top of page

Essay: Detained, But Not Deterred

Detained, But Not Deterred

Derek Cain - September 5, 2019

"Contrary to a lot of negative stories you read about people not having both parents or coming from a broken home, I had a very loving family and upbringing. I was fortunate to have both parents in the home and three siblings. My parents raised me to believe that I would always have options. They also taught me that there would always be consequences for whatever decisions I made.

Growing up, I had friends who were involved in drug activities and always had large amounts of money. I was never interested in taking part in that because I had a decent job. As time went on, I had my first child, my wife was a full-time nursing student, and my income wasn’t enough to cover all the household expenses. I didn’t have a lot of patience and I felt that I wasn’t college material.

I thought that for me to be successful and achieve my goals — to care for my family and open my own real estate business — that I had to take a different route. I didn’t have the skillset to bring in the kind of money I would need. After applying for loans and being denied by several banks even though I was employed, I grew frustrated and turned to the streets. The streets had “options” and some of those options could net the kind of money I needed. So I decided selling drugs was the best option for me (or so I thought at the time).

Everything was going well until that fateful day when my name was called to answer for the choices I made over the years. On April 12, 2005, the Montgomery County police kicked the door in, and life as I knew it would never be the same again. Although this was my first offense, I was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison. At my sentencing hearing, I looked at my lawyer in disbelief. “Do something,” I shouted silently. Four to five years was supposed to be the guideline for a first offense like this. 10 years? What I didn’t understand at the time was it didn’t matter if it was my first offense. By federal law, the charge carried a mandatory minimum of 10 years. This was my painful introduction to mandatory minimums under federal law.

I had no choice but to accept my sentence. Remembering what my parents taught me, I chose to take this time to focus on being the best version of myself I could be. And as hard as it might have been for me, I was reminded with every visit that first year how devastating it was for my family, especially my mother and my children. Visits ended in tears and, not understanding I was locked up, my three-year-old son would always ask why I couldn’t go home with them. My mother’s embarrassment and frustration showed all over her face during those visits and it took several years for her to get used to the fact that her oldest son was in prison."

To read the entire essay, click here.

bottom of page