While Kedar was never suspended from school and did not have any brushes with the law in his youth, he fell on some hard times as a young adult. Over the course of his lifetime, he was arrested various times for selling drugs, theft, and possession of weapons, and his time in prison amounts to a total of 23 years.
After being released from prison this past winter, Kedar was determined to improve his life for good. He took action by voluntarily enrolling in our program at Martin’s Place—the New Jersey Reentry Corporation’s (NJRC) headquarters in Jersey City—and he successfully completed the full week of employment training. In just a few weeks, he was offered a job as a baker, which is a job title he held in prison and brought lots of experience to the table. When he visited us at Martin’s Place in March, he smiled brightly as he shared that he would start his new job the next day. His smile is contagious, and you can’t help but smile along with him.
When Kedar began to share the story of his time behind bars, his smile faded as the conversation shifted to his son. When 23 years of a father’s life are spent in prison, he misses out on so many milestones in the lives of his children.
“I didn’t get to see my son graduate,” he said, his eyes now filling with tears. “I didn’t see him get married. I’ve given up too much. It got to the point where I said, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Kedar also credits his mother, 72, for inspiring him to change. She was a constant support system throughout his imprisonment, and he currently resides with her as he saves up for his own apartment.
“No matter how many times I said not to come to prison and see me, she still came. She visited so much that at one point, I wouldn’t put her on the waiting list,” he explained, his expression doleful. “She would visit every week, every two weeks—she has two hip transplants.”
The support and dedication she showed him was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” Kedar said. She really helped him get his life back on track.
Kedar also credits Integrity House and the NJRC in helping him. He recalls a time in 2012 when Jim McGreevey, Chairman, NJRC was working as a spiritual counselor at Integrity House and visited him in prison. At the time, Kedar was struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had to take steroids for asthma. He had a very bad cold, and his steroid medication had to be increased. But while that was being handled, Kedar’s vision was worsening; he was going blind.
New glasses were desperately needed but not available. When Jim met Kedar and soon learned of his deteriorating vision, he removed his own glasses and handed them to Kedar without hesitation. “Try these,” he told him. When the glasses were a perfect fit for Kedar, Jim instructed him to keep them. He told Kedar that he was starting a second chance program (now the NJRC) and to see him as soon as he got out of prison.
Kedar did not forget. That’s why he came right to Martin’s Place as soon as he was released from prison this past winter. His motivation was impeccable. After completing the employment and training program, he visited our site regularly to use the computers, in order to search for and apply to jobs. It only took him two weeks to land a job as a baker.
“I’m here because I chose to come here,” he said of his time at Martin’s Place. “Until you choose to do something for yourself, you’ll continue to do the same thing.”
“I wasn’t there to raise my kids,” Kedar said of his life in the criminal justice system. “Maybe someone else can learn from my experiences, to not make the same choices I made.” He said he would be interested in serving as a mentor for others in our program if the opportunity arises.
After our interview, Kedar was on his way to take his mother grocery shopping. Now that he is free, he is looking forward to spending quality time with his sons and grandchildren.