AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps and a conversation about life after jail. In 2012, Jamal Faison was a college student home on break. One night he was part of a group that tried to steal a phone and a tablet from a subway passenger. Jamal spent eight months in jail at New York's Rikers Island for the crime. At StoryCorps, he told his uncle, Born Blackwell, about the night he got out.
JAMAL FAISON: On the bus ride leaving Rikers, I was scared. I remember feeling this tremendous weight of fear of what my life would be like. Can I go back to school? What are my options?
BORN BLACKWELL: What did you really want to do?
FAISON: I want to get off that bus. But when I got off there was no one there to pick me up. And I remember just riding the train until I felt like it was a decent hour to come to your house. And I didn't realize what was going to be the fallout from this. It doesn't just affect jobs that I can't get. It affects every aspect of my life. I have a son now and he's going to be 3 in September. And I'm scared every single day that he is going to grow up to be embarrassed of me.
BLACKWELL: And what do you think it'll take to improve the situation?
FAISON: Nothing that can. I feel like my criminal record is written all over me. And no matter how much you shine it up, at the end of the day I'm a 25-year-old convicted felon.
BLACKWELL: I feel where you're coming from. But no matter what the label is, we make mistakes. We pay for our mistakes. And when you all committed that crime, as mad as I was, I was just hoping things would get right again where you all could get that second chance.
FAISON: How do you think our relationship changed after I got incarcerated?
BLACKWELL: I still feel the same way. I've still got love for you of course. I'm always there if you need anything because you could've spiraled down easily. And I just felt in my mind somebody's got to be there for him, just like I would hope somebody would be there for me.
FAISON: There's no words that exist to explain how thankful I am for you being there, Uncle Born, and not choosing to walk away. That meant the world to me. And it still does.
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CHANG: That's Jamal Faison with his uncle, Born Blackwell, at StoryCorps in New York City. Today, Jamal works for the Osborne Association. It's a nonprofit that helps people get on their feet after they're released from jail or prison. This conversation is archived at the Library of Congress and featured on the StoryCorps podcast.
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