Six months ago, I walked out of La Modelo, the maximum security prison in Nicaragua infamous for rampant human rights violations. Six months ago, I returned to Seattle, Washington where my family and friends welcomed me with open arms and hearts. Six months ago, I was given back my freedom after nearly two years of wrongful detention and imprisonment for crimes I did not commit. These past six months have gone by in a blink of an eye. Time moves at a break-neck speed out here in the world of the living, compared to when you are staring at the same four concrete walls everyday holding onto hope by a thread.
Since my release, I have felt a sense of urgency to make up for lost time. There is so much I want to accomplish in this life, yet tomorrow is promised to no one. My first priority was getting my son, Jabu, into a permanent and safe school. The school is providing Jabu with resources for his disabilities, and he gets up every morning before I do, excited to get on the bus with his new friends. It always amazes me how resilient kids are; however, I know he is harboring painful emotions from two years of pain and anxiety being away from his dad and watching his family being torn apart. He seems to be scared of everything now; before he had no fear.
My second priority was getting my wife into English classes. In order to integrate into the American culture, and eventually use her Nica law degree in the U.S., learning the language is a must. She is motivated because our son now speaks more English than she does! It is difficult for my wife to be separated from her family and country, but she continues to press on for the sake of our family.
I, too, have gone back to school and just finished my first quarter in graduate school. I am studying for my graduate degree in sustainability to continue the work I began in Nicaragua in the field of sustainable development—skills for which I am growing ever more thankful as I gain a new perspective on how much the people of Nicaragua taught me. It feels good to be back in academia, but it was a challenge to pay attention during classes after two years locked in 12’ x 15’ cell with nine other people where all you do is try to block out everyone else. Pure motivation has won out and resulted in scores in the top percentile of the class. It just goes to show you how much stronger the mind is than the body.
Despite the strides I have made to put my life back together, I cannot—and will never—forget the nightmare of my wrongful conviction and the many innocent victims who continue to live the horror. Consequently, my sister, Janis, and I continue to speak at law schools, churches, and organizations around the country to raise awareness about the case and the legal reform so badly needed in Nicaragua, the U.S., and around the world.
My life was destroyed; my body was broken; but my heart is healing. Six months of freedom will do that to a guy.
In November 2010, Jason Puracal, a former Peace Corps volunteer and realtor in San Juan del Sur, was arrested and later sentenced to 22 years in a Nicaraguan prison on charges of money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime. In September 2012, the Appeals Court of Granada absolved Puracal of all charges and he was whisked back to the United States.