"My 14-year-old son was killed following in my footsteps," shares Jason Johnson. "He was in a high-speed police chase, driving the car … I taught my son to do what killed him."
Jason was in his 20s when he first got caught for drug charges. His time in prison did little to rehabilitate him.
"When I got out, I wasn't in any hurry to change," he admits. Instead, Jason returned to his old habits and learned new ones, too. He ran up additional drug charges, an assault charge, and more. "Criminal life was the life I had chosen," Jason explains. "It was all I wanted."
THE PRODIGAL FATHER
Prison solidified Jason's perception of himself as a criminal. He came into prison with an earned reputation as a gang-member, and he continued to maintain that image in prison. Jason ultimately joined the Aryan Brotherhood while behind bars.
"I was just trying to defend myself, protect myself, and become who I was," Jason says. "I just had to prove myself in prison."
Jason's life choices impacted more than just him—it impacted his relationship to his children.
"Like I said, my son was killed following in my footsteps," he says. "I lost complete contact with my daughter. I didn't have hardly any family left. They were all tired of dealing with me."
The death of his son hit Jason hard. He couldn't forgive himself for the influence he had had over his son. As he grieved, Jason realized that he wasn't going to find the change and the family he so desperately wanted if he continued to live as he did.
"All my life, the gang members that I hung with and ran with gave me everything I wanted, but nothing that I needed," he explains.
And then Jason stumbled upon Prison Fellowship®.
A NEW FAMILY
Jason remembers his confusion and surprise when he first began attending Prison Fellowship Academy sessions. As a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, he had a clearly defined view of prison life and culture. But Prison Fellowship defied everything he believed.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28, NIV)
"I was a racist. I was a white supremacist," he explains. "And when I got to Prison Fellowship [and saw] blacks and whites [as] friends, that was all new to me."
Throughout his life, Jason had looked for acceptance and family, but it wasn't until he met Jesus Christ that he found it—and more. He became a Christian, and he let go of his old life steeped in crime and racism.
"After I came to Christ … [I] realized I didn't hate anybody for their color … I hated myself [and I] had to take it out on someone else."
A CHILD OF GOD
Thanks to the Prison Fellowship Academy, when Jason was released just a couple of months ago, he found himself equipped and focused on making the most of his second chance at life. The friends he made in the Academy are now his brothers in Christ. They come from all walks of life, and they love Jason and look out for him.
Jason believes that God used Prison Fellowship to help transform him from a criminal to a child of God. He has discovered his true self as a man, a father, and a Christian.
When asked where he would be if his life hadn't changed, Jason is quick to respond.
"I would be dead. No question. I would be dead."