Prior to my release from prison on October 14, 2014, I have preconceived notions that my  transition back into society would be a smooth one. My logic was mostly based on the notion that I prepared myself for for my eventual release. I had a very supportive family and friends who I believed would never turned their backs on me. It is safe to say that I totally underestimated what society would look like. As I talk at schools and detention centers, I often mentioned how difficult life can be after spending so much time in prison. I can go into a bevy of things that I am finding to be huge challenges, but I refuse to complain or feel sorry for myself. To put my struggles in perspective, I could still be in prison. But I’m not, so I have an opportunity to address my struggles. My number one struggle is complacency. After spending so much time and energy getting out of prison, and knowing how difficult it was, I should be the last person struggling with complacency.

My problems are mostly psychological. I am often down on myself because I feel like it is taking me too long to address my problems, knowing that I went through some very difficult stuff during my incarceration. I think one of psychological effects that traveled home with me was the death of my father during my incarceration. I would think 16 years is not a lot of time to spend with your father. In prison, inmates are conditioned to think a certain way; to protect our feelings; not show a softer more humane side of ourselves. The problem with that thought process is that it can get entrenched into your soul. And before you know it, you bring it home with you which often creates a whole new set of problems.

I can certainly tell you that there are a number of things that I am extremely happy about. Please forgive me if it appears like I am complaining. I’m not! I feel like I will overcome the feeling of being on the outside and not being able to find myself. Life is complicated but I’m not sure I’m in a position to complain. Besides, who would care if I did. My struggles with freedom are good problems to have. I remember many times, when I thought my life would end in prison. But that thought process got me to thinking about my childhood friend, Willie Stuckey. Willie lost his life in prison after spending 16 years for a crime that he did not commit. Whenever I think about the fact that Willie could not walk out the door with me, it leaves me with unspeakable sadness. Some would call it a burden, but I tend to think it is a phase that I struggle with constantly. I was talking to a friend of men, who suggested that it could be survivor’s guilt. The fact that I’m here and Willie is not. I will not rule out the notion that I’m sad because I survived what is akin to being hell. Knowing that I did nothing wrong to feel this way, does nothing to overcome my sadness.

While some believe freedom is a state of mind, I believe that freedom can’t be defined with one word, or one meaning. While I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity to walk down the street and enjoy all the things life has to offer, I would not be telling the truth if I lied about what I go through sometimes. I’m struggling yes, but like most of my time in prison, I will find a way to get through my struggles. That said, society is a much different animal. Unlike prison, where there are not many distractions, and where everything is structured, there are so many distractions on the outside that I sometimes become overwhelmed. I struggle with issues that may seem small to others, are unimportant. I struggle on crowded trains. In prison, space is arguably the most important thing to have. On the outside, it seems like I am sharing space with millions of people.

In the end, it is up to me to figure things out. Much like in prison, when I desperately needed help, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help nor am I afraid now. I will admit there is some trepidation at times because I am sensitive about imposing on other people’s lives now that I am out of prison. After all, my family and friends have lives, so I don’t want to appear selfish. The help that I need has less to do with finances, although important, but more to do with addressing my struggles. I continue to learn that it is very important that I embrace my problems  which will hopefully make it easier to address them. I know that I’ve come along way and that this journey is still in motion. I’m going to be find but I must take those steps necessary to deal with my struggles. While I hope I’m not painting a picture of doom and gloom, I am fortunate to be in a position to write about this. Besides, I have met more than a few people who would love to struggle on the outside rather than sitting in a prison cell, so perspective is very important.







  1. Hello David! I trust you are well on this fine March day. I am following up with my response to your “My Struggle with Freedom” piece. Many things stand out for me in your piece. Please forgive me if you feel I am incorrect in my perspective on where your’e at. You mention one of your biggest problems being “complacency.” Complacency is defined as:
    1- self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
    2- an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction
    I do not think you are complacent. I think you are experiencing the post traumatic stress response of “freezing.” You know we have three instinctual responses to trauma; fight, flight and freeze. We, as practitioners, know the least about the freezing response. When you were incarcerated you had no opportunity to flee, no doubt there were opportunities to fight, albeit they were both dangerous and limited, and thus I would say much of the pain you experienced in prison was dealt with by the freezing response. It is a good and necessary protective device , that often saves us until we are in a safer space. It’s complex because often freezing is manifested as a dissociative state. A state where we are disconnected from parts of ourselves, and it is often experienced as a kind of out of body experience , a disconnect between body and mind, where we may loose time and where our senses tend to be dramatically dampened down. I wish to express these thoughts to you because you mention in your piece things like loss, overwhelm, space, safety, the unpredictability of life, the difficulty with expressing your feelings and with defining freedom. All of which speak to a post traumatic stress response. It is most difficult to feel safe in a space, when you do not feel safe internally, and when you do not feel safe internally, you feel overwhelmed by the unpredictability of life and the complexity of feeling free. Often, one is moving in and out of the freezing response as they continue to heal and to thaw themselves back into BEING, so to speak. I think you are well on your way to unfreezing and feeling more fully present to you yourself, others, and in the world. The crazy paradox of unfreezing is this: the more aware you become the more unsafe you may feel, and that’s okay. In time,and with lots of continued work of yourself things will keep getting easier as you become more connected , both internally and externally.
    Also, I agree fully with you that Freedom is very difficult to define and I would venture to say most people do not experience a great deal of it. I think we feel truly free when we take up our rightful place in the world. I think it was Walt Whitman who said the two most important moments in one’s life are: the moment you are born and the moment you know why you were born. Freedom arrives slowly , in tiny bite size increments, sometime after that second moment! David, as you know I am trauma specialist and have much to offer you by way of empathy, education and insight; feel free to ask me anything you want to know or better understand about healing from trauma.
    In solidarity with you,
    Aka the doc

  2. Hey David. My name is Adarsh, I’m from Bangalore, India. I recently watched your documentary Fight For Justice and I was thoroughly and completely moved by it. I cannot begin to express as to how taken aback I was with your whole situation. I cannot imagine a person’s life being taken away at the age of 16 for no fault of his. I am extremely glad that you are out and leading a great life. I’m going to follow your blog regularly henceforth and I hope to hear from you, it would be an honor if we can have a conversation someday. Take care, and best of luck for your life ahead!

  3. Hi Mr.McCallum how are you on this fine summer day? I have thought about writing you for some time now but seemed to struggle over the words I would say… I would like to start by saying congratulations on the over turn of your conviction. It saddens me that you had to go through all of this. It saddens me that we as people failed to protect you all those years ago. I my self have never been in prison but I am in a prison of sorts. Back in 2004 I had a work injury and in a flash my life changed for ever. I had the world by the balls… Most days now I stay in the house due to pain from my injury. There are some days when I just want to rip apart the walls. So tired of the same walls the same life. My heart and mind want so bad to go to fly to just be but my body won’t let me. I would imagine that is how you felt at times during your incarceration. Please don’t get me wrong I have so much to be great full for. I too get overwhelmed by larger groups of people now and have a hard time with communication. I tend to keep to my self I have a hard time trusting that people don’t see me as a target because of my disability. Many times I forget to just enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. On days like that my family reminds me that things could be much worse and for them I am forever greatful. As a person that has some of the same struggles as you I just want to say don’t give up. Keep your head up. You got this and I know you have so much to give. I believe if we can change one persons life through love than we have accomplished something amazing and you did that for Ray. I can’t wait to see what your future holds and I look forward to your next blog. Have an amazing day and thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    • Hi Jen,
      I’m taking the liberty of writing back to you (although I hope David has the time to do so soon). Your notion about prisons being wider than state prisons strikes a an important chord. Many people are trapped, even in their own lives and daily circumstances. Trapped by debt, a bad employer, a meaningless job. Your words will encourage others.
      To that end, please take a look at the photo of David’s disabled sister and his two month old baby, Quinn. It’s on my connected website: You can see why David’s sister is his hero. She has had cerebral palsy and no spine at all since birth and here she is, still there at 55. She is as imprisoned as David was, way more so, but she’s still there. It’s somehow remarkable.
      Ken Klonsky

      • Hello Mr. Klonsky thank you for your response. Your kindness is amazing we could use more people in this crazy world like you and your son. To give all you had to free a stranger is an act of true love. With everything going on today a lot of people can learn so much form you all. I truly believe if we just stop and show companion and kindness to others we will see or diffarances don’t matter. In the end we all really just want the same things. So I thank you for your unselfish acts of kindness. From the Netflix show I know a little bit about David’s sister. His sister is amazing and an inspiration for me to keep moving on. There is so much to enjoy in life and family is a huge one. Please congratulate David on his beautiful baby Quinn. David is going to be an amazing dad. I hope one day I can have the same honor of having a child. My partner and I are looking in to adoption there are so many kids that need love and support and a true understanding of what family truly is. Well, I should try to get a move on with my day thanks again for your response please have a great day.

  4. Hi David!

    You have been on my mind a lot lately. How are you? What are you up to? How are Quinn, your Mom, sis and partner? I am settling in on the east coast, feeling better with each passing day. I know you are very busy, but when you get a chance drop me a note or if you want to talk or text please contact me at 1-902-999-5362. I am with you in spirit and in solidarity with you on your healing journey. I hope your summer is filled with sun, light, laughter and love!
    Blessings Sir!
    Dr. Lena

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