Meet Charles…

Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb.

Incarcerated: 19 years
Housed: Carson City Correctional Facility, Michigan

I have a 25 year old special needs daughter with cerebral palsy. At ten months, she started having seizures, sometimes 80 to 100 a day. She had a three-quarter-subtotal-hemispherectomy of the brain. They removed everything on the right side of her brain, except for her motor-cortex. She is a miracle child and considering what she went through. I love her more than life itself.

I was given 37 to 70 years for an armed robbery, without a weapon and no money. There were no fingerprints or video of the crime. I was identified by a mustache, and the only person wearing the clothing that matched the description of the perpetrator placed in a lineup with four police officers. I was convicted by a jury and given a death sentence. I was 42 years old and not facing release until 2042.

Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb. Life in prison is just a pale shadow of life in the free world. I strive to change, mature, maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and learn why I came to prison in the first place. Even though I was wronged, I maintain a positive attitude, striving to change each day the Lord gives to me. Life is a gift and miracles do happen. My daughter is living proof of that.

What really hits hard is the reality that I left my daughter with only one parent. I have missed 19 years of her life without a father to guide, teach, love, support and protect her. She’s the innocent one who had no say in the matter. It was due to my irresponsibility that she had to suffer and endure life without her father.

Family ties can wither over time. Loneliness breeds and thrives in the belly of the beast known as prison. It strikes insidiously, constantly and never dissipates. I may never experience physical freedom again. Walter Wenschell writes, “The vilest deeds, like poison weeds, breed well in prison air. It’s the good that’s born in a man that wastes and withers there.”

Out there, I only lived each day for the rush and escape that the drugs provided. The most basic hurt inflicted by my death by incarceration is a lifetime of boredom, loneliness, doubt and anxiety punctuated by piercing moments of insight into my feelings as a human being.

If the goal of my sentencing judge was to make me suffer for the remaining days of my life, then she succeeded. I wish the goal was for justice not to punish a man for life for an armed robbery of a Pizzeria with a toy gun and $149 to support a drug habit.Will I die unmourned and a disgrace in the eyes of society?


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