Meet Erik S.: A Peer Support Specialist with JusticePoint
April 29th, 2019 - In honor of April being Second Chance Month, CJC Community Engagement Coordinator, Dakota Crowell, interviewed Erik S. to share his story about his return to the community. Below is a summary of the conversation that occured:
Q: Can you describe what you do in your current role and how you got into this position.
Erik: I am a peer support specialist at JusticePoint. I share my lived experience and build relationships with other participants in JusticePoint programs. I also work one-on-one with peers around recovery and AODA treatment. I got into this work because I knew I wanted to help people who are struggling. Many people who are incarcerated have the experience of being “thrown away” from society and grow distrust of people working in the system. Many individuals do not want to share their experience with case managers so in my role I help reduce the communication gap between the criminal justice system professionals and those who have been incarcerated.
Q: How would you describe your experience returning to the community? Were there any mentors or programs that helped you to successfully return to the community?
Erik: The 12-step program was a major help in my recovery. Through the program, I was able to find friends to keep me clean. I went through drug court in 2011 and 2017 and it wasn’t until the second time that it really started to plant the seeds for me to find a better path. Judge Ashley was amazing and has helped me get on the right path.
Q: What was something you needed when returning to the community that you didn’t get?
Erik: I needed multiple chances to get better. The first time returning to the community I needed a better mindset. I didn’t know that it relied on me to make a change. The second time I was ready to make that change. It really depends on the individual and if they are ready to make a change and seek out support. For me, jail wasn’t a deterrent for my actions. Jail didn’t do anything for me; rehabilitation is the direction our work needs to continue to go towards.
Q: What efforts would you like to see to support individuals returning to the community?
Erik: I would like to see a lot more support. Finding a job and securing housing are the most important to break the perpetuation of criminal justice system involvement. If someone has a record and can’t get a job, they go back to their old ways. The reason I used substances was because I felt useless and didn’t have a purpose.
Q: What do you enjoy doing?
Erik: I love to play guitar and sing; I was in a band and enjoy playing live shows. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I stay busy by going to various 12-step program events and conventions.
Q: If you could snap your fingers and be doing anything, what would it be?
Erik: It would be great to not have to do anything but I would definitely be travelling the world. I would want to see the whole world but particularly Ireland, Italy, Egypt, and Brazil.
To learn more about Justice Point and all of their services visit their website here.