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How to Overcome Your Past and Run Your Own Business: Part Four of Our Series on Reentry in Kentucky

Courtesy of Casey Haynes

Around 40% of Kentucky state inmates released in 2016 went back to jail within a couple years of getting out.

Most of those individuals went back to jail for breaking their terms of release rather than through committing a new crime.

Bowling Green business owner Casey Haynes could have been in that number. Instead, he recieved a break from the court. Now, he's making the most of that chance.

Haynes comes from Mississippi and describes himself as always having a strong parental figure in his mother.

He said he got into trouble after originally going to trade school for business management.

"I didn't do too well as far as working in that field. I ended up drifting off and doing some other things I wasn't interested in, and that led to being around...the wrong crowd of people," Haynes said.

Haynes said he had relatively good luck when he got arrested.

He had already left his past behind when it caught up to him. His family supported him and helped him get a lawyer. Plus, he was a first time offender. That meant he only had to spend a few months in prison before finishing his sentence with five years of probation.

"I knew from that point that I could have done more time so I took that as a life lesson. And imediately I want to say, once I got finished with that sentencing, I started to straighten up my life," Haynes said.

Over the course of his sentence, he had a few different probation officers. He remembers the first few fondly and said they wanted him to do well.

But he got off on the wrong foot with his last probation officer. 

"It was never a good vibe from when I met that probation officer until the end. She was just mean. Just like the Grinch who stole Christmas," Haynes said.

Before switching officers, Haynes thought the necessary paperwork had been filed for him to go unsupervised. That meant he wouldn't have to go in the office as much for in-person check-ins. His new officer wasn't on the same page.

Then, four incident-free years into his sentence, a friend offered him the chance to smoke some marijuana, a decision that got him sent back before a judge.

"I understand that the goal is to stay away from anything that could be a negative thing in my life. But it was something as small as smoking marijuana, and I was going to be going back in front of the judge for my probation to be revoked," Haynes said.

The judge ended up giving him a chance, with a light punishment.

Haynes said his relationship with his parole officer would have been better if he felt she believed in him. He even dressed up in a button up, tie, slacks and some leather loafers every day he checked in just to prove he wanted to be successful. 

"These guys knew that I attended barber college and that I was working on my barbering license. They knew that I had a family and kids that needed me. But, I guess that wasn't important."

After he first got out of prison, Haynes worked a series of jobs before deciding to start his own landscaping business out of his Oldsmobile Alero and a 12-foot trailer he attached to it so he could spend more time with his family.

"I understand that 'Work hard, work hard, work hard.' But, what are you working hard for? At the end of the day, you want to see what you're working for," Haynes said regarding his choice to venture on his own.

That lead to money for barber college and to eventually open his own shop, 4K Cutz. Hayes said he wants to inspire others now.

"It's a wonderful thing. It'll be even better if I could help other people get to this position. Because, as they say, it's lonely at the top when you're all by yourself," he said.

Haynes doesn't see any reason to return to his old life. He doesn't think others would return to theirs, either, if they had help getting to a spot where they could do well without going back to old habits. He said he wants them to know it's possible.

"A year and a half ago, I had a bad credit score. I may have been down in 450. But all it takes is initiative and effort, and a year and a half later, I own a barbershop, a landscaping company. I just signed off on my first house," Haynes said.

Regardless of whether corrections workers believed in him, he's still determined to show them he's worth it. He said he wants to help a few others do the same.

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