Robert, 63

Robert, 63

Meet Robert…

Over the next two days I thought of the life I had wasted. I had been so caught up in self-pity and addiction that I wasn’t able to see the kindness in front of me. I made a commitment in that dry cell to change, no drugs or breaking prison rules. I am proud to say life is better than ever. 

Incarcerated: 13 yrs
Housed: Wildwood Correctional Facility, Kemai, Alaska

At seven I learned if I stole candy and shared, I would be accepted. The more I did, the more confident I became. My father was physically abusive to my mother and all of her five children. She divorced him, worked two jobs without any help from him. I grew up without any adult supervision. At eight I was sent to a reform school. To this day I can hear the staff saying, “No one cares about you. Your mommy doesn’t want you, stop being a cry baby.” At 30, incarcerated again, I asked my mom why she sent me away, “Miho, I didn’t want to, I didn’t know what else to do. The judge said if I went before the court one more time for you stealing, he would take all five of you from me. I’m sorry.” I had silent tears rolling down my face. Men don’t cry, another false belief that negatively impacted my life. I was in my 20s before I learned to read. I never fit in, always in the shadows. My relationships were all based on sex and drugs. My breakthrough moment came while I was sitting in a ‘dry cell’ no running water, no toilet, no bunk, just a mattress on the floor. I was placed in a long sleeve jumpsuit with the zipper in the back. Sleeves, legs and ankles zip-tied and duct-taped. I had to urinate. I banged on the cell door and a sergeant yelled, “We don’t cater to drug dealers and addicts. Piss on yourself.” The pain got so bad that every time my heart beat it sent a sharp pain to my bladder. I cried, “God please help me.” That was the last thing I remember before awakening from the most peaceful sleep I’d ever had. Over the next two days I thought of the life I had wasted. I had been so caught up in self-pity and addiction that I wasn’t able to see the kindness in front of me. I made a commitment in that dry cell to change, no drugs or breaking prison rules. I am proud to say life is better than ever. I do not express disappointment in self-destructive ways. I carve fossil ivory, whale bone, and antlers to donate to non-profit organizations. I simply take another deep breath and ask God for his calming peace. You know, just like He did in the dry cell seven years and six months ago.

Keane, 41

Keane, 41

I just wanted my boys to know how much I love them.

Growing up my dad was barely in my life. I swore that if I had kids I would always be there for them. They were three, four and five years old when I came to jail. I was with them from birth to that last day. The time I had with them was the best years of my life.

I regret every time I told them I was too busy to play with them. I wanted to help them grow up, to be there for them, give advice and do all the things a dad is supposed to do. I had to find substitutes for my dad not being around, so I hope they’ve found people to look up to.

“I just wanted my boys to know how much I love them. Growing up my dad was barely in my life. I swore that if I had kids I would always be there for them.”

Guys assume I’m a loner because they can’t see the ones I carry around inside of me. I feel bad for the young guys who join a gang to have an artificial “family.” I’m lucky to already have all the family I need.

Life’s a tragedy for everyone, admittedly more for some, all we can do is make the best of it. I’m not sorry that I took the life that I took. He was threatening the safety of the ones who it was my duty to protect. But I regret the choices that led to being in that situation, and I’m sorry his family has suffered.

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