A former Hualien Prison inmate, who was sentenced to 15 years for drug-related offenses, has described the transformation he went through while serving his sentence and the challenges he encountered upon his release.
“I know I made mistakes, but now I am a new person,” 35-year-old Lu Chia-jung (盧家榮) said during a talk with inmates at Hualien Prison last month.
Lu, who was invited to speak at the prison by the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections, said his resolve to turn his back on his past was largely due to his mother’s unconditional support.
Lu said he started using drugs when he was 18 and they distorted his values, adding that he started robbing people to pay for his addiction.
He said that one time, his mother came to visit him in prison and told him: “I will not give up on you, so do not give up on yourself either. I will take care of myself and wait until you get out.”
Lu said that is when he started to question his actions.
Concerned about his mother’s health and spurred on by her promise, Lu said he strived to behave well in prison so he could obtain parole, adding that in 2014 he attended a prison class that focused on helping inmates further their education.
Lu said he was grateful for the people who encouraged him to study again, including warden Liu Shih-tien (劉世添) and Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers.
Upon his release, Lu was accepted into a program at the Department of Leisure Management at a university, which declined to be named.
Lu said that he struggled to adjust to life outside of prison, adding that his lack of computer knowledge in his first semester at university proved difficult.
He said that while it was tough at the beginning and he kept asking himself: “What am I looking for?” he said that the experience taught him that people are made stronger by the difficulties they face in life.
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