Charles, 61

Charles, 61

Meet Charles…

Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb. Life in prison is just a pale shadow of life in the free world. I strive to change, mature, maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and learn why I came to prison in the first place. 

Incarcerated: 19 years
Housed: Carson City Correctional Facility, Michigan

I have a 25 year old special needs daughter with cerebral palsy. At ten months, she started having seizures, sometimes 80 to 100 a day. She had a three-quarter-subtotal-hemispherectomy of the brain. They removed everything on the right side of her brain, except for her motor-cortex. She is a miracle child and considering what she went through. I love her more than life itself.


I was given 37 to 70 years for an armed robbery, without a weapon and no money. There were no fingerprints or video of the crime. I was identified by a mustache, and the only person wearing the clothing that matched the description of the perpetrator placed in a lineup with four police officers. I was convicted by a jury and given a death sentence. I was 42 years old and not facing release until 2042.


Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb. Life in prison is just a pale shadow of life in the free world. I strive to change, mature, maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and learn why I came to prison in the first place. Even though I was wronged, I maintain a positive attitude, striving to change each day the Lord gives to me. Life is a gift and miracles do happen. My daughter is living proof of that.


What really hits hard is the reality that I left my daughter with only one parent. I have missed 19 years of her life without a father to guide, teach, love, support and protect her. She’s the innocent one who had no say in the matter. It was due to my irresponsibility that she had to suffer and endure life without her father.


Family ties can wither over time. Loneliness breeds and thrives in the belly of the beast known as prison. It strikes insidiously, constantly and never dissipates. I may never experience physical freedom again. Walter Wenschell writes, “The vilest deeds, like poison weeds, breed well in prison air. It’s the good that’s born in a man that wastes and withers there.”


Out there, I only lived each day for the rush and escape that the drugs provided. The most basic hurt inflicted by my death by incarceration is a lifetime of boredom, loneliness, doubt and anxiety punctuated by piercing moments of insight into my feelings as a human being.


If the goal of my sentencing judge was to make me suffer for the remaining days of my life, then she succeeded. I wish the goal was for justice not to punish a man for life for an armed robbery of a Pizzeria with a toy gun and $149 to support a drug habit. Will I die un-mourned and a disgrace in the eyes of society?

Brandon, 39

Brandon, 39

Meet Brandon…

If I am a resilient person, I will bounce back after a failure or defeat, and quickly rejuvenate my spirits.

I must admit I have at times selfishly taken love, as well as those bestowing their love upon me, for granted.  Although I have always valued love-irrespective of its relational origins through which it was received. Love for me is not merely a word, not a fluid concept which evolves as time alters perspective, but rather a constant.

As explained throughout the Bible, the word love is cited as a foundation from which anyone and anything “good” derives and guides each of us – regardless of religious belief – toward an understanding of love’s utter importance in all realms of life.  My appreciation for love, as well as for those able and willing to afford myself any degree of their love, has grown through the passing of my surrogate brother, Joshua, last year. My greatest memories all incorporated instances of love, leaving no exception for the relationship by which our son was physically conceived through. Love demands responsibility and sincere patience. My future will consist of loving kindness and it brings me happiness simply envisioning such. 

Speaking of loving kindness, I’d like to pay tribute to my step-father. One of my interests as an adult is mathematics. As memory serves me, math became interesting at the very moment my step-father taught me multiplication. My step-father was a nuclear engineer by profession, and remains to be one of the most intelligent individuals I have interacted with to date. Whether I am utilizing mathematics within basic measurements associated with various construction projects, or the less favorable math necessary in determining what is owed in state and federal taxes each year, I am gratefully and often reminded of the precise moment that such a wonderful man imparted that affinity of mathematics within me. Although it may be the trips to Disneyland, or the countless holiday events shared with our immediate family as children that my siblings favored, my fondest childhood memory remains with this mathematical moment. To Brian Young of Youngstown, Ohio: Thank you for my most valued childhood memory

Receive more inspiring stories and news from incarcerated people around the world.