Sequoyah, 28

Sequoyah, 28

Meet Sequoyah…

There have been many times in my life that the road forked and someone saved me before I went the wrong way. One person in particular was the director of the Robinson’s Scholars program.

Sequoyah, 28
Incarcerated: 3 years
Housed: Lexington, Kentucky

Do you ever wonder what your life might be like if you’d never crossed paths with certain people? I do. There have been many times in my life that the road forked and someone saved me before I went the wrong way. Some were just brush encounters, but there were others whose impact changed the entire course of my existence. One person in particular was the director of the Robinson’s Scholars program I was a part of. I met him when I was a sophomore in high school, during a time when I was lost within my trauma. I think he sensed that from our first conversation because every time we talked after that, he showed genuine interest and concern for me. Over time the fortress that I’d built around me for my protection gave way and a bond forged between us. I had never had an active father to nurture me and most of the men I’d been around were predators who made me feel very uncomfortable. He was different though. Kindness, safety, love, and support radiated off of him. He took me under his wings with the goal of seeing me fly on my own one day.

Despite his efforts, I stumbled many times before I began to find my footing. When everyone counted me out, he dug his cleats in and coached me through the storms. I was ready to give up on myself and probably would’ve without his unwavering encouragement. Very often, I found myself questioning why. Why did he care? Why did he try so hard? What was so special about me? I mean he was a stranger; he had no obligation to help me. My own family didn’t even do these things, so why was he? I could never understand what he saw in me that made him think I was worth investing in. But he did and never faltered in showing me how much he wanted me to succeed. When I graduated high school, he stood in those stands proudly like a father would for his daughter. His presence continued on when I went to college too. When I started making reckless decisions again, he swooped in and got me back in order. He was determined to keep me from self-destructing. After a while, he became the voice of reason and my most trusted confidant. Nearly seven years after we met, I walked across the graduate stage once more. The stadium was packed full. When it came time for me to receive my diploma, there he was standing with honor as my father.

Anthony, 37

Meet Anthony…

In here I really got to know myself. I learned the biggest thing that gets in the way of meeting my goals is myself.

Incarcerated: 2 years
Housed: Fayette, Pennsylvania

In here I really got to know myself. I learned the biggest thing that gets in the way of meeting my goals is myself. You get out of being in prison what you out in. I wanted change so I put my head into reading and learning and not into drama or trouble. The key for me to be able to come home and do good is knowing I have the support, and friendship of the outside world. If I put as much work into being a great man as I have in building my name on the streets and prison, I know in the future the sky’s the limit for me!ed. 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?

Jeffery, 59

Jeffery, 59

Jeffery, 59

Life does not end by my coming to prison, there is a life other than mine to live for. That is my purpose behind writing now.

WRITING AND ADDICTION

 

A funny thing happened on the way to reality

I found myself in the midst of severe brutality

The sun was shining but life was lost

I reached for another sniff, puff, smoke or toke….

Not weighing the cost

The words dispensed flowed like honey suckle wine

Poetry, even in this hell became all mine

Thank you for the life of escape given me

As I write this life to victory

Together beyond the concept of possibility

We are bound to be free in poetic reality….

 

From a young age it would appear that there was an ability to write, to stream a few syllables together and people liked what was written. I can remember the joy of my grandmother, who raised me from the age of three, would show when I gave her a card for some celebratory occasion like a birthday or holiday.

 

There was no particular interest in specialized training growing up, not even a remote desire per se to be or get into the field of writing. What got me hooked was the point that other people liked what I wrote and as I got older I just got better, I hope, and found a certain style that would seemingly fall into place almost at the right times in my life.

 

There came a time when I fell into addiction with drugs and alcohol. I was a drinker for many years, sneaking off the night before to get a quart bottle of beer and hide it in the milk box on our front porch to be consumed before or on the way to high school. But never had any real problems as a young kid such as I could see, and then crack appeared and a lot of things changed.

 

By that I mean prison became a thing. Here I could write and people liked it.

 

“Hey old-head, can you write a poem for my girls?” “Can you write a letter to my lawyer? “Can you fill this paper out for me?”

 

In the normal world you have to go to work; take care of the house, the children, pay bills and all that domestic stuff so I did not write a lot if at all; much less any of the other stuff consistently because of running off to get high or drunk which led to getting high anyway.

 

In here I could sustain myself by writing, have my own little world, and maybe it was in helping others, getting that validation and acceptance that helped in the development of finding my style. People who write law work develop a certain cadence in the way they write, I’ve noticed. For me it was the Spoken Word style of poetry that became dominant “Stuck here in this prison making no decision of life with the strife of an everyday fading away today reminded in this sin of a yesterday no one forgets my own regrets.”

 

But then one day you are no longer in prison, but on parole with a bunch of stipulations and requirements and fees to pay and all I want is my freedom. To enjoy the life I deserve because I did my time. Long story short, I made it off parole, turning a two and half to five year bit into ten years by the time it was all done.

 

I could reintegrate into society for a bit, but there’s this addiction that keeps calling my name, especially when my needs are not being met. That reciprocity. It has come to my attention that I am a needy person. I seek the validation of others and when that is not returned well, I go off to where I will get it. And where better than a place where the one who holds the money or the drugs gets all the attention?

 

Even in prison we find hundreds of individuals who are likewise afflicted as the recidivism rate clearly shows. Inside you are someone even if your job is to clean the showers, you are someone, Even if you are the guy who creates havoc in your own life doing battle with the corrections officers, going back and forth to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). You are somebody. 

 

I have worked all my life from an early age, my first job was a Roy Rogers at the age of 15 ½  when the school required parental permission to participate in the school/work program. I have always been able to get and maintain a job and did not go out robbing or stealing, well, I didn’t have to rob or sell drugs to get high. And what was soon discovered was that I could write in here also and people would get high with me or give me stuff when my own money ran out, which it always did living this lifestyle of a crack-head.

 

Like a cup of tea with cream but then someone adds cream, the tea curdles as cream and lemon do not mix well together. A person sitting there writing is not an image thought of in a crackhouse, right? Discard the visions portrayed on television about dope-dens, crack houses. Picture a more intimate setting of chairs and sofa, a folding card table or two with people sitting around playing cards or off on the side in their own little world. Everyone was laughing and drinking and of course smoking. A scene not much different than the one in jail where people are out in the dayroom, watching television, playing cards or other board games, just not getting high.

 

How does someone get into writing while getting high? Well, not so much while getting high but rather in the camaraderie so to speak where you have come and gone so much, like at a local bar, or the “house” that you get acquainted with and become like regulars at any other social place. People know people.

 

So one day there happens to be a conversation, I’m sitting around listening and another guy is going on about all this stuff he can do. How he’s a jack of all trades and so on, and writing comes up. I’m beaming now. I jot down a few lines real quick and show it to the lady of the house, Miss Darlene, she reads my writing and throws it in the guy’s face.

 

“See you can’t write. Talking all that smack about you being a writer. He just wrote something in seconds and better than anything you said you could do. You ain’t done nothing, that’s right!”

 

To further bolster this “other” high or taunt, I say to others sitting around, “give me a word” there’s a moment of confusion but soon people catch on and a word comes, Exhilaration. I think for a moment and write: “Exhilaration, a blast that lasts beyond the pipe dreams we try to capture. The rapture of feeling good when there’s nothing left but the rest of the  night and another fool walks through the door and hope is renewed that life is not over…”

 

In the darkest of places like addiction there is still a light that can beam bright. Here is this thing I have that others like, give accolades for and I can get high.

 

But that life is over. Not because of being in prison today, away from the lifestyle or those I knew back then in that world. An innocent life was taken by my own hand, viciously and brutally killed which devastated many people including my own family.

 

Sitting in prison serving a Life Sentence without the possibility of parole [LWOP], plus 1 ½ -5 years is what had come of those days, the years of self-medicating, abandoning my own family by stealing the car to go get high. Keeping or taking money away from the household necessities for my own selfish wants to sit around with some people who don’t have their own best interests at heart yet thinking they have your back. Sitting around the same table blowing the same smoke but it was not so much to the drug but that acceptance, the validation.

 

There remains a part of me that desires acceptance, that validation, it is not for myself. I write now for the honor of the young lady I killed and for the family. That in some way there can be honor given for the sacrifice given of her life. No one deserves to be harmed and certainly no one deserves to be killed out in the middle of the street. I can never repay so great a debt but each letter written or phrase spoken is for her honor. That something positive can come of this whole ordeal.

 

We are placed on this earth to serve others; whether we want to believe or accept their views or opinions, we can respect them as we wish to be accepted and respected. Nothing should negate the fact that we are all human beings here together, that if we serve each other we all are made better for it because we all would have the things we feel and believe we need.

 

I honor the life taken by being a help to others. Having come to terms with many of the issues in my own life that would have led me back to drugs it is easier to live life. Not as selfishly as was done in my past, but rather for them who have been impacted by my past. The seeking of validation and others acceptance is a byproduct of insecurity about who I am as an individual. To question myself as one who would commit such an act upon another human being will be a lifelong search as to why it was done and the cause of it. I was raised in a wonderful home, as a latchkey kid because grandma worked a lot. Still none of these things are an excuse.

 

Life does not end by my coming to prison, there is a life other than mine to live for. That is my purpose behind writing now. 📸 Jeffery’s own

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