In June 2012, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske visited the Betty Ford Center, one of the Nation’s oldest and most recognized addiction treatment facilities. There he gave remarks to a crowd of leaders in the field of recovery. In the audience were two special guests—Michael Banyard and Federal District Court Judge Spencer Letts. In his remarks, Director Kerlikowske mentioned Banyard’s improbable—and inspirational—journey from crack cocaine dependence and homelessness, to prison, to a successful sentence appeal, to the chambers of a federal district court judge and completion of his GED.
I went to the Los Angeles Dream Center. It was August 18, 2011, when I arrived, and at that time I was back on parole and also probation at the same time.
I committed myself to do 1 full year in the Discipleship Program, and after the first 30 days I knew I had never been anywhere like this. They not only gave discipline and spiritual structure, but also taught me how to build your character and learn the power of integrity. How to do what is right even when no one is looking!
I felt so strong about my opportunity of permanent change, that I told my roommates, "Before I graduate I will be off parole and probation." Today, I can say that dream came true. I discharged parole April 5th, 2012. My parole officer called and said I had done great and they were really proud of my accomplishments.
The very next month I went to court for a progress report as to my formal probation and the court was so pleased that at the end of the hearing I was given the opportunity to speak. I thanked the court for giving me the chance to change my life, and asked if I could be removed from formal probation. The court said I had a long past, but my accomplishments at the Dream Center had reach beyond what they expected, and granted my request. Since this was before the year was completed, I went back to court later on to show the court that I did not change from my positive path just because formal probation was removed. So, when the term of a year was reached I returned to court and I invited Judge Letts, so that I could thank both justices for not giving up on me, for if they had I would have probably been dead or back in prison for life.
After that court date, Judge Letts and I sat outside the Los Angeles Superior Court and shared a moment of bliss.
Judge Letts and Michael Banyard outside a State Court House after Michael was discharged from formal probation.
Kurt Streeter of the Los Angeles Times wrote a follow up story of how my life had change since I arrived at the Dream Center. Shortly following that, my mind was even blown more when I was invited to meet the Director of National Drug Control Policy.
Michael Banyard and Judge Letts were honored to meet the Director of Drug Policy.
Today, I am a very happy graduate of the Los Angeles Dream Center Discipleship Program.
Michael Banyard at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, graduating from a 1 year Discipleship Program at the Dream Center.
I can say that never in my life have I ever volunteered to be inside a program or institutional setting, yet even though I graduated the Discipleship Program, I stayed on working as a Resident Advisory. I am able to serve the needs of the men who are within their first four months of the program, encouraging them as one who personally understands that change is possible.
Last year, I completed the Dream Center’s G.E.D. program, and am proud to report that I passed the G.E.D. exam in December 2012.
With the Dream Center, I share in the mission to "find needs and fill it, find hurts and heal it."
Michael Banyard remains at the Dream Center as a volunteer to encourage new intakes of the program as a Resident Advisory.
Michael Banyard is the founder of Each1Reach1Teach1, where he mentors the children of incarcerated parents.
He thanks the Office of the Director of Drug Policy for sharing his story. Michael passionately thanks Judge Letts for never giving up on him, and thanks Pastor Matthews of the Dream Center because his vision has changed many lives. But most of all, Michael thanks God for putting it all together.