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“Everyone in life has dues to pay. Paying dues means being part of the solution rather than part of the problem and finding a way to get to “yes.”

Michael, 56

Incarcerated: 20 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Vacaville, California

“Swimming in Circles”

Everyone in life has dues to pay. Paying dues means being part of the solution rather than part of the problem and finding a way to get to “yes.”

Sentenced to death, some twenty-five years in the making now, I’m compressed in what can only be described as a time warp, and not the “Beam me up Scotty” type either, but a not-so-simple paradox, learning to survive and endure with purpose in an ugly old run-down place where society chose for me to die — literally.

An underlying connection exists between indifference and irony that routinely transcends the bitter, biased, semi-tolerant humanity we all pretend to share – a kaleidoscopic oxymoron of elastic pretense and conceit around every corner. Just turn on your evening world news; it’s staring you in the face.

With ample time to make up for, you might imagine my being heavily dependent upon clock management. I’d be remiss to admit that there have been enfeebled (even squandered) moments where I’m found mentally- adrift against the futility of an oppressive current without a life jacket, much less a paddle. Society suggested that time is plentiful when locked away in prison for the convicted offender, the sanctioned duration for reconciliation and rehabilitation. Time seems friendly enough on the surface, but finding purpose aligned with promise means surrounding yourself with people you become decidedly- committed to investing in whatever remaining civility, humility, compassion, and grace you might muster from the depths of your already hollow empty soul. If you allow it, prison will sneak up on you and take the wind right out of your sails. Only in recent years have I tasked myself with reconciling how best to invest in an otherwise grim reality that no doubt intends to outlive me. Public character assassination, even ostracism as it were, is a very real concern for guys (and gals) in my shoes. But hope is not yet lost. That’s entirely up to you. The key is to determine where you are going and how you intend to get there from where you are sitting right now. First, you must reconnect with where you have been, what you’ve learned along the way, and most notably, how you utilize all of this on your adventure into tomorrow. I can only illustrate what continues to work for me most of the time. I’m comfortable doing so because with some 99% certainty (okay, maybe less), I know that every one of us has had our confidence shaken to the core and our security (heads, hearts, and egos) threatened at some point. As humans with real emotions, tragedies of every shape and size shatter even the slightest sense of control we thought we once owned. Undesirable circumstances beyond our control cause us to question things like faith, love, patience, and our ability to endure these rough patches. I didn’t crawl from beneath the confines of my prison issued wool blanket one lonely morning and choose to co-author a California state senate Bill (SB1419);  there was a cup of coffee or two in there somewhere. This process became an unavoidable byproduct of a terribly long and arduous dance with acceptance after the unnecessary death of my father in 2016. Nothing alters the state of mind and shifts the personal narrative, like discovering one’s purpose on the heels of a family tragedy. The strength to endure with pride, morale, and self-confidence during one of life’s lowest moments can renew your power, courage, sense of empathy, and comfort in others. Every stage of life carries with it its beauty as well as its burdens.

I’m grateful today for the tireless volunteer commitments from like-minded, impassioned people going the extra mile behind the scenes, continuing to foster the purpose discovered along my wayward journey. Purpose creates action, leading you away from your ashes of atrocity and into empowering flames of growth and healing.

State prison health care policy reform is my “coup de grace,” my final destination. I can’t stand idly by until state prisoners across this nation are permitted to voluntarily (inducement-free) donate LIVING vital organs and bone marrow to biological, match-worthy, immediate family members in need. Where a meager 10% +/- of the entire national prison population remains behind bars, federal prisoners enjoy a legal right to make the ultimate restitution with the “gift of life.” In 2016, the California Department of Corrections  denied my request to provide a lung to my dying father. This is justified by their lack of a living inmate organ donor protocol. He died shortly after that. No families should be subjected to this, especially when stigma-free donor supply outstrips demands. We are working to create a LIVING organ and bone marrow donor protocol for STATE prisoners nationale, one which promises to share the lectern of inalienable equal rights with federal prisoners.

If you’d like to learn more about this meaningful initiative/campaign, the introduction of fresh legislation meant to benefit state prisoners, ask your friends and family to visit us online, where they can show their support in several ways to those (yours and mine) biological loved ones whose bravery and dignity continue to inspire us.

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