Paul’s Journey Part I: He never thought he would change—but something happened at Diboll

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The story of Paul McAfee begins with a phone call he made to MTC in 2017.

“Hello, my name is Paul McAfee. I was recently released from the Diboll Correctional Center about 11 months ago. And I was calling to give a positive response and send some pictures about the impact that your company, Warden Driskell, and the staff made in my life.”

After speaking with Paul, we knew we had to meet him.

“Well hello. How are you? Paul, I’m Issa. Good to see you, meet you. How are you?”

MTC communications directors Issa Arnita and Randy Grayston traveled to Tyler, TX to get Paul’s story.

“What made you want to call and share your story,” Issa asks Paul

“You know, you hear so much negative about prison and things of that nature. And at Diboll, they made such an impact on my life, I just wanted the people at headquarters to know what a good job they were doing down there.”

Something happened at Diboll—a turning point that put Paul on a new path.

“Look. I’m going to tell you like this. I’m 51 years old and been to prison ten times—ten times; numerous state schools. And I never thought that I could change—never.”

Ten times in prison; all drug convictions. Paul grew up in a rough neighborhood in Houston.

“That was the average thing to do,” Paul says. “Most kids when they come up, they’re going to start selling drugs or using drugs. I fell victim to selling drugs, then started using drugs. I got caught up in a revolving door.”

A revolving door that lasted 26 years—until he was transferred to MTC’s Diboll Correctional Center where he immersed himself in programs and connected with caring staff.

“Everything that I learned there,” underscores Paul, “I’ve implemented in my life today: doing things, moving forward, being prompt to work, getting along with my co-workers, getting along with my family.”

Paul was released from the Diboll facility in December 2015. He immediately enrolled in seminary school at the Calvary Institute. It was there that he met the new love of his life, Sharon.

“We got married,” Paul eagerly shared. “That’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Sharon recalls why she fell in love with Paul.

“I had a sense of peace when I met him. He was very kind, very understandable.”

Smiling, Paul carefully interrupted, “Good looking.”

With a smirk on her face, Sharon continued, “I was having problems at work, and he would always say, ‘Give it to God.’ And that’s what always drove me to him. He didn’t lie to me about his situation. He told me everything up front, and I love that. I didn’t have to find out later on from somebody else.”

Paul says his faith and his family keep him rooted. He and Sharon have 17 grandchildren. Paul begins naming them one by one.

“We’ve got Dallas, Austin, Gabby, Nyla, Devin, Ryer…”

It’s these little ones that constantly remind Paul why he never wants to go back to his old ways.

“I know if I do the right thing, I’ll have the opportunity to show them the right way. And that means so much to me, because they can do no harm. They’re gentle, and they’re so innocent. My thing is they’re my grandchildren, and I want to protect them—all 17 of them.”

Paul’s had a lot of support. Not only from his family but from his employer as well.

“Paul is a blessing to our company.”

Felicia Lakey, owner of Lakey Inc., a construction company in Texas, hired Paul soon after his release.

“Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Paul is extremely grateful for Felicia and her family. He admits, his first few weeks were a little challenging because he had never worked in construction.

“She had me going to work in knee pads, back brace, it looked like I was going to a football game. And they were laughing at me.”

But after a little time on the job and a lot of hard work, Paul became valuable to his employer.

“He’s a wonderful employee,” says Felicia. “I know that if I need something, anytime, I can call or text Paul, for anything.”

“I got a tremendous job. People are very understanding. We laid off people. I was the lowest one on the totem pole, didn’t have no experience. They laid off four people ahead of me who knew way more than me. But by the grace of God, by me being there dedicated and being hard working and making sure I’m a team player, I was allowed to stay on.”

Felicia says it’s rewarding to see Paul grow and succeed. “It makes me feel good to know that I can gives someone an opportunity, you know, at a better life than what he had before.”

Paul says a solid family and friends is key to success after release.

“I surround myself with people that want to see me do good and that are going to motivate me to do good. If I go out into the streets and the corners, yes, quite naturally, the destiny is jail.”

In fact, he says he had to part ways with old acquaintances and even family who were headed down the wrong path.

“When I accepted Christ in my life, I had to let go. It’s a lot of people in a lot of places that I don’t even frequent or talk to because they’re going in a different direction than I plan on going. You know, family members you have to cut off, friends that you’ve been knowing for a long time because they don’t want what I want.”

Paul wants to succeed. His family and friends want him to succeed. We asked him if he ever thought he would reoffend and wind up back in prison. You could feel the emotion in his response.

“Once you taste the apple and you really chew it, instead of just biting it and swallowing it, once you chew it and get the juices of it, you want to continue to eat that apple. So you don’t think you’ll ever go back, Paul? I know I’ll never go back. I know that.”

Paul’s incredible story is far from over. Check back for part II of Paul’s journey. We catch up with Paul as he visits the Diboll Correctional Center for the first time since being released in 2015. Watch as he reunites with staff, visits his old housing unit, and relives those difficult days. He tells us why the Diboll facility had such an impact on his life.