Today is February 26. This interview is being conducted in Lithonia, Georgia. Do I have your consent to record you and use your likeness?
During the DeKalb County listening session, a DeKalb County sanitation worker expressed concerns for his coworkers that were convicted felons and how they were not receiving adequate pay based on their past convictions. That led to Canopy Atlanta Senior Fellow Ann Hill Bond to start exploring reentry programs in South DeKalb and how returning citizens could navigate and resocialize back in society. Having returning citizens successfully reenter society reduces recidivism and improves public safety. What is your full name?
My name is Jeffrey Jerome Stargell Jr.
Do I have your permission to record this interview?
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. October 8, 1982.
Okay, what did your community look like? Outside your family? Meaning besides your mom, your brother, like the people that was inside of your household? What did that family look like outside of that household?
Well, my family were kind of like family-oriented. You know, everybody stuck together you know, looking out for one another when one went down or didn't have, the other one was there to aid and assist.
Okay, do you remember any like childhood friends or how you met any childhood friends, what you guys might have shared in common?
Well, growing up, I had like a big friend named Brian and, you know, he was into like racing cars and things like that. His dad was like, he was like a real mechanic, high performance, you know, and me and bro we kind of meet up on some like remote control car type shit. He used to get there, take the motor out the other remote control car, put them in all to make them faster and shit like that, You know, that was some of the type shit I was on.
Okay, well, a little more intimate. Tell me about the house you grew up in, like what you remember like furniture or what y'all did on certain days, or traditions, such as coming in the house on New Year's, it had to be a certain way. Like, do you remember anything about your old house you grew up in?
Well, like my household, you know, we grew up in like a pretty well like a single parent home you know where it was just like my mom. And you know, she held it down, you know what I'm saying, and she had five kids. She did everything she could to goddamn make sure we had everything we needed, you know what I'm saying.
More you know, positive level, fun level, do you remember what type of clothes you wore when you was little? Any name brands? Any way you used to dress?
You know, listen man we had the finest of the finest. The Bugle Boys, the Jordan Airs, Cross Colours... just to name a few.
Sounds like a good time. You remember your first job?
My first job man was at Gresham Park Recreation Center, man, I was a junior counselor. And what my job consisted of you know was like, watching over the young kids. I think the age group was like eight to nine, you know, we take them out to the swimming pool, we go on field trips, we talk to them, you know, just try to teach them the right thing.
Okay, wassup, wassup, wassup. What lessons you learn at that job?
The lesson that I learned in that job, man, I would say by being less, they paid us $133 man, hey, listen man, my lesson I learned, never settle for less.
Okay, tell me about your background, how you grew up in DeKalb County.
Man, growing up in DeKalb County, man, it was kind of like it was kind of really like rough and rugged, you know, like when they say the trenches, you know, 107 Glenwood, that's the trenches, you know, and then where I grew up at, you know, a lot of violence, lot of killing and a lot of robbing going on, you know, and smoking, you know, fighting, all that, you know, we went through all that, I've seen it, I've been in all of it.
You spoke on a couple of them just then, but if you can identify one of them, what was your biggest challenge growing up?
My biggest challenge growing up was like I would say like, the poverty. You know, like the drugs, you know what I'm saying, like, a lot of my family they smoked dope. The crack era, you know what they say, it was like the drug abuse. That was like one of my biggest challenges.
Can you tell me about your experience returning to Dekalb County after your incarceration?
Man, it was like something that I ain't ever seen. It took me a minute and I'm still getting adjusted to it because, you know, I did 20 years in prison. And when I came home a lot of things they had done changed, you know, for all the like technology, you know, like how to operate a TV, something so simple as that you know, just the technology, a lot of technology, man, things they'd done changed or upgraded.
Okay. How did the community receive you, and what's your biggest challenges you face since returning?
Man, the community, man, they embraced me with open arms and you know, I appreciate that. One of my biggest challenges so far man was like, dealing with the females, you know? It's crazy. Especially like when you have kids, you got to make sure you have those kids by the right person, choose who you have those kids by, you know, the right person.
If you had to say one thing, what has been the most difficult aspect of your reentry?
One of the most difficult is like finding like, being that I'm a convicted felon, it's kind of hard to like, you know, apply for like certain housing and things to that effect, you know, like, cause when you're a convicted felon, they really don't want to mess with you like that, you know what I mean, so like as far as housing. Job-wise, certain types of jobs, you know, it's easy to get a warehouse job, a certain kind of job, you know what I'm saying. Your background, that will kind of hinder you from reaching your full potential.
Can you discuss any support services or resources that have been helpful to you since you've been out or reentered?
Well, I'm just saying now, my family has been like the biggest support for me of them all. You know, I've met a lot of people along the way that they've been very supportive as well. But like as far as like agencies and things to that effect, I haven't even took the time out to utilize all the resources that I have.
How has your mindset or perspective changed since you've been released?
Well, I no longer think the way I used to think, you know what I'm saying. I think before I act, and I realize that every action don't deserve a reaction. You know what I'm saying, sometimes you got to be the bigger person and just walk away.
Last question: What advice would you give to someone who is being released from prison and returned to DeKalb County?
Man, the biggest advice I can give to anybody being released from prison, man, or just being released out of any institution, that would be to just have your plan because if you plan to fail, you fail to plan, you know what I'm saying. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, you know. That's just the big advice I can give.
Well, thank you, Mr. Stargell, this interview has been great.