"These LFOs stop people from succeeding. Your whole objective is to keep people, the community safe. But you're trying to keep the community safe from people that you’re forcing to be failures. . . These prisoners get out with no type of support. Some of 'em get out with no type of education. There’s no way that you’re gonna get that money from a person like that at all. . . . People are afraid because they can’t afford it. They want to do the right thing. Nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to grow up and fail. Nobody wants to go to jail. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to have to do the things they do in order to survive. But it’s the way people live when you force them to live like that."
On The Stress Of LFOs . . .
"The stress is just overwhelming. When you get those LFO payments in the mail and you just look at how much interest they just keep puttin’ on after you already tried to pay twenty dollars to knock a chunk off seems like you just puttin’ more interest on top of it. It’s like your twenty dollars just isn’t doing anything. You are just throwing away twenty dollars for nothing, which is another reason why a person would not want to give their money away. I could do a lot of things with that twenty dollars. It just stresses me out because I feel like if I don’t give my twenty dollars away, and my CCO looks it up, and he says, 'oh you haven’t made a payment in about six months,' depending on his personal day and how he feels, you just throw me in jail for the hell of it. I don’t have a CCO like that – he’s a fair guy. People are afraid because they can’t afford it. They want to do the right thing. Nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to grow up and fail. Nobody wants to go to jail. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to have to do the things they do in order to survive. But it’s the way people live when you force them to live like that."
On Second Chances . . .
"Unconsciously I got lost somewhere down the line. It happens. But I get sick and tired of when that stuff happens, you get locked up and you get a felony, people start to act like you got leprosy or something. Not part of the human race any more. It’s not ok to make mistakes. You’ll never make it. We’ll punish you for the rest of your life for making a mistake like that. “Because people don’t change. People don’t change.” Well, how can they change without giving them the chance? How can they change if you deny them education. How can they change if you don’t allow them to get a job? How can they change if you don’t just allow them to breathe a bit?"
After serving a five-year prison term, Breon was released in 2015. Breon now juggles his full-time student responsibilities, a part-time job, and being a father to two teenage daughters. He also commutes to school two hours each way, rising at 4:40am to make it to an 8am class. He attributes his strong work ethic to his mother, who worked constantly while on her own raising Breon, his three brothers, and his two sisters.
Breon started community college in the spring of 2016, thanks to the Post-Prison Education program, who walked him through the process of enrolling and getting financial aid.
Breon owes about $4,000 in LFOs and is making $20 payments as often as he can towards that debt.
In Breon's Own Words . . .
On Legal Financial Obligations . . .
"These LFOs stop people from succeeding. Your whole objective is to keep people, the community safe. But you're trying to keep the community safe from people that you’re forcing to be failures. If a person can’t pay their LFOs, and they can’t get their license, and they need to go to work to feed their children, and they work way over here and they have a car and they get pulled over, you are forcing a person to have to break the laws in order to feed their family.
These prisoners get out with no type of support. Some of 'em get out with no type of education. There’s no way that you’re gonna get that money from a person like that. at all. Because they are not even thinking about paying that LFO. They are thinking about whatever they have to do to survive. And sometimes that means doing exactly what they did to get them incarcerated. And you’re not helping anybody by putting all this stress and strain on them instead of having programs available and ready for them so they can become great people in society. And do good things and be able to pay off their LFOs and get off of probation the right way.
Probation is supposed to be 36 months. If I can pay the LFOs and stay outta trouble that entire time, that’s what it is. If I can’t pay my LFOs, they’ll extend it. That’s what they do to everybody. You can’t pay your LFOs, they keep you on probation."
On Racial Discrimination . .
"I see what this system is. And it really doesn’t help because my perspective has changed so much due to education and being in the human services field. You really see the discrimination. You really see what your ancestors and your grandparents went through to get you the rights that you have. It’s seemed like everything a black person tried to do they just sabotaged it because they never wanted us to succeed. I’m not trying to be on my whole black power civil rights type of thing but they never wanted us to succeed. Do you know how that makes me feel being a kid with a vivid imagination having white, black, chinese friends? We played, laughed, joked, and we loved everybody. We didn’t know anything about racism until I hit a certain age and I realized that I have a 400-year disadvantage because of the color of my skin. I was hated from the day I was born. And nobody even knew me."