Interview with Joe Letshe


by Jeffrey Hillard
June 2008

 

Where were you born and raised? Could you talk about some of the things that lead to your prior incarceration?

I’m from the Cincinnati area and more or less grew up in the suburb of Mt. Healthy. We traveled around a lot early as a family, but this is a place we’ve always come back to. I was married one time to one woman for 16 years. We got together in 1985; we were actually together 19 years. It wasn’t the greatest marriage. It’s what lead me to my one and only [prison] number. I spent two years in prison. I was released October 2007. I made a bad decision as to how to handle or change an issue in our marriage. I plead guilty to attempted rape – against my wife. Like I said, it was the worst life-choice or life decision I have ever made. I’d never been in trouble before that. It’s still hard to talk about.


Joe, when you were incarcerated, how did you manage to survive – especially since you had not been in trouble before, much less incarcerated? How did you get through a week or a month, since incarceration was all new to you?

I’m pretty much a quiet person, so I tended to seek out people that were basically quiet, too, or I stayed to myself, more or less. I did a lot of reading and played a lot of dominoes. I took a heating and air conditioning course. I’ve always believed in God, although I’m not a church-going person. I don’t quite know how to say that, either. Over the years I’ve always known God to be a part of my life. That has always helped me. You can’t do this on your own.


You spent a lot of time alone in prison and kept yourself occupied. Did you find it a struggle to be incarcerated?

It was definitely a struggle. I’m one who values my freedom and independence, so to be locked up and to have all of that freedom taken from me was probably the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life. That is, having your total life change – not being able to be with my children, especially.


You’re a significant part of a local re-entry support group for formerly incarcerated individuals. How did you hear about the support group?

I was taking a course in what is called the SUMA Fatherhood Project – a very in-depth course and life-changing.


De’Ron has mentioned that you are one of the most loyal members of the support group that he could ever imagine. That’s a high compliment. What keeps you so dedicated? What keeps that dedication so intense?

That’s a hard one to answer. It’s fellowship – you can’t do this on your own. It’s real easy to get feeling isolated and lonely and feeling like there’s no one else out there to turn to. I was looking for answers and this is a faith-based organization. I think God might be leading me somewhere in my life, and I hope maybe to be able to give back through this group, and in some way make amends. And I need it, this group. Every time I show up I get something out of it. It’s not just the re-entry support groups twice a month; it’s the speaking engagements that De’Ron goes to that are church-oriented. The youth intervention sessions are powerful and it means something to me. I feel it every time I come. It get something every time. Maybe some who reads this, I hope, will somehow be moved by what I say. Perhaps at some point I’d like to be a men’s rights advocate. I think there’s a need for this kind of advocacy in society, especially today.


You mentioned about giving and getting something out of the meetings personally. In addition to the advocacy, do you see yourself doing anything else? Do you have other goals?

In terms of what you’re asking, I would say that, simply, my goal in my life is to be the best person I can be, a productive member of society. I want to be the best man and father I can be. That’s always been my goal.

 

 


Joe Letsche

Joe Letsche