Meet Kareem…

Not only did he die, but for several years I blamed him, embracing the false narrative that I was the victim, victimized by society, the system, the mothers of my children, and especially Mr. Sullivan (R.I.P.) who I perceived to be a threat.

Kareem, 44
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: Sing Sing, Ossining, New York

At 17, I began a seven year sentence for a robbery I committed with another. I had all intention to stay out of trouble. However, the concepts of introspection and unprocessed trauma escaped me. I eventually succumbed to my shortcomings, especially the unfamiliar pressure of an adult childbearing relationship, in addition to being laid off. I lost my way and got back in ‘the game.’ This rebirth led to a new relationship where I created a new stream of income, and a new child. My hustle attracted problems which made me believe I needed a gun. This fear enabled me to shoot a brother without considering the possibility of taking his life. Not only did he die, but for several years I blamed him, embracing the false narrative that I was the victim, victimized by society, the system, the mothers of my children, and especially Mr. Sullivan (R.I.P.) who I perceived to be a threat. As I sought ways to legally justify my narrative, the law library became a refuge. And, having been employed, and having the experience of fatherhood, did provide me with a level of intellectual resistance to embracing prison culture in its totality. Unbeknownst to me, my legal research, although misguided, made me an avid reader. I became inquisitive about my own issues. I read self-help books on healing, therapy, forgiveness and mindfulness in pursuit of letting go of the anger for my daughter’s mother, who had someone else’s child, while we were married.

I discovered my own insecurities, excuses, and ideologies that impeded my accountability and emotional maturity. This sparked an awakening that I am solely responsible for all of this mess. As painful as that level of acceptance was, it enabled me to transcend the counter-productive perspectives that clouded my rationale. And since then, there’s been an accumulation of what Superintendent M. Capra calls ‘God moments’ that led to the man I am proud to be today. My academic ambition and positivity has paved the way to achieving an associate degree in Science and I am currently working on my bachelors degree and a financial literacy correspondence course and a host of other certificates. In all of my classes, we acknowledge our shared humanity, we engage in discussions about restorative justice, community, and accountability. The impact of these discussions cannot be quantified. Words have power and the sincerity in our dialogue always dismantles the levees, ushering in a deluge of tears that nourishes the collective spirit of the room. No matter how dark prison can be, I stand as a beacon serving my fellow incarcerated individuals along this journey where my family is the North Star. I have been remarried since 2017, with a blended family of six children between my wife and I. We participate in the Family Reunion Program (FRP) which enables us to spend two days together in an apartment unit once every few months. I am scheduled to see the parole board in 2033, however I have submitted a petition to the Governor of NY for executive clemency, in which I am thankful for the support I received from friends, family, and organizations.

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