Sunday, February 26, 2012

Testimony of 'Jimbo' Andrews - Co-founder of PPR

James “Jimbo” Andrews
1st Degree Robbery- 40 years

As a child, my family was strong on my mom and dad’s side. Both my grandfathers were successful businessmen. My grandfather, Clet was a cattle buyer at the Sioux Falls stockyard and my grandfather John started his own drywall toll business, Andrews Company. To say I was made out of poverty and committed crimes out of necessity would be an untruth. I had every opportunity and loving parents who stand by me to this day even after I drug them through hell. Many of us in prison have loving families, plenty of money, and a couple opportunities.

As an adolescent I stole out of cars and eventually got caught. I was sentenced to probation with restitution. I worked all summer to pay off my restitution and was quickly released from probation thereafter. Other than that one large warning sign, I was a wonderful child. Didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or even cause trouble. I went to church twice a week; my girlfriend was from the same church. I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica. I achieved three varsity letters in school, and I took advanced classes in high school. I was an overachiever.

At age 18 I joined the Army. I was a good soldier. I passed all the physical training requirements with ease. Any test I took, I aced it. I fit in well with the soldiers. I was independent for the first time in my life. Everything was fun and exciting. We soldiers work hard and play hard. I found out that I could not handle playing that hard.

There was some drinking every night in the Army barracks. I thought, "I’m a soldier, old enough to die for my country. A few beers now and then shouldn’t hurt." But they did end up hurting me. I began drinking every night. I started a cigarette habit also. I used to run track and cross country in high school and now I smoked! I would look down on such behavior a year earlier. Now I was caught in the habit. It was downhill from this point.

I had many incidents of misconduct after my drinking and smoking became daily routines. I would stay up late partying. Every morning was difficult because I didn’t get enough sleep and I was abusing my body. My attitude became a problem also. I even got arrested a couple of times. Little did I know, my superiors were building a case against me. Soon thereafter I was kicked out.

The Army was gone, but my new habits seemed to get stronger. The crowds of friends I associated with were all alcoholics who did heavy drinking. Drugs seemed to follow close behind. As if drinking wasn't enough, now I had another habit. I became a person I wouldn’t have associated with years earlier. I didn’t know how to pull out of the lifestyle. The unhealthy behavior fed on itself causing a downward spiral that felt impossible to correct. The lifestyle drained my body through lack of sleep and too many chemicals. In turn, my attitude was bad which made it hard to keep a job, a girlfriend, or even friends. Everything that was going on in my life was supposed to be different.

Looking back on it now, I didn’t want to change because I was afraid. I didn’t have any coping skills. It was easier to blame others, to take the easy way out, and use people... Anything I needed to keep using drugs and alcohol. At this point my habits were so bad and I was in such a physical disaster that crime felt like the only alternative. Crime after crime and hanging out with others who were similar to me took its toll. I was a wreck.

Then it finally happened... Forty years for robbery. I had never been to prison, but now I had to do a forty-year sentence. It devastated my family and me. For the first couple years my mom was a wreck and I was no better. I hope that no man has to ever sit down with his mother and look her in the eyes and see how her heart has broken like I had to. But I know it will happen again to someone else. And there wasn’t anything I could do or say to fix it. I still had bad coping skills. There were no alcohol or drugs anymore but the years of recklessness left me a broken person. I would act out, throw tantrums if I didn’t get my way, and get into fistfights regularly. I was still a burden on my family. I was still a problem. My family gave me support. I don’t know why to this day.  

All the bad actions made me a nervous wreck and paranoid that people were trying to get me. I started having heavy anxiety attacks. Something had to change. But I had no idea where to start.

My saving grace was my mother. She never gave up on me and planted seeds of good in my heart. Eventually these seeds sprang up. 

I was tired of being a loser. Change was small at first. I started by trying to keep a job. I had to wake up early to keep a job. I also had to stay out of the hold. Staying out of the hold meant new friends and a new attitude. Slowly a chain reaction was taking place. The effects are still happening to this day. Nine years later, I’m finally developing coping skills instead of using drugs or alcohol to forget about to forget about problems. Small problems from years ago grew into large issues that have taken me years to correct. So much damage leaves me with a lot of work and many support groups to deal with it.

Today I need AA, continuing care drug and alcohol counseling, two church communities, alternatives to violence classes, college classes, and a handful of mentors to just function with all my problems. Ten years of criminal lifestyle may take me the rest of my life to correct. 

Better late then never.

James ”Jimbo” Andrews


  1. James, Thank you for your honesty. I've shared your testimony with others and pray it makes a difference. Yes, it is better late than never. Praying for the correcting power of God in your life. Use it and be "free" !

  2. Hi "Jimbo"
    I know your Mom is so proud of the man you are. You are blessed to have so much love in your life. Most especially the love of God - who made and formed you and can't be any prouder of you too! Praying you continue to make a difference as you share your story and His love.

  3. Hey Jim

    I am yours forever brother.
    I could write the same story you have.
    I will do my best to be here when the doors open for you.