Ross B. had to grow up fast. His parents suffered from drug addiction, leading them to repeated arrests. At the age of 14, the state of New Jersey placed him in foster care. By the time he reached 17, Ross had lived in more than a dozen foster homes, bouncing from place to place.
Success to Destruction
Despite having a chaotic childhood, Ross made his education a top priority. By age 20, he graduated college with aspirations of attending law school. His dreams were cut short when he became addicted to opiates without realizing he had a problem. His addiction led to homelessness and frequent stints in jail.
Eventually, Ross ended up in prison on a robbery charge. Although separated from the streets and his drug of choice, he understood the power of his addiction and how easily he could slip back into maladaptive behaviors. He wanted a new life and knew he had to leave Newark after his release.
Education Set Him Free
Ross returned home in July 2021. Within ten days of his release, he admitted himself to rehab for long-term recovery. This decision paid off, and he was once again able to prioritize his education. Therapy and school provided him with a new outlook on life, and he reached his goals. In 2023, he was awarded a Master of Science in Criminal Justice, and he is currently working toward his Ph.D.
Defying the Statistics
Despite his triumphs, Ross still deals with the aftermath of the traumatic events he experienced while incarcerated. He continues to do the right thing and remains steadfast in his faith. His success is attributed to his support groups, classmates, mentors, and the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. Today, Ross is most proud of the bond he is building with his son and his willingness to change and help others.
When asked what advice Ross would share with someone starting their reentry journey, he replied, “Don’t give up, and don’t go too fast. This is a slow, long journey. I have done wrong, and traumatic events have just recently begun to manifest in ways I was not aware of before, like overspending, overeating, getting lazy, and isolating. I suggest joining some sort of support group because all of us that have been incarcerated are trauma survivors. We must learn how to live again, because I forgot how to live after so many years of just existing and surviving. Learn what you like to do. But my number one suggestion is education and therapy—they will both provide a totally different outlook on life. It is true that education sets you free.”