My name is Bill Carruthers. I am a person in long term recovery. This means that for 40 years of my life I was in active addiction, I have an extensive criminal history spanning 4 decades and have spent many years behind bars. It also means that in the last eleven years I have been clean and sober and have had no negative interactions with law enforcement.
I have also moved even further away from that life by dedicating my career to help others in need. I’m now a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner and Certified Peer Specialist for Mental Health, Addictive Disease, Whole Health, and a Forensic Peer Mentor. I have worked locally and nationally with state and local organizations and behavioral health agencies as a service provider and program designer. I have done hundreds of presentations and workshops designed to lend a recovery voice and to share the value of lived experience in the recovery transformation of our existing systems. I have traveled and spoken at 6 CIT conferences, am the project developer for the Stepping Up Initiative in Rockdale County, and have contributed to the Presidents Data Driven Justice Initiative.
Yet with all my experience and efforts, I’m still facing so many barriers because of my past. I totally understand that there have to be vetting processes to protect our systems and the people that we serve. However, I have changed; I have paid my debt by serving my sentence; I have been in long-term recovery and got involved with peer support. Peer Support has been established as a best practice model and is probably one of the most powerful mediums for facilitating change. This theory is based on the power of sharing our lived experience and I have dedicated my life to these processes for others. My question is, “when is the debt paid?”
Every time someone runs a background check on me, charges come up from the 80’s and 90’s; each time, different charges come up. I have had challenges finding a place to live, challenges with moving forward, and challenges with places that need my help as a peer mentor but feel like they can’t involve me because of my past.
Let me speak to the exasperation that I and many others have experienced after we have given our absolute best to not just change our own lives but to become the facilitators of change. I just want a chance to become who I am designed to be! I have seen many people whose lives have been totally derailed by these barriers and I have also seen people lose their lives over them. When will our debts be paid? For this reason, I stand with the Second Chance Campaign and lend my voice to this honorable process for those who are coming and deserve this opportunity for change.