Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Frank Duenaz, III. I have been incarcerated since September of 1995. I have received my parole from my life with the possibility of parole. I will leave prison on August 24, 2021—really soon. I will have served almost 26 years.
If I could go back and talk to the young 18-year-old boy who committed this crime, I would first tell him he don’t know everything. He needs to graduate high school, and he needs to stay home more and get out of them streets with the wrong crowd. I started out good in life, both parents, loving home, only child, upper middle class. I quit school on the third day of the ninth grade, and it was downhill from there. By the time of my arrest, I was not a good person at all. Once I entered prison with a life sentence, I knew it was time to change and turn my life around. I got my GED right away, and then started to take self help classes to deal with my various problems, including anger issues. I stayed out of trouble and stayed away from the wrong crowd. My circle of friends were good people who were doing the right thing and wanted to better themselves.
What mainly led me to prison was having an “I don’t give a shit attitude” and thinking I knew everything. As it turns out, I had no idea what life was really about. A normal day for me in prison for the past 10 years has been training and socializing ex-racing greyhound dogs for a program called The Greyhound Inmate Experience (TGIE). When I don’t have a dog, I enjoy exercising and talking with family and friends on the phone, or through email. I have kept great open relationships with my family while being in here. What I have learned in prison is who I am, and the man I want to be out there.
When I get out of prison, I want to help end mass incarceration in Michigan, and then maybe in the whole country. Prison is needed, but there is no need to be in here forever. People can change for the better and go on to do great things. Statistics show that people who have served 15-20 plus years do not come back to prison. What brings me joy in here is seeing guys bettering themselves. That is why I support the Good Time Bill so strongly, because I know many who deserve a second chance.
I like to give kindness by reaching out to the young men in the yard and sharing my story with them. I also like to be a positive example for others, to show them that we can support one another and have a positive attitude. I’ll never forget what my barber told me back in 1997, “Who you become in here is who you’ll be out there.” From that day, I never forgot what he said, so I asked myself, “Who do I want to be out there?”
The answer I had was, “I want to be a positive, hardworking man who is a pillar of my community. I want to live a God-fearing life and stay focused on doing God’s work. I read a great book called The Purpose Driven Life. I learned a lot reading this book, and I’ve learned I have a purpose in this life. I know the Lord has granted me mercy in allowing me to return to society. Even though parole is a big responsibility, it is a blessing and something I will never take for granted.
I’ve changed by changing my outlook on life. I had to look back at who I was and why I was the way I was. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t want to be that guy again. I knew change had to come from within me, and I had to put the work in. The man that influenced me is my brother Troy R. He’s not my actual brother; he’s a man I met back in 1997 in Level 4 yard. We stayed in touch through the years as we transferred to different prisons, and he did not abandon me upon his release. I knew it was going to be a long, hard journey to get a parole as a Lifer because I see so many men in here who have 20, 30, 40, 50 years in, and counting, as Lifer’s of first- and second-degree murder. I always listened to the staff and stayed positive. I also listened to the parole board when they told me what to work on.
I started seeing myself as truly worthy of parole when I felt the change in my heart, and I realized how far I had come. I had to let go of my anger and all bad thoughts. I had to let go of the anger I had for the man that turned me in. Now I know that I should have turned myself in, and that he was just doing what law-abiding citizens ought to do.
Right now, freedom looks scary. It looks like independence, and real life. For 26 years, others cooked my meals, did my laundry, and told me when and where to be at all times. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. I know I have a huge, strong, and loving support system to help and guide me. A lot of guys who get out have no one upon release because their family is dead or long gone. I will make sure my support system knows how much I appreciate them. I don’t expect to be rich and famous, but I do want to live comfortably. And hopefully God will send a wonderful woman my way to love and marry. I want to work hard and earn my way everyday. I want to attend church and surround myself with family and good people. I want to help when I can with church functions or at shelters. I want to use all of my knowledge on dogs to volunteer at my local animal shelter. I want to take on the hard cases and ensure that all the dogs get adopted.
I would like to say to the people of the free world, listen up, I’m coming home. I’m ready and I hope you’re ready. It’s going to be a great ride, and I hope you’re along for the ride with me. I’m coming like a hurricane, ain’t no time like the present. To quote the late, great 2Pac, from his song “Changes,” “I got love for my brothers, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other, we gotta start making changes. Learn to see each other as brothers instead of two distant strangers…”
Frank Duenaz, III