SALEM — Michael grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, running away from an abusive home at 12 years old. He went to live with his grandparents. His grandfather would take him to work with him over summer breaks and teach him about life. Life was good, then it wasn’t.
Michael’s grandfather passed away when he was seventeen, leaving a void. He coped the only way he knew how, hiding behind a bottle and then drugs. The need to get high led to poor choices landing him in an Arizona prison at 20. He paroled to his mother’s house here in Oregon. He was doing well for a while and then eventually started drinking again. This led to drugs, and Michael started getting in trouble. He tried several times to get sober but failed. Then he found himself running around with the worst group of people and ended up in prison for the second time, paroling in 2012.
Michael thought he had everything figured out and things went well for a while. Then he had a relationship end poorly. Not knowing how to deal with it he started drinking again and the downward spiral continued. Michael remembers telling himself life would be easier in prison, so he focused on supporting his habit and committing crimes until he was caught again.
Incarcerated for the third time, everything was comfortable until he got into a fight and ending up in the segregation unit. He had a moment where he asked himself what he was doing with his life. He realized he never worked on himself. He admits he grew up a coward from his own emotions. Michael made a conscious choice to grow up. He focused on himself, took every program he could, volunteered for groups, and applied for a job assignment in the Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) Laundry.
A Turning Point
Michael came into OCE laundry with no applicable job skills. He was inquisitive about the operations and processes in the laundry. He constantly questioned the chemical reps and aptly figured out process intricacies. He quickly stepped into the lead position. Michael became proficient in chemical distribution, programming, Echo Lab equipment, and was trained to run all the BRAUN industrial washers, dryers, and Chicago Iron. He was certified through the OCE laundry program at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution and he completed every DOC educational program offered, never missing a day of work.
Michael’s drive, work ethic, and new skill set allowed him to build a resume, complete with performance measurements and OCE evaluations. The chemical rep from Ecolab and OCE staff contacted ALSCO Laundry in Eugene, Oregon, six months before his release and again 30 days to the gate. Once released, he spent a few days at the beach, to breathe. On his first week of post-prison supervision, Michael had secured an interview with ALSCO. Within three weeks of release, he was employed and working.
Michael became involved in his rehabilitation. He learned what he calls his most important lesson: it is okay to get hurt. This lesson was the key to unlocking and releasing issues from his past. He credits the Department of Corrections (DOC) for giving him a chance to grow up, by providing the classes and workshops necessary for his personal development.
Michael sees OCE as a resource, helping him build his career. He knows hard work pays off and you have to be willing to make sacrifices. He is grateful to Mr. Wright, OCE’s Laundry Production Coordinator, for being his mentor, helping him to foster skills and communication and allowing him to flourish as a person. He has learned to stay positive and views failures as an opportunity to learn. Since his release Michael looks for ways to give back through meetings, mentorship, and community involvement.
When Michael was asked what advice he would give to releasing adults in custody, he responded with, “use your resources. It is not all rainbows and unicorns out here. There will be disappointments, your feelings will get hurt and it is all okay. Be willing to learn, seek information, and ask questions. Life is limitless. If you want it, go for it.”
He was able to correct his behavior using DOC tools and resources and secure work in our community. Michael Hale has no limitations.