Nathan, 57

Nathan, 57

Meet Nathan…

“I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges.”

Nathan, 57

Incarcerated: 15 yrs

Housed: California Correctional Training Facility, Soledad

My mom Jamie was 16 and my father Abe was 31, neither were honest about their age. They both claimed to be in their 20’s when they met. Abe was a heroin addict and my mom’s parents were both alcoholics. They loved Abe. My grandma Vivian was beautiful with a great intellect, she was kind and thoughtful when sober. When drunk she could get really mean. She told me Abe was a good man, overly intelligent, he loved me and took care of me. My mom said he was the one to get up with me at night. Abe was from a wealthy Jewish family, I’ve never met because they disowned him over his heroin addiction. Abe fled the country to avoid prosecution when I was two. I have no memory of this, but have to imagine this must have been traumatic, as I never heard from him again. My mom has never been a drug user or drinker. She had to take care of her own parents and mothered them at an early age. She never had any judgment about others drinking or using drugs. My mom met Bob and he promised her he would never have any trouble with the law and he kept that promise. I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges. Bob had a jewelry store, pet shop, pawn shop, antique shops, he ran a hotel and bar when he met my mom. He dabbled in stocks, cars, and real estate. He was successful at everything he did. Bob was not affectionate, but he always helped out and gave good advice. Bob was a good man, a better man than I have been. He tried hard to instill his good character traits in me. Though he did tease me when I was young, calling me Suzy because I was wimpy. I was a very scrawny and sensitive child. He was never unkind, he just grew up during a less sensitive time. To him calling me Suzy was innocent, maybe a little humorous, but with no ill intent. I can look back now and see where that might have been a contributing factor to my own distorted self body image, where my fall began. I believe I can trace back my fall to its very inception. One single thought that I believed to be true but wasn’t. All it took was for one doubt to sink in: “That I wasn’t good enough as God created me, that I was too skinny.” My mom met Tony when I was eight. Both Bob and Tony have been good fathers to me, Tony and my mom are still happily married. Tony is also a man of good character, honest and always ethical, but very proud and stubborn. I have a great love and respect for him. My mom went to catechism and her first communion until she was 10. At that age, she saw a car accident where a little girl’s head went through a windshield. She couldn’t understand how the God she was being taught about could let such a thing happen. She told her mom church was a waste of time. She never gave God or the Church another thought. My own belief in God was innate, it was as if I was born with it. My parents never tried to influence me in any way, however, I have been inquisitive. As a small child, I would contemplate the universe and infinity. I couldn’t comprehend infinity, so I would have to imagine what was at the end of the universe, there had to be something. I would imagine a wall. But then if there was a wall, there had to be something on the other side of the wall. So, I not only couldn’t comprehend infinity, I couldn’t comprehend not infinity. I thought, if this is the case then I had to believe I was foreign, and limited in my ability to comprehend. I would try to imagine what the world would be like if I no longer existed in it, I tried to imagine my non-existence. My conclusion was it didn’t matter. I knew my mom didn’t believe in God, so every chance I got to talk to a priest, a Christian, or a Catholic; I would always ask the same question: what happens to someone who doesn’t believe in God? The same answer always comes back; they go to eternal hell. I would always answer back; “but what if they are a good person?” I would get the same response; I’m sorry, I wish everyone could go to heaven, but non-believers can’t. None of this changed my belief in God, and I am grateful that God is not how man would make him out to be; because if that was the case, we would all be in real trouble. What it did do, is give me an unhealthy disdain for religion, especially the way Catholicism and Christianity were taught. At 8, I had a friend Bobby, who invited me on a one-week camping trip. Late the night before we were to leave, his mom dropped off a list of things like games and cards that couldn’t bring. My Mom thought it was odd and told me that she didn’t think I should go. I was packing my magic tricks and things that I would not be able to bring. She said she had a bad feeling about this and I really shouldn’t go. I whined and cried telling her Bobby and I have all these great plans. She gave in, thinking how bad it could be. She said if I had any concerns to call her and she’d come pick me up immediately. When I arrived, I found out it was a Christian camp. Which was deliberately withheld from me, my mom, and possibly Bobby by his family. I was deceived intentionally. I refused to cooperate in their games and demanded to be able to call my mom to pick me up. For a whole week, they never let me use the phone. I was basically kidnapped under false pretenses, and held against my will. When I was brought back home, my mom said I must have had a good time because I never called her.  I said, no I didn’t, everyone including Bobby had to give their lives over to God and I refused, because I thought it was stupid, and I’m never speaking to Bobby again. Can you imagine if this was done to a child today? Don’t get me wrong, I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus. I love Him as an elder brother.  My mom and Tony always do right by others, not because of any religion,  it is the right way to be, they are just really good human beings. Much better than I have been. Neither believe in or give thought to God or an afterlife or think there is any kind of reward for being selfless. It is just the way they are. My mom believes when we die that is it, we no longer exist. I cannot even comprehend that thought. My mom’s Christian friends tell her that she is a better Christian than most Christians they know. She has always had a great wisdom about her, much greater than could be acquired in this lifetime alone. She is always so busy, she barely has time to do the things she would like to do. She belongs to a women’s club and they do charity work for the homeless, cancer and heart patients, and work with other charities that bring aid to foreign countries. She is always donating her time. They give scholarships away for kids to go to college. Something she never had the opportunity to do herself. She is just such a beautiful human being.

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


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.

Bradley, 34

Meet Bradley…

For seven miserable years I lived my life how I saw fit and turned my back on everything I had ever been taught. My moral compass went completely off the rails. The biggest regret during this time were the choices I made that led to the loss of my amazing and beautiful wife.

Bradley, 34
Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: Danville Correctional Center, Illinois

The biggest life event that shaped me into the man I am today is one that gets me through the hard days and has had an everlasting profound impact upon my life. I grew up in a Christian home with two wonderful parents, I was saved and baptized at an early age and attended a private Christian. It was during my junior high years that I began to act out and began to doubt my Christian upbringing. 

I was around the age of eleven and the school year was  ending. Our class had been studying different world religions. As I studied, I began to have serious doubts about my own faith. Some of the questions that swirled through my mind were: is God really real? Or, have I been brainwashed, is Christianity the right religion and are we seriously the only ones who have it right? Is there really only one way to heaven? These questions occupied my mind so much that it was all I could seem to think about. 

One Friday night, just before bed, I was saying my nightly prayers. I suddenly recalled the Bible story about Gideon and his fleece. I thought I too would pose my own test for God. God are you real and if so is the Christian faith the right way to go? God, if the answer is yes, then send me a rainbow as a sign. Oh, and God, make it appear on a cloudless sunny day with no rain. God, I’ll give you three days to answer. Wow, was I ever bold, like I could test God and tell Him what to do. How foolish I was, I don’t recommend anyone ever trying this approach. After prayers I proceeded to fall asleep, and by the next morning I had totally forgotten about my prayer. That very Sunday began like any other typical Sunday for my family. I begrudgingly went to church with my family, and immediately after we met my grandparents for lunch. As we traveled on that hot cloudless and perfect sunny day, I was busy entertaining myself and my younger sister in the rear of my grandparents’ huge Chevy conversion van. Suddenly, from up front, my dad said, “Kids, come up here and see this rainbow”. This got my attention and suddenly I remembered my prayer from two nights earlier. As I stood in the center of the van, peering out the front windshield, crowded between my father and his father, sure enough, off in the distant blue yonder there it was a big beautiful rainbow, perfectly positioned just off to the left. Then, to my surprise, and what made this so impactful, my mother said, “oh, look there’s another one over here, have you ever seen anything like it”? So, as I ran over to the mid passenger side of the van, to peer out,  sure enough, there was another big beautiful rainbow in that perfectly blue, sunny sky. Instantly, I again thought about my prayer. Technically I did ask two separate questions, I suppose that this would mean God said yes to both. However, I kind of felt like He may just be showing off, just a little bit. After a few minutes the excitement wore off and I went back to playing, I pondered the goodness of God and that my prayer actually worked. 

Sadly, as the years went by and I married and started a family of my own, I found myself living the double life that far too many so-called Christians try to live. We’d go to church regularly on Sundays, but the second we were dismissed we’d live like the devil for the rest of the week. I was such a pro at this, so much so that when my riotous living placed me into a situation that got me falsely accused of a crime I didn’t commit, I was stupid enough to think that the God I only worshiped on Sundays for an hour would rescue me. When my actual innocence failed to come to light and I was convicted, just like a three year old, I threw a royal tantrum. I became angry at God; I cursed Him and told Him I no longer wanted anything to do with Him. I was so angry, and I felt so betrayed by God for Him not getting me out of my mess that I literally, and I say this with deep sadness, flipped Him the Bird!

For seven miserable years I lived my life how I saw fit and turned my back on everything I had ever been taught. My moral compass went completely off the rails. The biggest regret during this time were the choices I made that led to the loss of my amazing and beautiful wife. I destroyed my family and like too many families these days mine was torn by an ugly divorce. Interestingly, enough during my divorce I started to pray again and seek comfort in the church. This didn’t last very long, for when my marriage wasn’t saved; it left me feeling stupid and foolish for even thinking that religion would work.

Eventually, I found myself in another jail cell with nothing but a Bible to read. I figuratively blew the dust off the Bible, and opened its precious pages for the first time, in a very, very long time. That is when in His graciousness, God began to lovingly deal with me as I read. I came to the ugly realization that my way wasn’t working and that His way was best. Right then and there I promised to serve Him for the remainder of my days. I knew it would be hard, and that I couldn’t do it half way. I was in it for the long haul, it was all or nothing. I wound up being convicted and sent to prison, but I totally deserved that. In prison I attended every church service and Bible study I possibly could. I enrolled in correspondence courses that taught me more about God and required deep studies in His word. I grew so much, in that short period and the time seemed to fly by. Soon, I found myself being released. Sadly, my freedom didn’t last. Three months after release, I was sent back to prison for violating parole and was facing the possibility of new criminal charges. Those charges were undeserved, I prayed mighty hard, but I was convicted. 

This was the ultimate low point, alone in a dark prison cell. I began to question whether or not God could really forgive me. Could He really change my life and turn it around? How can God use someone like me? I’m an outcast, unforgivable, undesirable, and undeserving, I am scum, no I am lower than scum, I’m the scum on the bottom of the scum’s shoe. Then a chapel line was called, I’m not sure even why I went, was it boredom or some misguided obligation I felt toward a God I thought couldn’t possibly want me. Yet, I went, and as I was sitting in that hard plastic chair in the prison’s chapel, feeling lower than scum, the minister took the stage and he began to preach. He preached about Israel and how they were consistently rebellious toward God. Yet, time and time again, God was patient with them and when they’d repent He always took them back. Suddenly, somewhere a hope buried deep inside of me began to stir. To this day I can’t honestly tell you what that preacher preached about for the remaining time. Instead my thoughts were drawn back to those two rainbows and God’s answer to my childhood prayer almost twenty years earlier. Like lightning it struck me, seemingly out of nowhere! By the direction we were traveling those years ago, almost due north, that first rainbow I saw was located on my left side, meaning it would have been in the western sky. The second rainbow was on my right side, and there in the eastern sky. So what’s that got to do with anything you say? Do you know after the lightning comes the thunder clap? Get ready for the thunder! In Psalm 103:11-12 God says “for as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is HIS mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions (sins) from us” What this is that I’m one hundred percent forgiven, and as long as God is on His throne, nothing can ever change that! As my eyes blurred and the silent tears began to fall down my face like a raging river, tiny rainbows reflected from the ceiling lights began to appear as I lifted my head upward and mouthed my prayer of eternal thanks to the… one true God.

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