During the interview with Shon Hopwood on NPR, I spoke about an offender who fixed my weed wacker and how I sensed that he was making his post-prison life count. Last night, to my utter astonishment, I heard from the “weed wacker guy.” What he wrote further stunned me.
So, let me introduce you to Ben Dubas. Here is Ben in his own words:
I really enjoyed the interview. I can appreciate all the hard work Shon has put forth to change his life & wish him the best of luck for his future. My name is Ben Dubas and I am the guy who you told to fix your “damn weed wacker”!! I can’t tell you how pleased it made me to hear that you recalled our interaction at the outdoor power store. Meeting you that day, (rather than inside of a courthouse) really helped me realize how human even a federal judge really is. I never have held a grudge. I made my own bed and then had to lay in it. The physical prison I was sentenced to and used to live in was the easy part, it was the prison of my own addiction that actually held me prisoner. If it wasn’t for the court system & my time away, I have no doubt that I would either be dead or still in prison today. Instead it gave me time to clear my head, create and realize dreams, set goals, and make plans on how i would achieve them. Today I am 10 years 8 month & 6 days sober. I have spoken publicly about alcoholism, drug addiction and my court case at both UNL & Wesleyan in criminal justice and family crisis classes. I am currently in the process to help & work with troubled youth.
My life has taken such a huge 180 from what it was,.I have a dream job & am a productive part of society. Today I get to go home to the nice house that I own & share with my beautiful wife, 2 sons & a dog…. Instead of living in a cell with another man, sharing a cell block with 100+ other men.
Today there is no need for me to get high on drugs…. I am high on life!!
Like so many others, Ben got caught up in a methamphetamine distribution scheme. Truth to tell, Ben involved himself with significant quantities of the drug. And, despite the fact that the government also charged Ben with using a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense, the AUSA allowed Ben to plead guilty to the drug charge only. I know this because his case was first assigned to me.
Our court has long had a big criminal case load. This last year we had the 9th heaviest criminal case load in the nation on a per-judge basis. Since the early ’90s, that heavy case load has remained constant. Anyway, because I was then Chief Judge, and we needed to rebalance the docket, I assigned Ben’s case to Judge Laurie Smith Camp. Ben received a decade-plus prison sentence from LSC, but she later cut it down to 54 months because Ben cooperated with the government.
Ben’s wonderful story serves to illustrate to us all, and particularly to prisoners now in custody, that redemption is possible. Additionally, Ben’s success is a strong antidote to the corrosive cynicism that constantly threatens to creep into my soul as I sentence people for what the foolish call “non-violent drug crimes.”
Thank you, Ben!