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My Week in Detox

He told us his name was Ray Casados but on the street they called him Rah-Rah. He was a young tatted up heroin addict who was spending 90 days at the Hoy Recovery Program in Velarde, New Mexico, hoping he could finally kick the habit that had him by the balls, and move forward with a new life as a barber. He hailed from nearby Espanola, a drug trafficking corridor with multigenerational drug abuse and entrenched, life crushing poverty.  Rio Arriba County where he lives has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in the country.  Ray wanted to stop dealing drugs, to make money legitimately, and stay out of jail. He knew this was his last chance, that if he didn’t get his shit together he would probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

We met Ray and the other clients at Hoy while attending Ami Vitale’s multimedia course at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.  It was a five day intensive that taught us how to tell our stories using DSLR cameras and Final Cut Pro.  Neither my partner, Karsten Balsley, or I had shot or edited video before, and like Ray, our learning curve was incredibly steep.  I shot with a Nikon D7000, Karsten with a Nikon D3S.  We are both accomplished photographers but everything was different.  We were told out of the gate that we would learn from our failures and over the week there were many mistakes and setbacks.  Karsten was cracking up as he helped log the tape because he could hear me saying “shit, shit, shit” as things went to hell in a handbasket.

For me the biggest revelation was that with multimedia production I could get out of my news box and break rules that have been ingrained in my head for 30 years.  I was also forced to be aware of things I simply take for granted when working with professional photojournalists and, especially, sound men.  I count on my photographers to notice things like lighting and composition so I can pay attention to producing.  Now I was doing it all myself.  These days in news production, sound men are often left by the wayside, but you come to edit with screwed up audio and you’ll tear your hair out.  I can’t thank Ami enough for her creativity, Jake for his patience and Final Cut expertise, and my classmates for their support as they struggled through their own projects.  We completed our stories in four days. No one got much sleep.

The week of the course was one of the most intense of my life, but at the end Karsten and I returned to Hoy and showed our piece to Ray and the other men and women at the center.  Throughout my career I have not had many opportunities to sit in a room with people watching my work. For this audience, that has been through so much, there was laughter and back slapping and especially gratitude that we were able to look at them and see their humanity. I know I saw Ray sit up taller that afternoon.  I believe Ray, Karsten and I now have a skill set we can use to make a difference for ourselves and for others, all because of our time in detox.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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Cons Cashing In

Dave Dahl sits in the living room playing guitar and singing songs about justice and the lack of it.  He was in the slammer off and on for 15 years for dealing meth and assorted other felonies.  Now he is working and relishing his second chance.  Four years ago, Dave Dahl returned to the family bakery in Portland, Oregon and is the face and story behind Dave’s Killer Bread which is a huge hit in the Pacific Northwest. 

In Chicago a group of ex-cons are getting a second chance at a fast food restaurant called Felony Franks.  They are grateful that someone gave them jobs and don’t really understand why there is a ruckus over the name.  Jim Andrews who owns the hot dog stand thinks people who are threatening to shut the place down just don’t want felons in the neighborhood.  The homeowners say they think the name is disrespectful, racist, and reminds people of what the West Side used to be like.

Ex-cons are not a circle of people I am usually in contact with but I was impressed by their honesty, their ambition, their desire to contribute.  They want to work and be integrated into society again.  These are stories of redemption and rehabilitation and as HDNet’s World Report discovered some cons are using their pasts to cash in and create a much brighter future for themselves and their families.

Cons Cashing In from Vicky Collins on Vimeo.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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What I Learned from Ex-Cons

They were sitting in the living room playing guitars and singing songs about justice and the lack of it.  They had taught themselves to play in prison and they were good.  Dave was in the slammer off and on for 15 years for dealing meth and assorted other felonies.  Ladd served 20 years for being an accessory to murder.  They met in prison and stayed friends on the outside.  They were both working and relishing their second chances.  This time they swear they won’t throw their lives away.

Over the past week I have had a chance to meet several ex-cons who have been blessed with a second chance.  Dave Dahl returned to the family bakery in Portland, Oregon and is the face and story behind Dave’s Killer Bread which has taken off in the Pacific Northwest.  Dave has become a celebrity and his bread is flying off the shelf.  Ladd works in the bakery store.  He is also a face to the public.  For whatever bad judgements they made back then they are contributing members of society now.

In Chicago a group of ex-cons are getting a second chance at a fast food restaurant called Felony Franks.  They are grateful that someone gave them jobs and don’t really understand why there is ruckus over the name.  Jim Andrews who owns the place says his hot dog stand is bringing more prosperity to the neighborhood and is cutting down on crime.  He thinks people who are threatening to shut him down just don’t want felons in the neighborhood.  The homeowners say they think the name is disrespectful, racist, and reminds people of what the West Side used to be like.  They would rather people see a gentrified, changing community.

This is not a circle of people I am usually in contact with but I was impressed by their honesty, their ambition, their desire to contribute.  We need to figure out ways to integrate former felons into society again.  Otherwise there are no options but to continue lives of crime which victimize people in society.  Of course not all are worthy and some crimes are too heinous to forgive but if the men I met are an example there are many more stories of redemption and rehabilitation waiting to be told.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.