PARIS – Their message about choices and staying drug free was coarse and effective.

The two convicts, talking to students as part of Respect Week, shared parts of their lives – litanies of bad choices and drug use – with 25 students and several educators on Wednesday.

It was sometimes rough, but it held the audience’s attention.

The convicts came to the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School as part of the Right Choice Program. The program sends inmates in the care of the Central Maine Pre-Release Center in Hallowell on speaking engagements to elementary and high schools.

Hermann Bishop, a convict formerly of Franklin, struggled to save his best friend’s life. But he ended up watching him die from a heroin overdose. He is still haunted by the event in his dreams and daily living.

The other con, Dean, whose last name was unavailable, had to come to terms with abuse by a female relative when he was a child. He said he expressed himself with violence before making discoveries about self.

Bishop, 24, gets out in September. He said he has been in jail or on probation since he was 15. Since his 18th birthday, he has spent 45 months in jail.

“All of it was because I did drugs. I’ve never been in trouble sober,” Bishop said. He said he regularly consumed marijuana, Vicodin and Zanex.

Bishop said he was high on Zanex when he used a bulldozer to raze a small building. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. “They call it the Department of Corrections,” Bishop said. “I didn’t do anything to correct myself. I did drugs.”

After prison, a “friend” introduced Bishop to heroin. “He rolled up a dollar bill and I snorted it up. I puked. I loved it,” Bishop said. “Then I went right to the needle and started using everyday.”

To pay for his habit, Bishop ripped off family, friends and businesses. He promised his best friend, Shawn, that he could increase the $3,200 Shawn saved for college by five times by selling heroin.

“He looked up to me like a big brother,” Bishop said. “He listened to me.”

It wasn’t too long before both men “put the $3,200 in their arms,” and were broke.

Five months later, Bishop was with Shawn when he died from an overdose.

“I rented a hotel room for three days and every time I closed my eyes I saw Shawn in a pool of blood,” Bishop said about the gruesome death. “I cried for three days straight. He was like a little brother and I felt I had killed him.”

Bishop ended up back in Maine correctional center for a parole violation, and went to “TC,” therapeutic community. “It teaches you to look at yourself before blaming others,” Bishop said. “It taught me to think about things. “I have to live with every choice I make and that doesn’t mean I still have to make bad choices.”

Dean, 39, who will be released in a month, was also a graduate of the TC course.

He said he was molested by a female when young and had never been able to talk about it to anyone. He joined a gang, did drugs and made a reputation as a fighter, a banger.

“I was a con, a thief, a shyster,” Dean said. “I figured ‘why should I work, when I can sell drugs?'”

He said he never thought about the down side of his actions.

“How did that lady feel after I stuck a gun in her face?” He said. “I’ve sliced people, beat people and shot people. I was violent, violent, violent.”

Dean said he did drugs and fought to impress people, particularly the gang. He said he felt he had to impress those people to fit in.

From the TC course Dean discovered that telling his childhood secrets freed him up to get rid of other negative behaviors. “I don’t try to impress people anymore. Deep down there’s a pretty good guy inside,” Dean said. “I wish I could have been more honest in my life. I wish I could have had parents.”

Dean said he has seen the anti-drug commercials, where parents are urged to get involved with their kids lives and he said having someone around when he was young could have made a difference.

Bishop agreed and both men said in their lives marijuana was the gateway drug that led to other experimentation.

Dean explained that he was afraid of marijuana at first, but after he tried it, he liked it. This made him less tentative in trying stronger drugs.

“Drugs suck,” he said.

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