Jorge, 34

Jorge, 34

Meet Jorge…

“Whether my mom knew it or not, the seeds she planted long ago started to bloom later in life.”

Jorge, 34

Incarcerated: 15 years

I can clearly remember how proudly my mom’s eyes would glisten when she shouted in praise, while I won trophies in basketball, soccer, and baseball. As well as medals and ribbons in track and field. My mom always supported me and was thrilled with my athletic accomplishments. She would display my prizes on her living room walls and cabinets for guests to view. However, I struggled internally as a youth, with many dysfunctional qualities like being angry, resentful, and extremely insecure due to being abandoned by my father at the age of two. For a long time I viewed myself as an academic failure with learning disabilities. This intimidated me, adding to my uncertainty as a person. I felt like a child unworthy of my moms love and affection for what I did excel in. I lacked any emotional strength to connect with my mom or accept her tenderness and enthusiasm about my accolades. Whenever we had a dispute, I would selfishly try to hurt her by tearing my awards off the walls and breaking my trophies. In my distorted thinking, I lashed out to try to gain control of the influences of her rejections. My unhealthy communication skills made me approach situations aggressively without care of hurting others. No matter what I thought, she always pushed me to be better and find my authenticity. Whether she knew it or not, those seeds she planted long ago started to bloom later in life. Today, I’m in prison and in spite of my self-doubt I decided to go back to school to test myself, since I always cheated off others who I believed were smarter. Surprisingly, I passed when many in the class failed. A small grin came across my face, I found the spark I needed to pursue my education. Most notable, my G.E.D, a Computer Certification, an American Sign Language Certification, and finally two associates in arts degrees. My graduation ceremony will take place in 2024 and I pray my mom can attend, so I can see her beautiful eyes glisten with joy like they used to. I hope she proudly decorates these awards wherever she’d like, because I promise never to disrespect her admiration for my accomplishments again.

Tony, 50

Tony, 50

Meet Tony…

 “I don’t want to grow bitter and dark, yet I can feel my mind slipping further and further down the rabbit’s hole turning my warm heart into ice.”

Tony, 50

Incarcerated: 23 years

I have made peace with the thought of the possibility that I might never go home. But, where do I call home? I have built a kingdom within my heart because I am not this body, I am a spirit, avoiding the bars of my bones, to imprison me. I cover myself with the clothes, where the seeds dress themselves from the inside out. I have fallen down this rabbit’s hole and have become a stranger to my two daughters and son. I do not wish to lie to you, but even my family has faded away. I am responsible for turning myself into a ghost. For four years, I wrote a book, poured my heart and soul into it, and my teacher wanted to publish it. He took it and I’ve never seen him or it again. I hear he still teaches in prison. I am a typical short story of a gang member, who grew up being taught and schooled by some of the greatest hard core rappers – glorifying this cemetery I now live in. Of course, lots of positive changes do happen in our prisons now, with lots of self help groups. But, what good is a treasure chest full of gold, if you keep running from grave to grave? I’ve seen many people receive lots of certificates of accomplishments, yet they have not changed but, only for the worst. You ask me what I love? I love to paint the elements of destruction and I love my little radio. I don’t want to grow bitter and dark, yet I can feel my mind slipping further and further down the rabbit’s hole turning my warm heart into ice. 

Lamar, 34

Lamar, 34

Meet Lamar…

This woman was the answer to my prayers. I thought I just needed a penpal but I got a mother. I call her my Godmother and I truly love her as if she made me.

Lamar, 34
Incarcerated: 13 years
Housed: East Arkansas Regional Unit, Marianna

I gave up on life because I wouldn’t be living anymore; I’d only be existing. I envied others who got all the mail, visits and talked on the phone. I left my daughter when she was eight and I get out when she’s 28. Prison can be a lonely, cold and bitter place. I’d attempted suicide before but I lived through it, so I lied about what made me nearly die. This is my second prison term. My first term I served seven years. I felt I deserved this hell. I felt I deserved the mistreatment from officers and my peers, too. I didn’t shave, exercise, or write home. I crawled into a shell. I thought to myself, “This is God’s will.” Until one day, I wrote to a bookstore asking them to donate some books. I received a letter from a woman named Claire. Since that day, two years ago, she has made it a point to write to me every week no matter what. She sent photos and I’ve even called her.

This woman was the answer to my prayers. I thought I just needed a penpal but I got a mother. I call her my Godmother and I truly love her as if she made me. She stayed on me (in a good way.) She’s very religious and very loving. I love my real mother but I have two of them now. Claire stayed on me about getting a GED and I did it, I did not want to but I did it. She encouraged me to write a book. And I did it. In fact, I just finished my second book. I haven’t found a publisher, but I’m proud of my accomplishments. Some days are hard, but she stays with me. I thank God for this woman. God didn’t give me what I wanted but he gave me what I needed. I’m somebody and I’m not forgotten.

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