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I went from stealing from my own family, to stealing from others, to car hopping, to breaking into people’s houses, taking what they worked so hard for, to robbing drug dealers and stores.

Derrick, 22
Incarcerated: 6 years
Housed: Cummins Unit, Arkansas

I went from stealing from my own family, to stealing from others, to car hopping, to breaking into people’s houses, taking what they worked so hard for, to robbing drug dealers and stores. Then things got worse. Each crime I committed was for the same reason: to provide for my people and survive. I’ve spent my life in and out of the system. At 14  I moved in with my grandmother, thinking my problems would slow down, only to realize they followed me and got worse. At 15, I ended up getting my sister’s friend pregnant; she was 14. I was addicted to the powder and messing around with older women, so I left her to get my mind right, only to be locked up again. My son’s due date was on my birthday. Eight days after he was born, I was released. That day, I was completely done with the life I was living, wanting to provide for the lil one. I soon gave up and went back to hustling. I was told to knock on his door, which almost caused him to lose his life, all for drug money.

This was my life, starting when I was eight., not because my mother and father weren’t good parents, but just because it was. I caused a police officer to be killed. I was in county jail for three years before I finally said forget it and I took a deal for 20 years with another 17 on a Y felony to keep my other homeboy from doing the time. I wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. My family and many others fought me on it, even my child’s mother.  My parents gave up on me, and I started to feel like there wasn’t anything left in life for me. I started causing problems in prison. My big bro in here, Rufus, has been a big influence. He’s been tough on me and helped me find the “better me.” Recently, he’s tried to keep me focused on positive thoughts and pursuing education. For all of you going through ups and downs, obstacles, heartache and pain, remember you ain’t alone. Keep pushing until things get better. I gave up on so much over the years, but now, I’m trying to rise and better myself. I haven’t given up on chasing my dreams:

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