From Supermax to a Family of Four

A mere sixteen months ago, Casey Holden's life was neatly stored within seventy square feet of cell space in the Colorado State Penitentiary. Released in January 2007 directly to the street after four years of 23-hour-a-day lockdown and a decade spent mostly behind bars, the 26-year-old seemed to be facing insurmountable odds in his quest to complete three years of parole, find a job and walk the straight and narrow — an odyssey chronicled in our blog series "I Shall Be Released.

But the news from Holden just keeps getting better. After struggling with a low-paying job at a Grand Junction pizza parlor, while trying to keep up with mandatory drug tests, classes and restitution, Holden finally persuaded his parole officer to let him roam a bit further in his search for decent wages and a stable home life. Last fall he moved on to a company that helps supply drilling companies in the Western Slope's gas fields, then to the drilling operation itself. Now he's a floor hand, pulling down respectable pay — and he needs it, for the burgeoning family he's started.

Holden's brand-new twins, Asten Snow Holden and Brett Morgan Holden, just came home from the hospital this week. Mother Shauna Lee and babies are all doing fine. Holden's driving a new Jeep Cherokee and grabbing what shuteye he can between feedings and duties in the field. It's an astonishing turnaround, given the parole failure rate, but Holden insists it's just a matter of finding confidence and pursuing your dreams.

"If you want to go somewhere, it's on you to do it," he says. In his case, his dogged pursuit of a roughneck's wages made a big difference, he adds. Too many parolees get stuck working marginal, below-subsistence-level jobs, where the temptations to give up or go back to a life of drugs and crime can be overwhelming. "When you have a good job, you don't have a reason to do anything wrong."

These days Holden has plenty of reasons to do things right. And two more just arrived. – Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin