James Bailey of Jacksonville Florida spent half of his life in prison for drug use, possession and trafficking.
In the words of James Bailey:
“It’s torment behind the bars because you’re having a mindset that you’re there. But then all of a sudden, deep down in your heart, you want to make it out.” James was raised by his mom. After his father abandoned the family, his mother was forced to work multiple jobs. That gave James plenty of time to get into trouble. By age 13, he was hanging out with a crowd that drank and smoked marijuana. “I was sitting out and they were smoking weed and they asked me would I like some and I said ‘yes.’ And I got started getting high with them and it became a normal thing in my life.”
To support his new habit, he started stealing and selling drugs. Finally, at age 18, he was arrested for the first time and spent a night in jail. “And they started doing the booking and stuff like that. Reality started to set in, like, you know, ‘this is real.’”
James was put on probation, but that didn’t keep him from selling drugs again; this time on a much larger scale. He raked in $3,000 a day. “It was coming in so fast that it was having money here, money there and get what you want, when you wanted it.”
Then James made the mistake of selling to an undercover cop. He was sentenced to six months in prison for drug possession. He decided he would have to adapt quickly to his new environment.
“I had heard so much stories about being raped and guys being beat up. I’m not soft, so I have got to prove to somebody that I got to whoop me somebody up, or I have to do something wrong, or to the point where I can make an example out of somebody; so I wouldn’t be taken advantage of.”
Ironically, the system that locked James behind bars for drug possession was the same system that made it easy for him to get and use drugs while in prison. “You didn’t have to sneak them in. It was brought in for you. If you knew how to do it, you had to. If you had enough money, you can do what you want to do. You can get what you wanted.”
Over the next 13 years James was in and out of prison three times for drug possession.
“Prison became a game too. Because you could learn how to work the system instead of the system working you. The fear was, could I make it out alive or was I going to have to spend the rest of my life in prison?” It was during his final stay, which lasted two and a half years, when he reached a breaking point. “I got tired of seeing my friends dying; I got tired of seeing my friends in prison. I got tired of going to prison. I got tired of knowing that if I don’t get my life together that I might die soon.” So James asked God to help him.
“On the night that I gave my heart to the Lord, I was in jail on the side of my bed, and I was on my knees and I started crying out and I asked God; I said, ‘God, if you’re really real, would you reveal yourself to me? And whatever it takes for me to know you, I’m willing to go through it.’ And that’s when God revealed himself and He came in and He touched my life.”
James started reading his Bible every day. “My mind had started being renewed by Christ. My life started to change to the point where everything that was in me was striving for Christ. Everything in me desired Christ more than the drugs.” After James got out of prison, he lived at the Salvation Army for six months. There he met a young lady and she also became a Christian. She later became his wife. Today, James and his family attend a church that’s helping them to grow in their faith.
“Being able to stay in the Word of God, being able to be around people that cared about you enough to see you delivered, to see you walking in the things of God.” James has been drug free for eight years. He’s actively involved in his church and works at an auto detailing shop. He’ll tell you, whether he’s working or taking care of his family, having a close relationship with God is his top priority. “God was in the middle of everything, as I know today. Even in my mess, God was there because he kept me enough to be able to be standing here today in my sound mind, to be able to know that His hand is on my life. The most important thing that God’s done in me - He saved me and I’m free. I’m a free man, not only in the society. But I’m a free man in God.