Roger, 45

Roger, 45

Meet Roger..

“My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth.”

Roger, 45

Incarcerated: 30 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Stockton 

On the brink of a new year, I was introduced to the two latest members of my family, my nieces. They have further fueled my drive for freedom and continue to be a shining example of progress through and despite duress. I’ve been incarcerated since I was a teenager, and at that time, my youngest brother and sister were the same ages as their children; my nieces are now. I walked into prison with an immature and biased belief system fueled by what I was taught by the males in my life and neighborhood. This ultimately led to my association and inevitable incarceration. Resulting in an innocent woman losing her life. To this day, I regret the choices of my youth and am genuinely sorry for the hurt I caused. My two nieces and the unwavering love of my mother and other women have opened my eyes to the importance of supporting our better halves with our strength, drive, power, and ability. Because without them, there would be no us! My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth. Having been one of these youths myself and recognizing the lack of positive male role models and activity groups for the youth still within the community, I believe that it is time for someone who personally knows the importance of teaching and raising our youth, the futures of our communities and the world in a way that promotes peace and progress. I write this hoping to find new friends from all walks of life who might share my aspirations. I go before the Parole Board in July and expect to be found suitable. Hopefully, these goals and endeavors can and will manifest sooner than expected. I hope to hear from anyone striving for change.

 

Michael, 56

Michael, 56

Meet Michael..

“Everyone in life has dues to pay. Paying dues means being part of the solution rather than part of the problem and finding a way to get to “yes.”

Michael, 56

Incarcerated: 20 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Vacaville, California

“Swimming in Circles”

Everyone in life has dues to pay. Paying dues means being part of the solution rather than part of the problem and finding a way to get to “yes.”

Sentenced to death, some twenty-five years in the making now, I’m compressed in what can only be described as a time warp, and not the “Beam me up Scotty” type either, but a not-so-simple paradox, learning to survive and endure with purpose in an ugly old run-down place where society chose for me to die — literally.

An underlying connection exists between indifference and irony that routinely transcends the bitter, biased, semi-tolerant humanity we all pretend to share – a kaleidoscopic oxymoron of elastic pretense and conceit around every corner. Just turn on your evening world news; it’s staring you in the face.

With ample time to make up for, you might imagine my being heavily dependent upon clock management. I’d be remiss to admit that there have been enfeebled (even squandered) moments where I’m found mentally- adrift against the futility of an oppressive current without a life jacket, much less a paddle. Society suggested that time is plentiful when locked away in prison for the convicted offender, the sanctioned duration for reconciliation and rehabilitation. Time seems friendly enough on the surface, but finding purpose aligned with promise means surrounding yourself with people you become decidedly- committed to investing in whatever remaining civility, humility, compassion, and grace you might muster from the depths of your already hollow empty soul. If you allow it, prison will sneak up on you and take the wind right out of your sails. Only in recent years have I tasked myself with reconciling how best to invest in an otherwise grim reality that no doubt intends to outlive me. Public character assassination, even ostracism as it were, is a very real concern for guys (and gals) in my shoes. But hope is not yet lost. That’s entirely up to you. The key is to determine where you are going and how you intend to get there from where you are sitting right now. First, you must reconnect with where you have been, what you’ve learned along the way, and most notably, how you utilize all of this on your adventure into tomorrow. I can only illustrate what continues to work for me most of the time. I’m comfortable doing so because with some 99% certainty (okay, maybe less), I know that every one of us has had our confidence shaken to the core and our security (heads, hearts, and egos) threatened at some point. As humans with real emotions, tragedies of every shape and size shatter even the slightest sense of control we thought we once owned. Undesirable circumstances beyond our control cause us to question things like faith, love, patience, and our ability to endure these rough patches. I didn’t crawl from beneath the confines of my prison issued wool blanket one lonely morning and choose to co-author a California state senate Bill (SB1419);  there was a cup of coffee or two in there somewhere. This process became an unavoidable byproduct of a terribly long and arduous dance with acceptance after the unnecessary death of my father in 2016. Nothing alters the state of mind and shifts the personal narrative, like discovering one’s purpose on the heels of a family tragedy. The strength to endure with pride, morale, and self-confidence during one of life’s lowest moments can renew your power, courage, sense of empathy, and comfort in others. Every stage of life carries with it its beauty as well as its burdens.

I’m grateful today for the tireless volunteer commitments from like-minded, impassioned people going the extra mile behind the scenes, continuing to foster the purpose discovered along my wayward journey. Purpose creates action, leading you away from your ashes of atrocity and into empowering flames of growth and healing.

State prison health care policy reform is my “coup de grace,” my final destination. I can’t stand idly by until state prisoners across this nation are permitted to voluntarily (inducement-free) donate LIVING vital organs and bone marrow to biological, match-worthy, immediate family members in need. Where a meager 10% +/- of the entire national prison population remains behind bars, federal prisoners enjoy a legal right to make the ultimate restitution with the “gift of life.” In 2016, the California Department of Corrections  denied my request to provide a lung to my dying father. This is justified by their lack of a living inmate organ donor protocol. He died shortly after that. No families should be subjected to this, especially when stigma-free donor supply outstrips demands. We are working to create a LIVING organ and bone marrow donor protocol for STATE prisoners nationale, one which promises to share the lectern of inalienable equal rights with federal prisoners.

If you’d like to learn more about this meaningful initiative/campaign, the introduction of fresh legislation meant to benefit state prisoners, ask your friends and family to visit us online, where they can show their support in several ways to those (yours and mine) biological loved ones whose bravery and dignity continue to inspire us.

Facebook: Inmate Organs

Instagram: inmate-organs

Twitter: inmateorgans

Anthony, 58

Anthony, 58

Meet Anthony…

 “Warriors ethos

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Anthony, 58

Incarcerated: 15 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Vacaville

Anthony wishes to dedicate his work to the loving memory of his beloved wife, Mrs. Leticia Xochi Topete.

The Army lists its values as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. I enlisted in 1986 during the Cold War and was deployed for a tour to Korea. Today, I’m serving a life term and am part of the Veterans Helping Veterans, an inmate group focused on building a brotherhood amongst us veterans to foster behaviors consistent with the values we learned while on active duty. During COVID I was elected to serve in the capacity of secretary as part of the executive body and I continue to serve with the Color Guard detail during institutional graduations and special events. The education department here under the direction of Ms. Bowman and the rest of the staff have been very supportive. I work as the principal’s clerk recognizing that while we may have made poor choices resulting in legal issues that have led to serious sanctions including incarceration. We are veterans who served our country and received an honorable discharge, seeking to use our skills to help others. Helping others makes a difference in our community. At our meetings we engage in indepth conversations shared with fellow veterans about both military as well as post-military experiences; these experiences are further illuminated by supporting each other with everything from applying for benefits to having your military training converted into college credit through the efforts of Ms. Vito, Ms. Clemens, and Ms. Bowman through the Joint Services Transcript program and we do this on a daily basis within these walls. These are opportunities for a process of healing, character building, and developing new attitudes and behaviors consistent with the values that we learned while on active duty. We find that service is an opportunity to learn how to forgive and be forgiven. When we start making restitution to people whom we have harmed, and we start giving back to other people, we improve our own spiritual life. I have come to realize through groups that spirituality is not mysterious. Rather, an opportunity to grow spirituality by practicing certain behaviors, such as helping others, especially helping fellow veterans, hence our name VETERANS HELPING VETERANS.

While continuing to serve our community of incarcerated veterans, as part of our mission, exploring connections between ourselves and the rest of the inmate population, in an effort to be of service as veterans and recover from post-traumatic distress many military veterans are seeking ways beyond conventional treatments to manage their stress injuries. An increasing number are turning to the VHV and building relationships with fellow incarcerated veterans. Many continue to benefit from medication and therapy but find that nothing can replace the sense of brotherhood we have found here which provides an additional measure of support, relief, and healing in our lives. Our group examines reciprocal interactions between veterans of all branches and service times as well as during post-conflict recovery with a focus on the experiences of our veterans who regard their personal recovery from stressful and traumatic military experiences as intimately tied to our carceral exposures.

By exploring the bonds of brotherhood experienced within the VHV, with safety, sense of purpose, and renewed relationships, this opportunity gives space to former soldiers’ stories and their individual realizations that their interconnections with other veterans provide alternative examples to their military training and combat exposure. The Veterans’ experiences within the group point towards an avenue of recovery that is little acknowledged in the mainstream, and as incarcerated veterans, we have shared life experiences that only we can relate to each other which are deserving of each other’s attention and respect. The overall commonality amongst our members and our varied branches and years of service has helped show many of us the way forward-the ways that life can continue beyond military experiences and incarceration. The veterans narratives in this space allows the former soldiers’ personal experiences to their embodied interconnections between those with alternative or similar military training and combat exposures. The rhythms of the outside world leave traces on each person’s story. Our brotherhood speaks through the veterans, and through our stories of experience we come to the realization that they not unique or few in number, as we enter into a relationship with one another and with the world around us and continue to program in order to promote a successful community reintegration of our veterans, upon release from prison. Let us never forget our; Warriors ethos.

 

 

Michael, 53

Michael, 53

Meet Michael

Make no mistake about it, incarceration for those who are prepared to face the dawn of a new day in society can bring personal life-changing accomplishments to the table.

Sleep regularly eludes me, mocking my enormous evening dose of melatonin. I’ve been clinically-diagnosed with a depersonalization and derealization disorder (DDD).

My frontal cortex hungrily chews through a seemingly-infinite deluge of daily fact and/or fiction… night after night.

After two daunting decades with few delusions of reprieve on California’s Death Row, a rehabilitative ambition emerged from the darkness, the likes of which I’d never have imagined.

A giving sense of community ripe for the taking. There’s something to be said for the spirit of giving, especially when a hubris falls in the aftermath.

For myself, I awoke to the realization that living inmate organ donation for match-worthy, biological immediate family members is something that not only the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ population should be entitled to.

With a little fortitude and campaigning, I was able to enlist the support of a California State Senator who has effectively laid a path to modeling a national law after the existing Federal protocol. Tenacity is the key. I am but one simple man with a proffer of common sense which promises to insure to the benefit of many who might otherwise die without this type of legislation.

Hear me when I say that anyone can bring something of great design to the world from beyond myriad prison walls across this nation. Shift the mental narrative and grow from within.

Hunger with desire to improve not only yourself, but the great big world around you — those very same communities we’ll all one day return to, and once-again, call home. Stay inspired and eager for change.

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