Christopher, 42

Meet Christopher…

…My freedom appears to be a beautiful sunset on the horizon.

Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: Graceville Correctional Facility

My freedom appears to be a beautiful sunset on the horizon and despite my trepidations, I am not fearful of seeing th “new world” which has obviously changed over the last two plus decades. There are many blessings in my life that I sometimes consider unearned. Friends and family who are awaiting my departure and offering various means of support. My brother Eric has already secured me a job making a decent wage for someone who’s been out of the workforce since 1999. He also has a car for me and is to relocate to a new home which has an extra bedroom. All of these efforts to see that my transition is wonderful, but there is one particular gift that stands above the norm. This gift presents something that only the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated can truly appreciate. My friend of more than 23 years, Rachel has invited me on a cross-country trip that ends in the state of Oregon! She is looking to resettle. She’s a natural born New Yorker. As a single mom whose only son is preparing to take the reins of his life and move out on his own, Rachel wants to explore and find a new home. She wants me of all people to go with her! She recently told me that “There isn’t any other person in my life that I’d rather travel with than you.” I am humbled. Whether I am truly the best person for this endeavor with Rachel will soon be determined. The one truth I can proclaim without any doubt is that seeing the country for the first time after decades of confinement is the closest one can be to heaven on Earth and my travel companion must be an ‘angel in disguise!

Calen, 40

Calen, 40

Meet Calen…

Escape seems inescapable. Now picture incarceration with an utterly broken heart.

Lost Lover, Lost Freedom

What do you miss most about being outside? Women. Inside, femininity is obscure and rare. The judicial process has the ability to gut the unprepared and we are all unprepared. Once incarcerated, those who live in their own head may fall victim to their surroundings, reality swallowing them because they allow themselves to be enveloped whole.

Escape seems inescapable. Now picture incarceration with an utterly broken heart. If you thought the situation hurt before, attempt completing the process without your lover.  Better yet, how about the notion that you’re going through this brutal process, not just without your lover, but because of your lover. I miss conversing with women the most.

Since being separated from all things female, I can now smell perfume through a solid cement wall from hundreds of yards away. Jos always smelled so good, perfume or not. In all likelihood, closure will continue to elude me from now until forever. I still know what I felt for Jos was intense, complete and very real, from the first day to the last. Yeah, she’s forgiven. I’m over it. But there is and always will be a part of me that will resent her forever. And here’s some songs that mean volumes to me. Some are myself and Jos’, while some get me through this incarceration. Call it the soundtrack to the story ‘Lost lover, Lost freedom’. In no particular order of importance. They’re all important to me.

Beck -‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Die Waiting’

Bjork -‘I Go Humble’ and ‘Moon’ (slips remix)

Old Dominion -‘Crazy Beautiful Sexy’

Roxy Music -‘Mother of Pearl’

Blake Sheldon -‘Who are You When I’m Not Looking’

The Clash -‘Police on My Back’

Brothertiger -‘Beyond the Infinite’  

Talking Heads -‘This Must be the Place’

Danny Elfman -‘It Only Makes Me Laugh’

Meiko -‘Reasons to Love you’ ‘How Lucky We Are’

Mazzy Star’s -‘Fade Into You’

The Thermals -‘Returning to the Fold’

Mean Things -‘You Make Me Sick’

Voodoo Glowskulls -‘Symbolic’

Dolly Parton -‘Home’

Owl City -‘Vanilla Twilight’ ‘On the Wing’

The Distillers -‘The Hunger’

Incubus -‘The Warmth’

The Sundays -‘Wild Horses’

Jamsson, 31

Jamsson, 31

Meet Jamsson…

I made a few mistakes in my life but since my incarceration I have dedicated my life to becoming the leader I felt like I needed in my life.

Housed: Sumter Correctional Institution, FL

I made a few mistakes in my life but since my incarceration I have dedicated my life to becoming the leader I felt like I needed in my life. Thanks to my sister I was able to have a poem book published that can hopefully inspire those who read it to chase their dreams no matter where they may be. It’s called ‘The Book Of Spade.’

Here is a poem I gave during  Sumter’s Lifers Program Graduation.

 

Years,

Decades,

Centuries…

So much time…wasted

Sleeping in this century

 

While some rot,

Others…

Are holding on to a thin line of hope…

That one day…

They can see the light

 

The light at the end of the tunnel,

No matter how dim and frail

It may be,

It’s enough…

To get them to their feet.

 

Seeing the errors of their ways

Some realize it’s time for change…

As a man thinketh

So is he…

The stronger the mind

The better off that man will be.

 

The soul glows, 

The spirit becomes enlightened,

But the body remains stationary…

Locked away to be forgotten.

 

Years,

Decades,

Centuries…

 

So much time

Can cause a man to be broken

Yet…

Some choose to keep fighting,

Dreaming,

Hoping,

Pushing through the darkness

That’s trying to cloud their minds

So they can keep their eyes…

On that dim little light

At the end of the tunnel.

 

Looking towards the mountain

Where those that have the power

To make a change dwell…

Praying that they would consider 

Adding a little wood to the fire so the light…

So the light…

At the end of the tunnel

Can burn brighter.

 

Change…

It’s time for change.

 

No longer should we stand by and allow things to remain the same…

 

Years, 

Decades, 

Centuries…

So much time…

So much misery.

 

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