Jay Dan Gumm is the founder of Forgiven Felons, a non-profit that serves the formerly incarcerated. Along with mentoring men who live in the Forgiven Felons transitional house, sharing his story in prisons, and assisting families with the intricacies of the Texas parole system, this husband and father of two spends his days running the small handyman business he owns and uses to employ Forgiven Felons. He is currently pursuing the launch of a resource center for the Greater Dallas area that will assist the formerly incarcerated in recovery classes, job search, parole guidance, and job certification for in-demand careers. He’s on the podcast today to share some of his journey from felon to forgiven.
During this episode we discuss:
Jake Enriquez (00:00):
Hey, welcome to the show, Mr. Jay Dan Gumm. How are you doing this morning, Jay?
Jay Dan Gumm (00:04):
Great. Thanks for having me.
Jake Enriquez (00:04):
Brother, thank you. Thank you so much for coming out and hanging out with us. Now I know that you’ve founded Forgiven Felons ministry, right? Yes. And that is helping people with the past, realize their future. I like that mission statement right there, man. So, you know, in doing so I know that you’ve got a lot of experience in that I know we have, we have a lot to talk about, but I want you to just do me a favor if you’ll just introduce yourself who you are, where you’re from really quick.
Jay Dan Gumm (00:31):
Jay Dan Gumm. I am a forgiven felon and a huge Steeler fan, to the demise of my Cowboy fan wife, and all my other friends that live here in Dallas. But, um, but yeah, I grew up in church, you know, I went to private schools, all of our lives and, um, but I got kicked out of two private schools, uh, my sophomore year in high school. And that’s when I tried drugs and alcohol for the first time. And, uh, then I went to college, majored in Jack Daniels. Um, did a lot of research, lab researches for that class – a lot of late night studying. But, you know, in college, I dropped out of college because I wanted to drink and came back home – bartender, working in restaurants and serving alcohol and, and, um, I began to get “minor in possession” charges, um, public intoxication charges, all that. And then I turned 21 and then it was legal. And, um, you know, I got my first DWI on a Friday night. And I got my second DWI on a Tuesday, the following Tuesday, ’cause I’m an overachiever. And then I got my third one, you know, within around a year, December 16th, got it in before three became a felony. But then I did pretty good for a couple years.
Jake Enriquez (02:02):
You say you got it in Jay, you got that in?
Jay Dan Gumm (02:05):
I did, I got that third one in before it became prison time.
Jake Enriquez (02:08):
You’re married now. And you got two, two daughters, is that right?
Jay Dan Gumm (02:11):
Yes. I, uh, I got married exactly two years to the date of me getting out. April 18th, 2006 was my release date. April 18th, 2008 was my wedding date. You know, and I asked my wife before we did that. I said, since it’s a very special date to me, are you going to, you’re going to be okay with me sharing our wedding date with my release date? She said, I’m okay with that because it means you’ll never forget our wedding anniversary and I haven’t. And so, so yeah, two years dating and um, I have two beautiful kids, but that was a journey itself. We had three miscarriages. One of those was a 20 week old stillborn. So we get halfway through the pregnancy and yeah. And little Bubba Gumm died in my wife’s womb. So that was, that was, but you know, with everything that we’ve been through, we’ve been determined to come out of it stronger than we went in.
Jake Enriquez (03:08):
Praise God. And you know, I hear it in you, you know, some of that past, and I know that you’ve been, you know, you’ve done some time and you were just starting to talk to us about the alcohol, but I want to ask you a few questions about that real quick, because I think about guys who listen to this podcast. Right. And who’ll listen out, out wherever they’re at and it doesn’t have to be guys, but anyone who’s listening, you know, alcohol Is very deceptive, you know. I don’t know what age, what age were you by the way?
Jay Dan Gumm (03:39):
Jake Enriquez (03:39):
13 years old when you started drinking. Okay. So we start with the alcohol, but here’s the thing. It’s an acquired taste. [Oh yeah.] In other words, you don’t, you don’t just jump in there and say, “Oh man, that beer tastes good!” as a 13 year old.
Jay Dan Gumm (03:52):
Well, let me tell you that quick story. So I’m, I’m working, I’m still – we changed churches and schools – and I was still bitter about that. And so I’m still trying to fit in with new friends and get them to accept me and like me. And so between my freshman and sophomore year, I go work with these friends that I’m trying to win their acceptance, and their older brothers. And we’re cleaning out new construction houses, cleaning them, getting them ready, you know, and the very first day I worked with them – all day we’ve been pulling water and Gatorade out of a cooler. [Yeah] At the end of the day, they bring the separate cooler out and I’m like, huh, wonder what’s in that cooler. And one by one they’re pulling Coors Light out of that cooler. And my heart started beating real fast.
Jay Dan Gumm (04:36):
‘Cause right then I had a choice between honoring my parents and what they’ve taught me, and winning the acceptance of my friends. And in that moment as a 13 year old, before I made my own decision for myself, somebody else made the decision for me. And somebody threw that beer to me and…I had to drink it then. I had to. It was in my hand. I’m trying to win these guys acceptance. And so I, I opened it and took a drink and it was literally the worst thing I’d ever put in my mouth, to that point. But I decided to chug it. And as it’s going down out of the corner of my eye, I see my friends going, “Go, Jay! Go, Jay!” and I just chugged the whole beer. I throw it down. I said, give me another one. You know, now for somebody who’s never drank alcohol – and at 13, I’m not as big as I am now – after that second beer, I started getting, I started feeling that buzz. [Sure. That’s all it takes.] And at that point, the beer, the taste didn’t matter anymore because the taste of acceptance far outweighed the taste of the nasty beer. And, um, but eventually I found Jack Daniels and had a love affair, long, long love affair with Jack Daniels.
Jake Enriquez (05:58):
That’s even, that’s even worse.
Jay Dan Gumm (06:00):
I got a tattoo of Jack Daniels on my left arm.
Jake Enriquez (06:02):
But you know, I’m glad you brought that up because fitting in is one of the, one of the main things I think that, uh, that leads us in. You’re, you’re looking for the acceptance. You’re looking to fit in, looking to be part of something. You’re looking to kind of get away from things. But after you start, let’s just say, after you – you brought that up, about the buzz feeling – after that happens, it’s kind of like, you want to go back over there and explore a little bit more and then it just slowly, subtly takes off into something different. And then it might be some, some other kind of drug, whatever. It just keeps leading into that. So, you said you got, uh, how many DUI’s?
Jay Dan Gumm (06:38):
I’ve got a total of five that I’ve been charged and convicted for. [Okay] But, uh, yeah, but there’s there’s, I would, I would be willing to bet that there was about….I’ve drove drunk, driven drunk, close to a thousand times.
Jake Enriquez (06:54):
Sure. And I mean, Hey, they say, I don’t remember the numbers, but…
Jay Dan Gumm (06:57):
Well, there was two years, there was two years I know for sure, I was drunk every day and I was a functional drunk. I mean, I would, um, I say “drunk”. What I drank that morning, or that night, would be enough to make other people pass out because I just built up my tolerance to it. And, um, but two years for every single day, so that’s almost 700, that’s 700 days right there. And then there’s, I don’t know, maybe 50 or 60 times my mom will probably tell you maybe more that the police would just call them and say, come get your, come get your son, And I mean, I passed out side of the road, Whataburger, Exxon, you know, whatever.
Jake Enriquez (07:40):
What age do you think that was that at?
Jay Dan Gumm (07:42):
Oh, that was all my young, young adult. 20 to 28.
Jake Enriquez (07:46):
Okay. And when you went in to finally, you went into prison, what age was that?
Jay Dan Gumm (07:51):
Maybe 33. Because when I got out, I was 36.
Jake Enriquez (07:54):
Yeah. So here’s the reason why I bring that up. Sometimes I hear people say, “no, I don’t have a problem. I’m all right.” This and that. And I always remind, uh, youngsters, especially, I say, “Man, listen, everybody doesn’t come out of that.” Some people go in and they think you have all the time in the world. You’ll quit playing around later, this and that, you know, and then it’ll be better later, but some people don’t ever get out of that, you know, I, you know, and, and we’ll share some experiences that you may have with people inside, but here’s one of the ones that I had is a guy told me that he, uh, his wife passed away. He was never a big drinker. He got drunk, you know, afterwards he was depressed and everything else. And, you know, she had passed away after she got sick. All of a sudden it was out of the blue that had happened. And, uh, one night, because he was drunk, he passed out behind the wheel – involuntary manslaughter. So he did 12 years. He was on his 12th year. But before that, he said, you know, life was just going along, nothing really happening. And then all of a sudden, his whole life changed, you know, behind that, behind that stuff. So, even though that guy had an experience that was out of the blue, some other guys have experiences that go on forever and they’ve been living in that. And, and with an idea that maybe one day I can change that. So did you ever think that wasn’t that bad for you? You were okay?
Jay Dan Gumm (09:19):
Well, you know, I enjoyed drinking. [Sure] So I never, it was almost like, I didn’t care if I had a problem. Right. So when somebody would say, do you think you’re an alcoholic? I would say, I don’t know, maybe. Probably. But, ‘m having too much fun. I don’t really care whether I am or I’m not. Because back then, most of my alcoholic life, the fun far outweighed any consequences I had gotten at that point. And you know, when I got my first three DWI and I finally turned myself in to Dallas County, ’cause I hadn’t gone to court for any of them yet. They tested me, you know? And they said, we want to know if you’re an alcoholic. So they gave me this test and I took the test and they came to us because they said, we need to know what kind of treatment to put you in.
Jay Dan Gumm (10:10):
And so I’m like, okay, great. So I answered what I thought was honest. And I gave him the test and they’re like, well, we don’t really think you’re an alcoholic. They said this to somebody who had three DWIs, multiple minor-in-possession charges. Several public intoxication charges. They looked at me and held up a piece of paper and said, this piece of paper says, you’re not an alcoholic. And I carried that piece of paper around for a while. Yeah. And shoved it in people’s face that said I am an alcoholic. I’m like, well, I don’t know. The state said, I’m not. So as long as I’m not might as well, keep having fun. You know? So I enjoyed it, you know, and part of my testimony that leads me to administrative segregation in prison for eight days is me admitting to God, even after He affirmed all the callings He has on my life.
Jay Dan Gumm (11:01):
And says, I haven’t changed My mind. I still want you to do things for Me. I said, yeah, but there’s this Jack Daniels issue that I have. ‘Cause there’s nothing in my natural body…because to me, I didn’t drink because I had a problem. I drank because I loved to drink and I, and I enjoyed it. And so the same with the cigarettes. And so in those eight days, I had a different conversation with God. And one day it was about the cigarettes and the alcohol. I said God, if You want me to do these things for You, You’ve got to do something in me that I can’t help You with, because there’s nothing in my natural, nothing in my natural body that says let’s quit drinking and let’s quit smoking. Yeah, there’s just not, you know. Now, I still wanted to do those things He wanted me to do, but I knew logic would tell me that I couldn’t do both. So I just told God, You’ve got to do something in me and my body – hit a reset button – something that, that doesn’t allow me to desire cigarettes and Jack Daniels anymore. So then the next day I woke up, and it was a, it was a feeling that – it was the most incredible feeling in the world. I didn’t know what He did. I knew it had to be supernatural.
Jay Dan Gumm (12:19):
But…He hit a reset button because from that day forward, I never looked at Jack Daniels and smoking cigarettes the same way I did before that. Before that day, I could tell you exactly where I was going to go to get my first fifth of Jack Daniels and what pack of cigarettes I was going to buy. So I just thanked Him. I said, you know, up until that day, I never, I used to make fun of people that say they’ve been delivered of something.
Jake Enriquez (12:42):
Yeah, there you go, me too. I’m with you!
Jay Dan Gumm (12:43):
I used to look at that and go, “Whatever. You finally just got some discipline in your life.”
Jake Enriquez (12:48):
Yeah. Or you got caught or something.
Jay Dan Gumm (12:50):
Yeah! But, after that day I was like, all right, God. Yeah. Thank You. You did something because I see it differently. I think about it differently. I talk about it differently. So thank You. Whatever You did, thank You. And then it was almost like He said, now I want you to work on your profanity and your gambling. I was like, “Aww…” I said a cuss word right then. Um, and I was like, man, I wish I’d asked Him to get rid of all four. Because in prison, the language is profanity and the currency is gambling.
Jake Enriquez (13:20):
Yeah. I mean, right. Yeah.
Jay Dan Gumm (13:22):
It was September 18th, 2003. So you know what starts around the beginning of September…Football. I mean, I had 10 parlay boards that I was in charge of when I went into ad/seg.
Jake Enriquez (13:33):
So, well, hold on before you get there. I want to, I want to rewind a minute.
Jay Dan Gumm (13:38):
I was just going to like tell that just for the, just for reference about the alcohol. So yeah, let’s go back to the alcohol.
Jake Enriquez (13:44):
I want to know about whenever you first walked in.
Jay Dan Gumm (13:46):
Jake Enriquez (13:47):
Yeah, whenever you first walked into prison. I know you’ve been locked up in jail before. You know, the County and the…
Jay Dan Gumm (13:52):
I was in Ellis County, Waxahachie.
Jake Enriquez (13:54):
So, county’s a little bit different. So what were you thinking whenever you got locked up and they sent you up?
Jay Dan Gumm (14:00):
Well, when they let me go from the County, I was the only one catching chain from the county jail that day.
Jake Enriquez (14:07):
Jay, you gotta tell them what “catching chain” is though.
Jay Dan Gumm (14:09):
“Catching chain” is when you get on a bus and they chain you all together with everybody on the bus. And they take you to prison. So, from Waxahachie jail that morning, I was the only one that was leaving, going to prison. So I got to ride in the back of a nice little car with a, I don’t know if he’s a Marshall or Constable or whatever he was, I was comfortable and you know, it was nice. And we drove that, made that trip to Waco, to McLellan County. And that’s where all the smaller counties converged, uh, into Waco. And that’s where the chain bus was waiting for all of us. And, um, but that ride from Waxahachie jail to Waco was surreal. I mean, it was just like, okay, this is it.
Jay Dan Gumm (14:56):
You know? I mean, I ran jail. I was smuggling cigarettes and different stuff into jail. I was, I had a little thing going. But now I’m going to a place where I’m not the man anymore. So, but that, that car ride was so heavy. Because I didn’t have, I wasn’t in the bus with all the other guys yet. This old man, this Constable, was just having a conversation with me. And he was, he was asking me questions, you know, like how much time I got, you know, and, and why I got in trouble and all that stuff. And, and uh, and he was asking me questions about, you know, what my plans are to change my ways. And it was really, it was, it was neat because it, but here’s the thing, 1997, when I lost my girlfriend and lost the job – I rejected Christ and Christianity and everything, a hundred percent.
Jay Dan Gumm (15:48):
I said, I don’t want any more of this. I’m going a hundred percent my way. And when you go a hundred percent any way, you’re basically rejecting every other way. And so I was rejecting God, Christianity. So at that point in public, if I saw my Christian friends, I wouldn’t put my cigarette out anymore. I wouldn’t hide my drink. I would just blow smoke in their face. So I’ve made myself available a hundred percent to Satan and the world. And when you make yourself available a hundred percent to anything, you get tools made available to you that you did not have at less than a hundred percent. [You’re right] Same way the first stringers in professional sports, they get all the nice things available to them that the third stringers may not have available – the punters and kickers don’t have available. You know?
Jay Dan Gumm (16:34):
So, so I, I began to grow in the devil and that sounds so weird. But if you can grow in the Lord, you can grow in the devil opposition. Absolutely. And so, so even to the point where, when that judge read my sentences off and my dad and two sisters were in the courtroom and they were just crying. Oh man. Yeah. My heart was so hard that didn’t even move me. And I’m about to tear up now because I can’t believe I let my heart, my soul get to that point where my family crying that I’m about to go away for five years, didn’t even bother me. Yeah. You know? And um, something that the judge said in the courtroom bothered me more than that. He, he told the whole court, I got the, I got the transcripts, I’ve paid money to get the transcripts.
Jay Dan Gumm (17:22):
But he said, he said to the court, he said, I don’t see a very bright future for Mr. Gumm. No man. Okay. And he was right. If I didn’t change anything, he was right. But, uh, but, but we get out of the car and we get on that chain bus and that chain bus was horrible. Yeah. Uh, and we drove, we drove through Palestine.
Jake Enriquez (17:42):
Hold on. You said it was horrible. Give me some reasons why it was horrible, so people could know.
Jay Dan Gumm (17:47):
So you’re handcuffed, feet and hands, to somebody sitting beside you. So every time they move, you move, every time you move, they move. Um, and you’re in seats that are designed for one person pretty much, but two of you are in that seat. Um, there’s no, there’s no, it’s not a charter bus, so there’s no restroom.
Jake Enriquez (18:10):
They don’t take restroom breaks, Jay?
Jay Dan Gumm (18:13):
No, no, they don’t. And so everybody, a lot of people in that bus are scared. Because they’ve never been to prison before. There’s a few repeat offenders in there, but it was what made it even more horrible was we drove through Palestine. We drove through a Walmart distribution center and right then I was reminded – because I was a manager at Walmart when I got locked up – and right then I was reminded of everything I’m losing. But driving by that Walmart distribution center, it was the reality of what I just lost. I was making good money as a manager at Walmart. I was doing awesome. Right. And, and I lost it. Yeah. And then we get in there and now the same guys, you were all chained in a bus with, you’re all standing there out in the open naked with.
Jake Enriquez (19:04):
Hold on, hold on, hold on. Let’s take a really quick break and we’re going to be right back.
Jake Enriquez (19:09):
So Jay, you were just telling us about, uh, now arriving there. So go ahead and go ahead and continue, man. I don’t want to take you off of that.
Jay Dan Gumm (19:17):
Yeah. You know, uh, I had shaved my head already, so there wasn’t, you know, they have to make…their security is pretty tight, so they make sure there’s nothing in your hair, your, any of your body cavities. So, you know, you gotta, you gotta turn your head, cough. Bend over, spread them. All that stuff. And it’s, it’s humiliating. Yeah. For the ones that have never been there before. It’s uh, it was, it was pretty humiliating, and then you’re just, I mean, for a good 30 minutes, you’re walking around naked with a bunch of guys, you know, until they throw this powder on you to de-lice you and all that stuff. And, uh, and then you, you don’t get to keep anything but your Bible that you brought from county jail. So in county jail, I had pictures, I had different things and I didn’t know I wasn’t gonna be able to keep them.
Jay Dan Gumm (20:01):
And so now they’re sitting there saying, you know, “What do you wanna do with this?” And so I lost, I lost a lot of property. I can’t remember if they gave you an option to throw it away or something, but, it was bad. The first three nights, while they’re waiting to figure out what to do with you, they put you in what they call the K tank, which is the cages. And you’re just locked up in a chain link fence, you know, with a bunch of those same guys you came in. Yeah. And that was my first taste of what kind of foods we were going to get. And it was worse than county jail. Okay. Didn’t know if you’d get worse than county jail, but…You can.
Jake Enriquez (20:40):
So you get there and now you’re experiencing prison life part of prison life, and you’re just getting an introduction. Uh, number one, you understand that it’s not pleasant whenever they bring you in. You were just describing some of that. And you know, some people don’t really, and I say this because some people don’t really understand what takes place, when you cross over and you become property of the state, you know, um, when you’re being filed into that system. So, and now the meals are a little bit different. You experienced that, but you know what, uh, whenever you move from the cage and you go somewhere else, does anything start to get any easier for you?
Jay Dan Gumm (21:23):
Not at that point, you know, we get into, we get out of the tank, the cages and we get into our first dorm, 56-man dorm.
Jay Dan Gumm (21:36):
And it’s in July, in the summer.
Jake Enriquez (21:39):
So it was nice and cool in there?
Jay Dan Gumm (21:40):
Yeah, yeah. Very nice and cool.
Jake Enriquez (21:44):
What’s it feel like in there, Jay?
Jay Dan Gumm (21:45):
Oh, it’s such a sauna. I mean, I’m already a person that can’t stand to be hot. Yeah. So, I mean, I haven’t told you, but it’s even hot in this room to me. I’m of course I’m wearing a long sleeve, but, but at night, you know, my wife and I, we keep it at 66 in our house because we hate to be hot. Yeah. So I’m in the, I’m in these metal buildings in the middle of summer and it just, you just couldn’t get any worse for me, you know? And, um, but you know, all the stages of my life that I was running from God, there was a time where I worked for an escort service and I was selling drugs to these girls that I was driving around. They were selling their bodies. And even God showed me at that year and a half that I spent doing that, God showed me that his hand was on me.
Jay Dan Gumm (22:32):
And that first day, the real day in the 56 man pod, there’s a gentleman that came up and he just said, “Hey, man, I don’t know if you’re hungry, don’t know what you’ve had to eat so far, but here’s some food.”
Jay Dan Gumm (22:52):
And that was really neat because it was almost just like, all right, somebody is taking care of me. I didn’t, I didn’t think about it. Then I just thought, what is this dude doing? Did he see me with my shaved head and think I’m a Aryan brotherhood? And he’s trying to, you know, I just immediately wanted to keep everybody at arm’s distance, but looking back, I see that, you know, because that same guy, the very first guy that came up and offered me any food. Um, I saw him again. Now, he was assigned to that unit.
Jay Dan Gumm (23:20):
I left after six weeks and went to another unit. But he worked on that unit, so he was there all the time. But I saw him again in 2011 when I went to the Wynn Unit and um, he’s shaking everybody’s hand when they’re coming in. And all of a sudden he looked right at me, walked on by. I said, “Jerry!” He turned around. I said, “You don’t remember me?”
Jay Dan Gumm (23:42):
I said, it’s been a while. 2003. And I said, you were the first one that came up and gave me some, some soup. Gave me some of your spread. And he remembered me. And to this day he wasn’t a Christian. And so he saw me preach. Then he wrote me. He’s like, man, I know you weren’t that way when I first met you. But now that I see you’re different, I’m not there yet, but I just, I want the happiness that you have. I want the fulfillment that you have. And so every year, going back to the Wynn Unit, I just got to minister to him more and more and more until finally one year he looked so depressed. I said, “So what’s going on?” And he’s like, I’m done. I get denied every year. And I said, well, why, why did you get denied this year?
Jay Dan Gumm (24:30):
He said, well, last year I lost control of my anger and stuck a pencil in the guy’s neck. I said, well, I said, what do you think will help you, you know? He goes, well, I’ve heard about this program called PEP and I really want to, I want to get in it. But I know I can’t because of the case I got. I said, well do you have any other cases? He was like, no. I said, well, do you want to be in that program? He goes, I do, but I just told you I can’t. I said, no, you tell me if you want and what he didn’t know was that I was best friends with one of the recruiters. In fact, at that time, the only recruiter for that program. And um, in fact we were locked up together.
Jay Dan Gumm (25:07):
And so, so I said, listen, 10,000 inmates apply for this program. Every year, 300 are chosen, less than a hundred finished the class. If I get you in this class, you got to commit. He still didn’t believe it, that I could get him in. Yeah. And I said, I can’t get you in. I said, but I’m going to pray about it. And I think I know someone who can get you in. And so of course I was talking about God. And it did take God to move in Marcus’s heart. Yeah. Marcus is like, Man, I’m looking at this and I don’t know that we can…and I’m like, listen, I will never ask you another thing again. But I’m just telling you this guy, he’s not a Christian. I said, but he needs, he needs somebody to believe in him.
Jay Dan Gumm (25:54):
And I said, we need to, we need to sow the seed. And um, and he’s doing great now. He lives in North Carolina. He’s got a big business. He’s, he’s amazing. So I said all that to say, that was a part of looking back that I saw that God, God, still, He said, look, this is what you were at that time, but this is what you were created to do. Sure. You’re created to help sow seeds into people’s lives for the kingdom of God, man, you know? And um, and we’re friends on Facebook, Jerry and, uh, it’s, it’s amazing.
Jake Enriquez (26:23):
That’s neat though, what you said.
Jay Dan Gumm (26:25):
I got to go to his graduation from the program.
Jake Enriquez (26:28):
Oh that’s awesome. Where was it at?
Jay Dan Gumm (26:30):
Uh, the PEP program was only operating, I think, out of the Cleveland Unit at that time, and the Hamilton Unit.
Jake Enriquez (26:36):
I know they’re everywhere now.
Jay Dan Gumm (26:37):
They’re everywhere now. Yeah.
Jake Enriquez (26:38):
So, you know, you, God was showing you all along different things in your life, as you, even when you were younger, showing them to you. I liked that when you talked about going past that Walmart. He’s always showing us different things. He shows you your friend, Jerry, in prison. And some of those things that are transpired in your life, even during that time. So when you get to prison and I know you have, um, you, you spoke about mentors, some guys that mentored you. Tell me a little bit about that.
Jay Dan Gumm (27:08):
Well, you know, when I came out of eight days out of segregation.
Jake Enriquez (27:12):
Well, okay. ‘Cause we got to clarify…
Jay Dan Gumm (27:16):
Administrative, “ad/seg”. Ad slash SEG stands for “administrative segregation”. So when you’re bad enough, they, they need to separate you from general population and put you in an area that is close to the administrative offices.
Jay Dan Gumm (27:33):
So that’s why they call it administrative segregation. [All right] You’re being separated. We’re going to babysit you up here in these cells.
Jake Enriquez (27:40):
And it’s a cell, no longer a like a dorm, right?
Jay Dan Gumm (27:43):
You’re in, I mean, it’s, I could stand, uh, I could stand in the middle and touch both sides. So six foot, six foot wide. Okay. Maybe 10 foot nine or 10 feet long, you know? And, and, um, you got a metal bunk in there. You got a stainless steel combo sink and toilet and a mirror. I use that term mirror loosely. Yeah. ‘Cause it’s not really any reflective elements in this mirror. Um, and so, and that’s it. You got one little, you got one little, like three or four inch window at the very top of your cell. Just to let a little natural light in, but high enough to where it ticks you off because you can’t look out it.
Jay Dan Gumm (28:24):
And so that’s what ad/seg was. Uh, but you know, that, that happened on September 18th, 2003. And um, at nine o’clock in the morning and by 10:00 PM that night, after a whole day of just silence, just silence. There was a lot of yelling going on in the background, between cells, but to me it was just dead silence. And, but about, until about 10:00 PM, when I began to hear crying weeping, and it was the sound of my own weeping because God’s grace and mercy and the Holy spirit began to fill the cell. And for the first time in my life, I got every distraction, earthly distraction out of the way. And finally felt, I believe for the first time, the presence of God in a way that I’d never felt or known it before.
Jay Dan Gumm (29:22):
And I grew up in church. But um, sometimes you feel the presence a lot stronger going through your prison moments, your trials, then you do the mountaintops and yeah. And, um, and so, like I said, had different conversation every day with God in there. And one of them was, you know, you, you gotta humble yourself and let Me teach you. And, and Him teaching me was through these two inmates who had kinda been, already been through down the road and down the transformation and encounter experience. So even though I had the knowledge, the head knowledge of all the scriptures memorized growing up. I was in Bible quiz, so I had books of the Bible memorized. Uh, I didn’t have, I never had the relationship. So these guys helped me pursue the relationship and develop the relationship.
Jake Enriquez (30:12):
And what was some of the things they would try to have you focus on, in relationship?
Jay Dan Gumm (30:16):
You know, uh, how to, how to learn and grow in every situation instead of just, instead of just react. When you react, you can’t, you can’t grow. When you respond, you can grow.
Jay Dan Gumm (30:27):
And so, uh, at that point in life, it was just about reacting, reacting to life, reacting to everything that came my way instead of, instead of acting and responding. Um, and so instead of just memorizing scripture, we would break it apart, you know, exegetically, eisegetically, all the, you know, all the good preacher hermeneutics and everything.
Jake Enriquez (30:52):
Right. What does it mean?
Jay Dan Gumm (30:53):
Yeah! And so, you know, I began to read scripture in a different way that I’ve never, never read before in my life. I began to take notes when I’d go to church. I kept a journal, you know, they, they suggested keep a journal. And so, so they began to just show me little relationship building techniques, um, to help me grow in the Lord, you know? And by the time I got out or by the time they got out, um, you know, I was kinda where they were when they first started helping me.
Jay Dan Gumm (31:20):
Sure, sure. And so I could tell that I’d grown because now God pretty much just started sending people my way. Asking me questions – Brother Jay, what do you think about this? How do I do this? You know, and they’re coming to me telling me their problems and I’m thinking, wow, this is what I was doing with the two guys that were helping me, you know? [That’s good] And so, you know, it was really neat ’cause one of the guys was more of a practical helper and the other guy was more of a spiritual, which is kinda like, what I like to do at the house is I like to come at them from a practical approach and a spiritual approach because it keeps, you keeps you balanced, you know? Um, because some of the faith-based transitional houses, they just want to beat everybody over the head with the Bible.
Jay Dan Gumm (32:07):
Yeah. And that’s great. But if you don’t show them how to get a job, [amen] if you don’t show them how to do certain things on a practical level, they’re still gonna be an unbalanced person. Yeah. The state wants to beat him over the head with the practical. Get a job, you know, save for a car, you know, stay away from bad places, but they don’t want to do anything from a spiritual standpoint. It still leaves them unbalanced. And so what we try to do is we try to show them, you know, some practical, spiritual things they can do. But, um, when those two guys, I was really impressed with them and they made parole and I was like, all right, you know, they’re going to go out there and kick butt, take names.
Jake Enriquez (32:44):
Yeah, that’s what I wanted, what I’m trying to get at…
Jay Dan Gumm (32:46):
And they’re doing, and they were doing great. But then I heard after about a year, they were both back in prison. [Okay] And that was the first time that I’d really…the recidivism, that word “recidivism”, right? Um, really was up close and personal in my life.
Jake Enriquez (33:04):
By the way, which recidivism is…
Jay Dan Gumm (33:06):
You know, it’s an old medical term, uh, about, um, returning to an old pattern. Right. You know, uh, but in the criminal world, it’s, it’s about, uh, returning to an old behavior, pattern of behavior. From a criminal standpoint, um, we’ve taken it even a little further and said, okay, the recidivism means, you know, if you go back to prison. So they measure the recidivism rate within three to five years, how many people go back to prison? And on a national level – federal and state prison – um, it’s 78%. I think it’s even higher now; that includes federal, states, everybody. Um, in Texas prisons, it’s about 44%. They’ll try to spin it and make it sound like it’s about 20%, but that’s a lot of fluff. Um, you know, it’s, it’s really at about 44%.
Jake Enriquez (33:59):
But you heard those guys had come back and now you wanted…
Jay Dan Gumm (34:02):
And I had some questions for God.
Jake Enriquez (34:04):
Okay, Yeah! Come on!
Jay Dan Gumm (34:05):
Because it, it ticked me off, motivated me as well.
Jake Enriquez (34:08):
Because these are guys that mentored you.
Jay Dan Gumm (34:10):
But I’m like, God, if You anointed them to mentor me and they didn’t make it, then what chance do I have? [Yeah] And that’s when He said, as long as you pursue this dream that I’m going to give you, you’ll never come back to prison in this capacity. [Okay] And that was good code language for me because the very first book I read after I came out of ad/seg was a book called The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, great book, easy read. And it just basically tells, uh, tells people, let you know that there’s a dream giver, which is God. And He gives everybody a dream. And the book is about, you know, there’s a land called the “land of familiar”. You know, that’s called “life”. That’s our complacent life where we just get, where we get locked into complacency and normalcy. And we don’t wanna, we don’t want to leave, leave that land of familiar to go pursue the dream that God has given us because everything’s comfortable.
Jay Dan Gumm (35:08):
And, um, and so that when He said, I’m going to give you this dream. And as long as you pursue that dream, meaning I can’t get comfortable in my life. I’ve gotta be willing to leave, cross the border, fight off all the border bullies who sometimes can be close to you – your friends, your family – trying to talk you out of, of leaving the comfort zone. And so He began to unfold that dream in me, which at one point it was a ranch, uh, which I think we’ll have at some point down the road, um, He began showing me, me speaking in front of people, uh, and, and, and helping guys get out of prison, you know, get back on their feet. And so, so the dream just kept evolving and, and um, and then one day in prison, the reason we have the name we have is, um, I’m praying.
Jay Dan Gumm (36:01):
And I was just kind of praying. I’m already serving God, I’m on fire for God. It’s like the last year I was there. I said, God, You’ve given me all these things that You want me to do, but I have this word that defines me. It’s going to be attached to my, my name, the rest of my life. And this word is a “felon”. It’s going to be hard for me to find a place to live place, to work. Some churches don’t even want felons going there. Is there any way You can make this word, go away?
Jake Enriquez (36:28):
Hold on. What’d you say? Some churches don’t even want…say it again.
Jay Dan Gumm (36:31):
Some churches don’t even want felons attending their churches.
Jake Enriquez (36:35):
Okay, go ahead.
Jay Dan Gumm (36:35):
So, you know, now my church, my church is great, but I can think of a few churches, you know, that I attended growing up…
Jake Enriquez (36:45):
It’s okay. We’re not gonna call them out, but i wanted you to say that again.
Jay Dan Gumm (36:46):
But yeah, no, this is very true. And um, you know, so I said, there’s this word. And I said, it’d be much easier if You just got rid of that word and how it associates with my name. God, is there any way You can suppress it? Get rid of it? Expunge it? You know, something? And He said, no, there’s not. In fact I want you to embrace it. He said, but “embrace” doesn’t mean you identify. It doesn’t have to identify and define who you are just because you embrace that that’s where you once were. And He said, in fact, today I’m giving you a new name. And He kind of took me to English class. He said, “felon” is a noun. You can’t change the meaning of a noun. We’re not allowed to. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea, and you can’t change it.
Jay Dan Gumm (37:39):
He said, but you can change the way you look at that noun. You can change the perspective of that noun by putting an adjective in front of it. And He, you know, with me, hair. Hair is a noun, very nondescript, you know, but when you say “curly hair”, it changes your perspective on hair. Gray hair. I didn’t mean to stare at you when I say “gray hair”. Long hair, short hair, all these adjectives changed the way you view that noun. And He said, so today I’m going to put an adjective in front of your noun and you’re not going to be, you’re no longer going to be, be called “felon” anymore, from this day forward. And He kind of like brought to this. It was kind of like a little spiritual ceremony. And in, in the same way He did Jacob, you know, same way He did Abram to Abraham.
Jay Dan Gumm (38:29):
Same way He did Simon to Peter. He said today, your name is not “felon” anymore. It’s “forgiven felon”. [Amen]. And you know, He said, ’cause I don’t want you to forget how far you’ve come. You know, I don’t want you to embrace it because I want you to hold onto your old life. I want you to never forget how far I’ve brought you out of. And so, um, but then He also said that if you embrace it, you’re going to have access to people’s lives that you would not have access to if you tried to hide it. You know? And so, that’s the part I love because, because you know, I can minister to people [Sure, sure] that little old church lady won’t be able to minister to, God bless the little old church ladies. I love them to death, but you know, they get offended or they get all, you know, score me when I just wear my Forgiven Felons shirt because they don’t see the word “forgiven”. They just see the word “felon”.
Jake Enriquez (39:24):
But I saw a different one. What did it say? Calm down?
Jay Dan Gumm (39:26):
“Keep calm. I’m a Forgiven Felon”. Yep, we sell a lot of those too. Yeah. So,
Jake Enriquez (39:33):
So you…He gave you that and you leave prison with that.
Jay Dan Gumm (39:37):
Yeah. And I didn’t know that it was going to be the name of our ministry. I thought maybe the name of my book, maybe the name of something, whatever. But, um, you know, um, but basically what it is, is it’s a teaching that He gives me, that He gave us. It’s a teaching, before anything else, it’s a teaching. It’s a mindset change. And so that’s what I teach these guys when I go into prison and when I come out, when they come out – you’ve got to understand that if you walk around as a felon, you’re going to be very frustrated. But if you walk around as a forgiven felon, you’re going to find favor. [Amen] You know? Um, and, um, and that’s, that’s what we try to get people to do is just to believe that they’re forgiven.
Jake Enriquez (40:17):
So now you have, is it two houses? [Yes] Two houses, and guys are able to come out and, I like how you said you do it a little bit differently. You want to include both, spiritual and the practical part of it. But I noticed you guys have a, you have service on Sunday morning, Bible study?
Jay Dan Gumm (40:33):
Yeah. Every, every week it’s open to the public – not just our guys. But every week, we have from 8:30 to 9:30, we serve breakfast and do a little Bible study. Right now we’re going through the 15 Laws of Growth by John Maxwell. And, um, and you know, we eat and have a good time. And sometimes we joke and have fun. And then, and then we break and go to church, but not everybody goes to the same church, but you know, and then we have once a month, we have an activity called Open House Lunch, and that’s open to the public as well. And it’s usually on the third or fourth Saturday. Um, I haven’t updated my event page in a while, but we’ll get that updated.
Jake Enriquez (41:06):
But that’s, that’s a fellowship?
Jay Dan Gumm (41:07):
That’s a fellowship lunch. Uh, we provide all the main entree.
Jay Dan Gumm (41:12):
Uh, we, we tell guests if they, if they can to bring a side dish. Our residents buy all the drinks, you know, ’cause everybody chips in, everybody gets involved and it’s just a time – there’s no, it’s just the ministry of fellowship at that point. There’s no Bible study. There’s no, you know, and so we get together and man, we have Kairos volunteers that come, we have family of the guys living there, former residents come and show up and we just fellowship and eat and have a good time.
Jake Enriquez (41:37):
Man, that’s awesome. Well, let me ask you this. How can, how can listeners feed into your ministry? What ca we do to help?
Jay Dan Gumm (41:45):
You know, uh, anytime, anytime anybody wants to go back into prison, uh, we just went to the Coffield Unit. Uh, we took three or four of our guys and the current guys and some even former residents came. So anybody that wants to volunteer to come in, you know, we usually go in with the Mike Barber Ministries because they, they already have it. You know, they go in once a month and take counselors into the cells and you go sit in the cells with them. Um, and it’s just something that’s already easy to do, so we just piggyback on that. Um, we are about right now, we don’t have a whole lot of volunteer opportunity. We do have, uh, we’re just about to lose our intern for our correspondence. So we do have a position that if somebody wants to volunteer their time, um, answering inmate letters that want applications. So if somebody wants to do that, they’re welcome to. They’re welcome to come to the Bible study weekly. They’re welcome to come to the recovery class with us, the open house lunch once a month. Um, but they can check us out on the web forgivingfelons.org. My email, cell phone number are both on the contact page. Um, our future plans, if you look at it on the website, is we’re about to open up a resource center. We’re going to have vocational training with welding, paint and body, and auto mechanics.
Jake Enriquez (43:07):
Do you look for teachers or trainers that would volunteer?
Jay Dan Gumm (43:10):
We have, we have it covered. Uh, we have that part covered, uh, as far as the main people, but we will be wanting some volunteer people that have experience in that field. If they want to come in and help the classes, then we will, we will want that and need that. Guys getting out of prison always need work boots and it’s tough.
Jake Enriquez (43:29):
So could a volunteers who want to make a donation, could they do something like that?
Jay Dan Gumm (43:33):
Absolutely. Contact us, you know, especially work boots, uh, clothes. Um, we’re good on appliances right now, with washers and dryers. Uh, last year we had brand new washers and dryers, so that was good. Um, you know, we were raising capital for the resource center, you know. We’re going to start the welding class, uh, in a temporary location, but we need, or probably going to need anywhere from 75 to a hundred thousand to get into the building that we want to be in permanently. Just to get into it. Uh, you know, hoping we’re getting some build-out construction materials donated, uh, and we got plenty of labor that will help with that. Um, but we just need capital to get into a building. So if anybody wants to donate financially, yeah. They’re welcome to do that. Uh, straight from the website, we also have a Forgiven Felons cash app, if they’re into the cash app. Uh, you know, so we do, we do it all. Um, you can text to give too. Everything’s on the website.
Jake Enriquez (44:36):
What about your social media? You’re on Facebook, right?
Jay Dan Gumm (44:39):
Or on Facebook, you can do a search, a Facebook search for Forgiven Felons. But our ministry page will come up as well as my personal Facebook page. So I would suggest to like “Forgiven Felons” and follow Jay Dan Gumm.
Jake Enriquez (44:54):
Um, say your name slow. Remember how,
Jay Dan Gumm (44:56):
Jay – j a y. Dan – d a n. Like “Billy Bob”, but “Jay Dan”, Jay Daniel Gumm … if you type in “Forgiven Felons”, beause we nicknamed my personal account “Forgiven Felons” So if you type in forgiven felons, you’ll see my personal page and the ministry page. We’re on Instagram as well. So, uh, @forgivenfelons . We’re on Twitter.
Jake Enriquez (45:15):
You sharing some stories out there?
Jay Dan Gumm (45:15):
Yeah, we do it all. We share stories of my daughters. When you go to my social media, you’ll see my daughters, and my brothers.
Jake Enriquez (45:27):
Hey, there you go. There you go. Well, man, Hey, I greatly appreciate you coming out here, but before you go, Hey, I want you to, you know, think about some guys today that may be going through what you went through a long time ago. “I’m okay.” “Everything’s fine.” Maybe it’s a drink. Maybe it’s smoke, whatever it might be. I don’t know. What would you say to a guy like that who, uh, who doesn’t think he has a problem? He just likes to do these things. What would be an encouraging word for you to share with them today?
Jay Dan Gumm (45:56):
You know, one of the words I love using is “invest” and I wish I would have invested differently. I invested a lot of money in alcohol. And it gave me great temporary returns. Um, but what I would tell, even my younger self and other people that are struggling, you know, invest. Look at everything you put time and energy and money into as an investment. And it can be a small investment or a large investment. But at the same time, everything, you, everything you give out, whether it’s your money, your time, is an investment. And the investment, the return on my investment in Jack Daniels made me feel good in my body, but it didn’t make me feel good in my journey in life. And, and you know, when I was sitting there in the ad/seg, the solitary confinement, one of the things God showed me was, this is the sum total of all your investments. Everything you’ve invested to this point, this is your, this is your best, your greatest return you’re going to get from it. The only further you can go is sitting in the same cell waiting to die on death row. So, what are you investing in? Is it bringing returns that last? Or is it bringing a temporary return? And so, so that’s what I would tell, that’s what I would tell somebody, you know, whether it’s alcohol, whatever their vice is.
Jake Enriquez (47:32):
Sure, sure. Yeah, absolutely. Because it could be something different for everybody. Right. So basically, you know what we’re talking about is we’re going to reap whatever it is we sow.
Jay Dan Gumm (47:41):
I, and I want to tell you that same person that listens – somebody is out there praying for you. [Amen. Yeah] I’m where I am by the grace of God and my mamaa’s prayers. My dad prayed lots of other people prayed, but yeah, my mom, she prayed some prayers. She sent me a journal page and showed me on July 16th when I had called her and told her, I think I’m going to be catching chain tomorrow. And she wrote in her journal that a, she said a piece of my heart went to prison today. [Oh man] And she prayed a prayer. She said, God, I just pray that You protect him. Not only from everybody in prison, but protect him from himself. There’s people praying for you. [Amen]They’re investing in you, spiritually. So why don’t you start investing in yourself?
Jake Enriquez (48:28):
Amen. Man, thank you so much. That’s Jay Dan Gumm.
Jay Dan Gumm (48:31):
Are you a Cowboys fan?
Jake Enriquez (48:32):
I am, man. I’m a Cowboys fan. Man, I know we haven’t been winning anything, but uh…
Jay Dan Gumm (48:36):
What do you think about your new coach?
Jake Enriquez (48:39):
Hey, I like it. We can’t get much worse than it’s been the past few years, but anyway!
Jay Dan Gumm (48:45):
Alright, alright. I just wanted to get a little Steeler thing in there, you know. Go Steelers!
Jake Enriquez (48:49):
Hey, I got some buddies that are Steeler fans and uh…yeah, he’s even got his coffee cup up here – Steelers, okay. That’s all right. But man, thanks once again.
Jay Dan Gumm (48:58):
Thank you for inviting me.
Jake Enriquez (48:59):
Man, absolutely. Hey, and for you guys that are listening today, make sure you go out to ForgivenFelons.org. Just look around and see how you might be able to help out. Hey man, we love you and we thank God for your man!