In Kyrrah's Own Words..
On Legal Financial Obligations . . .
"You can't apply for the certification of rehabilitation through the state until you've been off paper for a class B or class C felony for seven years after you've paid all your legal financial obligations. So if I don't get in trouble for seven years after my probation, that should prove that I’m a decent person? Why should I have to pay to prove that? I can't be a changed person because I'm poor? I can't become a better person and have some debt? How many people in America have debt?
You caused this debt. You put us in this position to be unable to pay this debt. A lot of people I know would be willing and able to make more of an effort to pay it, if they saw some sort of end to it. But like me, I will never see an end to it at this point, until there is some reform. . . . It makes me angry. It's kind of depressing. The system of laws that we created for ourselves is used against us. The criminal justice system in America is: you're innocent until you can prove that you didn't do it or can afford to pay a lawyer to help you prove that you didn't do it. If you're poor, and you've made a series of bad decisions, and you've gotten caught for those bad decisions, you will be forever under their thumb.
It's horrible. It's not allowing people to live their present without being defined by their past. I know I'm not that guy. I'm not the same person I was when I was convicted. I haven't been that person for a long time. But the way things are currently, I can't ever foresee being completely out from underneath that stigma or that thumb of owing for something I did. Yes I did and yes I paid my debt to society. What happened to that? I pay my debt, I can't get housing. I can't get jobs. I’m discriminated against because of the stigma attached to being a convict. I can never get out from debt."
It's disheartening. It's not allowing people to live their present without being defined by their past. . . . I'm not the same person I was when I was convicted. I haven't been that person for a long time. But the way things are currently, I can't ever foresee being completely out from underneath that stigma or that thumb of owing for something I did. I paid my debt to society. What happened to that? I pay my debt, I can't get housing. I can't get jobs. I’m discriminated against because of the stigma attached to being a convict. I've made all these other positive changes and I want to pay these off. I want to be out from underneath all of my past.. . . I can't be a changed person because I'm poor?
For over fifteen years, Kyrrah was homeless and addicted to heroin. In addition to a few misdemeanors, Kyrrah was convicted of eluding a police officer and intimidating a witness. He served five years, four months, and twenty-nine days in a Washington State prison. Upon release from prison in March 2016, Kyrrah immediately enrolled in a community college, where he is earning his second Associate of Arts Degree with a 4.0 GPA. Kyrrah will transfer to a four-year college this fall.
In addition to being a full-time college student, Kyrrah serves as a teaching assistant for 12 hours per week, works at his college information desk 7 hours per week, tutors math 7 hours per week, and volunteers 25 hours per week helping re-entry students navigate their way through the college bureaucracy.
He estimates that he owes $15,000 in legal financial obligations. "A lot more people I know would be able to and willing to make more of an effort to pay it, if they saw some sort of end to it. But like me, I will never see an end to it at this point until there is some reform."
On helping other Re-Entry Students . . .
"If you need my help, call me. I want people to effect a change in their own life. I do a lot of 'dad' lectures to students. “You went back to jail on violation so now you’ve missed more days than you’ve actually attended. Where you going with this? What do we need to do to help you not go back to jail? What do you need to get in a program? Is it that you are getting dirty UAs or is it that you don’t have confidence or you need tutoring' and find them resources that they need. I help them do it for themselves. You are dirty, you just peed for your housing, you better tell him before it comes back dirty because you are going to lose your housing. But if you tell him and ask him for help and actually get the help, you are not going to lose your housing. I never thought I’d tell somebody to tell on themselves before. . . . It’s awesome to see the changes people make. Their interactions with the people they’ve been in trouble with before. It’s just awesome. I never understood my mom being a social worker and a teacher and all that. And now I get it. You know, teaching people and seeing that light switch flick on when they get it, they understand it, they can do it on their own. It’s awesome."