probation first of all, never in my life. But yeah, my last parole sentence was the eight year sentence. I served three years of the 5 years. I've successfully completed parole. I haven't been back in since,
IGBANI: Okay, and when was the last time you were incarcerated?
JONES: Oh, I went back [inaudible] [00:04:46] I went back when they killed my little cousin. They murdered my cousin. And, you know, I was working and doing good, but they murdered my little baby of the family, in the streets and, just too fast forward. Going to the funeral and him being my baby cousin, knowing he was watching me - him and everybody else. They was mimicking me, trying to drag me - [00:05:14] that was my last straw. They killed him and I went around in a revengeful state for months. I left my girlfriend, I left work; she didn't know me no more. She was scared. I sent her on and during that time, before I could do anything, God allowed something. I got pulled over, they found some stuff in my car and I was facing 25 to life for some counterfeit. It was really just God - getting me out the way because I wasn't in my right mind, you know. So I did two years and that was, God… [00:05:58] I've been out of prison, like, seven years.
IGBANI: Seven years, okay.
JONES: So I did two years and that's when I came out and I joined Free Indeed.
IGBANI: [00:06:08] And Free Indeed is - for people that don't know, I know but…
JONES: [00:06:16] Free Indeed is a church ran Johnny G Gentry and beautiful wife, and it's a great church. It was that they accepted me there and, you know, man, at the stage is just so much love. [00:06:37] Yeah, that was the beginning of a big transition, you know.
IGBANI: Okay, so you [00:06:46] got out about 7 years ago, a little over seven years ago, [00:06:52] and no longer on parole or probation at all. Do you feel like prison prepared you to be released to come back into society?
JONES: [00:07:03] [inaudible] honest with you. I've done all my homework man, it was prison saved my life - every time. When, I lost control of myself, prison was able to slow me down, and in a sense, being there, I was able to really look at my life and see that the friends and the girlfriend - things I was doing for the kind of people I was doing it for - that I was really pissing in the wind and I was hurting myself. I was pimping myself, you know. And I said, it's got to be more to it. I want to enjoy my money. You do all that work, counseling, whatever you do, but every time I will go to jail. [00:07:50] I barely have money for lawyers -
IGBANI: didn’t have anything to show for it
JONES: and would come home to nothing
IGBANI: and would come home and nothing - yeah
JONES: [inaudible], all those people that I was taking care of and sharing with, that those weren’t the people doing nothing for me, it was only my grandmother's and stuff sending me money for commissary. So, I learned so much from going to prison and I thank God for every stint.
IGBANI: [00:08:23] That had to be hard. Like tell me how that felt to you.
JONES: Man [inaudible], I felt really no support.
IGBANI: With no support
JONES: [00:08:32] I felt really two faced because I was always, like, the giving kind of person, and I would share the money. I really - I didn't get raised -I didn't come up with a family that taught you financials.You know, all I knew was go hustle, get money and don't look like the hobos. But I would share all that money and everything with everybody. So being in there that first time and seeing that nobody would even send me pictures - it was an insult. [00:09:02] It’s an insult!
And even with my children's mother who I met when I was 14, like I took her in and I gave her the world. And I mean, I mean, we was young, I went to prison when I was 17, but I remember she sent me $20. And that $20 I got - come to find out - I was on the train. I was on my way home - that was kind of hurtful. She wrote me every three months, but it's like keeping one foot in the door, one foot out.
[00:09:34] And I realized when I came home, that people I was put my life in jeopardy for -and I had three, two kids that I had left - and I wanted to come out and be something for my children and my grandchildren, and my grandmother because my mom had already committed suicide. My mom got crazy right here in this house I’m in. On Christmas Day, and from Christmas Day of 1996, I was in prison 3 months later.
Three months later and I thank God for it, but I learned so much about people and myself and [00:10:12] that's when I finally came home. And when I went to work at Jason's Deli Downtown for $6.25. I got three raises within the first three weeks. They loved me. But I accidentally bought a truck, and I brought it to the job and the manager, not the main manager, Joey, the guy who just runs with us - when he seen that truck he was like, who’s is this truck? He drove like a Bronco. I was like, it's mine. He's like, yeah, but see I didn't know you wasn't supposed to share certain things on these job sites - letting these people know the good you was doing because they would be very, very intimidated by it. I lost that job.
IGBANI: [00:11:04] Wow, so first of all, I'm really sorry to hear about your mother, that she passed away. [00:11:11] I can only imagine, like, the pain and, you know, how difficult that can be. And then, I think, from what I hear you saying, it seem like [00:11:22] you poured out to a lot of people prior to your incarceration, but you didn't get that in return. When you were at a low point in your life.
IGBANI: Okay. Do you
JONES: Go ahead.
IGBANI: [00:11:36] Do you feel like prison prepareD you to be released - to come back into society?
JONES: Most definitely! If it wasn't for prison I’d been dead and gone a long time ago.
IGBANI: [00:11:51] Are there any specific ways that you can share, like, how they prepared you?
JONES: Well, first of all, they had a thing called Project Rio, second of all, they had a thing called education - Wyndham School District. The first year I was in there, when I was at the Segovia Unit on my first eight year sentence, I went to school just like everybody else. [00:12:10] But we were in there just for air condition, and then after being there for a whole year, things started to click and it was like - what you doing? You don't have - you dropped out of school in the fourth grade - you're here at the school. Your mom gone, but your grandmother's and sisters support you, and at that very moment I say, Now I’m fixing to get my education!
IGBANI: [00:12:39] So it opened the door for you to get something that you hadn't obtained yet which was [inaudible].
JONES: I got my education in prison.
IGBANI: That's good.
JONES: I got my GED. I was the happiest man in the world and I actually paid to send it home to my family. That felt good!
IGBANI: [00:13:00] It felt good, yeah. Any other ways you feel like they - so they you know - provided an opportunity for you to get an education, any other way you feel like -any other classes you took?
JONES: What matter is what - really the class is just a situation and itself being in there - looking at the flip side of the street - the so-called friends. Being in there showed me - iIt really - it was a myth. We was - I was living, you know? Because I never got to enjoy any of that money I was making. I made so much money, had cars everywhere, but every time I went to jail, everybody else had the cars and the clothes. [00:13:43] I got to sell a five thousand dollar car for twenty two hundred because they don't want to pay right knowing I need it. You know, it was just - it was a real eye opener, you know?
IGBANI: Yeah, [00:13:58] I understand that. [00:14:01] And [00:14:03] do you know, if you remember, if the classes that you took were ran by or taught by prison staff, or if it was from outside?
JONES: (Yawn) It was outside staff, it wasn’t prison staff.
IGBANI: [00:14:19] Do you notice? I'm a shift to - directly to mental health right now. So, do you, did you notice any mental health problems - after you were released?
JONES: [00:14:31] You know what, to be honest with you. I never been the type to claim any of that. Even though my uncle's, all my family, they take medications - my dad. They felt like they had to. Yeah, I think they was doing that to get checks though.
But before my mom passed, she took me on New York and Fifty Ninth to go get me a check, like everybody else. I wanted to get a free check. Thank God they didn't give it to me! I went in there and I tried to be mean and tried to play crazy. Then a lady came in and told her, Get him out of here, ain't nothing wrong with your son. That's when I said Momma, we ain’t getting a check? She say, No. Thank God.
That's the best thing that happened to me because as I grew up, I watch my uncles and everybody else who get this. (Shakes head) [00:15:24]
(Phone rings) Oh my God, I'm sorry, I got to decline it. Hello, yes. I thought I had that off. That was my other Pastor calling me. Can you hear me?
IGBANI: Yes, I can hear you. You can hear me. Yes.
JONES: Okay. I cut that phone thing down. Oh. [00:15:45] I didn't get the check and thank God I didn't get the check because now I see my little brother. He gets a check now since he got out of prison, like they really - it's like they finally made it or something. It's like, honestly, they don't go - they ain’t looking for no jobs,. I gotta check come every month. When I'm looking and I'm like, when you get a check every month, what six, seven hundred? [00:16:11] I get a check four times a week for fifteen to two thousand dollars. [00:16:19] That's the setup, man.
IGBANI: Yeah. Yeah.
JONES: And they got y'all on his medication now, they’re quadrupling their money saying something wrong with you - ain't nothing wrong with you, cuz I ain't nothing wrong with me. Then I come home and I all my kids was on medication getting checks. Come to find out that's the way a woman - [00:16:42] people had to do what they had to do I guess in some form or something, but that was a hustle. And it was a hustle that minorities was doing to get extra support. Maybe they fathers weren’t there, but in the long run that affected all of our children. Taking that medicine, not taking it right. [00:17:03] You know what I'm saying? It's real deep on that. But I never agreed with that.
IGBANI: Right? Do you feel like prison impacted your mental health at all, whether it was depression, anxiety, PTSD? Do you feel like prison contributed in any capacity to your mental health?
JONES: Oh, [00:17:25] I honestly couldn't say because I hear rumors. I have been hearing rumors. It came for my sister - I listen to her a lot. She just told me the other day, You real negative. [00:17:39] I said, I'm real negative? What you mean, because I have really a heart?
I'm for people. I don't mess over God's people. [00:17:49] If anybody I messed over, l messed over myself, you know what I mean? And I'm just being straight up honest. But when it comes to people and my word, I don't play with that because when I came up, your word was everything. If you didn't have your word, that you [inaudible]. Even when we was coming up, if we went to school with somebody said he was going to come and do this and they didn't do it- that was like - you would look at at them real…
IGBANI: [00:18:08] Yeah, it was like your word is your worth almost.
JONES: Yeah, that was everything. That's right, and I'm still about my word - even though people wouldn’t, man.
I think that prison showed - it woke me up. every trial and tribulation I went through, even being after prison like now. I've been home three months from Kentucky, you know. I travel all over the world. I'm an electrician now. I got my education in the prison, but I came to work, and seeing how they was doing in a chemical plant - I capitalized on that. The first place I went to was the BP oil spill. They needed workers to go out there and clean up that oil spill for Transocean and it was oil. We was cleaning birds and cleaning stuff, but when I came home [00:19:09] I utilized that I was [00:19:14] the person who goes clean up oil spills. I was an emergency response person (laughter). [00:19:23] And by using that, they gave me a chance in the plant to do jobs, and I was just work hard. and I found out - this is what I found out [inaudible].
I realize they just paying them people in them plants and they weren't just paying them little bitty money. They're paying twenty fours, and twenty threes. The guy offered me twenty eight dollars! [00:19:50] I say, How much? He say, Twenty eight, but he made me at iron work. I was doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. We had to walk hundreds of feet on rails and do work with cranes. He say, Are you scared of heights? I say, No, you know, because I'm from the hood. I ain't scared of nothing. I had to get the twenty eight, but when I asked you to put me in the field, and I went up there, I was like, oh my God - I was just holding the pole. And I was like, Man, why you do that, bro? Man, I can't do this. I prayed to God and I prayed to go under. Mexicans used to look at me, like, Dude, just stay there for an hour. We over here. Just hold it. When you get back on the ground, just walk lines and practice. I said, Okay. I was so scared. But you know what, after three weeks, I got rid of that and I realize how much it was really opportunities there, and I will come back and try to tell the neighborhood about it, you know.
JONES: You don't have to be on the block. I had already lost my cousin, they killed my cousin. I lost a lot of young friends. I thought what we was doing was cool. My Daddy was a hustler. Everybody used to tell me you's gonna be like your daddy; your daddy give money. I'm thinking it's cool then. But my daddy had drug habits too.
IGBANI: [00:21:14] Uh hum, yeah. Since -
JONES: [00:21:20] I end up having the same habits he had - along with the hustle and the money, but prison saved me. [00:21:27] Prison, trials, tribulations, and everything that bad happen to me - God allowed me to learn from that and I'll never take it back.
IGBANI: [00:21:40] Seems like you had a lot of loss and along the way you figured out another way to make a living and without risking your life and your freedom. So congratulations on that because you and I both know a lot of people never come to that realization. [00:21:59] Do you feel like - you know, were there any issues that you had after you were released that caused it where you ran into difficulty with, like employment, or housing, or anything like that?
JONES: Yes, that first time I got out because that's the system [inaudible] completed Project Rio. Then I ended in the thing they call Safe Peace [00:22:27] Abusive Punishment program - and they are two cognitives and stuff like that. But when I came home, I would fill out these applications, tell them about my GED, and [00:22:42] It's like all this stuff they said was going to help us - it really didn't in th form, but I did give up. [inaudible] I didn't give up because I had a praying grandmother, and I had people telling me about the Lord, and I knew I wanted better -so I kept trying. Eventually, by my determination, [00:23:04] I start getting opportunities. And I realized [00:23:09] to hell would Project Rio, maybe it helped, maybe it did not. I just knew to be humble and be true.
Yeah, I've been to prison. I wish I was young but I'm twenty one now. I have two kids. I'm a fast learner. I know how to listen. I'm full of energy and I want to be a part of a winning team and that would be my spiel to every company I went to. I say, I'm in church now. My dad was always in prison. I got Grandmothers and I just want to do the right thing. I'm full of energy and now I want to just work and I just want to be a part of you guys and that alone has kept me working.
IGBANI: [00:23:55] And so it seems like you had some difficulty. However, you also had determination and you stayed in regardless how many nos you got. And, like, it paid off.
JONES: [00:24:10] Yeah, yeah it has.
IGBANI: Did you ever seek counseling? Or anything like that. After you were released?
JONES: Man, everybody told me I needed to - my first wife, [00:24:21] all my family because, you know, my lost my mom. Me and my mom was like this (shows fingers crossed).
IGBANI: Yeah, really cause
JONES: Oh no, man, when I lost my mom I was in denial for the first week, but I became suicidal - and that lasted for like four to five years. Every Christmas, every birthday - oh my God - it wasn't nothing but the grace of God that kept me - because one of the suicide attempts, it was real real! [00:24:53]
Then the only thing - I had everything I wanted, I was young, I had a lot of money and cars - but that was nothing. And the only thing - I remember - I was in the back of 605 Berry Road on Magellon and I had a 44 magnum, and I snuck off from all the guys, because I was the head guy with the money. I left from all the boxes, I'll be right back. [00:25:19] And I walked to the back, but my mom was on my mind and I put that 44 - I was in the back by the maintenance office. No one could have seen me there and I spinned it - and I had it like this, (point to face), and I hit it - and it didn't do nothing. And I was like, Hooooo. [00:25:41] And I spinned it again, and I had it like this, (points finger to head) - All I was thinking about was my grandmother, because both of HEr kids died from suicide. And I was like, I can't do this to her, and I was like I got to do it though - I got to. And someone grabbed my hand. [00:26:02] No, one had no business there, I promise you - I promise you. The only thing you’ll find back there stray dog, a rat, a wood rat, or something, because it was wolves out there. And this is my homeboys, my friend, Celton Davison. And anyway, just too fast forward, he saved me that day. And I said, every other time, instead of suicide, I was just do heavy drug use. [00:26:31] I don't know. I was trying to kill myself on purposely or not, but, [00:26:37] you know - after I lost my mom it was like, I've never felt that kind of pain.
IGBANI: Hmm, seems like it's like an indescribable pain.
JONES: [00:26:50] So they would say I needed counseling all kinds of ways - NA, AA - and to be honest, I never believed in any of it, because Grandma always told me God was everything. And I used that, and even though I use that, [00:27:10] oh, I had a [00:27:13] thing of doing good for so long, and then relapse. [00:27:20] And my Anie, Regina Jones, who was in NA/AA, Shantelle [00:27:26] Jones, my cousin -they're still connected with the NA/AA and then doing great. But someone told me lately, That's your problem, you never tried any of that, you know. So that's a -
IGBANI: How do you feel about that? Do you agree with that? Do you, do you feel like it could be something that I'm missing out on that I haven't tapped into that could help me?
JONES: [00:27:54] I did it like that two years ago and I called some people and they came. When I was with Monique, you remember because I used to bring her to Free Indeed, the tall girl with the big old breast. And the people came, and they had me write 25 things down that I liked and didn't like about her. And they had her do the same and when I got the writing, I'm dealing with counselors now. [00:28:24] I could think all the bad, but when it came to the good - I was trying to actually be honest. I couldn't even get the three or four - and the lady - it was another African-American lady watching the Caucasian guy. They were a team, and they was watching her. And the lady I guess she was from around the way, and she said, I see what your problem is. It's the people you deal with. [00:28:53] (chuckles) Yeah, she did say, Hey, guess you just need to keep pushing forward and be careful of your surroundings. [00:29:00]
And not not like, maybe two months after that - because I couldn't find out nothing. I couldn’t say nothing good about the relationship I was in with myself. Like this shit is [inaudible] [00:29:17] And at that point - and that's they see me doing good. We started - this is like two years into it - and so many people was behind it and believed and all the people do. Everybody knows my story, but I felt like I let them all down. [00:29:37] With that Monique girl because, I was now is back at my low. I had four cars, and now I'm down to one car and I'm staying with her and I'm very unhappy. So the first thing I did is ran. When I say ran, [00:29:53] I'm not a find out good financial situation. I know how to get jobs. I called around, and I had a job and a truck in North Dakota. And, the guy, he didn't have the money to make it there. However, I'm just got a brand new car, without all those check stubs I had shown made money. They just didn't know I didn't have another job. [00:30:16]
But, [00:30:19] I called around and a guy, Ted, head QC - he’s about to retire - I'm still connected to him - he’s Canadian. I say, Man, I need to get out of here. [00:30:31] Because from Houston - normally what I've learned - where you're really from - where your vicinity, it's no good for you. It don't matter, because once you change - and well, I'm gonna try to sell cakes and cupcakes. [00:30:49] I mean, you know, no one wants to see you doing good. Especially the people - I'm not going to say this for everybody - I'm saying my life, and where I come from in North Houston, you know.
But I went to North Dakota and the whole way to North Dakota almost committed suicide three times. I almost drove off the mountain. I had something on this shoulder, and I had something on this shoulder, and all I thought about was all the pictures. You, all the people who were behind me, and I sit here and I'm dealing with this woman, and I allowed myself to go back into my relapsing stage, and I was so hurt. And as I drove and drove, I had like five different obstacles. Only grandma gave me forty bucks, my little cousin, Salvo, gave me $30.00; sister, Holly, gave me about $80.00., But listen, I’m going to North Dakota, and the reason I chose North Dakota, I see I need to get closer to God and I can't. I need to get as close to God as I can. [00:31:54] I had so many roadblocks going there, but don't forget, I didn’t have but $230. [00:32:01] I can't even afford to turn around. [00:32:04] I can't. [00:32:06] I went through - it was a grove in Ohio somewhere -
IGBANI: Hold on. Let me just make sure I'm following you. So, you get out of prison. A few years down the road, you get into this relationship. And after multiple almost attempts and thoughts of suicide, you get into this relationship, you decide, This isn't good for me. So you leave to go to North Dakota for work. [00:32:34] But you leave with not very much money, right?
JONES: Yeah. Left on my butt. I was on my behind.
IGBANI: Yes. Okay.
JONES: [inaudible] see me doing good, but at that point, I said, I have to put this down because, I supposed to be representing, and I've got people looking up to me, and how can they look up to me if I mentally don't have my shit together no more? So I said, To hell with see me doing good. I'm going to God and as I was going up there I ran into those obstacles, but I finally made it.
And once I finally made it, the guy was there who told me to come - he gave me fifteen hundred in cash. He said he's going to be for your room board - whatever. I just need you up here because these guys up here are not nothing. They were making $50.00 an hour, and they were mostly white. And they all [00:33:35] would asks, What am I doing there? And they'd all make it look like it but I didn't know what I was doing. Come to find out the plant - it was time for the plant to be turned back over to the owners, and they had to go check in the work. And the guy that sent me, he was the QC man, and he signs off for five billion either one signs offs and the job is done. Well, when he was signs off for five billion. He signs off saying the job is done. Well when he was singing off with all these important people, the guys - they used to give me hell.
They start grabbing their boxes and just quit. Everybody was quitting, and I didn't understand, and then I just came to - because QC came to me. I got a red ribbon on everything that's not working. [00:34:24] Curtis, go fix it. I run over here; Fix it - has to go 200 feet in the air. Fix it, fix it, fix it! I end up being the go-to guy to fix the whole plant, the same little black guy who didn't know anything. [00:34:46] Needless to say, they hated me, they put me in jail. They sent me to jail. They suspended me. Come to find out, I was underpaid five dollars, and it was my birthday. [00:35:03] And they was just trying to suspend me. And I knew it was because all this time, y'all talking about all these years experience, you guys that don't look at it. Don't take but common sense to do a job, right? They hated me.
I did what I knew how to do cuz I got a little education when it comes to discrimination, [00:35:27] being slandered and mistreating. [00:35:31] So I contacted the not the EEOC, but I contacted the human resources. Well there was a lady - she was on her way to vacation somewhere. I said, I’m Curtiss Jones, and I am experiencing this, and I've been keeping it to myself. I have a few recordings, but I was just here for my grandparents and my family, they are back home in a crisis and I'm the head of the family. So I've been taking up with it, but ma'am. I'm hurt. She say, I'm on my way there now. I said that she was on vacation. She say, Baby, this serious than that. Don't say anything else. I'll be there on a plane Monday. [00:36:12]
She came when she came. She did our investigation, or whatever, talking to different people and she came back and told me, I have made my ruling, [00:36:25] and yes, you were underpaid. Your pay starts on next pay period. [00:36:30]
The guy, that was Ronnie, that was over this plant - he has put in his papers to walk so you don't have to worry about him no more. You're going to get - be paying right and I'm fixing to leave. I said, You fixing to leave? I said, Do you think it's safe for me to be here? [00:36:54] She's like, What - do you know what happen if anyone - I’m HR - if anyone retaliate on you, you know what we have? I'm like, bam, but I already know these white people. They got guns all in their trucks and rifles in the window. [00:37:12] She told me, I would be saved. She drove out. I left with God's faith because I was down on faith anyway. My grandma said, they were scared for me while I was there. [00:37:24] It wasn't nothing but Trump signs and flags on every corner and, which I don't care. I don't have a problem with Trump, Barack. I don't judge people, but to make a long story short, she drove out the gate and I went to work. Well, I got surrounded, and they told me to go to the office. When I went to the office, they say, You're suspended for three days. I say, Suspended, what what what what? Oh, we seen you on your phone. It was like six, white hats, that mean foremans, head people. I say, You see me on my phone, I wasn’t. [00:38:03] You’re being suspended for 3 weeks, 3 days. [00:38:07] At that moment, I knew I've been retaliated against - the lady just left. [00:38:13] But up there they rich, they do what they want.
So as I'm leaving out the job, and my friend just got murdered. [00:38:24] Lance Lozano was just killed downtown. I was actually fixing to try to make it to his funeral when I got that check. [00:38:33] They suspended me. I had like two thousand dollars saved up and at that very moment, to be a person like I am, trying to transition into a real world, doing the right thing that was embedded in me - a hard worker. As I drove out of that place. [00:38:55] I see why - excuse me, but I have to be honest - [00:39:00] I see why some people may come back and shoot those jobs up, but I had more sense than that. I was hurt. So instead of doing that, I went to the casino and lost my savings, [00:39:19] but I was mentally messed up. [00:39:24] I'll take the time. I was [inaudible] and that was the dumbest thing to do.
IGBANI: [00:39:34] So, you obviously made some not-so-good decisions after you got out and it seemed like you learned your lesson as you went along. Do you feel like your relationship with your family and others was impacted at anyway after your incarceration?
JONES: [00:39:50] Oh, yeah. I didn't know this at first, but I didn't know how bad I was hurting. My grandmother's, and my sisters; my kid - I didn't know. It was all about trying to hustle, doing the right thing for them, but I was really killing them.
IGBANI: [00:40:12] You took them through a lot. Seems like you saw that afterwards.
JONES: [00:40:21] And, as a - to piggyback on what you just said, [00:40:27] I did the three years. When I came home my daughter - who's in elementary - [00:40:34] and sons - [00:40:37] were out of control. [00:40:41] She's been to prison once. He's been to prison twice, and my youngest son - he's on his third sentence. He started when he was 15. So I’m still paying for those decisions I made back then, even though I'm trying to show them something different now. And I'm doing it right just by doing it, because I noticed now - like when I was at Free Indeed - remember that my daughter, we would all be praying, and she was out of control. [00:41:16] She won't acknowledge me and say this, but I see now -to see her transition into the young woman. She is, I can't do nothing to give praise to God, you know.
IGBANI: Yeah, [00:41:32] the next question is about who helped you the most or with access to services after you got out, and if any faith based organizations was involved in it.
JONES: When you say service, what do you mean?
IGBANI: Like, whatever Services you may have needed after you get out - whether it was housing, whether it was getting connected to the job market, or certain fields you were interested in, or getting any type of certification you needed to get? Was there anyone that helped you to say, Oh, this is where you go to get this, or you can go over here to get this?
JONES: Yeah. It was one, I gotta tell you. It was one and Kyle - and someone told me about them, and they were the Houston Area Urban League.
JONES: And I went up there and I had just got back from the railroad - I had - I was up there [00:42:30] working. I used to work in prison for free. So now that I’m out here you paying me $18 and I never left Houston prior to going to prison. So now I'm in Dallas, I'm in Denver - I ain’t never seen a mountain. I love what I'm doing now - working. Okay, so I was up there in North Dakota with the railroad, but just so happened - it was racist up there and I don't care about racism. I know how to. Yes sir. How you doing, guy? Hey, hey. Even though you look at me like, because I've been through way worse than that.
IGBANI: You know how to cope in racial situations.
JONES: [00:43:17] I've run across this everywhere
JONES: I don't even say nothing now. [00:43:23] That's just how it is. But we'll get back to that.
So, they left in North Dakota - they basically left me. They left. I had a family reunion, my my first family reunion ever for the Jones family. I knew about it two months into this job. I will work and send my granny, and sister, and them three to four hundred because I'm the one making the money. [00:43:52] Let them get everything they need. I just want to meet these cousins. I can't wait. And you know at a job, if you got something you have to do, you supposed to put that in and let those folks know, right?
JONES: Well, I'll let them know about this 30 to 40 days before it happened. So what happened? [00:44:12] What happened - I went up there working and they thought I was like, showing out. [00:44:22] But I wasn’t showing out. I was really happy to be earning that money. You don't know what I mean? I ain't used to making that money. So now you found me something and I can do the job. You got you got a shovel. Well my grandma taught me how to shovel and build gardens and I was 7 In Kashmire Gardens. [00:44:43] I'm good at that, so they gave me the shovel and I’m (makes shoveling motion several times) Don't forget, I used to be in the street, so I used to be up late at night. I know how to hustle, but I just working - and like, man, they just didn't like this. They left me in North Dakota and I was in [inaudible].
A prison, which I got from a mental aspect - how did prison mess with me? Out here [00:45:13] mess me up way farther than prison. Trying to become a member of society and being rejected by anyone. They expect us to stay that way. They don't expect us to change. [00:45:33]
That killed me, because I really am a Christian, and I really have love for the whites, the blacks - for everybody - and I don't know where race - I don't. [00:45:43] God been so good to me. I have the privilege to know, [00:45:50] you can't hate no one. I must forgive. Don't be in mind, I'm in a situation where my kids are wilding. [00:46:01] I can't afford to be off my prayer note. I need God at a all time high for these kids - for my kids. So that kind of - I was just good to everybody. But to see it don't matter where you go and how they treat us, and I'm not racist. [00:46:23] But to see how that messed me up. It messed me up so bad I don't want to go out of town -never no more. You know how it works. They called me last week four times. They want me in Dallas, they want me in Austin, and San Antonio. [00:46:45] I don't want to go. I'll settle for a job in Houston, Texas for $17.00, $15.00, $18.00 - I need some. 401K. I heard you get 401K on these real jobs. I need opportunity. To say by the grace of God I have a home now, done reconstructive. And my grandma felt I needed to be in it, and and I'm running out of town to go work for these people and I'm paying for hotels, three, four, and $500.00. [00:47:17] When I could be at home [00:47:20] rent-free.
IGBANI: [00:47:23] Yeah, you have said - you mentioned that United Way -
JONES: [00:47:28] No, Houston Area Urban League.
IGBANI: Okay, sorry, Houston area Urban League. They helped you out a lot after you were released?
JONES: [00:47:38] When I got back from North Dakota, when they fired me, I wouldn’t have cared. They showed me how - and I can't -I don’t know if I can say that here - but I didn't have a lot of skills. But they showed me how to do the resume. They knew how to pep it up a little bit, you know, to help you get the job. They get paid to help you. They liked it - the fact that I had a conversation and it was - and they put me in a little class or whatever and I graduated. And then I was on Channel 13 news. They asked about - it's out there on YouTube. I want to find it because I want to kind of promote it on my page that this been going on. But I took that, and not only that, they taught me, and I was able to go get a job. I got a [00:48:25] - I got this card from them. I got my NCCER [00:48:33] going that high up. I never got to use this in any of my other jobs, but they helped me.
And then on the flip side, for people who's coming out, or going through a struggling situation. I sent over 18 people there, they ended up employed. I mean, I should have got a contract with them or something because like you need people - I was able to get them so many people - but, I wasn’t looking for nothing. The fact that I was able to learn other ways to get ahead and that, cuz you know, at first, we didn't know. We didn’t know - you didn't know where you was going. I didn't know how to work. I didn't know - and I said, Lord it's got to be something more for me. And the only way to learn that is through prison [00:49:24] and coming back out, and going through the trials, where I learned now that everyone that's out there - and I do knock nobody. I can't knock them - you can't knock them, but they're spinning their wheels, and I have a way. I can show them how to be successful [00:49:43] and leave that alone. Because, what you doing now - you're not going to last - why? Because they're going to tell on you. These guys are not doing time anymore - and then - you were going. In our days, you did your crime, you did your time. Where everybody out here is doing crime, but ain’t nobody doing time, what is going on? I don't want no parts of that.
IGBANI: Yeah. Seems like you made a drastic change since being a out of released from prison, whether In the midst of overcoming multiple barriers such as feelings, and thoughts of suicidal, [00:50:23] Suicidal Tendencies, and then also racial barriers that cause you some employment issues, and then also - the fact of society. It seemed like you encountered a lot of people that didn't want to acknowledge your change and wanted to view you, in a person that -by whatever crime you did to go to prison - and just wanted to keep you in that box so to speak, and just really didn't to embrace the change that you were making and that in itself is a barrier.
JONES: And that in itself. Look. It's got so bad - and it hit me last year, because you know the COVID or whatever - but you know I lost like over eight friends and it was behind it wasn't behind COVID. It wasn’t behind COVID. It was behind - when this pandemic - because it was the most - it was planned. [00:51:21] This was all planned out, along with the PPE money, the - all of the hundreds of thousands of food stamps they gave - [00:51:31] all that unemployment they gave to people never had jobs. Anyway, I ain’t going to get into that. [00:51:40]
All I'm saying is [00:51:45] I've been around here. [00:51:48] I could have did anything else instead of just see me doing good. I should have went and got a trucking business, my cousin, he just showed me he got a big old truck. He saved it up in 401k. That man bought a truck with cash money, $36,000.00. He come over here. I made his shirts, you know, I make shirts and stuff for any kind of company, corporation, organization. I do that now for anybody.
I want to see a company doing good, like, whatever your thing is - I can make your polos and I can do it with style though, a little style. [00:52:25] But he came over here and showed me that truck and [00:52:31] he worked on his six years. I've been working a long time. I made a lot of money, but I don't have nothing to show for it. You had a 401k, so look, I said all, and I say this. [00:52:43] But see, I'm not like him.
God did so much for me. That last prison sentence God told me - [00:52:51] He made it go away. I was in there. He was like - they said you fixing to go home in two months. I say, What? Well, I didn’t do much. I was in Atascocita. I said, God, what’s up my man? He said, What you mean, what's up? I say, What I owe you? [00:53:11] He say, You owe the truth. I said, What you mean, The truth? This is a real conversation I'm having with You.
I was in the dayroom table, but I knew I'm fixing to go home in two months. All these people, all them boys I was rappin - I got music, you know, I got record labels and stuff. If people, that - they was cool as long as I was out there making the money, but when I got in here, I found out who everybody was. So I said, God, what I owe you? He said, You're going to go back out there and tell the truth. I said, Tell them what, tell him what I did? He said, Show them what I did for you. I said, Sure. I said, Where? He said, Facebook. [00:53:52] I said, Facebook? He said, That's where they all lost, confused, [00:53:59] and out of there. So at that moment, I got the name See Reality - which a friend told me I needed to use it. But God confirmed it. He said, You going by See Reality, and I need you to go out there and telling people what I did for you, and I don't care what happens in the mix - show them everything. And that's why y'all see all my business [00:54:22] on social media. [00:54:24] While y'all y'all see me crying, y'all see me living - y’all see me from state to state, y'all see me meet new girls - who came out to be harlots, [00:54:38] and people that was there to just distract me off my mission, and I know that hurt y’all, that hurt you. You seen everything. [00:54:50]
IGBANI: Yeah, so it - and it really sounds like you had -[00:54:54] like after your incarceration at one point you had like a spiritual shift where you felt - got really connected to God, and you - seems like you wanted to do things that -to live differently - to do things that you felt like you should do on a spiritual level.
JONES: [00:55:15] I had to! I lost a lot of friends, I lost my little cousin. Remember I told you they killed him? All them kids was watching me on 605 Berry Road. I was teaching them to make money. They was all hustle. I got a lot of friends. Even my baby Mama - everybody came up under me to be a pretty successful right now. [inaudible] they're doing better than me. But I lost a lot of old people, [inaudible] and I take responsibility for this, because they was watching me. And if I knew something better to show them, I would have showed them, but I didn’t. I didn't start learning this til I went to prison, and so now God told me now you're going to tell what the truth is. So now I want to show them what I learned since I've been out of prison. Man don't you know we've been over there hanging on this counter making $600.00 every week and wearing clothes, but over here, I make t$2,000.00 a week and I got a Lexus car. [00:56:19] What you doing? Look, I know - I need you to go to Urban League. They going to make you a resume. They might make it fun. They going to add some stuff to it. Do what I need you to do. Call this number. You got to pay $21.00 for a card. I learned it watching the Mexicans and I was able to help a lot of brothers. I [inaudible] I got electrician friends, they got careers.
IGBANI: That's good. That's good. If there was some type of health insurance or health coverage available to you right before you got prison, do you feel like you would have used it to access healthcare to - or mental health - or to get checked out or anything like that?
JONES: [00:57:02] I never had that. Comes to only - where we have some insurance is when I had a job - and when the job was over, their insurance was over - and that's sad because I still ain't even got life insurance right now. But I'm fixing to get it this week.
IGBANI: Okay. All right, so it but if you were offered - if you had some type of health insurance, do you feel like you would have followed through with that right after release, or you think you wouldn't have?
JONES: I probably wouldn't have, I probably would have fell through with it. But then every time I got laid off and fired the money situation - so I would have stumbled a lot of those contracts, you know. [00:57:46] But now I'm at 42 years older and in a place where I have so much peace.
I'm going to stay by myself, and I'm working by myself on my crap, but you know, I didn't just do this. This was more of a - God to me to go out there and tell me the truth. So I started allowing free movement, which means alive and free is the best thing going. It's not about the hip-hop, popping pop. Man, you can't do nothing if you ain't alive and free A lot of people been on it, a lot of people - they didn't realize I was only trying to save they life and stop them from going through what I went through. Even though in that movement, I had got caught up because my cousin got killed, and when he got killed I went and did that time. But when I went and did that time, God showed me that my daughter - because was supposed to do something about her - she was back doing the same thing she was doing when I was fixing to do something to somebody that I thought was harming her or pimping her. Her mom didn't even want to tell me. I was in about three weeks and people was talking about 25 to life. I’m like, 25?. I forgot how many times I've been to prison. It was all an eyte opener, and I was back in there. And how did - if I done hurt somebody behind these people it would have just been a straight insult. And God showed me, just follow me, and just do the right thing. Again. I started to see me doing good situation and it wasn’t about seeing me doing good, it was about people seeing their selves doing good. Do you know how hard it is for people to actually see themselves? They don't - a lot of people - they don't have knowledge. It’s like some stuff I have, I had to go through so much to get where I’m at. A lot of these boys really lost. They got two women in their homes, two men raising them. They're mad, they're really mad. They don't know the truth. They're all Instagram and Facebook. It's no more Bible studies in the homes and, you know, families are broken up. So I really don't blame these kids. That's what’s around, a lot of them lost, and it's people who have knowledge, or OGs that should be shared, and they're not sharing. And I know - and I found out - why they wasn’t sharing too, because, like my own kids, like, I'm your daddy. They won't listen to me. [inaudible] everything you doing - already did - I'm fixing to show you. Okay, you ain't got to sell it over there. You can go to the job site, with your sexy butt. Because I’m fixing to show you how to make $25 real quick - no experience. [01:00:26] But while you're there, those guys going to be looking at you and they got a lot of money. I'm not - I'm just being serious. I'm trying to elevate you. You don't have to do these things, but people now, they want to do what they want to do, but it's never going to stop me, and I am hated by so many, I'm hated. See me doing - sitting in -how you mad at [inaudible] [01:00:55] Okay, your kids see me on there, other people see me there. I have so many mothers who've contacted me and deal with me now. Some of them, their children are dead or locked up, and they just appreciate what I'm doing and tell me, Don’t keep - don't stop, you know, just don't stop. Because -
IGBANI: It seems like even in the midst of adversity, you've been able to really help a lot of other people while also remaining dedicated to your craft.
JONES: [01:01:29] And this what I'm fixing to get to, that's what we said. My cousin got the truck, he's doing good - making money. The last five years I've been putting all my money into [01:01:41] seeing other people do good.
IGBANI: Uh huh.
JONES: [01:01:45] You know many - the clothes I've given away? [01:01:49] But I was working, see I was working making good money. These people didn't pay for this stuff to make me get to this point. I paid for everything. You hear me? I appreciate the support -like you - y'all have supported me and gave me fight to keep going. But, [01:02:08] it's like right now, I've been here at this house, three months from Kentucky, and like, you can tell, like, dude. It ain't that you got nothing, that's not bad. The old folks love it they say, keep going, and the kids love it. All my grandkids and the kids they run around, Pop Pop. See me doing good, I doing good Pop Pop. I'm at school. It's a seed. You've embedded the seed, the same seed that was embedded in us; you ain't going to be shit, going to be just like your daddy, [inaudible] whatever they say - what happened to me. I know from experience, so now I'm going to tell my kids, Do good, see yourself doing good. I see you doing good. Raise your hand if you don't understand in that class. Don't get frustrated, don't be embarrassed, don't do what I did - ask questions. Protect people; morals, have values and principles. [01:03:01] That is going to take you a long way, and that's my thing, and that's what I'm teaching.
But now, I'm not fixing to stop see me doing good, I'm fixing to get me another truck.[inaudible] the same, and I'm going to start a trucking business. I have hit five years of tithing. This was my way of tithes. I didn't take my stuff to one store house, I mean - I didn't - I'm a free giver, and my grandma told me I was under the old law anyway, so you go in there, you put what you want. I might go in there and put $50.00, I might come and put $300.00. But, okay, this for the church and the thing - my - all my people ain't in the church, these people in the streets. [01:03:42] So I go in the streets before I go in spending this money, and trying to, you hear me, but I don't regret none of it because it works.
My kids are doing better now, grandkids are doing good now. [01:04:00] But now, I think I deserve to have money too, because I can't get these jobs because I'm getting so discriminated on because the fact, I am educated, I know how to care of myself, and I work. I work all of them, I’ve worked, most of them - they don't like that. I'm just gonna buy me a truck [01:04:18] and work for myself.
IGBANI: [01:04:21] Nothing to it, but to do it. I have one last question. What advice, would you give someone who is getting ready to get released from prison, and they do have a mental health illness, [01:04:36] regardless of the severity of it, but they have a mental health illness - they getting ready to get out. What advice would you give them [inaudible]
JONES: The advice I would give them is to come home and worry about themselves. [01:04:51] We got some, - a lot of people mess up this, this what they do. I know I'm telling you. They get out and they feel like, There my baby. I been gone, I got to get this. I got to get this. Now. I'm going to buy some George. You can't get nobody together till you get yourself together.
Whatever problem you got going on with you. You need to really fix it while you down there. Don't come home and fix it. Get your relationship right with God, but leave and come home and worry about you. Because the same way God took care of them kids, when you was gone, He going to continue when you out. You ain't got nothing. So don't trick yourself in your mind, you got to do this and that, no, what you got to do is work on the resume.
What you got to do is get the proper help you need and put yourself in a position to help yourself - to see yourself doing good and automatically [01:05:47] it's going to trickle down to all of your family and your kids. [01:05:52] Have faith In God. I give any - you have to have faith in God and you have to get connected with people who are really trying to do something. And a lot of people we know, they say you can't go back to the same environment where you from - but a lot of them ain’t got no got nowhere else to go. But even if that, being there, you ain't got to do what they doing. Keep your faith to go ahead and press on and be blessed. And that's the information I got. God going to bless you. They blessed me.
So shit be doing good started with a t-shirt. Now, I have a whole office, a home - a whole - of mannequins. I have computers. I have clothes, I have backdrops. This is just - this is no bragging, this is no boasting. [inaudible] I've been doing, and people like [inaudible] have been rich by now - [01:06:47] [inaudible] and the trucking business. Now I’ve grown, my purpose is different.
I’ve been lied to. I thought we had to do that. Now, we got to do that. We can work and do this, and be good, and that's what I'm teaching. The new law. The new law is regard, and to do right, and be right by God's people, and be blessed. And that's what I would tell everybody.
IGBANI: [01:07:06] Okay, well I can't. Thank you enough. I really, really, truly appreciate your time. Is it any last thing -anything else you want to say before we get off - anything you would want anyone to know?
JONES: Well, I would want you to know that even coming out of prison, when you come out, you're going to be tested. They're going to test you. [01:07:28] They're going to - I call it bait. They going to be looking at the old you regardless if your mind in a different place now, because you didn't learn too - but you going to have people that try you and test you. Don't go for the bait. [01:07:44] If she got somebody else, let her have them. [01:07:51] Don't go for the bait, be blessed, have patience, and keep working on you.
God said if you take one step, I take two, if you take two - I take six. I'm a living witness it work. Stay focused man and be blessed. I'm Curtis Jones, Curtis Schofield Jones. [01:08:12] God gave me a vision by the name of see me doing good, now its see if you doing good, a national movement. I want to see you doing good -your children doing good - y'all businesses doing good. If I can give you anything - anything I can do for you guys to help you, I would do it… God bless y’all.
IGBANI: Thank you so, so much.