Javier, 31

Javier, 31

Ciara, 34

Meet Javier…

“I’ve learned that if someone gives me an opportunity, I can accomplish a lot”

Javier, 31

Incarcerated: 2 years

My bad behavior started at the end of my freshman year of high school. I was approached by one of my friends and he asked if I wanted to join the hood. I automatically said yes. I was getting respect, hanging out with the cool kids, and riding in the Yukon. Everybody knew us, all the females were on us, but more importantly, our brothers weren’t getting picked on anymore after school. One day, Child Protective Services came in with sheriffs to take my brothers and sisters. They didn’t take me because I was a ward of the state, and had been released to my mother while on juvenile probation. It wasn’t the same without my family. I took it out on random people and so-called enemies. I would get high and drunk to feel better and numb myself so I wouldn’t feel alone. I didn’t know how to handle that feeling, so I would look for girls to hook up with. I stabbed another 18 year old, went to jail, and a public defender got me out on a misdemeanor.  I had to learn the hard way since no one was really guarding me. I never met my father and my step dad didn’t like me. My mom was working on how to get my brothers and sisters back, her two boys and four girls. I found the attention I needed from the gang. We were smoking trees, drinking and hanging with different females. Now, that’s all changed. I miss the food, traveling, and doing whatever I want. I’ve learned that if someone gives me an opportunity I can accomplish a lot. I talk to my loved one’s two to three times a month. Love is something I see really far away. Since I’m incarcerated, a female would probably be scared of me and have way better options than me anyways. I have used being in prison to my advantage. Being in the streets, I would have never gotten my diploma. People have not believed in me or considered giving me an opportunity to prove myself. They automatically think I’m a convict that’s going to steal or be violent towards them. I’ll always be a liar to them. My only option is to keep educating myself; whether it’s life skills, anger management, or even obtaining some type of college degree. I hope that people who really want to change will do the same.

Diana, 45

Diana, 45

Meet Diana…

I neglected myself and society as a whole, I couldn’t bear it. I took a step forward to change and I went against the odds.

Diana, 45
Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: California Institution for Women, Corona, CA

I was five when my little brother and I were given our first drink of alcohol by my mom and dad. My upbringing was full of fear and anxiety. My dad was in and out of prison and abusive. All I saw was dysfunction. My mom tried to be a single parent and raised us in heartbreak, gang infested, poverty. At five I started running away from the lack of love and security in my life. For the lack of love, I grew up seeking it in relationships.

I settled down at 14, domesticated. I stayed home doing the wifely things, when I should’ve been in school, being educated. My own family was still upside-down as I tried to do all I could to help. Alcohol was my go to, before you know it, it was my all. At 18, I went to prison for the first time, scared and lonely. I couldn’t cope with the drastic mistake that changed my whole life. I became a person I never intended to be. In 2016, I was arrested again, this time I was broken into a million pieces. I neglected myself and society as a whole, I couldn’t bear it.

I took a step forward to change and I went against the odds. For the last seven years, I’ve been highly proactive in my personal self development and it’s permanent. I knew I wouldn’t remain in a life I wasn’t ever meant to live. I owe a lot to this community, they have tons of resources, education, jobs, self help groups , you name it. I feel like they are here to rebuild me from the inside-out. I want to build a bridge back to society and re-enter as an asset. My inner and outer freedom is priceless.

Jimmy, 61

Meet Jimmy…

The thing I miss more than anything being on the outside is being able to help people who are unable to help themselves. Those types of people were my family. 

Jimmy, 61
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas

Before I came to prison, I always had the desire to help those who were unable to help themselves. I made it a point to take homeless people to my favorite places to eat: Burger King or Church’s Chicken. I would then run errands for elderly people, cut their lawn throughout the summer and shovel snow off the sidewalks and driveways. Those were my after school duties I volunteered to do. Helping people was something I wanted to dedicate my life to.

The guy the world knows as Prince was a friend of mine. Not as close as I would have liked it to be, but the association we had was okay. The thing that bothered him the most was that he didn’t understand how I could work so hard and then give my money away to strangers I never knew. I couldn’t understand why he found what I was doing was so confusing. I thought I could get him involved by handing him a bag or two to give to the homeless. I thought it would help him feel some kind of way, and it did– he never went with me again. When I saw Prince at school on Monday morning, I asked him why hadn’t he shown up at Kings Park to go downtown with me. He responded, “No one would give me a job anywhere so nobody cared for me and nobody is ever going to care for me.” I stood quietly staring at him thinking about what he’d just said and concluded he was kind of right. Nobody would probably ever care enough for me to help me when I’ve needed help, but nonetheless, I continued doing what I loved doing the most, helping those who couldn’t help themselves. Believe it or not, those were the most words I’d ever heard Prince say at once. But those words came to pass and they stand this very day.

The #1 thing I’ve learned since I’ve been in prison is, I had an anger issue, which I was in denial of until I was enrolled in Anger Management. From there I participated in Cognitive Intervention where I learned about cognitive thinking. From there I enrolled in a Jewish Bible College Seminary where I continued my education, obtaining my Doctorate in Christian Education. Afterwards, I went on to obtain my Master’s license in Life Coach.

By this time, I’d written three, Christian inspirational books. I  sent them to someone to publish, only to get them stolen. I learned to develop my writing talent here in prison only to get disappointed. 

There are many things my family has been surprised about. They know that I’m a Christian sold out to God. They know that I have forgiven those who have falsely accused me of my crime. They now believe I’m innocent and that I’m no longer focusing on that. They were surprised when I told them about all of my accomplishments. Although I don’t see any of my family members, I talk with two of my aunties, who have done this time with me. I talk with my sister Gale about every other week, and to one of my sons when I can afford it. Phone calls are $1.80 plus tax which comes up to about $2.00 a call.

The thing I miss more than anything being on the outside is being able to help people who are unable to help themselves. Those types of people were my family. 

One of the incidents that had an impact on me was back in 1998 when I revived one of the meanest hateful female guards on the Mc Connell unit and I got attacked, beaten horribly by a bunch of the guards who had arrived on the scene.This didn’t seem to be a Christian lady so I wasn’t ready for her to go and meet the Lord. Just to be able to help her recover was the most impactful for me.

I see love as the most precious gift we’ve ever been blessed with and because it’s a command of Christ Jesus, “To love one another as He has loved us…” Love is an act that will cause people to go above and beyond to meet the needs of others. Above all, I see God because the Bible says, “God is Love.” Love is an act of gentleness, kindness, caring and being patient with one another. Meeting your wife’s needs so she’ll never be in want of anything. Love is something to be expressed to your wife and children before they get a chance to express it to you everyday and the last thing you express to them before they go to sleep.

My childhood memory that still haunts me to this very day is being sexually assaulted by my babysitter who was my sister’s best friend. My sister who I loved so much and protected me, the one I was warned not to tell about the things my babysitter was doing to me. One day, I fell down on my face and cried out about the frightening event I’d been going through, and that was one of the worst mistakes of my life. My sister returned me to our house, took our clothes off and put me on top of her, telling me there was nothing wrong with that.

I was beaten at the age of 5 yrs old so bad that I began urinating blood. I was forced to look inside of a five gallon can that my brother and his friends were pouring gas-o-line inside of and throwing matches in it, entertaining themselves by the explosion. They forced me to look inside by threatening to hit me with some huge rocks. Looking inside that can was the last thing I’d seen or heard for only God knows how long. I was much too young to know days, weeks, months and years. but I know I was 5 because my grandma was taken away from me. Death by starvation at the hands of her own children. No good childhood memories until I was old enough to work and care for those who couldn’t help themselves.

The thing that gets me through the day is my Lord and my God. I’m now active in two different prison programs. One is Prison Fellowship Academy and  Leadership Academy being taught through Mr. John Maxwell’s Curriculums. And now writing more books (unpublished).  Writing is my escape, the same method I used as a child who created stories of a world the way I wanted it to be.

E, 42

Meet E…

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood.

E, 42
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

The common aphorism, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,” rings no truer than with my kids. I am cuckoo about them and my nieces and nephews. They are all the motivation that gets me through each day. They are also the sources of my trepidations that sometimes keeps me up at night. Beholding the faces of my children, hearing their voices, their laughters and giggles, and those of my nieces and nephews is like the thirst-quenching glass of water on a hot summer day.

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood. Prison can be a place of liberation for some, while for others it’s the total opposite, a place of frequent mental, physical, and emotional beatings. Similar to my childhood, here neither my feelings nor anything I say matters. The truths are considered to be lies, and the lies told about me are considered to be gospel; the caretaker is the abuser and the bully. I didn’t have a place of refuge while growing up, no one that I could trust and rely on for help; therefore, when needs or hunger came, which was regular, or when physical, emotional abuse came, I just accepted it, again, similar to prison.

Other ways that prison reminds me of my childhood is lack of help, and hunger. For reasons I will never know, other than two couples when growing up, people were unwilling to help me. In prison, all of my pleas and requests for help throughout the years were either completely ignored, or I was told they couldn’t help me. Child or adult in prison, it does not matter. Finding help has been an issue since childhood. For example, when I was younger, I lived with two family members. My late half-brother, who was my caretaker, was not around and my cousins, who never offered me any assistance, not even to bathe me or wash my clothes, which I didn’t know how to do then. Like everything else, being hungry in prison is no different from being hungry when I was growing up. It was and is a regular thing. My first prison-hunger incident, I was so hungry that I ate my nails to the flesh. I ate my own flesh! I didn’t realize it until I saw blood on my shirt and dripping down from my fingers. Even stranger still, I can’t recall tasting or drinking any blood, which I know surely had happened. Another time, I was so famished that I became delusional. For several minutes I kept opening and closing an empty food storage bin because each time I was convinced that I saw a piece of white bread in it. There never was. 

The things I went through as a child, while growing up, are still happening now. Thus, my trust in people is extremely limited. From 1-10, ten being a lot of trust, I am between 1.6-1.4. I am trying to trust because I need to survive; and all relationships require a level of trust. For a very long time I thought something was wrong with me. For people to have treated me the way they did. I reasoned then that I must have done things to people for them to treat me so badly and I was just swimming in denial; I didn’t want to take responsibility for my wrong doings. Now, I know I was not treated poorly because something was wrong with me, it was the hand I was given. I hope and strive for a better ending for my kids and myself.

Anthony, 56

Anthony, 56


Meet Anthony…

I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends.

Anthony, 56
Incarcerated: 22 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

I was born to a drug and alcohol addicted mother and suffered fetal drug and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends. My babysitter used to tie me up in ropes just so he didn’t have to watch me. I would scream and cry growing up but no one believed me or cared. I’ve been on suicide watch more than once. One day at the age of four, I was kidnapped in front of my school and thrown into a van. My dad and detectives found me five hundred miles from home in a stranger’s room. I also was bullied as a child. I suffered from a severe learning disorder, but by the grace of God and much PTSD trauma treatment, I didn’t give up, and now I try to help others. I got my GED, and now I’m in college working hard on a sociology degree. I’m also a certified youth facilitator mentor. All my family and my ex-wife have died since I have been in prison, but I am resilient, and thanks to Jesus and hard work I’m happy to be alive.

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