Jerod Powers has come full circle from his days spent as a convicted felon in Florida’s prison system.
Today the 43-year-old Jacksonville man has not only shed his previous lifestyle but shares his message of redemption with other former inmates.
It’s a calling he’s had since he emerged from behind bars in 2001. “After getting out, I wanted to help men who had nothing to fall back on after being in prison and provide them with a place to go.”
That’s why in 2003 he purchased a home on the northside of Jacksonville, which he named Faith for Freedom. There he ministers to former inmates, teaching them about religion as well as useful tips for living good lives.
“I’m always searching for ways to help these guys, especially for the younger ones,” he said.
It’s an age at which many young people get in trouble with the law.
Powers knows that from experience. He, too, was young when he first ran afoul of law enforcement.
He attributes his criminal behavior at least in part to a childhood in which he faced numerous rejections.
Powers shuffled in and out of the foster care system, until he was finally officially adopted at age 18 months.
Growing up in a broken home in New York, Powers said he longed for a genuine bond with his parents, especially his father.
But his high hopes came crashing down when he discovered his military adoptive father was seriously alcoholic and occasionally violent.
“All I ever wanted was a relationship with my dad,” he said. Instead, “I had my first beer with him at the age of 6.”
His father was always busy working in the military and soon Powers discovered that the only way he could receive the attention he craved was by acting up.
“I knew my father would completely thrash me for acting out,” he explained, “but he would always assure that he loved me, which is all I ever wanted to hear.”
Powers continued on the path of troublemaking. Finally, his adoptive father had had enough and abandoned Powers when the boy was 14.
Now “the man that said he loved me had completely given up on me. I no longer cared about my actions. I was angry and at the time, I did not want to change.”
Powers spent the rest of his adolescent years in institutions and there he cultured many tactics that would assist him later in his drug dealing. “I didn’t know any drug dealers or have any connections to them until I was there.”
He began dealing drugs shortly after he turned 18. He even changed his name to match his new persona.
“I would travel back and forth from New York city to Miami collect money from major dealers,” he said. “That is how I reinvented myself as ‘Ace.’”
Soon dealing in drugs became a status symbol for him.
“Girls would be all over me,” he remembered. “I had it all. The money and the drugs. I would teach guys that if they purchased from me, they would have access to all of the women as well.”
From drug dealing he slipped into more violent crimes.
Getting out of crime seemed impossible.
It was on Christmas Day 1996 that Powers finally knew he had to begin changing his life. His girlfriend at the time purchased his first Bible and that is when the transformation begun.
That’s when Powers began to start the transformation of not using drugs and alcohol.
Although the 22-year-old was on a positive road to recovery, Powers was sentenced in 1997 for aggravated battery with a firearm, punishable by a prison sentence of 22 years.
His sentence was cut twice and Powers was finally released on June 6, 2002.
One year later, he founded Faith for Freedom.
Today, he’s a married man with two sons, ages four and two. His wife works while he dedicates time to their boys.
In his spare time Powers not only mentors former inmates through his foundation but also travels to different prisons where he mentors and minister to current inmates.
It’s a message he tells his own sons every time he leaves the house.
“Before I depart to visit the prisons, I always tell my sons to pray for the boys in blue.”