Ciara, 34

Ciara, 34

Meet Ciara…

Forgive as you may be forgiven. Make amends while you are still living. Don’t allow grudges to hold you back. Bitterness causes you to go off track. Allow love in your heart to let healing begin. Harboring hatred is a most deadly sin.

Ciara, 34
Incarcerated:  4 years
Housed: Topeka Correctional Facility, Kansas

“Forgive as you may be forgiven. Make amends while you are still living. Don’t allow grudges to hold you back. Bitterness causes you to go off track. Allow love in your heart to let healing begin. Harboring hatred is a most deadly sin.” by Lovette. I read this and felt the truth of these words. For years I’ve wandered around aimlessly, lost. I’ve allowed the poison of hatred, grudges, and pain from the things that I’ve endured as a child, from the very people who were supposed to love and protect me, to consume me. I sought to numb everything within me and became seriously addicted. Self-hatred and isolation became me. Since being incarcerated I’ve decided to change. I’ve had a lot of time to think clearly and to learn about who I want to be. I’ve heard of this statement,” you teach people how to treat you,” and I’ve latched onto it and made it into my new motto. No longer will I wait for love to find me, I’ll become love by forgiving and letting go of all that has been killing me. I now seek to help others who are like me and have gone through trauma and suffer from addiction. I’ve been gaining every bit of knowledge and experience to further help myself and others. Too many people who are just trying to survive their pain are locked away and being robbed of life because the state lacks the programs to help them, so instead they are sent to sit in a prison for years. I’m going to do what I can see about getting some of these programs started once I’m released. I’ve found a purpose worth living for. Where there is a will, there is a way. I’ll prove to the world that I’m not just a number or a statistic, my past doesn’t define me. People treat you like scum when you’ve been incarcerated or they discover you’re an addict. I’m both and I know I’m not scum. I have a big heart and for so long I’ve had it closed off, but it’s opening up now and I’m trying to make a life changing difference for not only myself, but for many others. I think being incarcerated and the efforts by the guards to do whatever as often as possible to dehumanize us, is what lit the fire within me.

Robin, 39

Meet Robin…

I have many flaws, insecurities, thinking errors, and so much guilt and shame, yet everyday I try to do better, to be better.

Robin, 39
Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: Federal Correctional Unit, Waseca, Maine

“No amount of darkness can hide a spark of light.”

I am not sure where this quote came from or when I first heard it but this is what gets me through the day. This is not my first time in prison and I’m not going to lie, there is quite a bit of darkness in me. I am an addict in every sense of the word whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, exercise, money or any other form of instant gratification, I struggle on a good day. I have many flaws, insecurities, thinking errors, and so much guilt and shame, yet everyday I try to do better, to be better. I have been to a state prison in Michigan and this Texas federal prison is a different world. This place is ruled by a cash app and exclusivity. Probably the hardest things to get here is treatment, programming or an education, yet everyday I stay positive and focus on that spark of light. I am a mother of three beautiful children and my dream is to show them I can overcome anything, that they are worth fighting for and that my mistakes don’t have to define me. I work in education in the morning and I am a math tutor for GED students in the afternoon. I facilitate adult continuing education. I love to learn and I am trying to find a way to get a degree. I want to want to be good. It is hard with a long sentence to see light at the end of the tunnel or to find a reason to care. There are times when I embrace my darkness and like it, but I always find my way back to the light.

Clayton, 31

Clayton, 31

Meet Clayton…

I learned to face my past head-on by writing, speaking, and accepting all that happened, I could have done this so years ago and prevented a life sentence.

Clayton, 31
Incarcerated: 6 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

As I crunched the paper, twisting it into a cross to place into my dad’s open casket, I never assumed I’d be made fun of for it. The bullies at school made sure to remind me of the open casket legacy which my father left behind after his overdose on heroin. While their dads were at ‘Meet the Parents Day’ all I had to present was a picture of a tombstone. Though their dads were important, I was belittled to live up to the curse my father left behind for me. Whether reality set in or not, one thing I knew for sure, “Like father, like son.” Addiction plagued my father. He passed it on to my siblings, and they passed it on to me. At age 16, my sister told me that by the age of three,  I was exposed to meth’s intoxicating high. Through tears she told me, and through anger I went forward. This admission was all I needed, to dive deeper into my progressing addiction. Years into my life sentence, I realized something. Rather than face the fact that I am resilient, I withered away behind the trauma. The young man who stroked his father’s cold, pale skin one last time.

Now, with nothing but time on my hands to think, I made a huge discovery. I found the source of my anxiety, fear, and discomfort stemming from the traumas of my childhood. Every day we choose, and these choices define our lives. I chose to perpetuate the trauma and the pain I carry, by passing it on to others. Just as I learned to face my past head-on by writing, speaking, and accepting all that happened, I could have done this so years ago and prevented a life sentence. Had I been strong enough back then, I would have spared so many undeserving people from so much suffering. I realize today that I am my father’s son, and my Father is God. Through the transformation which has occurred while walking in the fire, I will be able to reach others still trapped behind the tempest of trauma. To all the people I have harmed over the years, I owe my transformation to you. I will honor your lives everyday, as I continue to learn, grow and change; as I work to leave behind a new legacy on this Earth.

Jose, 50

Jose, 50

Meet Jose…

Doing time for crimes that came with gang life and drug use became a way of life. I did find love, but was never able to be loved or show love, due to the lack of knowing love.

Jose, 50
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

For most of us normality was not normal as we come from broken homes, drug addicted parents, gang infested and crime ridden neighborhoods. I’m in no way justifying my poor choices but sometimes we roll with the hand that was dealt us. I was all in. Home was just a place, there was no family unit or love. My mother ran from my father who was a very bad man to only end up with another man who wasn’t very nice. She was a drug addict and an alcoholic and my step father was a very hard man to please. I found no purpose for life as I turned to the streets for acceptance and purpose.

I joined a gang at 12 and was awarded to the courts by my mother at 14. Doing time for crimes that came with gang life and drug use became a way of life. I did find love, but was never able to be loved or show love, due to the lack of knowing love. I even had two daughters in hopes of becoming a better person, but I was too broken and by then, a full blown drug addicted gang member and an outlaw. I’ve lost so much to living a lie, and running from reality by doping myself up. I’m 28 years into a life sentence for a crime I’m not guilty of. I’m 50 and just now have been three years sober. I have a new hope in life and it is to give back to those I’ve hurt, including myself. And don’t ever give up on whatever your circumstances, the sun will shine. I’d like to thank you! Not many have empathy for those incarcerated for not abiding by rules of society.

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