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.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa

    I have known Robert for many years and I am so proud of him. He has worked so hard to become the man he is today and the peer mentor for so many. He is an amazing artist, a man of strong faith, and I know he is destined to do many great things in life. Thank you for publishing his letter and for your kind response. You too are doing great things.

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