Coming Home after Nearly Three Years in Jail

“My handcuffs were removed, and I was given ‘freedom’—but the cold shackles of incarceration still weigh heavy on my ankles.”
Nov 01, 2023

Readjusting to life on the outside should be simple. It should be easy and cheerful to rejoin the world as a free and innocent man. The hardest part should be over.

That isn’t the case.

After spending 30 months in jail because I couldn’t afford to pay $115,000 in bail, I was released on April 1, 2022. The first thing I did was go to Buffalo Wild Wings. Right after that, I headed to Mississippi to visit my mom. I hadn’t seen her in about five years. The joy I could see in her and my grandmother’s eyes was so heartwarming. My father and stepmother were also very excited to finally see me.

After that brief visit, it was time to head back to Texas. Back to reality. On the nine-hour drive, I quickly realized I had nothing. No car, no clothes, no shoes. I did have a cell phone, courtesy of my mom, but no way of contributing to the bill. I didn’t even know where I’d be staying. I felt like a burden to those around me.

Fortunately, my younger brother and his wife had just purchased a house in Killeen and had an extra bedroom just for me. My older sister sent money for clothes, and I went straight to Goodwill to get as much as $300 could get me.

I quickly noticed that my family treated me differently. My younger brother and his wife treated me like a child, telling me things like, “Say thank you,” and acting like I hadn’t been a human being for the past few years. It was clear that people had formed their opinions about me despite my innocence. My only escape was to become self-sufficient and get my own space. So, 10 days after my release, I took a job at FedEx.

It took one shift for me to realize this was not the job for me at all. But I needed the money, so I traveled the 55 miles from Killeen to Pflugerville five days a week by any method I could find, sometimes paying $60 for a Lyft or an Uber, meaning I was basically working for free.

After two weeks, FedEx fired me after my background check came back. Even though I’d won my case, the charge was still on my record. The county also still held me responsible for paying my court-appointed attorney $10,000. That’s in addition to the court fees of more than $700. The charges on my record meant I kept getting fired or turned down for jobs. I was forced into the service industry, where I quickly pursued bartending to maximize my profits.

While I was able to make the best of things on the inside, it was a struggle at first to readjust to life. During my incarceration, people would talk about all the things they wanted to do when they got out. These things usually consisted of alcohol, drugs, and women. I, and the company I kept, had bigger plans.

I always talked about how I was going to find a stage to display my spoken word talents and a way to get more attention for the manga I worked on during my time in jail. A friend of mine told me about how he would become a barber. Another said he would help those who were dealing with wrongful incarceration. The three of us made progress toward these goals throughout our entire incarceration.

My incarceration and its aftermath forced me to develop new skills and use my God-given talents to generate a profit. Throughout these 16 months of freedom, I’ve performed poetry all around central Texas and bartended at one of the area’s best nightclubs. My experiences while incarcerated motivate me to work with organizations like Mano Amiga and the Texas After Violence Project. I have written and performed pieces for special events and movements around the area. I let my circumstances create opportunities. I know and understand how hard things can be directly after release, but I am a walking testimony of what it looks like to turn a bad situation into a good one. Making the best of what you have can sometimes be a burden, but once you’ve stayed consistent, you will reap the benefits. The hard work I put in has often made me look at my wrongful incarceration as an opportunity to get focused, instead of as a thing that’s hindered me in life.

I also realize that I am an anomaly and that this won’t happen for most people (although I wish it could). There are no available resources for people released post-trial. The system treats the freedom that you never should have lost as if it were a gift. That is dead wrong. This life-ruining system targets minority and poor people across Texas without any accountability, and my goal is to bring attention to it.

Myles Martin is an author, poet, artist, activist, and outstanding young man from McComb, Mississippi. Despite the struggles of wrongful incarceration, Myles maintained a strong mind and fought to overcome these hardships. A dedicated, altruistic, kind-hearted leader amongst his peers, Myles personifies perseverance and hard work. He is a beacon for positive interactions and growth wherever he stands.

Vera believes in using our platforms to elevate diverse voices and opinions, including those of people currently and formerly incarcerated. Other than Vera employees, contributors speak for themselves. Vera has not independently verified the statements made in this post.