Mark’s Story

48 years ago Comments Off on Mark’s Story

While studying radiology after graduating from North Shore High School in Houston, Mark was preparing himself to thoroughly examine the inner workings of the people represented in his X-rays. Mark never dreamed he would be his own first patient, re-examining his life, finding out what went wrong and developing a plan of action to prevent further problems.Just meeting Mark, it would be easy to imagine that he had already completed his education and was now a man with a successful career. His face expressive, his speech flawless, and he comes across as any other professional would.Mark knows his topic well, but his knowledge doesn’t come from years of sitting in a classroom and reading about others’ lives, it comes from a total understanding achieved only through personal experience.Mark is one of several Texas Department Criminal Justice inmates currently participating in Operation Kick-It, a community service program that introduces young people to the reality of prison life and how anyone can end up there. As a two-year veteran of the program, Mark speaks with a commitment and conviction not often seen in the general inmate population.Mark describes his family as the “typical American family”. His mom and dad both worked hard, attended church and encouraged their children to do the same and become successful. In school, Mark was picked on a lot because of his size and the fact that he wore glasses, so he struggle to find a way to fit in with the “rest of the crowd.”Drugs were the way Mark was eventually accepted by his peers. Despite his involvement with drugs, he graduated from high school and was accepted into a radiology program through the Harris County Hospital District.Although his parents were now divorced, they both provided Mark with the money he needed to attend school.”They paid for my books, tuition, spending money, everything,” he said.Eventually, drugs took over Mark’s life, and he flunked out of school. In an effort to get money, he agreed to help rob a store. His cousin, having previously worked at the store, already had a plan.What Mark didn’t plan for was that his cousin would leave him during the crime, and he would be caught.”I faced 65 years in prison. When it was over, I got 12 (for aggravated robbery),” he said.”Being in prison has forced me to grow up. Here, you have no privacy. You can’t go to the bathroom or take a shower by yourself. Somebody tells you what to do, when to do it and how to do it. You miss the small things, like being able to talk on the phone or talk to your parents,” he said, “These are all things I gave up because I chose to commit a crime.”A main factor in Mark’s life and the life of many other inmates in this program was the effect of peer pressure they felt during their lives. Now, he knows just being himself and making his own choices are the keys to success.”If you have to sacrifice your personal integrity to get other people to accept you, then, basically, you become a slave to other people,” he said. “You know if you get caught, you’ll get in trouble, but because you want to be part of the group, you go along with it.”Mark said he has heard many young people who use drugs or drink alcohol say they didn’t think it was fair that they get in trouble for something they feel doesn’t really harm anyone.”What you feel has nothing to do with the law,” Mark said. “If you choose to use drugs or to drink alcohol and drive, whether you feel like you can handle yourself or not, it’s against the law, and there are consequences for what you choose to do.”