As a father, Marc Wilson had his family firmly in the middle class. Then a drug conviction sent him to prison for seven years.
He expects to spend the rest of his life trying to dig out of that financial hole.
Before he was arrested, Wilson was a nurse. He worked with pediatric heart patients, then as a nurse manager at the VA hospital in Dallas. He woke up every day determined to help people.
That mindset died a quick death in prison, he says.
One time, he was outside of a cell when two people inside the cell began fighting. One guy was getting beat up — badly.
“Me, being a nurse, you know, I’m trained to want to help people,” Wilson says. “My first instinct was to ask one of the [corrections officers] to get this guy some help because I think he’s in here dying. So after they got him out, everybody starts calling, ‘You’re a snitch,’ and wanting to fight.
“I learned quickly what prison rules were.”
Wilson says it’s impossible to do what the corrections officers want and also get along with the inmates.
“If you try to listen to the corrections officers, that might go against something that the offenders are doing,” he says. “And at the end of the day, you’re in there with the offenders.”
Going against the grain in prison has consequences.
“I’ve actually seen people get stabbed. I’ve heard of people getting raped and beat up so bad,” he says. “There’s plenty of times where they find knives and shanks all over the yard, all in the housing units.”
From March 1, 2012 to March 1, 2019, that was his day to day. Marc Wilson, who’d been a nurse and single father, spent 2,500 days in a Missouri prison because he drove cocaine across state lines.
“I mean, it’s just a horrible feeling knowing what I’ve lost and what I could have had by now,” he says.
Before his conviction for drug trafficking, Wilson was earning close to $90,000 a year. He owned a home and a car. He had $20,000 in savings. He didn’t need to traffic drugs. He says that over and over. He didn’t need the money. He wishes he could turn back time.
“In prison, just thinking about all the things that I’ve messed up by doing this, it kept me awake many nights,” he says.
He’s out of prison now, but:
– His nursing license has been revoked
– His house was foreclosed on
– He lost his car
– His savings evaporated in a haze of attorney fees, court costs and bail money
It’s all gone, and Wilson can’t imagine returning to life as it was.
“I really don’t even think I can make it back to that at this point,” he says. “I’m really just trying to make myself comfortable and just live.”
The One Crisis Away project’s Price of Prison series examines how time behind bars erodes wealth — for offenders, for families and for generations. Explore more stories in the series.