Busting Out of the Revolving Door

When Casey Holden hit the streets last January, fresh from four years of solitary confinement and an adult life spent almost entirely behind bars, the odds of him going anywhere but right back to the Colorado prison system were extra-heavy. Sam-Adams-before-NFL-training-camp kind of heavy. How's a 26-year-old ex-con with an authority problem and three years of mandatory parole supposed to find a job, pay restitution, jump through the parole office's hoops, stay clean, finish school and stay sane, anyway?

But as anyone who's followed our blog series on Holden's progress knows by now, Casey keeps beating the odds. Eight months later, he's not only still on the streets, he's thriving. And the crucial difference, he says, has been finding a decent job.

A few months after his release, Holden made the move from a dead-end job in a Grand Junction pizza parlor to much more demanding (and much better paying) duties with a company that helps supply drilling companies in the Western Slope's gas fields. It's hard, gritty work, but Holden has grabbed all the overtime he can and banked the proceeds. He now has his own place and is saving up for his own truck.

"If you're willing to work, this is the place," he reports. "We're busy as hell, balls to the wall. I love it."

There were a few anxious moments early in the process. His parole officer wasn't eager to have Holden working out in the field, which made it harder for him to rush into town for required drug tests. He had to put his college education on hold again but hopes to resume in a few months. And he still has some required "reintegration" courses to take. But he's been doing so well that the demands for him to pee in a cup have slackened to twice a month, rather than several times a week, and his employer is talking promotion.

Whatever problems Holden encountered as an adolescent that sent him spiraling into the criminal justice system — drugs, boredom, whatever — they seem to have been supplanted by a gung-ho attitude toward earning real capitalist cash by the sweat of his brow. Working sometimes from before dawn to ten at night, Holden says he only wishes parole has 24-hour urinalysis tests available, so he could take less time from work.

"If you had a 24-hour UA center in Grand Junction, you'd never miss one," he muses. "But hey, I'm working, dude. I'm there."

With a little luck, Holden figures to be working directly on the gas rigs this fall. That's an amazing journey for someone who was spending 23 hours a day in a cell in supermax less than a year ago. But determination sometimes brings its own luck, and Holden is definitely there. – Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin