SAN ANTONIO — Robert Bond says an episode of “Seinfeld” changed his life.
In the episode, George Costanza did the exact opposite of what he usually does in his life. Bond wanted to do the same.
“After the experience of going through TDC and Bexar County Jail, which is one of the worst, I told myself I’m going to the opposite. Instead of just doing the bare minimum, I’m going to do the opposite,” Bond said.
The first step he took was applying to FREED Texas, a San Antonio nonprofit that helps incarcerated folks successfully transition into society. Bond was at a concert in Austin when he received a text with some great news about the application.
“I’m pretty sure it was Chris Ortega at the time, saying I had gotten accepted after the show,” Bond said. “I was already on cloud nine, so then I got to cloud 11 or so.”
A 2020 study showed that recidivism rates in San Antonio were trending in the wrong direction and FREED Texas founder Leonara Walker says the nonprofit can help reduce those rates completely.
“We offer the $15, cellphones, laptops. We are even going to be helping them with some Uber for people that need that transportation. We also have to do essays. We ask our scholars to advocate for themselves,” Walker said.
She says people come out of the prison system more traumatized than they were when they went through it.
“You go through so much through the incarceration system because it’s not made to educate, it’s made to trauma enforce,” Walker said.
Walker says this because she lived it. She knows where her students are coming from, or scholars, as she calls them. That’s a big reason Bond trusted Walker and FREED Texas. Now he says he has a purpose.
“With the people I met through Leonora and FREED, it sent me on the direction to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor because like I said, who better to help an addict than a former one,” Bond said.
Walker has seen her scholars get jobs and turn their life around, but upon completion they also become eligible for a two-year scholarship to The Alamo Colleges in San Antonio.
Just two years ago, Bond was behind bars in the middle of a pandemic. Two years from now, he plans going to have an associate degree from San Antonio College.
“It’s shown me there’ more to just be incarcerated or formally incarcerated individual. You can do so much more,” Bond said.