My whole life flashed in front of my eyes. I knew what was coming, I wasn’t the type to think about tomorrow or a week down the road. Maybe that was part of my problem as a young man. Things had to change.

The Feds at my Front door!

          If anyone is wondering, I was sweating my ass off. It was over, the time had come. The long fake dream of being a drug dealer was coming to an end. Godfather and Good Fellas wasn’t as real as the movies made it out to be, or was it. Fast life means a fast road. Reality hit! The back door of our upstairs apartment was kicked in. I remember looking at the lock, it was gone. I couldn’t find it. 2×6 framing was gone also. Spread across my kitchen floor. Feds flood in fast. My cousin, hears “get on the ground, face down, hands behind your back” He drops to the ground, still looking at me with this lost look on his face. As I watch this all take place. Down he goes! There goes my pick up hand, wire and all. To the carpet, face down. I knew this was coming but I didn’t want to lay there. In the hands of something that was out of my control. I had no choice. After making eye contact with the 4 to 5 people who entered my home that day. I had no fight in me. No choice. I made my choice and my future. Knowing I was caught. It was over, down I went!  As we all 3 lay there, they searched the house. Top to bottom, looking for clues to put this case together and find the bigger dogs. I was just a small hand in a big world-wide operation. My Probation officer was next. The Feds just packed up and went on their way. I couldn’t believe it. Was that it? Was it over?  Just begun!  Anytime you come into contact with the police while on probation you have to contact the office the next day. (Probation office) I called the first thing in the morning, I knew that they already knew. She asked me to come in. It was fast and painful. I sat in the waiting room. Waiting for a set of handcuffs to go on my wrist. I was used to it. It was part of my life. If I wasn’t living wide open, what would I be doing. Well I found out on this trip, wide open was death or jail. Here she comes, sifting through some paper work. She grabs my file from the filing box, lays it in front of her. Behind the glass I can see her going through it. I’ve always been inpatient. “Come on, come lock me up!” It didn’t happen that way. We went into her office. 50 questions later and a crying young man. It hit home, I was lost in life and it took 50 questions from a 40-year-old lady to break this bad ass down into tears. I had no direction. She made that clear. This was an opportunity she said! An opportunity for what, I replied quickly! Change Mr. Freeman, Change! A seed was most likely planted years before, it was watered that day. I had hope! Hope on finding a direction and learning who I was and what direction I needed to be facing as this self-inflicted tornado hit me, then when the smoke cleared. She made it openly clear to me that going through what I was about to face would change me. It would shape me for the future! Those were her exact words. I had no clue what she meant.

Jail!

The handcuffs went on again. 2nd time in 2 days. This time it was for another trip to the Tuscarawas county jail. Not knowing what the next steps were going to be was driving me crazy. Back behind bars again. Knowing I might not get out this time was a fear that set in pretty hard. My future was over, at least put on hold. I look back now, at the age of 38 and see the destructive path of a 22 yr old kid. I was so far off track it would take a miracle to lift me up and set me back down on a different path!  As I sat in my cell and thought about the days to come. I was lost! No idea of which direction to go. No mentor to guide me out of this mess. Just me! I thought to myself. “I can’t do this alone, I can’t stay around the same people doing the same things all the time.” Change, was change really coming my way. Could I feel the change on the inside yet. No, all I felt was the surface pain of being locked up again and again. I had to change. This life style of rolling the dice and living under the thumb of the court system had to end. I knew I was not getting out of jail till I went to court for dealing drugs. 15 days went by. 45 days rolled by. I had not talked to my probation officer at all. I started AA meetings and NA meetings to gather a little of what I was facing and going to face in the future. My court date came and went. I was gifted with a couple of weeks home. Not allowed to leave the county. I was facing 3-5 years in prison along with fines and more probation. This was as real as it got. My girlfriend at the time was pregnant and we were expecting a little girl. This trip away from home was going to have a lot more meaning, I’d be able to see why after the trip was over. Just why my life had to change!  The time came. They made the arrest and the felony charges set into play. I tried to explain my case the best I could in detail, without incriminating Mr.Mexico. I didn’t really know him anyway, or where he was or contact info. They gathered enough evidence to prosecute and set up the proper charges. Phone records and drop houses, written statements and a confession by me at the end. As I think back now, was my life heading into a tornado or was this a opportunity to head in a different direction. I was out long enough to see the birth of my baby girl Jaelee Freeman. Marry a woman for all the wrong reasons then take my lashes for being a drug dealer.

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I was back in the Tuscarawas County jail. This time for a final but long ride to making a major change in my life. I was found guilty and pleaded out with an offer of early parole. To the place people called the Big House. I went to a receiving center. In prison, you only came out to eat. Locked up for 23 hrs out of the day with one cell mate. You could only hope you were mates, friends of some kind. Cell door opens, I walk in and the cell door automatically shuts. A black man is taking a shit, I don’t have to look to far too see the cement block beds we had to sleep on. They were next to the toilet. I threw my inmate issued gear on the empty bed as I looked at the size of the arms on this cat. “Great” I thought, here we go. In prison and locked up with a man I don’t know. He don’t know me, but we were about to be as close a 2 people can get. We met, introduced ourselves. He led me to understand the only way to keep up in this small place we call our house is to clean up right after we are done doing what ever it was we had going on. A clean cell would make us look good in the C.O’s eyes. He said they place a white and black guy together to help keep any racial gatherings from building to cause problems in the prison. It was amazing how 2 men from different walks of life could connect on such uncommon ground. He had been there for over 6 mths and he said I’d go before he would. He taught me to keep to myself in prison and base my past on a do not tell scale. Most people passing through, yeah, they were not just passing through. I was the passer through guy. If people knew that, it would’ve been very hard on me. He continued letting me in on what it’s like being locked up for many years. 15 years to be exact! Having someone in your corner with experience like that was a great opportunity for me. I wanted as much understanding of this new environment as I could get. He didn’t have to connect with me in any way at all. We became cell mates and friends for a period of time. Passing through this life and our paths crossed. God had to of placed us together to help me see what was coming with the life I was living. This guy explained his life to a tee. As we came to understand each other, we also started fellowship.  The Holy Spirit fell on us and we were as one in line with God’s word. It was crazy to think we hit it off so well. When you fall into something you just can’t explain, it’s an act of God. I didn’t have spiritual eyes or ears to hear God. If I did, I just pushed that part of my life off to the side. I was doing things my way. My way was going to jail than landing in prison. A new chance started right here. Change I thought to myself! I didn’t really have a choice unless this path was the one I seemed content with. My stay there was soon to be over. 3 weeks of much needed crash courses about prison life. Well needed and very helpful. Leaving the Prison Receiving Center. We were all staged in bigger rooms. Kinda like sheep for the slaughter. We were sent in 5 men at a time. “Strip down Boys” that’s all I heard. The guy beside me was already naked. Hands on his knee’s. I might have had my shorts off at the point. I heard it again. “I said strip, now!” I followed what the other guys were doing. Not really knowing what was going to happen. How often in your life are you in a room with other naked men and some one else tells you to bend over. That’s just breaking every rule I know of. This wasn’t like high school wrestling, where we would run around naked and have towel snapping fights. Far from high school and far from home. This was one of my changing moments through the course of this trip to prison. The big guy beside me started talking with me. We were shackled together. He wanted to know how long I was down for. I told him 3-5. That’s what I was looking at, until told otherwise by the courts. He just nods his head. “That’s not too bad” “SHOOT WHAT?” I was thinking in my head. “Not to bad! What?”  After the belittling full body search. We were to clothe up. They came by and hand cuffed us together in pairs. I was chained to a 6’10” Big Ass King Kong. Everyone entered the travel bus. Seated 2 to a seat. Handcuffs intetwined with your partner, while your feet are cuffed together also. This bus was all white with white painted windows. Couldn’t see in or out. The same buses you see on the movies, this trip was real. No cameras, lights or action shots. Life was on hold. Time to dig deep and suck this one up and find myself in this mountain of a mess I got myself into. Once we loaded the bus the gentleman I was shackled to informed me that this was his 8th trip down. Filled me in on what goes on and what I should and shouldn’t do the first week locked up. We can call him Giant. Giant told me we were going to train together and I didn’t have to worry about food. It’s already set up. They know I’m coming and your box will be as full as mine. I didn’t get it, how could a guy open his hands and feed another guy he just met. We shared the same mindset. Train hard and keep what you got covered up. Never show them what ya got! We were on the same page. Once we got there, another full body search! This one was not as intimidating as the first one. I had my own plans! Find the chapel and start looking for the right direction in life. I had a little baby girl at home now and I was in a place I never wanted to come to again. I started training everyday. Running and weight lifting (what ever we could find or rig up for weights)I stayed to myself. I trained with Giant and spent time in the word of God. Something I knew little about. I needed real guidance and it wasn’t going to come from anyone in this place. My trip to prison was shorter than expected. I spent around 90 days. The days were long and hard to deal with.

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   The girl I was married to at the time didn’t seem to  be making the right choices while I was away. I was now being shipped to a rehabilitation center in Canton, Ohio. SRCCC was a structured environment where men were placed to see if they could walk through the proper steps in life to stay out of trouble. My 123 days locked up there were very challenging. Along with seeing people failing the program and getting shipped back to prison, I had to fight mental battles. With the inmates and with what my wife was doing while I was locked up. I wasn’t around 6 months and you would of wondered why she even wore that ring I got her. I knew my daughter was doing well. My mother in-law at the time was a stay at home mom and took good care of my little girl. While the other lady, my wife at the time, wouldn’t even come home nights. Knowing these things while being locked away made my stay away that much harder. Being locked up with a lot of criminals didn’t help the situation. Some guys had their heads together while a lot didn’t. SRCCC offered a work program along with many other classes to attend. I attended personal speaker classes, anger management and skill developing class room courses. We also had the opportunity to attend church weekly. You were not to be in any other rooms but your own. So a few of us would attend a Bible study daily to keep our minds sharp and away from the mental issues we all faced. The few guys that were involved had a lot in common and wanted to work on understanding what got us here and how to stay out. Others, well they were just putting in their time and getting contacts along the way to continue the same lifestyle. While the class time and interaction with others seemed to drag on day after day. My trip home for my first day pass away from SRCCC was getting closer. Everyone that hit the 90 day mark with no write ups or issues earned a 16 hour pass to go home. You had to be at the place you were residing and you must be within 60 seconds from the phone when they called. A lot built up for this day. Around 6 months from home. I got to see my little girl a couple of times at our weekend visits. It wasn’t really a bonding time for a father and a daughter. My wife at the time cried often and showed she missed me. I had a pretty good idea of what was going on behind the scenes. I had to swallow my pride for a while. Hoping she was just going through a phase of some kind. My first trip home in 6 months. I made it, happy and tears of joy rolled down my face to see my little girl. Only time would tell if this lady I called my wife now was going to make the cut or not. 4 hours into the visit she needed to go comfort a friend that was going through a break up. I knew the other lady. I understood her issue. She could have come to our place if it was that bad. My ex-wife continued to explain why she needed to go be beside her. It went in for an hour. I was so frustrated. I knew there was a lot more to it than she played it out to be. I was home for 16 total hours in 6 months and this is what I come home to. Remember, if I’m not by this phone, I go right to prison. They come get me! I woke up at 2 am. Stepped in to see my daughter. She was fine, great one less thing to think of. Where was my wife? Look around, nothing. I made one phone call and they told me that she was to meet their sister at the local club for beers. I’ve always wanted to tell this story in detail, just to give people an understanding of what a human heart and mind can handle under pressure and anger! I woke the mother-in-law to tell her I was going to get her daughter at the bar, I needed her keys. The outfit I was wearing for the scene, a wife beater and cut off trailer park shorts. That’s all I grew up in. The bar was great. I pulled up and saw an old friend fighting a bouncer outside by the patio, he didn’t look to good. I walked by as he yelled for me to help him out. I was greeted by a lot of drunks as I walked in. I know I was seeing red. Waiting to see her. There she was on the dance floor with some other guy. After I split the two up I asked her to go home. I was calm. How? Facing 3-5 years in prison for not being at the place you were to be at because I was chasing my wife down at the bar. She smiled and asked if she could buy me a beer. I told her she leaves now or I’ll drag her out of here by her hair. A couple drunk guys told me to stop yelling at her. I told her we were leaving one more time and I walked out. I drove back to the in-laws home. Then went to bed. I really wanted to make a point. I knew where she was and what she was doing. It came time to leave the next day. She came to me with the ring I gave her and asked if I’d take it back so we could start over. I asked a few questions based off of what I had been told while locked up. She wouldn’t say why she wanted to start over, but I knew. She was forced into a marriage because we were having a little girl. Just to please her parents. The same parents she ran away from most of her life. I was trapped in the middle of the court system with a wife that didn’t want to be married. There sat a little girl. New to this world. Needing the proper care. I was willing to look past all of this once I got back out. Get a good job and a place of our own. That might smooth things out. Start Fresh! Fresh with everything. The return back to SRCCC was fine. 30 days to go. Then back to my life again. While I was in SRCCC I met an older man who won a local Canton Toughman Tournament in 1984. I was all ears. That was my energy outlet. I needed one. I haven’t had a sport to be involved in since 1995. We were into 2000 now. I thought to myself, “That’s got to be my path. I can take all this bottled up what ever you want to call this mess and focus it in a Boxing Ring.” I gave away my 2 packs of smokes that day. Started with the basic jogging in place, push-ups and pull ups. I created a plan in my head to keep myself out of trouble. If I was so busy working and training then I wouldn’t have time to be around anyone but my family. I had to write my dad a letter, I was so excited about getting back in the gym and back on track. Telling him how I had a plan was my first step. He didn’t seem to excited about me fighting. He said I’ll support you if it keeps you out of jail son. My parents were always very supportive, even through the trouble I faced in life. As we all know, we do the crime we do the time. No one can make the choices for you in life. They can give advice or speak out of wisdom from their travels through life. I thought I didn’t need any advice. I was wrong. I was going backward and didn’t even know it. My time was coming to an end, locked away from society. I knew I had to come out with a different mindset. Different way of thinking and change a lot of my ways.

It didn’t take long to find a good paying job and get a place of our own. Wooster Ave in Dover was our new home. Skyline Mobile Homes was my new place of work. A new little baby in the home. Life was on it’s way. Moving right along. I bought a used boxing bag and hung it over a tree limb in the back yard. I had a goal to get in shape and fight in the Tri-county Toughman or the area kickboxing tournaments, whichever came first. Little did I know this path was going to turn into becoming a professional fighter. I searched for some of the toughest guys I knew of from our area. I made calls and trips to different peoples homes to box and kick box in the back yard. I really enjoyed training with Chuck Smith and Eric Ferby. They both hit and kicked the way I needed. Full go when the other guy holding the stop watch said go!! I also started out at Mr.Fountain’s Martials Arts. They had a really nice ring to train in. Great people to be around also. Really respectful Martial Arts Studio. I had my eyes set on a Tournament coming up in a couple months. Called The Bad A$$ Compatition. I signed up! Called my buddy Kenny Handcock, he informed him of what my new plans were. I was going to need help and he was involved in kickboxing through high school. We were friends and fellow wrestlers but from different schools. He went to Indian Valley and I went to a Top Knotch wrestling school Claymont High School. This all seemed to be my escape from the lifestyle I was wrapped up in for most of my life. Prison time gave me a outlook on life that I’d never had before. Changes had started but I had a long way to go. In society’s eyes I was a felon and a street fighter. I wasn’t so focused on what others thought of me. The change had to start with me. My actions through out time would speak for themselves. I didn’t carry a bad attitude toward life or people. I had something burning inside and I had to find a outlet. I was hoping this was going to be the key for my next steps in a step forward with my journey. No more steps back or treading water to stay alive. I was working to be a step ahead at all times. 

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 Jason Freebird Freeman

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