Check out the latest podcast from Beyond The Bars Radio with your host Rob Lohman
Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Public Policy
Craig DeRoche joined Prison Fellowship several years ago as the director of external affairs for the organization’s advocacy arm, Justice Fellowship. Today, DeRoche leads Prison Fellowship’s criminal justice reform efforts.
DeRoche was first introduced to Prison Fellowship while speaking at a national forum on addiction in 2011. He was the youngest statewide Republican leader in the country and was elected Michigan Speaker of the House, but in 2010, after serving a full tenure in the state legislature, DeRoche made national headlines with two alcohol-related arrests. It was only after his arrests, rehabilitation, and a renewed focus on his Christian faith that DeRoche escaped from his life-long struggle with alcoholism. He has been sober since 2010.
DeRoche’s first book,Highly Functional, released in May 2015, is a memoir of his life transitioning from addiction to recovery. DeRoche frequently pens op-eds for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Times, and The Christian Post.
To learn more about Craig DeRoche, click the links below.
To learn more about Rob Lohman, visit www.TheAddictionRecoveryHub.com
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Craig, welcome to the Podcast, why don’t you go ahead and give people a little intro on yourself.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Thank you by the way and thank you for all your listeners. It’s great to be with you, it’s great to be alive and sober today and you know carrying a flag for the cause. I tell people I got involved, a lot of people say how did you come from being in an elective office to working in Criminal Justice Reform and Addiction Public Policy and I say the same way that the founder of Prison Fellowship Chuck Colson did, I got arrested and in trying to keep it light people laugh but there’s a lot to be said for that.
I get the privilege of being one of these people in this movement that is using my experience to help other people. I think that that’s a great tradition and I think that our experience is really beneficial, it’s unlocking a lot of the solutions that our culture is seeking today.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah I can totally appreciate what you said there. So what is your current role with Prison Fellowship? Let’s go back to when you’re back as a Republican leader and the huge transition happened in your life then.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Yeah absolutely, my current position at Prison Fellowship is I’m the Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. I gave your listeners a bit of a preview of how I got there but what I was known for, the public facing side of my work before when I was younger on my 20’s and 30’s, was being a hard charging successful business person who got involved in politics. I was elected twice to a city council in a town call Novi Michigan’s; stop # 6 on the stagecoach route is where it ends name and all carried Roman numeral VI.
It was the fastest growing upper middle class suburb in Michigan and I got elected to the city council when I was 27 and reelected and then I ran to represent that city and 6 other cities in the state legislature when I was 32 and was elected to the legislature. Nobody even ran against me, kind of a funny circumstance and then 2 years later my colleagues all the other state representatives saw fit to elect me the Speaker of the House.
I became a State [Inaudible: 04:18] leader at age 34, had a very national you know, high national profile because I was the youngest Republican statewide leader at the time in the country until Bobby Jindal was elected Governor of Louisiana some time later. I had a lot of attention on me, Michigan had a lot of attention on this state because we were the only state had not come out of the recession after 911 and people were leaving in droves packing up their cars and our manufacturing jobs were leaving. We had a Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm and I was a Republican speaker and we did battle over budgets and taxes and things like that. So it’s a very stressful difficult time, very high position, very honored to hold it.
What nobody knew about me was how I was actually living in addiction; I had been fighting addiction to alcohol since I was a little kid and I even went to rehab while I was speaker of the house for 5 days without anybody knowing about it and not that it didn’t help me, it didn’t help anybody else. You know it is part of my story and it’s part of who made me what I am today.
I was term limited out of office, I left in 2008 going into 2009, January 1, 2009. I thought I could resume this is activities and make up for lost time but my alcoholism was catching up with me, it’s regressive for me and it was at a pretty bad state. I went about trashing a bunch of relationships and my own marriage and failing in the business ventures that I pursued. My drinking only got worse and it culminated into me being arrested in a pretty high profile way and pretty ridiculous insist nobody was hurt, thank God, I was that guy 2010.
In February it was featured 75 newspapers and then I violated my probation and I was arrested on a new charge in June 2010 just 4 months later in another spectacularly stupid event. I was that guy, I was on Fox News and CNN had helicopters over my house, I get them all as I say the Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan treatment or my erratic behavior and lost everything [Inaudible: 06:43] I didn’t have anything left but to focus on recovery.
When I found recovery I started bearing witness to what was possible with other people and Chuck Colson who founded Prison Fellowship heard about my story, heard about what I was talking about and said now this is interesting, a Conservative and a Republican who’s actually lived in addiction himself for decades, who’s been a Speaker of the House is talking about things that are important public policy changes.
He came to me and said he thought God had a bigger plan for me and that I could use my experience to benefit other people which was amazing to me because my experience was such a low bottom. I said I would help because I felt that it was God’s promise that we could use that experience, painful as it is, for the benefit of other people. That was back in 2011 in the fall and so I’ve been trying to help ever since working at Prison Fellowship.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s quite a story especially to be just approached I guess by Chuck Colson and since you were in the political world, maybe it wasn’t as big a deal for you but I think listeners will be like that’s pretty amazing that you would be sought out by a guy that was radically transformed by his own prison experience and God.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Yeah, he was an amazing guy and he put me right in too by the way, for your listeners. The first day I met him he said Craig I’m nearly 80 years old, it was about 10:30 at night, and he had just come back from Washington D.C. Here’s the tad that I never get to say this anybody but I’ll share it with your listeners. He told me that he and John Kerry had a discussion that night, Senator John Kerry would run for president and he said that they both agreed that it was time to bury the hatchet, so I’ll share that with your listeners.
I got to meet Chuck on the day that these 2 had been going at each other since Nixon was President and John Kerry was a protester for all those years. He said to me that he was tired after that discussion and dinner and he wanted me to pinch it for him the next day with the U.S. Senate. I was overwhelmed by that but he assured me that the spirit would leave me and I’d be fine and so I did that and it’s just been a real privilege. He’s a fascinating guy and I really miss him and I think he would be amazed at the fruit that is born today from the work that he poured into this movement over the 40 years of this life after he left prison.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That [Inaudible: 09:07] thank you for giving us the inside scoop there, that’s a pretty powerful day that you just shared right there. You mentioned a little bit about kind of the process of recovery, can you share because a lot of people that tune in they have a loved one that’s suffering from addiction, they don’t know how to help somebody, they tried all these different things but what did your as you said, the process of recovery look like and how did you find community in recovery especially in your position?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche I’ll tell you what Rob, you know this and many of your listeners too but for those that are out there that are struggling in addition themselves today or have loved ones, I know that pain well and I know it firsthand. I know the pain that I inflicted on others, my parents, my wife, my children having to see my parents, my brother who has a job that requires him to have a good name you know with all the damage I did in the newspapers and everything but I also know the loss in the stakes of addiction.
My younger brother Kirk passed away on September 12th 2012 more than 2 years after I got sober. He was back from Afghanistan and was on prescription drugs from the V.A. and had an accidental overdose from those. He was struggling with addiction prior to that as well so I know how difficult it is that line of what we can do as other people as well as what is needed for the person. If it’s Rob I’ll talk about what happened in me and what made a difference and maybe some of the suggestions of what clicked in me could help people help other folks.
I learned the most powerful thing for me about addiction recovery from a kid’s class that the Betty Ford Center put on at the Brighton Center for Recovery in Michigan. I was there for a 30 day stint and 34 to be in this class for 6 to 12 year olds. So that’s a start for your listeners; I needed to have this explain to me where they were in essence explaining addiction to my children and for me to finally understand it.
The exercise Rob was this, the kids were doing their exercises while the parents had to do our own exercises that they were separate. When we came together, the kids had painted rocks and they said things like fear and anger and guilt and shame and other things like that on the rocks. They were carrying around burlap sacks the whole time they were doing their activities and they know why they were empty. Then the kids sat down in front of all of us and they said who knows what fear is? And the kids would raise their hand, okay, give me a fear. With each one they would say like I’m afraid of tornadoes and they say great, take a rock and put that fear in Johnny’s bag; one person’s bag they were picking on. Who’s got anger you know all this that, who’s been ashamed, who knows what that is?
They kept putting rocks in his bag and so Johnny couldn’t pick up the bag anymore. They said your parents are here because they spent their whole life accumulating rocks in their bag and they haven’t known how to get rid of the rocks in their bag and so they turned to alcohol and drugs so the bag didn’t bother them as much. At first that worked, they forgot about the bag, it was easier to carry.
Pretty soon, the drinking and the drugs they needed more and more and then it got worse, it didn’t help them forget about the bag and then it got even worse that the drinking and the drugs started putting more rocks in the bag and they didn’t know how to get out of it. So they’re here to learn how to get those rocks out of their bag in a healthy way and so they will never have to drink and drug again because drinking and drugging wasn’t their problem it was their solution to their problem and they’re here to learn a different solution.
I about fell out of my chair but how come nobody told me that in 3rd grade you know that so simple you know. I started when I was 10, 11, 12 years old looking for solutions to my problems and alcohol made perfect sense to me you know. It helped me avoid those issues, it helped me deal with them, forget them, whatever you want to talk about instead of me developing a healthy alternatives. I just thought I’d share a little bit about my own personal life there and what I learned.
I went into an in-patient, I was blessed and I know how difficult that is for people to find and to get help with. I also know the challenges there and the first time I went in I was the Speaker of the House, I was trying to hide out from the public. I was in there for 5 days and I thought I could learn my way through it. I read every book they gave to me, I scheduled every counseling session I could do because I looked at it like I was going to the doctor and saying I’ve had this broken ankle and I need you to set it. I’ll do whatever you want to get the ankle fixed you know, 6 weeks of this, 8 weeks of that so that I get back on the field. That was the way I looked at it which is completely wrong and completely backwards; in essence what I was saying is I want to stay the same person that has the same flaws, I just don’t want to drink anymore.
I know some people have been successful in that in their life but I think they put themselves short of being set free those problems. I tried that, I failed; I’ would go back and I would drink. I didn’t drink all that much when I was Speaker from that that day forward though; I kind of white knuckled as your listeners would talk about until I got out of office. The second time I went I was turned off by all the substitute drugs that everybody was taking; they say they’re not intoxicating or addictive but it seemed like everybody was looking for their next bump.
I didn’t like it at all and you know I was probably fairly judgmental on my part but it prevented me from listening. So I know that the people sometimes you’ll hear this maybe on your show frequently; people say it’s what it takes. That is very selfish and I was trying to solve it my own way. I never slowed down and listened to what was available to me the whole time which was to listen to the people, the experience that were there to help me [Inaudible: 15:38] these things. Once I finally had a very low bottom as I kind of describe to you there, I was all ears.
It turned out the things they probably told me the first 2 times I was in rehab, they told me the third time but the difference is, I listen and it made a lot of sense. I just started following other people’s direction putting one foot in front of the next and my life started getting supernaturally better.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s amazing. How long were you in treatment the third time? What was your duration then?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche They actually kicked me out after 29 days; I wanted to stay for the 30th day. By that point that’s how willing I was; you’re telling me that I got to leave you know they told me that like the 28th day and I said but tomorrow’s the 29th day and they said we need the bed, you’re doing great; but I want to be here though. So I had the privilege of being there and that’s part of my story. I wrote it in a memoir because you know the place I went to, it’s called the Brighton Center for Recovery. It’s one of these places that a lot of famous and rich people go to like Betty Ford and Hazel Ben and some of the other better known ones.
It has a great program but attracts people from all over the world you know M & M and other people would go through it. I had the privilege of being in there with a bunch of people that own businesses and were leading professionals in all sorts of different ways but my behavior and the choices I made with my family and friends and with the police and with my lifestyle were all the same you know so is everybody else.
I thought it would be really important because I saw a lot of people that the society calls highly functional is being treated differently or if they were like me thinking I did believe I was different than other people that maybe I had a leg up and I was smarter or more talented or accomplished, I’d be able to figure this out differently or that I was afflicted differently.
I wanted to share that experience so I wrote a memoir called Highly Functional which describes what the life of somebody that did some extraordinary things that you would think in the material world as extraordinary what the addiction life during that time actually looked like. It wasn’t very functional at all but also to give these type of insights to people that have fear today. Maybe there’s people listening that are saying how would I do this? I run an office you know for this national company with 30 employees in my charge or I have started my own business or I’m a single mom or I’m a local City Council person or a teacher and they think that it’s better for them to stay private and try to figure it out on their own.
I’ve seen too many people die that way and to do some really tragically bad things by staying in their addictions. I try to in my spare time use my experience to help people on that front too.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s great. Where can people find a copy of the Highly Functional? Is it all out there on Amazon and everything?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Yeah it should available on Amazon. They can also you know I’m not the best book sales person in the world so I’m not sure if this is the best method but I do it anyway because it was written to help people. So if people don’t want to buy the book, they can just go to my website www.CraigDeroche.com and join the mail list and they’ll start getting 2 or 3 chapters mail to email to them a day for like 20 days or however long it gets for the whole book to be email to them because I want people access to it. So you can buy the book and I’d love you to do that but I didn’t want people to think that I was trying to hold people up for money because this is a cause that I believe so fervently in.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Can you spell that for people so they get it spelled correctly, your first and last name?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Yeah, it’s Craig C-R-A-I-G. Deroche D-E-R-O-C-H-E. COM. CraigDeroche.com. The Google probably auto correct you too. Not too many people with similar names to mine in the last part of it but come on out and check it out. If you’ve got some highly functional stories of your own, share them.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman You can say not many people have the same name but not many people have the same stories. That’s quite the story that you have I will say so thanks for being; I just appreciate your vulnerability and candidness. I think some people when they’re in positions of power and leadership, obviously you have worked through that.
Like you said, you went through that in the beginning kind of like the shame and trying to hide everything but now that it’s out there so why not embrace the story that God gave you to which obviously led you to do the great work you’re doing with Prison Fellowship. No being ashamed of our story and our past but making the most of it was pretty much what you have done. Would you agree?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Yeah and I think God kind of helped me with that; anonymity wasn’t an option for me. Exposure was crazy and I’ve had the privilege of being in a lot of newspapers over the last several years and there are far more you know but on the front page of a Google search on my name, it’s all the arrests that I was arrested for that was actually dismissed by the court you know. I know what that shame and that pain feels like, it’s still out there.
My instincts were to try to do everything I could to explain myself out of the situation or rationalize or justify it were to erase it somehow. Again I think that what I learned from me is that if that was the case, I might end up you know I could be dead for all I know right now. I certainly wouldn’t be married and a part of my children’s life or being in this position to help other people so it’s an important chasm to cross.
I would encourage your listeners that if they had fear about that to remember that the greatest stories in the Bible whether it be Moses who murdered Egyptians 40 years before he helped people in the exodus, King David whether it was Saul of Tarsus who became Paul that wrote a quarter of the New Testament you know who stoned the first martyr in Christendom. God uses all sorts of people and it’s the worst things we do “the worst” and might be of the highest value of the person that we can become.
So that’s where I spend a lot of my time in talking about those second chances and encouraging people that what is holding them back, that fear, might actually be the fuel that brings them and rockets to the life they never thought was imaginable let alone available to them today Rob and try to encourage people that I know personally how tough that is to cross that chasm.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman I know through my own incarceration, I know my wife has had to go through a ton of her own processes with shame and anger and guilt and just from my mistakes that I made of my life. Can you talk a little bit how you and your wife worked through a lot as a couple? I know addiction tears a lot of people apart for sure, a lot of families apart; just even making poor decisions is my decision was not in addiction but it was more on a mental health breakdown issue. Can you talk a little bit about maybe what you all go through to give some people some encouragement to press in and press through things together?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche In my case, in my relationship with my wife Stacey, we’re back together and we’re happily married but I don’t want anybody to think that I believe that that has to be the answer of where they are in their own lock right now. The only reason I think that we’re married today is because I gave up our marriage, I recognized that I wasn’t going to stay alive, that I wasn’t ever going to get sober, that I was never going to be a good person to anybody if I didn’t focus on my recovery first so I have something to give to other people. That’s what actually in the case of me and my relationship with my wife attracted her back to me.
Our marriage was over, she told me that when we were in counseling at the Rehab Institute. It was very clear you know and when I tell people because I work in a Christian ministry is that she was leaving me for all the right reasons. There wasn’t anything on her side of the ledger that showed that she was giving up on me too soon or that she was being a bad mom or anything; quite the opposite.
She was worried about the safety of the kids, the deceit that I had lived in for 12 years of our marriage and all of the problems that I brought on in repeated failures of promises that were violated only to be returned to drinking and more lies and more failure and more shame and humiliation and as I say risking of the kids and everything else so we had a very low bottom.
She was moving toward a divorce and when people go into recovery they say recovery needs to be the most important thing in your life today you know and not only today, from that day that you’re first deciding to go into it; really say the most important thing in your life for the rest of your life. I thought that was kind of a hokey statement but for me I don’t know that I would have made it. If I tried to say you know I’m going to go into recovery but I’m going to do it to save my marriage; if trying to save my marriage is where my priority is then I’ll make my recovery steps fit into it. I wouldn’t have saved my marriage and I wouldn’t have gotten sober.
If I tried to say I’m worried about custody of the kids and posturing for that which I have no basis for with my two arrests. If your listeners, read my book or Google and see it, she would have had a great case. So I just gave up and I said you know what, maybe I’ll be good to somebody someday but only if I get sober first and the rest of it will be whatever the rest of it will be. It turns out in my case that we work through things but my wife is a saint because her resolve and her love through this has just been amazing.
The stuff that she had to endure, she had people that didn’t know her stopping her in grocery stores and telling her that she needed to divorce that monster that people had read about in the newspaper – me. You know the shame of going out in public everyone she went. She had a really, really, really difficult ride so I can only imagine what your listeners are going through right now because we’ve been there.
We had the Child Protective Services because my second arrest was a gun charge while intoxicated. They came and created a file on my wife. I heard about this, we were separated at the time and I was in rehab and they came and interviewed me and I said you know like this is my file, I’ll get you this and they said no this is a file related to what’s going on in your home environment. I was shocked and she was mortified and she had done nothing wrong and I brought that pain on her. All I can say Rob is I understand what this is like.
In my life the answer was just 2 out of those 12 steps to try to follow what I’ve learned in my decision with a higher power of being God in the Christian sense that I came to know and understand and love, but also the good people around me that didn’t quote scripture and didn’t quote the 12 steps but had gone through this themselves that I could model my behavior after theirs and lift myself up out of it not doing it my own way, but in their way to get to a point in relatively short order where my wife told me that she barely recognized me that I was a different person.
I started crying, she started crying, I don’t think she knew fully what that meant to me but that’s the word she chose to say months later is that I was unrecognizable. That still today probably the most important thing that anybody’s ever said to me in my life. We’re together now 7 years later with much different relationship.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Well thank you thank you for that, I think it’s important for people to just use a different journey people go through as couples so I appreciate you sharing that for sure. That was important for me hear too. I know you mentioned this earlier about your brother, I didn’t want to skate over that either but I’m just sorry to hear about your brother passing away in 2012. Also I’m sure that was difficult for your whole family and it’s never easy to lose someone especially through life traumas they looked on pain pills and things just to deal with life and then accidentally it just kind of takes over. I know a lot of people lose their family member that way so sorry to hear you lost your brother that way.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Thank you. I wanted your listeners to know that they’re not alone. We don’t know what our course is or our path for all of us that are in this. It’s sometimes a family issue; my father got sober in 1985 when I was 15. When we talk about these things that they’re real and why I have a great story of a second chance and I get to use this experience to help other people, that I wanted your listeners to know that gritty reality of the struggles and even the struggles of the damage that I created 7 years ago that I’m still mopping up that my life wasn’t all pixie dust where everything turned out perfect the next day. We just go forward and we try to use those experiences of the losses that we accumulate hopefully for the benefit of our own education and our own learning but to use those to help other people.
That’s why it’s okay for me to share, it’s actually a privilege for me to share it because he was a special guy and I love him and I miss him but I don’t want that to be in vain. I want people to know that there’s other options that are available and that they are listening to me talk that I understand what they’re going through and I understand the stakes.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yes, thank you for sharing that too. Back in 2014 I was kind of familiar with Prison Fellowship but not so much as far as just kind of knowing kind of what you guys do. Then a friend of mine at church said you should reach out to or a new friend of mine Dan who works with Prison Fellowship and he introduced me to John Byrne when they were with Jesse Weiss when he was doing the Second Chances project. Then I found out how awesome your organization was and got really involved in the Second Chance movement.
I know you’ve mentioned that term a few times since we’ve been talking and last April I was able to go to the State Capital here when they had the Second Chance hearing to try to make Second Chance month at least in Colorado but also a national basis. I got to meet a lot of great Senators, a lot of great House Representatives and they passed the bill or I think it is correct bill to make Second Chance month in Colorado for April.
So that’s coming up here pretty soon but can’t tell people about what’s going on around the country with Second Chance because it’s such a beautiful term you know for people that have been incarcerated and just reducing the stigma out there for families and for individuals. What’s going on out there in Second Chance world? How can people get plugged into what’s going on in that movement?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Thanks so much for that Robin, I’m going to embarrass you a little bit when I talk about this because I want your Podcast listeners to know that you’re not just a man of eloquent words in this wonderful platform that you’ve created.
Second Chance month is really for present fellowship. The culmination of everything we’ve been doing for 41 years you know, Chuck Colson got a second chance when he got out of prison after going in in a Watergate related investigation. He recognized that he was in a privileged position and that other people would not have that chance.
This is back when our country only had a couple 100,000 people in prison and he said this is awful you know that we’re not valuing these lives and the potential, it’s not consistent with our faith as Christians, it has nothing to do with that American story of Second Chances you know. We learn our lessons, we do what the court says, we’re held accountable, we move forward you know so everything we’ve done and Prison Fellowship all of our programs are geared at giving people the tools they need to succeed in their second chance.
The society for those 40 years while we’ve been teaching people to succeed and they have that personal transformation in our academies in I think we have 77 academies now in 28 states at Prison Fellowship. We’re on our way to 90 plus this year in a bunch more states and we’ll be in all 50 states 8 years from now. We have 250,000 plus on the Angel Tree program and you know with the family connections we do all these big programs preparing people for a second chance. We’ve been advocating that whole time to be a voice for the voiceless, the people that are in prison saying where is my lobbyist, where are my high powered on the hill.
Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson kind of served in that role because he was a political director for President. We built an organization around that so when he passed away and it isn’t one person anymore, it’s the whole of your organization. So we created these products and initiatives like just [Inaudible: 34:27] on others more than 3,000. Pastors that declare what justice is. We can say what we’re fighting for; we started Second Chance month out of these stories of people like Chuck Colson and the thousands.
We actually had more than 10 million Angel Tree Christmases since we started Angel Tree and said let’s actually amplify these voices, put a name to it and call it “Second Chance” month. We started this ragtag in a Prison Fellowship in 2017. Even though we’re a pretty substantial national organization with hundreds of employees and I told you the scope of the programming and the volunteers that make all that happen and we said let’s actually throw this right in the river and let’s see where God takes it.
People like Rob Lohman here took that opportunity and went out in this country and we had just as you said, what you did in Colorado was planting the seed that the States could find a way to agree for once after 40 years of this talk of basically encouraging failure when someone goes into their sentence and into their incarceration where the public would tolerate saying we want them to be punished while they are there, we want them to mar their sentences and prevent it from you know food stamps or housing and jobs, etcetera.
The 40,000 barriers actually Rob that we’ve created in our culture that once you’ve done everything a judge asks you to do which should be honored as a deal, we say there’s 40,000 barriers that it will have against you in the United States of America until the day you die; you cannot be a citizen again, you can never pay it back. That’s immoral that’s a moral flaw in the way that we operate and we say let’s declare “Second Chance” month, let’s do it in April because April is when we still have a majority Christian population in America, majority Christian public elected leaders in the Republican and Democratic parties and remind people around Easter that we all get a second chance.
Maybe what we didn’t violate the laws of our land but we all needed a second chance at that cross and say this in a positive way, it took off beyond our wildest imagination. The United States Senate unanimously declared a ‘Second Chance” month last year. Colorado as you pointed out, Maine, Michigan and Minnesota just for the M’s and a bunch of other people. We had events all over the country, reporters started picking up on it, Jared Kushner in probably the campaign in modern history since Nixon, the most tough on crime law and order campaign we’ve seen in our country actually their own White House said this is different, these are our values and we care about this.
Jared Kushner led that effort, I was privileged to go into some of those meetings with Prison Fellowship and other organizations and the President even this year, declared that he believes that when people return from prison they should get a second chance. So Rob, without your effort, without this ragtag group of people, all the churches, all the volunteers, your listeners that helped us get off on the right foot last year, we would never be where we are today in just one year where the President of the United States in his State of the Union address in both parties in Congress are saying it’s time for us to come together around second chances.
To me that means we’re coming together around the potential of all of the lives of the people that are in recovery that are serving or have served in the criminal justice system that are listening and for all of your listeners that have hope for the people that they love that aren’t there yet of what’s possible for them; I’m an evangelist as you can tell Rob. I think we’re at the beginning of something very important here.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Yeah it’s very exciting especially for me you know having spent time behind bars for a short period of time but long impact. When I was at that Second Chance hearing, I could hear from both sides of the coin so many people talking about their desires for helping people who suffer from addictions and people that have been incarcerated and the challenges that they face, it was really encouraging for me and really emotional too because I was able to share my story in a brief moment with these representatives and senators that would come off the platform.
They just said you know thank you so much for coming and I was able to ask them just kind of a pointed question about my restitution issue. I know you and I got to talk about that a little bit after the conference last year and you know got to hang out with your whole crew at the place that you all rented for your own employee retreat. I left there a little encouraged you know. I sit here and face this big mountain of a large restitution that I owe for my momentary lapse of reasoning and you know that could potentially you know follow me till I die based on this large 12% interest rate that the state of Colorado imposed.
I know the end result that there’s movements and advocacy to get that changed but just seeing all how there was really this united front to say we need to come up with a better way instead of putting everyone behind bars to get them really truly rehabilitated. I know you guys are doing a huge effort on that.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Thank you for your willingness to be transparent and share that with your listeners. I just figured listeners know when we hear stories about that. Two things from what you just said Rob; first of all, I want all of your listeners to know that you will be thanked and congratulated when you talk to the powers that be. They get this now. It’s really humbling to have people say thank you for coming forward and congratulations on what you’ve done but once they recognize that they needed their own second chances, like I said maybe they didn’t break the law but that humility is infectious and it’s attractive.
I want to encourage people to come forward and join Rob and us in this effort and second, when we raise our voice and amplify it, it’s very hard for Rob to say you know this is wrong because people think he’s only talking about his own situation but together we can challenge the very morality which I do believe it is immoral to hold somebody in your care custody and control and charge them interest on fines and fees when they have no power to do it. There’s no other way to describe it, it’s impractical, it’s unjust but it’s immoral. We need to raise our voices together and kind of shout that a little bit to get people’s attention.
It’s not that we have to pick out Republicans or conservatives or partisan politics at all or even blame them for the failures because usually these laws were put in place a generation or two ago. We just need to get their attention so they’ll do the right thing while they have the power and make the changes that we need to set people free which in essence is setting our own culture free to the extent that you are able to gainfully enjoy your life going forward.
The economy and the culture and the community all benefit and everybody that you interact with there in Colorado. When we hold you back Rob we hold ourselves back. I think people get that message but we we’ve got to rally together to bring that message to the powers that be today.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Definitely. These moments give me you know, that’s why I do what I do now because I want people to understand and hear that it’s not about me, it’s about the challenges so many people go through. A lot of people I know that have had records, I just kind of look at it like well you know let’s just go get back and get locked up because I can’t afford to take care of business on the outside because of as you said the 48,000 barriers that people that people that have spent time behind bars can endure.
I want to touch on this is well as you mentioned at the conference last year, you brought some amazing material to the forefront for communities to use to actually be educated on like the life of people who spent time behind bars and how society can embrace them. So can you give a little plug for the Outrageous Justice programs that are out there and like how do people get in touch with this material and get in touch with Prison Fellowship to get involved in their community? So just touch Outrageous Justice and help people get involved if they want.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Outrageous Justice is a 6 week small group study guide, it’s got a book that you can order up and read and also as you know a study guide that you can share with people and go through it in a small group format in a video series. It comes from the perspective of the person that’s committed the crime, the victim of the crime as well as the community perspective and has voices in there of people who run the prisons, it has the voices of people that have served time in prison, it has voices of victims.
It really goes to the values that are at stake and it helps people educate you on how to find your voice and how to understand the mechanics of the justices system from a value orientation. It’s called Outrageous Justice and we absolutely need your listeners that whether it’s their church or it’s a business they own or it’s a business they work for that they want to get engaged, come to for all of this Rob, come to www.prisonfellowship.org\secondchances. So www.prisonfellowship.org\secondchances and that’s where they can lend their name, they can sign up in these different things, they can click on the advocacy space and become a volunteer and get engaged and try to help us lift all this up.
Prison Fellowship secret for success is that we try to equip people like so you have this Outrageous Justice curriculum available to you to equip you and educate you, we try to engage people together with events around the country like we do in Colorado and Minnesota and so many others. We have a Prayer walk in Washington D.C. and a lot of leaders going to be there on April 7th. All of our stuff from Angel Tree to the in-person programming that we do.
It’s from people like the listeners of this Podcast that get involved; we can’t do it with our staff, our staff is here to serve the greater church and the greater set of activists and advocates that we have out there, tens of thousands around the country not to do all the work and so we need you. We need you to get up off your couch, if justice is on your heart, if using your experience in addiction and recovery, that 9th step promise using that experience to help other people is on your agenda, we need you.
Come join us and it’s a privilege at Prison Fellowship that we get to play in a pretty high game, pretty high level at the Federal and the State level. People like Rob Lohman here, the host that have experience going right to the powers that be at the Capitol and in Colorado and speaking to them and walking out of there with the legislature acting. It’s a pretty neat and action packed way that we like to work with the people that get involved. I’d encourage all your listeners to give it a shot and come and visit us and read up more about what we’re doing.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman That’s great Craig, I appreciate you spending time with us today. It was a fun interview to kind of hear more about you. The great thing about the Outrageous Justice video is that I can see you Craig on the videos talking to them like it’s live, it’s great. There you go, you get real with Craig. Any kind of last, I mean that was a great kind of end there but is there any kind of last little thing you want to say to everybody before we wrap up?
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche No, just that my hopes and dreams are alongside yours and I like to tell people I think we all have the same size hopes and dreams and that includes the people that are in prison today. Let’s just go forward with smiles on our faces and gratitude for where we are today in trying to put one foot in front of the next.
Interviewer: Rob Lohman Thanks for your time Craig and all this information will be up on the website one of your link to your hobby functional memoirs which I think would be really great if people tapped into that too and link to Prison Fellowship and they can get plug in however they want. You have an amazing day thanks for chiming in today.
Interviewee: Craig DeRoche Thank you brother, will talk to you soon.
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Beyond the Bars Radio Podcast. Hopefully you picked up another wisdom of nugget. I mean another nugget of wisdom along the way because they always say that if you share what you learned within 48 hours, you not only have a great chance of actually retaining some information, but you might actually impact a life around you because you never know who might need a hand up or who might be struggling in their life so share what you can, change a life around.
Speaking of changing lives, we want to give a big shout out to a couple of our sponsors. Thank you so much to Lifted from the Rut. Lifted from the Rut provides intervention and addiction recovery services to help individuals, families or businesses that might have a loved one struggling with addiction and get them on that path to recovery.
Also want to say a big thank you to the Rock Transformational House which is a 7 month program for men between the ages 40 and 65 that are either coming out of addiction or they’re actually maybe in a midlife crisis and they just want to turn their life around and focus their heart and their eyes on Jesus Christ.
Thank you so much to our sponsors, so much for our listeners and we always love to hear from our listeners. So please make sure that you send us a message to www.beyondthebarsradio.com or leave a comment on this Podcast. We look forward to connect with you next time.