ANJC fundraiser makes re-starting life after prison possible
Jayson Buzby sat in prison, wondering what would happen next. He never could have predicted that he would get a phone call that would change everything.
“I had never really been in any kind of serious trouble before, and I had no idea if I was going to go away for years or decades,” Jayson recalled. At the time, he was struggling with a sever alcohol and drug addiction, which was what landed him in prison. “Then I got a phone call. Somebody close to me had died of an overdose. I hadn’t even known they were using drugs.”
“That moment, that was my breaking point,” he went on. “I decided that I was going to be open to new things and walk that positive path.”
But how does someone in the prison system find that positive path? Jayson did it with the help of the Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC).
Choosing the Positive Path
As part of its mission to achieve justice for Alaska Native people and other Alaskans, ANJC provides aid to individuals returning to society after incarceration through its Reentry program. The organization regularly conducts in-reach at Alaskan prisons, offering support groups, case management, reentry planning, and information on additional ANJC services that can help them successfully transition back into their lives upon release.
In prison, Jayson spotted a flyer advertising ANJC services. “I’d had a lot of time to sit and evaluate my life and realize that I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he described. “There had to be something better out there.”
He reminded himself that he’d committed to trying new, positive things. That’s how he found himself sitting in on a meeting of fellow inmates, all of whom talked about their plans for the future, with an emphasis on learning to cope and deal with the situations life threw at them.
“I thought it was pretty cool, so I hung around,” Jayson said. That decision triggered a series of changes that would transform his life upon release.
A New Life
“By the time I got out of prison, I had burned pretty much every bridge,” Jayson admitted. But there was one bridge left: While incarcerated, Jayson had created real, trusting relationships with much of the ANJC staff. Upon his release, one of his first stops was at the ANJC offices.
“They were essentially my family and my welcoming party. I knew I didn’t have a lot of things figured out, but they were there to help me get plugged in and do the things I needed to do once I got out. They supported me and encouraged me, however I needed them to.”
For the previously incarcerated, ANJC provides life skills classes, vocational and work training resources, housing assistance, and community service participation.
In the life skills classes, Jayson received anger management training and coping skills. “Things you take for granted,” he described. “You don’t realize that not everyone is born with these tools in their toolbox — the stuff that helps you find success in life.”
He was heartened by the community service he participated in, too, like cleaning up local parts and aiding the homeless. “It’s not only important to make it out of that life of negativity, but to lend a helping hand to the people coming behind you,” he said.
With the guidance of ANJC, Jayson is now nine years sober — and his life has changed dramatically. Today, he is an upstanding Anchorage business owner, with a wife and two kids; he now owns two homes and has two dogs.
“I work hard every day,” he shared. “My life is mine to live, but you need those positive people there to encourage you to do that stuff — it makes all the difference in the world. That’s what ANJC was for me.”
For nearly 25 years, ANJC has been paving a positive path to success for those who are reentering society after incarceration. The work done by ANJC is made possible, in part, by our annual fundraiser. This year, the theme of our fundraiser is Voices for Justice, reflecting the many voices needed — from our staff, our supporters, our participants, and our community — to speak out for justice on behalf of Alaska Native people. You can learn more about this year’s fundraiser at www.citci.org.
For more information on the Alaska Native Justice Center, please visit www.anjc.org.