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Friday, December 3, 2021

Living on the straight and narrow: Ex-offenders tell tales of incarceration, redemption

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Last week, readers of the Recorder learned about New Life Development Ministries, a program that provides construction training to ex-offenders. Those who are deemed worthy go on to work for NLDM Enterprises LLC, the ministry’s for-profit construction firm.

The “teach a man to fish” concept of New Life Development Ministries allows participants to earn an honest paycheck and continue to develop their skill while putting the pieces of their lives back together.

This week, readers will learn about three men who have used the ministry to turn their lives around and continue on the straight and narrow.

The ringleader

Although Jayon Williams came from a traditional two-parent family, the lure of the streets caught his attention.

“It’s nothing to boast about, but I did it all. Drugs, guns – I experienced a lot at a young age,” said Williams.

Many young men get caught up in street life due to the negative influence of their peers. This was not the case for Williams. He said he was that negative influence – he was the “ringleader” of many of the bad situations that occurred throughout his youth.

Williams caught his first serious case at age 15 stemming from a shooting and robbery and was sent to the Marion County Jail for a year. He was released but was sent to the Indiana Department of Correction Plainfield facility at age 19 for probation violation.

“It was a whole other world. I’m coming in doing small time and you’ve got people that’s been there for decades,” said Williams.

There, he met a friend who encouraged him to stay out of trouble while in jail and instead study to get his General Education Development (GED) credentials.

Williams was released and now at age 22, was looking to make money. He turned to selling drugs.

At age 26, Williams went back to prison, this time at the Putnamville Correctional Facility, for a gun charge. He faced 10 years but was charged with three. Williams only served 18 months. He was placed on house arrest for 2 ½ years.

After that, Williams worked hard to change the direction of his life. He faced struggles, such as finding adequate shelter, but was able to overcome setbacks by getting a job doing electrical work.

A year later, Williams’ father introduced him to Pastor Eugene Potter, founder and president of New Life Development Ministries. He began formal construction classes, but tested out because of his high skill level.

Not only has he excelled at New Life, the 30-year-old is now the head electrician for NLDM Enterprises LLC, and is also a peer mentor to ministry participants.

“No matter what you’re doing out in the streets, it all has one ending – destruction. Put your trust and faith in God for everything,” said Williams.

The late bloomer

The third oldest of seven sibling, Nathan Johnson said he had a good life growing up in Marion, Ind.

“We were known for basketball. Other than that, there’s nothing really there because the jobs moved out,” said Johnson.

To make money, he began selling drugs and eventually began using cocaine and crack cocaine.

“Growing up in a single parent household with all those kids, there were things you wanted but couldn’t get. I sold drugs to get things,” added Johnson.

In 1999, the then 32-year-old received a 10-year sentence for drugs but only served three years. He was released in 2001 but shortly went back for a probation violation and a “dirty drop” or drug-infused urine. He also caught another case for receiving stolen merchandise.

One day, Johnson’s dealer called and asked for a ride to a drug house. Thinking there would be women there, he agreed. When the men arrived to the house, they were met by the local drug task force.

Johnson went back to prison in 2005 a third time for conspiracy, dealing and possession and was facing 128 years in prison but only served a year. That sentence was Johnson’s wake up call.

He was released, packed his belongings and moved to Indianapolis where he voluntarily stayed at a recovery facility, for 14 months. He moved into an apartment and has been clean for six years.

He began going to Mount Zion Apostolic Church, where Pastor Potter also serves as associate minister. Potter told Johnson about New Life Development Ministries and immediately he began volunteering for the program. Today, Johnson, now 44, is a crew supervisor and also works at a local printing company.

“A lot of people come from broken homes so now, this program is people’s home. I just try to show love to people because people don’t have a good word through the week,” said Johnson.

The jeweler

Anthony Darvy had a good life growing up in the 1950s in Los Angeles. As a young boy, Darvy’s father was killed in a car accident leaving his wife to raise seven children alone.

Once Darvy became a teenager, he began to be exposed to seedy things such as prostitutes, nightclubs and gambling. In the ‘60s, he began experimenting with drugs.

“Everybody did (drugs) though. It was accepted and wasn’t uncommon,” said Darvy. The Californian eventually began stealing from vending, cigarette and soda machines and learned how to pick locks.

At age 14, Darvy was sent to a boy’s camp for theft, but ran away. His mother turned him in and was sent to a state juvenile facility.

Once he was released, he went back committing burglary regularly. At age 17 he began using heroin. In the 1970s, Darvy graduated from burglary to become a heroin and cocaine dealer.

“I liked to rob for fun. It was thrilling and forced me to take the next step up. Street life was a culture,” said Darvy.

In the mid 70s, he met a man from Oklahoma who encouraged him to move to the Sooner State where it would be easier to sell drugs.

“In L.A. you didn’t see $20 in a cash register. In Oklahoma, it was like la-di-da. It was a whole different world,” said Darvy. “Oklahoma’s laws and (public safety) system was behind so it was easy to do things.”

From the mid 70s to the early 90s, Darvy went in and out of prison primarily for robbery. At his height, Darvy has stolen more than $80,000 worth of jewelry.

During the late ‘90s, Darvy met a Chicagoan and decided to move to the Windy City with her. Crime and drugs got the best of him so to permanently shake his bad habits, he sought drug treatment.

He then moved to Indianapolis where he lived and worked in a halfway house. Now at age 61, Darvy lives a slow, normal suburban life. He is married and has three middle-aged children.

“The wildest thing my kids see is a blue-haired skateboarder,” laughed Darvy.

He is grateful for his stable life and is also grateful for the four years he’s spent at New Life Development Ministries where he serves as a painter and crew supervisor.

“This is an opportunity to lift our lives up. Here, you learn how to live without all the madness,” said Darvy. “This is something I missed growing up. That’s why I’ve been here for so long.”

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