Leonard, 35

Leonard, 35

Meet Leonard…

This situation can take your lust for life away, what I use to like or intrigue me, I find myself despising. The person I used to be thought of love as something real, almost tangible. To view human nature in this form from within prison I now believe people as a majority don’t care about people. Because the prison I am at is such an attack on human nature- love of any type, form or meaning almost doesn’t seem real. Grim reality.

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Carlisle, Indiana

I was raised in a household where we’d move every year. I switched many schools. My mother would pick me and my sister up every other weekend. I had no father but my uncles on my mother’s side taught me how to be a man. During my teenage years, I was rapping like and being very unfaithful to my son’s mother and justifying it by thinking in terms of money. I loved money, cars, clothes and my family. But, the most important of the four I neglected to love them properly. I thought I had it all together. I was able to hold jobs in the free world for long periods of time, although I was hustling and soliciting women to fulfill my addiction to drinking and gambling.  I am here for someone being disrespectful to me and the female, while at a restaurant, and I regret it all. I had no idea what prison was like. Nobody really does until they are in one or someone truly tells you what it’s like to be inside a prison. Now, looking back on my younger years I wish I had someone who would have put more conscious reading material in my hands. Where I am at is an oppressive farm. Since my incarceration I’ve seen the pain I’ve caused my victim’s family and my own and I’ve rebuilt mentally since then. I immersed myself in true history, business, and economics. I’ve came up with many inventions with the hopes of helping and not hurting people. This is how I spent my time, as if I am about to go before a venture capitalist for an investment at any day. But now, I feel like I am in the twilight zone because now that I have all I need to be successful, I can’t get to it.

This type of oppression has made me an angry person, and I’m always angry. This prison is like a daycare, they treat and talk to you like little boys. They take you as a danger if you carry yourself as a man or a man with dignity. Many lawsuits against medical, our pictures get copied in black and white (even obituaries), no fruits served, all controlled movement, no non-white employees (male or female), and not allowed to see rated R-movies.

This situation can take your lust for life away, what I use to like or intrigue me, I find myself despising. The person I used to be thought of love as something real, almost tangible. To view human nature in this form from within prison I now believe people as a majority don’t care about people. Because the prison I am at is such an attack on human nature- love of any type, form or meaning almost doesn’t seem real. Grim reality.

Antonio, 47

Antonio, 47

Meet Antonio…

Most of my family, friends and kids turned their backs on me. I felt abandoned. I decided to put my trust in God. I made a conscious decision not to let my wrongful conviction define me.

Incarcerated: 18 years

Housed: Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Indiana

I was reading and comprehending at a second grade level and I had no money to hire a lawyer. All I had left was what was instilled in me by the Most High. After being wrongfully convicted of a crime I did not commit, I felt my reputation as a man of God was tarnished. Most of my family, friends and kids turned their backs on me. I felt abandoned. I decided to put my trust in God. I made a conscious decision not to let my wrongful conviction define me. As a result, I enrolled and attained my high school diploma, and completed every educational and rehabilitative programs prison had to offer. I self-taught myself the law by reading and studying case laws, the rules of evidence, and the state and federal constitutions. I went on to represent myself in my case. I help other offenders on their cases, and mentor other inmates who suffer from mental illness and behavioral issues. Until God opens those doors, I will continue being a positive role model, help others and serve the Most High. 

William, 36

William, 36

Meet William…

As a father of a 14 year old boy, I find myself having to answer questions that I have no idea how to answer. When my son was seven years old he said, “Dad, do you know when my birthday is?” I said, “Yeah boy, I helped make you.” He said “How did you help make me, when God made me?” I answered “Good question, put your mother on the phone.” So just imagine what a conversation with him is like as a pre-teen. I do my best considering my situation, But I guess only time will tell.

Incarcerated: 15 years

Housed: Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Indiana

I am the eldest of six siblings, five boys and a girl, by three different fathers. My father would stop by from time to time, while my three youngest siblings’ father was with my mother for almost 30 years. Both fathers were present parents, but I know now that it takes more than just being present. To this day I have not had a meaningful conversation with either of them. My father died the day after I got out of boy school. I was supposed to call him, but I didn’t, and he died. It still hurts to this day, but that’s another story. I did not learn how to fill out a job application until I was sent to prison, but that’s what just being present does. As a father of a 14 year old boy, I find myself having to answer questions that I have no idea how to answer. When my son was seven years old he said, “Dad, do you know when my birthday is?” I said, “Yeah boy, I helped make you.” He said “How did you help make me, when God made me?” I answered “Good question, put your mother on the phone.” So just imagine what a conversation with him is like as a pre-teen. I do my best considering my situation, But I guess only time will tell. About a week ago my son asked me, “When are you coming home?” I told him, “Well it’s hard to say because I’m innocent and now I can prove it, so I could be set free any time in between now and the date when they have to set me free.” He said, “Well if you’re innocent why are you in prison any way?” I said, “Good question, put your mother on the phone.”

Kenneth, 30

Kenneth, 30

Meet Kenneth…

My heart hymned with sorry, like the crying of a dove. At thirty, the probability of having a wife and child was razor-thin, like the fencing around my home.

Incarcerated:15 years

Housed: Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Carlisle, Indiana

They drove me to the hospital. It was the first time I left my cell in over a decade. It had been so long I forgot how lengthy the driveway was. But more surprising was the melody of the pebbles underneath the vehicle. I was unaware if this would be the last drive I would ever experience.As we drove away from home and entered into the countryside, I saw all types of grass, wild flowers, and oak trees. I saw a tamed dog and some wild turkeys. They were enjoying the beaming sun. I wish I could have said please stop driving!

Let me out of this vehicle. I want to know and feel the emerald grass in my hands. 

Please stop and empower me with the ability to bow before the flowers, so I may gently place a flower stem in my hand, my nose next to its petals, and smell the liberating aromas. 

Please stop this vehicle and grant me the right to feel the sturdiness of an oak tree and look up at this blue sky. Let me feel the juxtaposition of being wild in the freedom of choice, yet still tamed. I knew I had to be confined to this vehicle. This was my plight.

I saw women and men walking with their children, cheerfully enjoying the sunny day. My heart hymned with sorry, like the crying of a dove. At thirty, the probability of having a wife and child was razor-thin, like the fencing around my home. My heart felt like a black hole with the dying of my wish to one day look upon the starry eyes of a wife and child. With the speed of a comet, we arrived at our destination: the hospital. Once inside I felt the stares of people. They look at me as if I was a caged ape at a zoo. Some people starred with revulsions, others with empathy, they must have seen my humanness. I wonder if they too had regrets and wishes.

They then drove me back home with what felt like the speed of a cheetah. The pebbles, however, sung no melodies. The melody was silenced. I looked at the chains placed around my hands and feet. I looked at the prison issued clothes placed on my body. I looked at the reflection on the window. I was quasi-alive at my home—a maximum-security prison.

Michael, 27

Meet Michael…

Trotter is a good friend, a mentor, a comrade and a father figure. I without a doubt credit Trotter with helping me develop into the man I am today.

Incarcerated: 8
Housed: Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Carlisle, Indiana.

Upon stepping off the bus under lock and key in an Indiana maximum security prison, I still had a glimmer of light in my eyes of what I thought this system was. I had hoped that once settled there would be a plan to get in school, take programs, and the ability to come up with a success plan. Not even close, instead I ended up in an idol concrete jungle known as Wabash Valley. Where you talk to no counselors in any meaningful way, if you even get to see one. It was the old school cats telling me, youngsta – you need to get in school and take this program, this is how you sign up and this is how you get stuff done. These initial encounters are where I first met Christopher Trotter, he’s had the biggest impact on me. He has done everything in his power to help me succeed in school, to law work, even helping me stay sucka’ free. He is continually feeding me knowledge, wisdom, and perspective. Trotter is a good friend, a mentor, a comrade and a father figure. I without a doubt credit Trotter with helping me develop into the man I am today. Because of him, I have gotten my GED, completed numerous programs and helped the mentally ill and suicidal. I am seeking redemption and restoration, while trying to be a father without having a father. I was looking for a light in the darkness, only to find out that I had that light in me. I am strong, I am Broken, I am Human!

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