Michael, 41

Michael, 41

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Meet Michael…

My name is Michael, I breathe air and I am not a monster. Thank you for giving me a face, a voice, and for seeing me as a person.

Michael, 41
Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

Growing up in a poor household I can remember being different, sounding different, and feeling like I didn’t fit in. I came to learn I had a learning disability and stuttered. I felt less than, devalued and worthless. I was made fun of in my household, and with my classmates which reinforced my bad feelings about myself. I could not read, nor learn as the teachers wanted me to, so I acted out and became the bully, so I would not be bullied.

I began to use drugs to cover up my feelings of worthlessness, insecurities, and inadequance. My addiction progressed from pot, alcohol, to mushrooms then acid. By 15, I had been in juvenile hall and a boys ranch numerous times until I committed my life crime at 18. I was an out of control, extremely calloused and violent young man. While incarcerated from a young age with an extreme sentence, I continued my dysfunction in a maximum security prison. I had deflections and an aggressive attitude.

Ten years into my sentence I was stabbed eight times and removed from the yard for surrendering my life to my faith of Jesus Christ. I was shipped to another prison with more programs, self-help groups, and education. My mother passed away from her addiction, my life was in shambles, but I had my faith. I leaned on my support and coped in a healthy way. It was my first test in recovery and I passed. My job wanted me to get a high school diploma, and I barely knew how to read.

I was transferred to a new prison and met Ms. Drake, who saw potential in me. “I’ll hire you as a clerk, if you give me your word you’ll get your diploma.” This was the first time in years someone believed in me. I agreed. She helped me, gave me reading materials, taught me math, and assigned me a tutor. I poured all my time and energy into studying. I passed my test. Ms. Drake was proud of me and so was I. She said, “off to college now”.

One day a student rushed into the education department wanting to stab Ms. Drake. I intervened and placed myself in between them and deescalated the situation by using calm words and listening to his frustration, while protecting her. The officers came and took him away. I had protected another human being. I got a life saving certificate which could take time off my sentence or help in my parole board hearing.

My life began to get some normality. I continued my education, and my ministry and I started facilitating self-help groups. I will graduate in 2024 from Fresno State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies. Today I live my life as a memorial to my victims. My life is for service and giving back to my gated community. I hope and teach that one less crime equals one less victim. I honor God by living a sober life that praises Him with my words, actions, and service. I am a human that is kind, respectable, calm, loving, caring, and compassionate.

My name is Michael, I breathe air and I am not a monster. Thank you for giving me a face, a voice, and for seeing me as a person. God bless you.

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.

Anthony, 56

Anthony, 56

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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.

Osbun, 73

Osbun, 73

Meet Osbun…

I was blind to the harm my actions caused, blind to the criminal foulness that I constantly enforced on others. By the time I got my first gun, I had already become a human monster.

Osbun, 73
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

My Tears are Constant

My mother Emma and my grandmother Texanna raised me to the best of their abilities. At seven, I knew nothing of their struggles of surviving on welfare and I  had struggles of my own. We lived in a run down apartment house. It was so old, it was probably the first home built in the neighborhood. Unlike most of the other houses, it had no green grass and or flowers. My mother worked cleaning white folks’ homes, which she did undercover so no one would know. She was given all kinds of household items, but a television set never blessed our dwelling, although we did get an old radio. My mother enrolled me in Longfellow Elementary School. I felt she had abandoned me there because attending school was the beginning of my childhood traumas. School for me was a maze of physical brutality. No matter which way I turned, I got beat down. Besides the bullies at school, the neighborhood bullies also made my life a living hell. It quickly got to the point that I feared going outside to play. Neighborhood bully #1 was older, taller, and weighed about three times as much as me. He was cross-eyed with an offensive odor and none of his clothes fit properly, making him look like a homeless clown. Neighborhood bully #2 was about my age and height, but weighed even less than me. He used a shoestring for a belt and looked like a human skeleton made into a puppet, which made me want to laugh. But he was no laughing matter. They threatened me constantly and were always teaming up to attack me. My family didn’t seem to understand or care what I was going through.

“Fighting is a part of life,” my grandmother said. “Sooner or later you have to stand up and fight your damnedest, win or lose. “But I’m getting beat up by two people at a time” I protested. “Well, do the best you can,” she replied.

I stayed silent, but it didn’t feel fair. “I’m the one getting beat up and robbed every day,” I thought. “ It’s my face and body that’s getting hit so much that I’m getting used to the pain.” I swore that someday I would get my revenge. One day after school, my bullies beat me up in front of their friends and some cute girls. They all seem to think my pain and shame were funny. Somehow, I managed not to cry. When I made it back to my house, my grandmother heard my sniffles and thought I was catching a cold. She made me a Hot Toddy, it consisted of tea, a little sugar, and whiskey. By the time I finished her Toddy, I felt extremely different. In fact, I felt fearless. 

I started coughing so my grandmother would make me another. She did and then told me to lie down on my bed and not go outside. But at this particular time I didn’t feel like being in bed. I felt powerful like Superman and I wanted revenge. I crawled out my bedroom windows and went in search of my neighborhood bullies. I found neighborhood bully #2 and attacked him with all of my pent up rage. He screamed and cried for someone to help him, and in that moment, I experienced a strange power over him that made me feel greater than I ever had before.

Standing over him, I asked, “How does it feel to be me, helpless and alone?” As I grew into adulthood, my mind became fixated on my childhood traumas, which held me back from moving forward. I was stuck knowing only one way to deal with people who were not my family. I became trapped in my past, deceived by my false beliefs. I was blind to the harm my actions caused, blind to the criminal foulness that I constantly enforced on others. By the time I got my first gun, I had already become a human monster. I was a victim who had turned into a victimizer. My 38 Special gave me a feeling of power greater than any alcohol. I  had the ultimate power over another person, the power of life and death. I feared nothing and no one, not even losing my own life. Sadly, having a gun in my posession eventually led me to take the life of another human being. Now, after sitting in prison for countless years, I am being given a second chance. Yet I have lost so much. 

Yes, my tears are constant…

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