The Way Home
Eric Douglas success story
as told to John M. Flaherty (Groupon staff writer)
Eric Douglas had a five-hour drive ahead of him. The 26-year-old Cure Violence outreach worker was on his way to Five Points Correctional Facility in upstate New York. For this leg of the journey, he’d be by himself. But on the way back to Jamaica, Queens, he’d have the company of Barlow.
Barlow had been incarcerated at Five Points for six years, convicted of shooting four people. Long before the shooting, Barlow and Eric grew up together in Queens. In their neighborhood, these two learned some of the same lessons, yet both drew very different conclusions from them.
Eric’s father died when he was 6 years old. His mother raised him while battling a learning disability, something Eric didn’t learn about until he was 18 years old. Since then, however, he’s been helping people. “It’s what I do,” he says, taking his mother for medical checkups, looking after his sister, and watching out for peers who came up with him in the community. Guys like Barlow.
“He is a head dude,” Eric says of Barlow, a leader in the community, someone people look up to, and someone kids call “OG.” And while Barlow had six years in prison to think about his crime and about his past, Eric had just five hours to talk to him about his future. “We were talking about what’s changed since he went in,” Eric says. “Talking about how he can’t come back with the same mentality as before.”
Since their drive from Finger Lakes to Jamaica Bay, Eric has helped Barlow transition into a life that embraces this new mentality. Eric has set him up with a job running deliveries at a paper company in Long Island. Eric also found Barlow an apartment and got him enrolled in anger-management courses.
This five-hour drive was an important step Eric made to reach Barlow, but in the end it was just one in a series of steps. Before Eric even went to Five Points, he let Barlow know he had his support. “You have to let people know you’re there for them,” Eric says. “[If you do], they’ll do the things you ask of them.”
-John M. Flaherty