ROCHESTER – Timothy Rayshawn Gayles knows what people — especially those in law enforcement — think when they hear his name: Trouble.
There are three Timothy Gayles in Olmsted County; among the three are 66 court cases.
And for 20 years “give or take,” this Timothy Gayles, now 34, has been in trouble. He has been in jail often, in prison four times, including a 17-month stay that ended in August.
It’s not only the last time he was in prison, Gayles said, it’ll be the last time he’s in prison.
“I’m tired,” he said recently. “I’m tired of being in jail; I’m tired of running; I’m tired of lying; I’m tired of the drugs.”
The Rochester man has two things on his side that he has never had before, he said: Sobriety and a desire to stay out. Time will tell if he’s able to hold life together, but those around him echo his optimism for success this time.
He acknowledges the pitfalls of a felon are out there, but said he has learned the difference this time.
“Before, I was always, ‘the system is against me; they’re trying to lock me back up.’ Pretty soon, you start believing the lies, and you don’t really want to change,” Gayles said. “I know if I go out, doing the same things I did before, hiding things from Robyn, hanging out with the same people. ”
Robyn is Robyn Wood, Gayles’ probation officer. She’s one of three probation officers who handle offenders on intensive supervised release. They have smaller caseloads — 15, when other officers have 40 — and the offenders are violent or high-risk to reoffend.
Wood meets with Gayles in his home no fewer than three times per week, and at least once per week in her office. She’s the one who picked him up from prison when he was released in August; to say they are in contact frequently is an understatement.
Most decisions made by Gayles must first be approved by Wood, including where he lives, where he works and how he spends his time. For now, most of Gayles’ time is spent in meetings, classes or seeking employment.
Wood has seen a difference in Gayles, she admitted. After eight years on the job, she can see it in their faces when she picks them up at prison.
Gayles spent 10 months in the prison’s drug treatment program — seven hours per day, five days per week — which he says kept him grounded. He was a high priority for admission into the program because of his past drug use. He completed the intensive program, and said a Rochester police officer he saw recently also noticed a difference.
“He said to me, ‘Tim, I can tell there’s something different about you. You grew up,’ ” Gayles said. “It’s pretty cool that I can go over and talk to them without running away or putting sunglasses on because I’m high,” he said of those unplanned meetings with authority figures.
“My kids are going to reap the rewards of me being sober, definitely. I have enough time to show them the right thing to do.”
Gayles has nine children, ages 17 to 2, with custody of two. He sees the rest frequently.
“Sober life is amazing,” he said. “I’m sober today and clean today; I don’t start looking too far ahead. There are bad days, but I work through them, because now I can. When that happens, I think, ‘what was I doing in prison at this time?’ I’d rather be here, even with the curfew, all the rules, than sitting there.”
Gayles continues to use the lessons he learned in treatment, as well as the weekly AA meetings he now attends.
Drugs were “my baby,” he said. “I wrote a goodbye letter to drugs, told them they’d destroyed my life, and it was time for us to part ways.”
If urges should hit, Gayles said, “I play out the whole story in my head. Here comes the jail, here comes the prison.”
He’ll be on probation until May 9, 2014.
“That’s the real test,” Gayles admitted, “if I can stay grounded when I’m off, without somebody checking up on me.”
Between now and then, he’ll continue to work on changing the things that got him in trouble so many years ago, feelings of anger and betrayal that Gayles said were compounded by a rough childhood and growing up without a father.
“I knew it would take prison to stop” the criminal behavior, he said.
He didn’t seek help before, because “I didn’t want anybody to know about me. I couldn’t swallow my pride; I thought I could handle it, but I couldn’t.”
He’s surrounded by a support system now that includes family — four generations strong.
“I am so proud of him,” said his mother, Etta James Gayles. “I tell him he’s inspired me to stop drinking. I see a big difference.”