Jeffery, 48

Meet Jeffery…

Prison is a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. 
I wanted to grow up too fast. I had children, bought a house, married and divorced by 24. Although my marriage was loveless, the greatest pain I have ever experienced was the effect the separation had on my children. Unfortunately, I spent the following year trying to drink away the pain. For those going through a breakup or divorce, alcohol only makes the problem worse. Once I was sober enough to realize I was not helping the situation, I quit drinking, smoking and began the process of fixing the emotional and financial devastation. In the midst of this I made a poor choice. Although I did not commit the crime of conviction, my choice harmed not only my family and friends, it harmed society that I am not contributing financially or politically. I lost the ability to work and vote. For most of my life I was so embarrassed by my handwriting and spelling I would avoid any job that would require writing. That really held me back in life. My early experiences in prison involved being sexually assaulted by a prison staff then retaliated against for speaking out and using the prison grievance system.  I was thrown in solitary confinement or the “Hole” given a golf pencil, some paper and was told “If you don’t like it, you can sue us”. Prison is a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. 

My family invested in a dictionary and typewriter that beeped when I spelled something wrong. My poor celly thought I was sending Morse Code until my spelling improved. I began writing letters to the administration, governor, and legislatures which greatly improved my handwriting and style. I filed several lawsuits against the prison and staff, made some minor improvements within the system and earned some money. I was floored when a superior court judge stated I had excellent writing skills. After years of litigation and realizing I was not making enough positive change, I wrote a short story published in a zine for prison reform and two other publications.  I am now a contributing writer for an oversight group dedicated to improving the prison system and was invited to submit this letter to HoSQ.  Trying to transfer my writing skills from legal, which has a limited audience, to a broader demographic, I asked my friend for constructive criticism. He provided some and said I should get a book on creative writing which I would have if the COVID-19 hadn’t shut down the prison library for over a year. Because of the early support from my family I was able to use the money I received to donate some to charities, helped two former prisoners start their own businesses, and provided a laptop for a prisoner that started community college upon his release. I hope to improve my writing skills to make positive changes to the prison industrial complex and the lives impacted by it.