Orlando “Duck” Harris finally got found suitable on Feb.2, 2021, after serving 38 years in prison. He credits the Tennis program for his rehabilitation and changing him into a better person.
Harris was denied parole four times in the past and the impact of those denials slowly diminished him.
“I felt that I wasn’t being heard. I felt that I wasn’t being seen,” said Harris.
“To finally get found suitable by the panel, I felt that they finally saw the authentic me, a person who had done the work. It felt good.”
Harris did the work by completing other self-help programs such as T.R.U.S.T. (Teaching Responsibility, Utilizing, Sociological, Training), VOEG, and CRI (Comunity, Re-entry, Institute). Harris also completed his GED and got his AA degree in 2016. With his mom and his long-term female partner at his side, Harris pressed on to striving for his betterment.
Harris joined the Tennis club in 2010 as a member and it was there where he achieved his fulfillment. He loved the game so much and stuck with it until he eventually rose to become the club’s commissioner.
“Tennis rehabilitated me totally, said Harris. “For me, it was being able to show some outside people the true and authentic side of me that helped me a lot. Being able to share my story with some people who don’t know me and who saw me as more than just my crime made me feel like I was a person.”
The SQ Tennis club is instrumental to residents like Harris’s overall benefit. Being able to play against retired Tennis Stars like the Bryant brothers and other retired community leaders was some of the things Harris loved the most.
“It took me out of the element of prison,” Harris said. “It gave me a sense of normalcy being able to compete against some regular people.”
When COVID hit the prison and put the program to a halt, Harris said that he was traumatized. He was missing the communal aspect of life and the socialization from the playing of Tennis.
“It was hard on me. I was worried about the outsiders and wondering was they ok. I couldn’t exercise or use my arms as much either,” said Harris.
Harris injured his rotator cup trying to assist with the serving of food to the residents during the lockdown. Now that the program is back, Harris is ecstatic that he can finally play again.
“Although I can’t get out there and play like I used to due to my injury,” said Harris. “I still get out there and practice with the fellas.” Now that Harris is leaving he fears for the integrity of the program and who will be the new representation of the men in blue. Some of the standards Harris looks for from the guys in the tennis club are; transparency and honesty with the volunteers. Being respectful and having integrity is most important, but it’s also one other thing.
“We’re very picky about the guys we allow in the club,” said Harris. “But to me what’s more important is the attitudes a person might have. Attitude is the key. You gotta have a high level of a good attitude.”