Hello! My name is Damion Butterfield. I am 18 years old and am currently incarcerated at the Cumberland County Jail.
At this time I have spent a total of approximately 5 years incarcerated starting at the age of 12. Most of the early charges were for truancy and fighting, which evolved into drug use and selling along with trafficking guns. I dropped out school at 13 so I never experienced a normal teenage life. In April, 2015 I was sentenced to Long Creek until I turned 18. I was 14 at the time. I truly believe that with all I have been through, all the violence I have witnessed and been part of, that if I had not been committed in 2015 and had all these years to work on my life, I would be dead. During the years I was in Long Creek I faced a lot of challenges and feelings I didn’t know I had. I went to classes, earned a high school diploma, attended programs on anger management and substance abuse, participated in Saturday morning chapel services and listened to speakers who survived and grew into responsible adults with the help of their faith in God. I got a bible and read it during my long cell hours. Finally, one Saturday when we were asked to stand if we wanted to accept Jesus as our savior, I stood up.
Up until that time I never trusted anyone. My relationship with my father was a very big problem and it was where I focused all of my anger and frustrations. As a child, my father was my hero. As I got older, I saw him brought home by the police many times and I became disillusioned, which turned into hate. That anger filled my heart and mind and helped me to avoid forgiveness and acceptance.
In 2016 I met Sandra Kenney, a volunteer from The Transformation Project. She became my biggest supporter after coming to my unit and working with me regularly. She never let me down and kept visiting me even when I was at some of my lowest points. We talked and wrote together. I began to share my feelings with her over time. We are still in frequent communication and I now call her Grandma Kenney.
I still harbored resentment for my father. If he visited me I would not talk to him. Gradually my heart began to melt and one day, on an impulse, I called him at his work. When I heard his voice I didn’t know what to say. Since he was at work we finished our call quickly. Just before I hung up my father said, “Just remember you are my son and I love you.” A miracle!
I will never forget my high school graduation day at Long Creek. My father sat directly across from me and I watched the pride in his eyes. His tears and his smile made me so happy. I was the first one to graduate in my family. Now we can visit and I can talk to him the way I always wanted. I never thought it would happen. God makes the impossible possible.
I became institutionalized during those long years. Now I am about to face the scariest test – I expect to be released from Cumberland County Jail this fall. I have no identification, and no skills. I have learned that five of my friends that were released fell back into the familiar life and they are now dead. I am a trustee at the jail and clean floors nightly. I attend chapel and classes and am experiencing small freedoms as I prove my ability to be trusted. There are so many unknowns ahead and I do not want to go back to my old neighborhood where there are too many memories. This is why I’m praying for The Transformation Project!
I need a transitional place to live and find my way back into society. I want to become a productive citizen and begin working. I recognize all the challenges of reentry but I need the support of men I can trust. The Transformation Project would give me an opportunity to gradually learn about a world I have never known. I have set my mind on a new course and need a place to help me transition. May God provide the miracle of opportunity so that my future opens up a chance to prove that I have changed. My goal someday is to work with young people who are in prison since I have the experience to be able to relate to them.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my story.