Niiko, 34

Niiko, 34

Meet Niiko..

“God may not be there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time.”

Niiko, 34

Incarcerated: 17 years

Housed: Corcoran state prison, California

I’ve woken up for 17 years with the same hope and thoughts because my faith is the one thing that gives me hope. She always says, God is never there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time. I always told her if God cared about me, I would never have been sent to hell. We fought about this a lot, and then one day, her words rang true. She said, God let me stay here in hell because there was someone I needed to reach, that he would use me as his tool to give them his message. I thought it was BS. Then a friend of mine lost his family and mother within two days. He had been down for 10 years and the loss was so great he wanted out of this life. I had started to feel the same way but because of my mom’s faith, I knew it was wrong to end your life. I was too weak to do it myself. I started wondering how else to get this loneliness and pain to stop, so when I saw him giving things away and not getting high anymore, I just had a feeling. He sat down at the table I was sitting at, we didn’t talk at all. Then he said I could have his radio and seeing how this came from left field, I told him I wasn’t right in the head. How I had just lost my big brother and cousin and I felt like it was my fault because I wasn’t there to protect them. Then he opened up about his family and his mom and how he was planning to be with them again soon. I don’t know why seeing him so crushed made me change my mind. I grabbed his hand and we prayed for both of our losses and loneliness. I’ve since seen my mom’s words and faith play out. God may not be there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time.

James, 64

James, 64

Meet James…

She said, “Write, write everyday.” I took her advice and it’s taken me on quite a journey. A year’s worth of my daily journal writing was posted by Cornell University on their website, I have a stack of poetry I’ve written and a couple have even been published.

James, 64
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: Corcoran State Prison, California

I don’t even know the person’s name who had a huge impact on my life. I found myself in a prison cell with little more than some writing materials and a book with contact information for colleges and universities from all across the country. I can’t say with any accuracy how many letters I sent out requesting an old text book that may be outdated or getting ready to be discarded. Out of the stacks of letters I sent out, I received one response. It came from someone in the English Department at the University of San Francisco. This person sent me three brand new textbooks on creative writing and poetry. I had written in my requests, that I wanted to turn my prison cell into a classroom. She responded along with the textbooks, with a note saying that she hoped these books would help, and offered her advice… she said, “Write, write everyday.” I took her advice and it’s taken me on quite a journey. A year’s worth of my daily journal writing was posted by Cornell University on their website, I have a stack of poetry I’ve written, a couple have even been published, I’ve been asked to write pieces for a couple prisoner advocacy publications, as well as earning an AA degree in Fine Arts, graduating with highest honors. All this and more developed from the kind heart of someone I don’t even know, almost 15 years ago. Her KWD started me on my journey of recovery and rehabilitation. She changed my life, and I’m continuously thankful to her.

Charles, 52

Charles, 52

Meet Charles…

I’ve decided one way for me to give back is to tell my story through my writing. Today I’m truly successful because I believe in my abilities to achieve.

Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: Corcoran State Prison, California

I was raised in poverty. I didn’t know we were poor until much later in life, my mom did her best to make sure we had food, clothing and shelter. My father was an alcoholic who loved chasing women, drinking, and smoking Pall Mall cigarettes. My father was a womanizer, some even say he was a pimp and he loved to bet on horses. I hated when my father drank, he would drink Crown Royal whiskey. Then, he became abusive both verbally and physically toward my mom. I would be scared. The first time my younger brother and I witnessed domestic violence I was five and he was three. As a result of witnessing such traumatic events, I developed anger issues, low-self-esteem and an intense hatred for authority figures. My mom finally divorced my abusive father. Being raised by a single parent, I gravitated toward the gang members in my neighborhood. I viewed them as older brothers and subconscious father figures. Career criminals, high school dropouts, and drug dealers became my role models, and I wanted to be just like them. In essence, I was aspiring to be a loser. I achieved my goal of being a success at failing by making the choice to disobey my mother and became a juvenile delinquent at 12. I’ve been to prison on multiple occasions. I finally came to my senses after years of neglecting the ones that truly loved me, my family. After years of wasting my precious life, in and out of incarceration, I decided that I had to change. I vowed I would change my life for the better. I denounced my association with my former gang. I started to engage in positive activities like self help, going to college, and vocational training. I’ve decided one way for me to give back is to tell my story through my writing. To date I have written and self-published five books, which is my way of sharing insight in hopes people will learn from my long standing history of failing. Today I’m truly successful because I believe in my abilities to achieve.

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