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CBH re-entry program graduate Joey Henry has plenty of reasons to be thankful

From left, CBH aftercare/prevention administrator Bernard Colman, graduate Joey Henry and CBH clinical associate Calvin Graham celebrate Henry’s accomplishment in Big Cypress. (Beverly Bidney photo)

After 15 years of watching his back and trusting no one in prison, Joey Henry had to relearn how to live and succeed in modern society when he was released in April 2020. Being able to trust again served as the starting point for rebuilding Henry’s life.

“I had serious trust issues with people,” said Henry, 56. “You can’t trust anyone in prison and I brought that out with me.”

Fortunately, the re-entry program in the Seminole Tribe’s Center for Behavioral Health is designed to help newly released tribal inmates like Henry and prepare them to rejoin the community. Bolstered by what he learned from the program, Henry is now sporting a positive outlook on life. He graduated from the program April 5.

“They helped me get over a lot of problems I had from being institutionalized,” Henry said. “A lot of things I was doing were not appropriate for society.”

The re-entry program taught Henry how to ask for help and face his issues instead of holding all of his emotions inside. Henry’s counselor Calvin Graham guided him through the process, which began more than a year before his release date.

“Joey is a phenomenal client,” said Graham, CBH clinical associate. “We had a lot of deep conversations over the years. He is a man of faith, which helped him make the transition back to society.”

Henry credits his wife, Karen, for helping him while he was still incarcerated.

“She helped me become more budget minded,” said Henry, who lives in Big Cypress. “She’s smarter than me and sees things in a way I don’t see them.”

The world has changed significantly since Henry became an inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections. When he was released, he bought a flip phone like the one he had before. He quickly realized he had to catch up with current technology, so he bought a smartphone.

Other changes in Henry’s life were not as easy to fix; trust being foremost. It took him a lot work with Graham to regain trust, but he finally realized people don’t always have ulterior motives. He also focused on solving his substance abuse problem and how to be a good father and husband.

“The more I learned, the better off I became as a person,” he said.

Part of the learning process included making social changes.

“Now I want to hang out with people who are succeeding; the other life just didn’t pay off for me.”

Henry lost some family members while he was away and regrets that he couldn’t be there for them nor attend their funerals.

“It was my fault [that] I put myself in this situation,” Henry said. “Most of my life I always blamed things in my past as why I am what I am. The decisions I made were poor ones. Now I listen to these people who are teaching me that I can have a good life. I do have a good life now.”

Ironically, the pandemic helped Henry ease back into society.

“I learned how to be comfortable sitting still and be content in my surroundings,” he said. “I didn’t have to watch out for people with weapons. It’s relaxing to be where you aren’t in danger all the time.”

Henry now enjoys a mostly stress-free life and is accomplishing things. He is working on getting a home site in Big Cypress and has the freedom to enjoy the company of people. He is thankful for the CBH, Graham, and Bernard Colman, CBH’s aftercare prevention administrator.

“They helped me get on the right path and gave me the tools and knowledge to keep on that path,” Henry said.
Graham said it was a pleasure working with Henry. The two intend to stay in touch even though Henry has completed the program.

“Time is short,” Henry said. “It is the most precious thing we have and you can’t make it up. We’re here a short time on earth, so we have to accomplish things, be good to people and to yourself. It took me a long time to learn that.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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