This week we're giving space to the Restorative Justice (RJ) Chronicles podcast featuring the conversation with Roscoe Wallace.
Roscoe has survived the murder of his son. He has been incarcerated for crimes from petty to felony and takes responsibility for the harm he has caused. Parts of his story are all too common in this country.
What is unique is his turn toward healing harm and building relationships. These things are at the root of Restorative Justice Practices. In this episode you will hear Roscoe's first-hand account of coming to a restorative life.
The Restorative Justice (RJ) Chronicles is a collection of stories from people who have participated in restorative justice processes.
If you have a story about using restorative justice to heal from significant harm, let me know: DebWitzel@rjchronicles.com.
I train, consult, coach/mentor, develop programs, and facilitate restorative justice practices. You can learn more about my work at www.3storiesconsulting.com.
The Restorative Justice (RJ) Chronicles is produced by Deb Witzel.
Music by Sean Michael Flynn.
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Roscoe Wallace as a prologue, would you be willing to share some of who you are in this world?
Well, as you said, I am Roscoe Wallace, born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1967. My mother's name is Shirley Wallace, never had the opportunity to meet my father. So I came up with a single parent home with one brother, his name was Floyd, I have five uncles, and five aunts and seven uncles, I won't get into all their names.
You know, I say all that to say, you know, I was black sheep. And talk about this, because it kind of lays some of the foundation for, you know, how I see things and,some of the trouble that I got myself into, it was the way I felt about myself, I never really felt like I fit in then that father figure was never there
And poverty was there. So being such a big family and still feeling like you never really existed or felt like I fit in. And so that kind of led me looking for that type of examples and role models, and all that stuff and, and other people and other things. And so that led me to a lot of incarceration.
So if you were to dedicate your chronicle this restorative justice chronicle to someone who would you dedicate it to? And what would you say?
I would dedicate it to my son, and a few other people that's not here. I will say to them that they give me so much inspiration. I wish they were here. But I know they are. And everything that I do. These will be some of the people that my son like I said, some of the people that have led down, and that's what I will say to them that they inspire me every day. And they gave me breath. They gave me breath and they gave me breath okay, we don't get a little real. We don't get real.
Yeah. All right. Let's get real. And I am wondering if you're willing to tell the story of that hard time and the things that got you into trouble?
Well, I'll try to tell the story. Ah, from the broken little boy that landed in all that trouble. And also from the man that rescued that little boy, if that makes any sense. And through the broken little boy, you know, coming out to Rome in 1967, there were a lot of things going on in the country and had that racial tone. And I was lighter than everybody in the family.
So I was called a lot of little nasty names: yellow piss, you all know who your dad is, your dad's a white man. And so that's how some of the party poverty took place. My mom, she, she comes from the south, my grandfather, my grandmother, they all came from Evergreen, Alabama. And so my grandfather kind of had his ways, coming from the south and dealing with a lot of the racism and stuff that was down there.
So when I was born, what my mom told me back then, and my grandfather didn't take too kindly to the color of my skin. So that resonated throughout the family and stuff. So mom, at 20 years old, she had me, and she didn't have a lot of education, or she had been raped and molested. So she, you know, emotionally, she was just angry, and, and she kind of became my first bully, then.
And this is when I get into the adult now and able to see, my mom wouldn't equip herself. But my mom got on disability at 21. And, you know, you know, there was no generational wealth in that or anything. So we lived in the projects and different things like that. And all the neighborhoods I grew up in, if we were renting a home somewhere, it was always rough.
And I would always have that reintroduction to go on to a neighborhood, different neighborhood, different school. And it did come in handy. Later on after I started getting in trouble and getting near the gang stuff. And she will be more worried about my clothing, then, you know, what really transpired on an emotional level that I went to a new school and got this treatment. I had to fight to prove myself and I get home and mom says What the hell is that on your shoe?''
So I knew then, you know, there was really no emotional support, I started to become like, have no fillings for things either. And so I started doing little petty stuff like my, the first time I came in contact with the law was I would go to a store and I would go to that store. And I would always go get some meat and bread and I thought I told myself it was still and I was hungry.
And I would always go on the back there where they were, you know, stocking stuff or whatever and act like I was going to the bathroom and I would eat and I was nine then I remembered that and so the one of the security guards and said he seen me doing it for about at least a couple of weeks. So he took me home and I was probably the worst thing that could happen.
You know, I begged him not to take me home and so in that situation I knew that was a no to bring anything to the house that my mom felt demeaned. She really beat me, you know, because of that. Don't you ever bring people into our business?
And so after that, I said, well, hell, I'm not going to steal in the store. I'm just going to go out and steal stuff and buy stuff. And so that was just denying your own thinking in the transition. But if I may go back briefly a little bit. There was one.
And this was the first time I saw someone killed. I was nine years old. That's when I'm so much and I can't leave that out the transition in my life because my uncle William Bill, he was the first person in my family that made me feel whole made me feel like I you know, I was valuable. I was somebody and I think it's because he recognized it was just like, he knew how I was feeling, all over the field all alone. And he was killed at 76. I was you when I was nine years old. And he's stabbed in the heart.
And that's when life really changed for me. And I started believing that there were certain things I didn't Want to get, and I didn't have the word for it now going into adulthood. It was that emotional support and somebody helping me navigate these feelings that I was having. So I really just shut them down
So anyway, back to the 10 years old and having guns sold in Psalm and everybody got to know one me it's located and got guns, and it was my first sense of power. I was telling myself that I had become a man. And so nobody told me and then I'm wrong grown men.
And, and, and this is where I learned those hard core beliefs that as a grown man, again, I had to go back and reshape stuff people told me that I'm sure a good dad would have definitely wouldn't have reinforced. Yeah, you know, you know, you have to do this, you have to get money, and you have to love that. Now I look back on and like, wow, those were lessons, you know.
Who did you learn that stuff from?
Getting out there after I started having guns, and having different types of merchandise from, you know, burglaries and thieves. And I walk down this street called 24th Street as a historical Street in Omaha.
And all the pimps and the hustlers and everybody. And at first it is like, kids go to school, and then they start hearing this kid has this, he has that. So they put the stamp on it right then and they're saying, Okay, what do you have? And then those were the guys I started looking up.
They had the women, they had the cars, and then it started shaping my behavior, as a young kid has started making me see Oh, this is what you strive for. I had no other picture, I'm getting into trouble at school. And this was during the time where I think, I think 11 or 12, I had my best when they took me out of the household.
What was that about? Yes.
That at that time, was about not going to school, and then investigated about a bourbon. So I ended up in youth custody.
And then what brought you to state prison?
I was just shot by three people over the weekend; one did not come and testify. Yeah, can you tell me a little bit more about that shooting when I was 16 years old, I had just got out of the Youth Center?
I was better. They had me locked in a room called the pink room
Came out feeling more alone, kind of old, anybody anything, I don't have to feel anything for anybody. And so when I came out, then a friend of mine got shot and paralyzed. And this was before the gags or anything like that. And it just had an effect on me.
Because before that, it was like we fought it out. And that was the thing to do. But now when this happened, and I had access to guns, I got into an argument with a guy. And that just shot him in the chest. And so not even two days after that, another guy owed me money.
If I went to jail, and I shot him, I shot him in the leg. I knew his family, and I just shot him in the legs and told him, you know, I was going to hurt it further if he didn't pay me. And so this is when I don't. I really didn't know who I was at that time. And I don't think my family, I don't think people in the city didn't know who I was. But I was alone. And I got to a point in life where I wasn't caring about other people.
And so that brought me into a kind of adulthood. When I was young, they gave me a year in the county jail. And that was around adults with again, teaching these hardcore beliefs that eventually I had to challenge. So it's more of the education and it hardened me a little bit more because now I'm around adults and I'm telling myself You know, I got to be tough.
Yeah. And then you said, after state prison came federal prison, what happened that landed you there?
Well, after this state stuff, I use a lot of his drug dealing going on the gang involvement or what the Feds described me as affiliation, started in 1986, with the crack era common. And so I ended up getting a crack. A guy put some in it, it's a marijuana, and I smoked it. And it made me a little bit crazier out there, more, less empathetic.
And so I shot some people during that time. So I got involved in that for money, and then I got addicted. And then that's what my first prison sentence is. And they gave me 12 years. I was married, briefly got married while I was there. That didn't last long, so I was 19 years old. And I had by that time, I had eight children by six women.
Okay. And when I got out of prison, that's when I, you know, gang stuff behind all that. I said, it's time to hustle. So that's when I started thinking, just straight distribution. Making money, I have two kids to take care of. My kids had issues going on. And I thought, you know, just giving them money took care of everything. Nobody gave me a blueprint.
But anyway, the drug dealing and everything, then that led to the federal incarceration. But when I went to the federal prison for 10 years, for conspiracy, and I cooperated, it was like a big federal sweep. A lot of people were cooperating and the biggest thing for me, I had done time, all my life since basically 10 years old. And I never had brought my family or anything into it.
But now there's federal things about even just people who may even have information on what you may have been doing. None of them had a traffic ticket. I said, I'm going to ruin all these people's lives. And that's when the mandatory minimums remember, you know, dad, they wouldn't care if you live your life like you did now.
And there was a nephew or, or anybody like that, that had some stuff in your house and you didn't touch any of it. But guess would you let him stay there and somebody says she knew what was going on. She was right in front of us when that stuff was the next year, you know, you got 1520 years to come you don't have a record.
So that was all conscious. And so I cooperated. And my son, I was in phase two years. And I got that call that no person incarcerated wants to get that call, someone didn't lose their lives and your family just died, you know. And so I got that call and, and found out my son was shot in the head and had a lot to do with my lifestyle and everything, you know, coming back to my doorstep.
Can you just share a little more about the story?
Well, what I knew of at the time, like I said, I was in federal prison. I have a letter from my son . He was just crazy, because he always felt like I was Superman. It was no no superhero bigger than me. But he always told me that when you're in that orange jumpsuit, that's the only time when I just don't see you.
And I mean, I think about that today. And you know, this kid when I would go to jail, and it was always like it was like renewed okay, that you messed up. Do you want to talk about restorative justice? His approach with me was definitely restored. Because it was just a renewal every time like alright, Dad, you messed up them, but you can do better this time, you know? And I just let him down. And
I'm sorry, Roscoe. What was your son's name?
His name was Marcus Dupree and he was my son who was 19 when he killed his daughter, my oldest granddaughter was two months old. She just turned 19. And he was shot from behind around people in a situation where what I had to do to restore that is to understand the harm I caused for many years in the same neighborhood as pushing poison. Guns, drugs, violence, and realize that came to my doorstep in the harshest way.
Yeah, Roscoe, what do you do with this? Do you want to take more lives? Do you, you know, let this go? You know, there's many times I want to get into my ego. But what became bigger, and it was almost like a breath and a voice for him. Is that something that you can do better? You have always been able to do that; it wasn't an easy process.
Dave, I wouldn't tell anybody this now, you know, I had to work because the two motions that almost suffocated me was the shame, which is public. But one that was even bigger than that was the guilt, which is private.
When I'm in my isolated moments, and tell them myself, I am not shit. See you or anybody else telling you that didn't bother, it won't bother me as much as me kind of confirming that in my moments. And so I had to get around that I had to find some purpose. Yep. And I just know, some healing had to take place. I tell you, the closest I came to, to restorative justice was I would have to say, Nelson Mandela.
And, you know, I got to get back, there's no way in the world, you cannot give me the sword after you didn't cut me. And so understanding his perspective, and then then, you know, it made it easy for me to understand our journey later on. But that, I think, was the part that opened me up when he said, you know, to do that, you know, to live with all that know that he wouldn't be free.
When I came out of the fears, I knew decisions had to be made right off the bat, if I was going to restore this, and one was, I couldn't go right back to Omaha. And I knew when I went back to Omaha, it was going to be to clean up the mess. It was going to be for healing. But I had to do some healing, I had to do some understanding to even get to that point.
And that's that part of me being a victim. You know, you know, I've victimized people, so I had to balance that. And it was, it was a healthy balance to understand that you've heard some people were asking, and now you're hurting. Somebody hurts something you love. So what do you do with that to keep this cycle going, you know? And so it took me a minute to understand that healing was an option.
How did you figure healing was an option?
Because what is the alternative? Destruction? Yeah, and I didn't want war. It's just like that. And you know, for some people, the middle of that is the Grand Canyon. And I was wondering about people, man, we don't we don't you know, and so that's another thing.
My son kind of helped me grow up. The thing I deal with the most is that Rosco, you get to this point, jet to lose your son to do it. So I always live with the biggest guilt. That's the biggest thing I deal with right there.
And so some days I wake up, and I mean, I go to bed on a high, it's like, and I meet deadlines and restorative justice. I went here, man, I helped some people here. And then I wake up the next day for like, total shit.
Because you're gone.
Absolutely. I have to reprocess it. So, you know, I come from a victim approach. And I come from that offender. And I try to reconcile them and so I've had that mediation, if so to speak, of within my mind in my heart, because I couldn't if I really still was in hatred and retribution mode and all that I couldn't go and do what I do. Yeah.
But I have empathy for that already. Because guess what, I've done what they've done. Yeah, that's so that's what I foster and my circles, honesty, then I do a family circle.
And that circle is separate from the reentry circle people know, if you really truly support and your brother's sister wants them to be able to have this transition, and not be part of that 77% and go back, we need to know how to support them, then we do the victim circle.
And that's just getting victims together. And I fly there too, because I've lost it. Like I said, I can do the offender thing, because I know that part, but the victim thing, you know, I kind of let everybody else kind of, you know, express and all learn from on to the harm that and what they have to live with.
And I live with the same things, but it's beautiful for me to sit in those victim impact. Circles and just hear how people are living there and trying to find like I just told you, the next day, you know, being able to put your, put that foot in front of you, you know, the next day, and try to keep it moving. And so those are the circles there that I'm very passionate about.
[Deb Witzel] 26:15
So if you were to look back, at what point or how did you actually learn about restorative justice practices,
Man, to be honest, the word and everything from Van Jones. Yep. And so my obligation is going out doing what I do, it makes me whole, it makes me have purpose from all the bull. So if we're going to restore these men, we have to give them purpose. And that purpose comes from them meeting the obligation.
I so appreciate, so respect the work that you have done, to begin to feel again. And to make a space to hold a space and invite others into processing their emotions and recognizing their role and their obligations or their possibilities from their life experience.
You know, in a nutshell, to meet restorative justice is just revalidating each other, just revalidating humanity, just letting people know that we make mistakes. I
Wondering, when you think about what is the next chapter of your story? What, what do you dream into?
Well, right now, you know, I pray. And you know, I kind of just let it right, it's just writing itself. It's really, really interesting, because this part is just doing what it's supposed to do. Now, some of the ambition that I have is to do some public speaking, go around the country and share.
I just believed God to take me through. But I just really believe God didn't take me through all this, to just stay close mouth and not share and just mostly the love and the possibility and the hope that because that's the thing that I think we all need the most and, and that's what I try to, you know, be at my best at doing even on the days where I don't feel as good.
But I try to be a spark and hope to continue doing the work. Staying committed, staying consistent. So big thing for us when we are on this side now can always still be people as naysayers to hear he's going to fall off. But I try to make sure I don't focus on it. I just try to keep doing the work.
And I think if I can stay fluid in the way that I'm feeling and constantly come up with good solutions, this thing will be all right itself.
That's so beautiful. Well, if you had to choose a title for your story, what would it be?
Oh, you know, I was ready for you. Yeah. Paying it forward. Yeah. So like so like, you know, when I pull up every time I pull up prison, whatever. I'm always saying, get us to the next guy. He might be inclined to say so everybody getting fed tonight.
Amen. That is beautiful Roscoe. Everybody's getting fed tonight. And that’s on a soul level. That's right.