My name is John Schmidt and I’ve been incarcerated here for over 13 years. I received a 20 year sentence back in 2002 for several bank robberies and hotel robberies. This was not my first incarceration. I spent three years in federal prison from 1996 to 1999 for a bank robbery. These criminal acts . were ultimately a result of money that I owed for gambling At an early age, probably around six or seven with my dad, so my earliest memories with him are gambling related, going down the Delaware Park. That was one of the things that I remember earlier on with my father in terms of our relationship, things that we did together. When I finally was old enough, I went to to the table and it was just like this most empowering thing in the world. Here I am with my dad and my grandfather It was a right of passage and it was a way to like kind of to feel some validation. It was great attention to feel, it was powerful to feel that acceptance for my dad because again, we connected. That was such an integral part of our connection. I was never comfortable in my own skin. I always felt that I needed to embellish, I needed to manufacture stories, whatever, anything that I could do to feel accepted. I had this circle of friends and I gravitated towards guys that liked to gamble. On November 14, 1996, I walked into the Nation’s Bank with panty hose over my head and a pellet gun. I really chalked this thing up as like a streak of bad luck. This is like a bad weekend. This was just a dumb mistake I made. I don’t really understand a lot of underlying reasons behind what was motivating me to do these things. What was motivating me gamble? What was motivating me to want to be accepted, to feel validated And It was all about the facade. I would go to Atlantic City. I would go to poker games. I would talk about gambling wins and gambling losses. To me gambling losses were — I had just as much pride talking about big losses that I did about big wins because it was a validation for me. There was attention there. “Hey, John lost 15 grand last night at Tropicana–” or whatever. Just even that felt good. I never really understood my value as a person. I never understood the fact that I was created to do more than what I was doing in my life. Over the years, this whole experience has been amazing. I’m not talking about wearing whites and being in prison. I’m talking about the recovery experience; I’m about the learning experience. It’s a big deal down here. I talked a lot of guys in here about gambling, but at the same time I realized that it’s also for a lot of guys in here something to do. It’s eye opening to see how much of a crutch it can be in people’s lives. For me, I allowed it to define me for so much of my life. Now, it’s kind of ironic, I still want it to define me, but in a completely different way.