Jason Martin has a long and checkered past.

By the age of 18 he had been arrested for operating after suspension and three theft charges. He was sentenced to two and a half years and was released after two.

After his release Jason stayed out for only three months, and then picked up new charges for burglary and theft, after which he was sentenced to two and a half years again. He did his two and a half years and was then released.

Once again Jason only stayed out for four months before committing more burglary and theft. This would be his longest sentence yet. For this the state sentenced him to five years with all but three suspended and three years of probation. These crimes were committed in an effort to feed his ever-evolving drug habit.

Jason said he would get out of prison with no money and no idea of how to stay sober, so he would then go back to what he knew, which was a life of crime. After this sentence, Jason began to realize he needed to start doing things a little differently, but he still didn't know how.

He found full-time employment and stayed off drugs with nothing but his will power to stay out of prison. After nine months, Jason says, he sustained an injury that put him in the emergency room, and with no tools in place to protect him from his addictions, he was prescribed pain medication. He was off and running again.

Within 30 days Jason had committed more burglaries and was soon sentenced to three and a half years to wrap up his probation. During this sentence Jason was introduced to the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He started to work the steps with a sponsor and began acquiring some tools to prevent his addictions from running and ruining his life.

But when Jason got out this time he stayed out for only 28 days. This is where Jason’s past decisions had come back to haunt him. He wasn’t arrested for the same charges as before — he was arrested for receiving stolen property — but because of his past, what would have been misdemeanor charges were bumped up to felonies. Due to Jason’s record he was given yet another lengthy sentence of three and a half years.

Jason grew up in and around the Penobscot County area, and as a young adult he saw people partying around him and dealing drugs. Hanging around criminals and getting involved in criminal activity was an everyday thing. He says he hung around a lot of adults and did whatever he had to do to fit in with the crowd, even if it meant getting in trouble and going to prison.

Jason realized during his current prison sentence that this life was starting to take a toll on his relationships and his overall quality of life.

“I am better than this and I deserve a better life than this,” says Jason. “I want to turn things around in my life and try to help others from going down the same roads that I have gone down.”

When I met Jason I could tell that he had a fire in his eye and was eager to be here and make some changes. At this point he is working hard to try to rebuild relationships with his parents and taking the necessary classes to work on his communication skills. When I asked Jason what he was doing to change his criminal thinking, he told me he was strengthening his ties to the community.

“I’m doing as much community service as possible, while also speaking with troubled teens,” says Jason.

He says that this has been the most rewarding thing that he has had the privilege of being a part of.

“It’s a great way to give back while also learning a lot about myself.”

From here on out Jason plans to try to further his education and continue to make self-improvements. Realizing that finances were a risk factor for him, he set out to find a job. And find a job he did. He started at a local business on Monday and is pretty excited about it. By having this job, Jason says, he won’t be so overwhelmed when released. I know from personal experience that this is an issue for many individuals who are newly released from prison.

Jason is positive and optimistic about his future, but at the same time realizes that there is a lot of work still to be done.

“I have to keep looking forward, and keep my goals in focus. When I am feeling overwhelmed I need to remember the alternative," he says. “Prison is no place to spend your life, there is so much more out there to live for.”