Shane, 44

Shane, 44

Meet Shane…

As my teacher, the Buddha once said, ‘One may conquer a million men in a single battle; however, the greatest and best warrior conquers himself.’

Shane, 44
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: South Dakota State Penitentiary, Sioux Falls, SD

I went to the old chapel to facilitate the Buddhist group. I have been the leader since 2015 and continue to enjoy facilitating it. It was around 6:30pm and I began to set up for the service. I took out the TV, put in meditation music, lit incense, and draped a tapestry of the Buddha over the TV. I waited and was wondering where everyone was. A person came down and said he heard that starting today, there were not going to be any religious or other activities after five pm because the prison is so short-staffed. Five minutes later, four other people showed up. They told me they came directly from the chow hall because everything is running late. I got some Dhammapada books out and we began to read and discuss the wisdom from the Buddha. At about that time a white shirt, Officer-In-Charge opened the door and told us there are no religious activities after all. So now we only have one Buddhist group service instead of two. The other religious groups have also had their services reduced because of the staff shortages. I hope the prison can hire more prison staff so that we can get our normal religious services back. As my teacher, the Buddha once said, “One may conquer a million men in a single battle; however, the greatest and best warrior conquers himself.”

Bryce, 55

Meet Bryce…

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change.

Bryce, 55
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I look forward to connecting with people who won’t judge me for my past criminal behaviors and choices, and who will support me in my recovery from criminal thinking, drug addiction, and sexual compulsions. I grew up in Orange County, was in foster care for 2 ½ years, and lived in Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, and Lake Forest California, before my incarceration. The beaches, pools, and malls were my second home, and I loved camping, riding dirtbikes, and Disneyland. It was my dream to be a drummer in an original rock band or work in the entertainment industry. Instead, I worked in fast food restaurants, machine shops, and construction type jobs. My favorite past-times are either watching movies (too many favorites to mention) or listening to music, especially the 80’s. I love songs that are inspiring and like everything from Journey to sia, disco to jazz, and love-songs to country. Queen’s “Under Pressure” is a favorite.

While incarcerated, I have taken responsibility for all the damage I caused to innocent people, my family, the communities, and the world as a whole. I have become a victim advocate in stopping the harm, abuse, and violence, by participating in victim impact, domestic violence, and anger management type groups. I have also taught other inmates and facilitated the Prison of Peace (PoP) program that covers restorative justice ideas, effective listening skills, peace circles, problem solving techniques, how to make mutual agreements, and the mediation process.

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change. Through self-introspection and faith in my higher power, I have gained insight to my causative factors and have developed empathy and compassion for others and myself.

Today, I live a healthier, spiritually driven life-style, based on a life-long commitment to recovery and giving back. I am a 12-step member, I have a support network of people who care about my health and recovery, and I live with purpose.

Tony, 32

Tony, 32

Meet Tony…

To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt.

Tony, 32
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: California State Prison, Corcoran, California

Fresh out of high school, a couple community college classes, and a sudden sharp turn to facing the Death Penalty. I came into the system at 18. I use the word system because each step of the way works in chaotic unison. Before my crime occurred, I had been in only one fight in my entire upbringing. A fourth grade brawl over a girl behind some classrooms. That was my share of violence. Before the System. Yet, if there was one thing I did do compulsively, it was lying. Lie to my parents about my herb habit, lie to girls about my faithfulness and lie to myself about who I really was. Today, I’ve tried to correct my actions. I’ve come to accept that I was a coward and I don’t have to continue being that person. The more I understand the extent and damage of my actions and inactions, the heavier the weight is. I see so many people ignore the reality of why we are in this system. We block out what we did and do so many different things except what we’re supposed to – accept responsibility and change. It’s understanding how a mother will never see their child how a person lives in fear in their own home; how pain and its scars never heal; how no matter how hard you try to make amends; you know it will never be enough.Trying to share these things with others here is like trying to communicate with someone who speaks a foreign language.

Nine out of ten people give up and the tenth one is fifty-fifty. The road is mine to take though. I made it after all. And after fourteen years, I’ve refused to give up. I’ve refused to accept this is all there is or will be. When I was found guilty, I didn’t give up. When my appeal was denied, I didn’t give up. When my countless self-written petitions were filed and denied, I didn’t give up. I feel like giving up is an easy way out. The craziest thing, though, is that I’m up for a possible re-sentence. A second look. A second opportunity. And I’ve struggled to keep my head up. I’ve fought myself to stay positive. I’m facing a fear I can’t control, a future I can’t predict. To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt. I know most people don’t see it this way, they don’t even stop to think about their victims. I hear it all the time. It sounds like eating foil wrap. However, in the same way that one can find excuses for any given situation, you can also find solutions. Today, I am sentenced to life without parole. Knowing that my change can be the change that pushes me to make a positive impact. Hopefully along the way I can help others also.

Kareem, 44

Kareem, 44

Meet Kareem…

Not only did he die, but for several years I blamed him, embracing the false narrative that I was the victim, victimized by society, the system, the mothers of my children, and especially Mr. Sullivan (R.I.P.) who I perceived to be a threat.

Kareem, 44
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: Sing Sing, Ossining, New York

At 17, I began a seven year sentence for a robbery I committed with another. I had all intention to stay out of trouble. However, the concepts of introspection and unprocessed trauma escaped me. I eventually succumbed to my shortcomings, especially the unfamiliar pressure of an adult childbearing relationship, in addition to being laid off. I lost my way and got back in ‘the game.’ This rebirth led to a new relationship where I created a new stream of income, and a new child. My hustle attracted problems which made me believe I needed a gun. This fear enabled me to shoot a brother without considering the possibility of taking his life. Not only did he die, but for several years I blamed him, embracing the false narrative that I was the victim, victimized by society, the system, the mothers of my children, and especially Mr. Sullivan (R.I.P.) who I perceived to be a threat. As I sought ways to legally justify my narrative, the law library became a refuge. And, having been employed, and having the experience of fatherhood, did provide me with a level of intellectual resistance to embracing prison culture in its totality. Unbeknownst to me, my legal research, although misguided, made me an avid reader. I became inquisitive about my own issues. I read self-help books on healing, therapy, forgiveness and mindfulness in pursuit of letting go of the anger for my daughter’s mother, who had someone else’s child, while we were married.

I discovered my own insecurities, excuses, and ideologies that impeded my accountability and emotional maturity. This sparked an awakening that I am solely responsible for all of this mess. As painful as that level of acceptance was, it enabled me to transcend the counter-productive perspectives that clouded my rationale. And since then, there’s been an accumulation of what Superintendent M. Capra calls ‘God moments’ that led to the man I am proud to be today. My academic ambition and positivity has paved the way to achieving an associate degree in Science and I am currently working on my bachelors degree and a financial literacy correspondence course and a host of other certificates. In all of my classes, we acknowledge our shared humanity, we engage in discussions about restorative justice, community, and accountability. The impact of these discussions cannot be quantified. Words have power and the sincerity in our dialogue always dismantles the levees, ushering in a deluge of tears that nourishes the collective spirit of the room. No matter how dark prison can be, I stand as a beacon serving my fellow incarcerated individuals along this journey where my family is the North Star. I have been remarried since 2017, with a blended family of six children between my wife and I. We participate in the Family Reunion Program (FRP) which enables us to spend two days together in an apartment unit once every few months. I am scheduled to see the parole board in 2033, however I have submitted a petition to the Governor of NY for executive clemency, in which I am thankful for the support I received from friends, family, and organizations.

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