Juan, 23

Juan, 23

Meet Juan…

“Fitness is an escape within these walls, it helps me deal with everyday situations and I get to stay healthy.”

Juan, 23

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

My favorite song is called “Meet Me Halfway” by the Black Eyed Peas. Fitness is an escape within these walls, it helps me deal with everyday situations and I get to stay healthy. Faith in my higher power, it will always be a part of my recovery. My favorite verse is Jeremiah chapter 29:11. College has connected me to a greater community, “Reach one Teach one” as they say.  In three months, I’ll be blessed to be going home to begin a new chapter in my life. 

Anthony, 61

Anthony, 61

Meet Anthony…

“I stole for her, robbed for her, lied for her, deceived and manipulated family and friends for her, and I even committed murder just for her.”

Anthony, 61

Incarcerated: 37 years

Housed: Valley State Prison – Chowchilla,  California

My ex-girlfriend CC was a white girl. She was the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world and I sincerely loved her with every single breath, my heart and my soul. She was like a God to me, I worshiped her. It was like she brainwashed me and had me under her magical spell. I put her first before my family and everybody else. I did whatever I needed to do because I was a loyal, dedicated, and committed slave to her. I stole for her, robbed for her, lied for her, deceived and manipulated family and friends for her, and I even committed murder just for her. My ex-girlfriends name was Crack Cocaine and she destroyed my life too. I am an African American male and I am serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for a murder, burglary, and robbery conviction. I was 24 years old when I was arrested for murder, burglary, and robbery on April 23, 1986. Thanks to the nonprofit, Legacy Alliance and its founder Mr. Michael Baldwin, I found my purpose and calling in life. I am a mentor to men and women and a peer support specialist. From Legacy Alliance and Tarzana Treatment Center College, I discovered shared understanding, respect, and mutual empowerment. I am now able to help others enter and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse. People battling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma, I have learned by listening, being compassionate and having empathy, affects them emotionally. “He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it,” a Turkish proverb. I enjoy just being a friend to a person who needs a friend to talk to about their PTSD and/or trauma.

Kahniaha, 26

Kahniaha, 26

Meet Kahniaha…

“I don’t know if he’ll ever know how much he means to me, knowing he is waiting for me keeps me pushing forward.”

Kahniaha, 26 

Incarcerated: 2 years

Housed: Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold, New Jersey 

My mother was 41 when she had my youngest brother, Damarian (I call him Pedro). I had graduated high school and was on my way to Morgan State University when I told her I would not be babysitting and changing diapers for her. I’m sure my mom was confused because my family considers me to be, “The Child Whisperer” since all the children love me and I always babysit. When he arrived six days before my birthday, I didn’t even hold him. When he was six months or so, I started to warm up to him. When he started using his walker, he would barge into my room or bang on my door. When he was about ten months old, I decided to experiment with him. I majored in psychology and I was taking a course on childhood development. Pedro just so happens to be the perfect age to test the theories. So when I moved back home, everyday before and after work I would spend an hour or two with Pedro, going over the contents of a big yellow container meant to teach young children. It had animal books with the sounds they make, colors, shapes, numbers and the alphabet. I was thoroughly impressed by how quickly he picked up on everything. Teaching him became the highlight of my days. Once he mastered the yellow container, I started to teach him the basics in Spanish. By the time he was two he knew animals, their sounds, his alphabet, numbers 1 -20, colors, shapes and body parts. He even knew everything in Spanish. When he went off to Pre-K, his teachers would always speak on how smart he was. I was so proud of him! I would take him everywhere with me and show him off as ‘my son.’ He’s now seven and I have been incarcerated for the past 21 months. I draw him pictures, talk to him on the phone and teach him the best I can through letters and visits. A couple of months ago he came to see me, I had him spelling words and doing math problems. The guard made an announcement that we had five minutes remaining. Pedro began to shut down. I asked him what was wrong. He told me he missed me. I told him I missed him too, and I started to cry. He then said, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” I watched him fight his tears as the visit hall was being cleared. It broke my heart, but at the same time he gave me strength. I don’t know if he’ll ever know how much he means to me, knowing that he is waiting for me keeps me pushing forward. Pedro, 7, said, “It’s going to be okay.” And I, 26, believe him more than anything or anyone. It will be okay and we will get through this!

Lenroy, 40

Lenroy, 40

Meet Lenroy…

I would give the world for my daughter to know me, and to be able to be her father.

Lenroy, 40
Incarcerated: 11 years
Housed: New Jersey State Prison, Trenton

I have a daughter that I have not seen or heard from since she was six months old. I was there throughout her mother’s pregnancy and for her birth, which I am extremely proud of. I would give the world for my daughter to know me, and to be able to be her father. It’s been almost 13 years because of a falling out between her mother and me. Since I am in prison, I can’t see or talk to my child. I am fighting my case of innocence, to hopefully litigate for myself (pro se) due to the fact that I do not have the financial means for a good attorney (shout out to all the jail-house lawyers and paralegals, much respect, you all give us hope, seriously). I’ve been in and out of religious and mental health programs, trying to better myself and hopefully, one day God will give me another chance at freedom. Thank you for the time and may God bless you all.

Shawn, 36

Shawn, 36

Meet Shawn…

I put out presents for my parents too with all three of our names on them. When everyone went to sleep that night, I set up the plastic tree with everyone’s presents underneath. My brothers woke up the next morning to their presents and I was the only one who didn’t have one. But that wasn’t true. My mother came out and my brothers thanked her. She looked at me and whispered “Thank you” and for me, that was my present, seeing everyone happy.

Shawn, 36
Incarcerated: 16 years
Housed: Trenton, New Jersey

I was 11 when my father got sent to jail. My mother wasn’t working while raising three of us kids while her husband was in jail. My birthday is December 22nd, with no money, I knew I wasn’t getting anything for Christmas and neither were my brothers. So I thought of ways to make a few dollars shoveling snow, cleaning peoples cars or any quick job because I still wanted my family to experience Christmas. I could tell as Christmas approached my mom felt downhearted because she wasn’t going to be able to get us presents. So I went out on my own after school and did some snow shoveling to clear people’s driveways and walkways. I make about $20 per house. When I made $160, I went to the local shopping plaza around the corner from my house. I bought my brothers and mother Christmas gifts and a small plastic tree and hid them in our basement. While everybody was busy on Christmas eve, I went into the basement and wrapped my brother’s presents. But on the labels I put “From Mom and Dad.” I put out presents for my parents too with all three of our names on them. When everyone went to sleep that night, I set up the plastic tree with everyone’s presents underneath. My brothers woke up the next morning to their presents and I was the only one who didn’t have one. But that wasn’t true. My mother came out and my brothers thanked her. She looked at me and whispered “Thank you” and for me, that was my present, seeing everyone happy. Until this day, only my mother and I know what transpired that day. At such a young age, I’m glad I was able to do that for my family. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

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