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Drugs, family and absence along the Ohio River

For the Soul of Athens multimedia project, students from Ohio University look at how the American Dream is evolving in the small towns of southeast Ohio. 

Student Brad Vest told this story:

"In and out of incarceration, Travis Simmons, 28, and his family deal with an emotional, social, and physical landscape that constantly changes. Their dreams hinge on his ability to stay away from drugs and support his family."

Brad Vest

The extended Simmons family gathers outside of Shelia Simmons camper. Travis finds it easier to stay away from old influences while living alongside his mother Shelia. "She keeps an eye on me." Travis said. "Whether I like it or not she's always there making sure that I don't screw this up."

Brad Vest

Travis Simmons watches over his two young daughters, Patience and Journey, as they play outside of his one room camper. "I sat in that room for 28 days," Travis said about the county jail cell. "I felt, God damn, this [camper's] a mansion."

Brad Vest

Travis adjusts his home confinement ankle bracelet as his daughter Patience, left, sleeps, and Journey nurses her last bottle of formula before bed. After completing his original sentence for conspiracy to commit grand larceny, Simmons was sent back to jail for breaking parole on multiple drug violations.

Brad Vest

Short, an old friend of Travis, snorts a line of Suboxone as Travis attempts to block Patience's view of the drug. Suboxone is a prescription drug used to help treat opiate addiction; however, it is also abused to get high. Travis has struggled to break off friendships with old friends. Most of them are recovering addicts or still using.

Brad Vest

Shelia Simmons confronts her son, Travis, after he was released on bond. Travis' grandfather put his home's mortgage up for the bail money required to prevent Travis from returning to jail. "This is the last @!$%#ing time," Shelia said. "I'm not coming back here if you get in trouble, no more."

"This is a story about drugs, family and absence along a bend in the river. Travis Simmons is attempting to move past his addiction, and despite prison, parole, parents, and his devotion to his daughters, he cannot stay out of trouble. Now his mother, Shelia, helps care for his daughters, Patience and Journey, and worries for their future, wondering when her son will come home, and if he will screw up again."

See the full story here.