Growing up poor in Canton, Matthew Richey didn’t like going to school.
He didn’t like getting picked on because he needed a haircut, or because his shoes were cheap. “Who would want to go to school and deal with that every day?” he said.
So Richey started skipping school — a decision that put him on the path to prison.
As part of the “Dope Is for Dopes” youth outreach program, Richey and fellow Grafton Correctional Institution inmate Jarrett McDaniel told Wellington teens last Tuesday how small choices had big consequences.
In middle school, Richey was admittedly a slacker, sleeping through classes and acting out if teachers called out his behavior. Even though he was bright and did well on tests, he started skipping school, smoking weed and hanging out with friends all day in an abandoned house.
He was in and out of jail until he was caught in a stolen car, “and that was pretty much it.” A fast-track court hearing landed him behind bars for a year, and Richey said he blamed everyone but himself — even his grandmother, who “should have done something” to save him.
It looked like Richey was finally ready to fly straight. Released from jail, his school counselor laid out a seemingly-impossible road to getting a high school diploma. Richey defied expectations and earned his diploma.
“Well, I didn’t make the right choices afterward,” he told Wellington High School students. “Nobody explained to me that after high school there’s this whole other life you have to live. They call it adulthood.”
The military didn’t want him. And Richey said he hadn’t learned anything from being in lock-up. He ruined a job prospect by getting high and failing a drug test, then spent years floating aimlessly on the streets.
Richey said he learned to hate his life.
And so one dark night in February 2010, he found himself drunk and behind the wheel in Canton. Richey ran a red light and slammed into two cars, killing 55-year-old Earl Morrison and injuring two children.
He remembered watching Morrison bleed to death.
“I didn’t know I had the power to take someone’s life like that. That’s the truth,” said Richey, now 36 years old. “I’m serving a just sentence. I deserve 10 years in prison.”
Find out more about Richey’s talk to Wellington High School students, as well as the story of Grafton inmate Jarrett McDaniels. See it in the Dec. 12 edition of the Wellington Enterprise, part of the Lorain County Community Guide!