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Local program gives hope for change, allows offenders to better themselves

<i>WNEM</i><br/>John Limon tells us everyday is amazing. It's a far cry from where he used to be.
John Limon tells us everyday is amazing. It's a far cry from where he used to be.

By James Felton

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    MIDLAND COUNTY, Michigan (WNEM) — John Limon tells us everyday is amazing. It’s a far cry from where he used to be.

“You know I was ignorant, arrogant. I didn’t want to progress in life. I thought my life was ruined because I had been to prison. So, by the time I got out of prison I was a completely different person from when I went in, I was actually worse,” Limon said.

Since the age of 14, Limon had been in and out of trouble. Things came to a head in August of 2018.

“I was drinking and driving actually, and apparently I hit someone, like side swiped someone’s car. And I had like an altercation with some other people. And someone had called the police and when they tried to pull me over, I didn’t stop. And then I wrecked my car. I had my girlfriend at the time, but she’s my wife now, she was in the car so that’s not good. And I pretty much knew, well I figured I was going to prison. I was like I’m definitely going to prison over this,” Limon said.

Despite his legal troubles, Limon was offered a way out, a chance to turn his life around. It’s called the MiHope-Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program. Brionna Varner is the program coordinator.

“His probation officer that he had in MiHOPE, he has worked with her before in the past. And she said that you know he’s a really good guy and he does very well when he’s in a program. It’s just after the program that’s where he struggles. So, she was really pushing for us to give him a chance and so we did,” Varner said.

Varner tells us MiHOPE offers people likely headed to prison five years probation, with the chance to be off probation in two, instead of time behind bars. Varner says the requirements are strict. No violations for two years, complete inpatient treatment, complete at least 20 counseling sessions, attend two alcoholics or narcotics anonymous meetings per week, and submit to random drug testing. Participants must find employment or community service or be enrolled in school. Varner says it’s all part of the effort to change behavior. 

At first, Limon wasn’t sure if he could do it even though the alternative was the potential of another five years in prison. But then one day it just clicked.

“Somebody out there believes in me. Somebody out there wants to give me a chance. So I should probably give myself a chance too,” Limon said.

And with that mindset, Limon completed the MiHOPE program in July.

“On his graduation day I do not think there was a dry eye in the courtroom. His story is just so inspiring,” Varner said.

Judge Stephen Carras brought the MiHOPE Program to Midland County with help from state funding. He says Limon is one of the more memorable graduates. Carras believes Limon has what it takes to motivate others.

“John has been there, he’s seen that, he’s done that. But you know if he can do it there’s no excuses. I think John will be the first to tell you that and the first to tell somebody else that if he was trying to help them. You got to stop making excuses. You got to make a choice. If you want to start living, you got to start living,” Carras said.

Carras is quick to point out that a complete support system needs to be in place to help people turn their life around.

“I think definitely the enforcement helped. I think the treatment helped. I think the men’s group, the peer support network helped, and you know getting a stable job is a big part of that,” Carras said. 

Now Limon owns his own business, Midtown Sewer Solutions. He cleans drains and sewers in the area. Limon also spends a lot of time with his wife Tina and their dogs.

“It’s a very heartwarming feeling that he did this not only for himself, but he did this for our family. So, I’m proud of him. Very proud of him actually,” Tina Limon said.

Tina and John have known each other since the fourth grade. She’s stood by him through thick and thin. Telling us they’ve come a long way since John’s last brush with the law more than three years ago.

“If it wasn’t for the MiHOPE Program who knows? Definitely wouldn’t live in this nice neighborhood. John wouldn’t be having his own business. You know we have a great life,” Tina Limon said.

John Limon added, “I wake up in the morning I feel great, throughout the day I feel great, and when I go to sleep at night I feel great,”.

Limon wanted to share his story because he knows that someone who is struggling is probably out there reading this right now.

“I believe that humans can change. I’ve seen it and now I live it. I know I’ve changed,” Limon said.

Limon made his shot thanks in part to a few people who gave him the chance to take it. He has a message for those who did not give up on him.

“I love you,” Limon said.

For more information on the MiHOPE Program go to our hotlinks section.

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