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, 55

James, 55

Meet James…

My future is bright, I will be released on December 28th of this year and I’ll celebrate a late Christmas with my family.”

James, 55

Incarcerated: 33 years

Housed: LaBelle, Pennsylvania

We took a plane to Lancaster, Ohio to visit my dad’s parents. Grandpa and Gram had a lovely farm with chickens, a couple of horses, cows, a roaster, and some sheep. I was so excited that day, coming from the city to play with the animals. I was so happy to spend time with Superman, my dad, and he was dressed in his army ranger dress clothes. I remember it like it was yesterday. Gram and Pop met us at the airport. After playing with the animals and running around with Dad, he took me down to a creek where he fished as a kid, then up over a little wooden bridge. I grabbed my superman sunglasses and off they went into the water below. I thought Dad, being Superman, could fly down and get them. Dad was mad at first, but laughed it off, tickling me and that was my day with my Superman! My dad did two tours in Vietnam and retired honorably as a sergeant with a purple heart, he’s my hero. Now, all I want is for my dad and mom to be proud of me. I used drugs and alcohol and I have been in and out of prison for so long. Today, I have been clean and sober for nearly three years. I write and call my parents weekly. I miss them both so very much. My future is bright, I will be released on December 28th of this year and we’ll celebrate a late Christmas. For New Years my 83-year-old dad and I will talk and watch a football game together, I can’t wait!

Javier, 31

Javier, 31

Ciara, 34

Meet Javier…

“I’ve learned that if someone gives me an opportunity, I can accomplish a lot”

Javier, 31

Incarcerated: 2 years

My bad behavior started at the end of my freshman year of high school. I was approached by one of my friends and he asked if I wanted to join the hood. I automatically said yes. I was getting respect, hanging out with the cool kids, and riding in the Yukon. Everybody knew us, all the females were on us, but more importantly, our brothers weren’t getting picked on anymore after school. One day, Child Protective Services came in with sheriffs to take my brothers and sisters. They didn’t take me because I was a ward of the state, and had been released to my mother while on juvenile probation. It wasn’t the same without my family. I took it out on random people and so-called enemies. I would get high and drunk to feel better and numb myself so I wouldn’t feel alone. I didn’t know how to handle that feeling, so I would look for girls to hook up with. I stabbed another 18 year old, went to jail, and a public defender got me out on a misdemeanor.  I had to learn the hard way since no one was really guarding me. I never met my father and my step dad didn’t like me. My mom was working on how to get my brothers and sisters back, her two boys and four girls. I found the attention I needed from the gang. We were smoking trees, drinking and hanging with different females. Now, that’s all changed. I miss the food, traveling, and doing whatever I want. I’ve learned that if someone gives me an opportunity I can accomplish a lot. I talk to my loved one’s two to three times a month. Love is something I see really far away. Since I’m incarcerated, a female would probably be scared of me and have way better options than me anyways. I have used being in prison to my advantage. Being in the streets, I would have never gotten my diploma. People have not believed in me or considered giving me an opportunity to prove myself. They automatically think I’m a convict that’s going to steal or be violent towards them. I’ll always be a liar to them. My only option is to keep educating myself; whether it’s life skills, anger management, or even obtaining some type of college degree. I hope that people who really want to change will do the same.

Alexander, 26

Alexander, 26

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Meet Alexander…

A friend is someone you can count on. Someone you share your thoughts with.

Alexander, 26
Incarcerated: 4 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

What is friendship and love?
Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
A friend is someone you can count on.
Someone you share your thoughts with.
Having a caring and loving relationship can last a lifetime.
Time is something you can never get back.
It’s priceless.
What is love?
Love is unconditional.
Love allows you to be vulnerable with another human being.
Love is being comfortable and safe.
Some people spend their lifetime
trying to find it in materialistic things,
but the thing is
it comes from within.
It comes from the soul.
Being in prison makes me feel alone.
At the same time
I stay motivated knowing one day
I’ll be free.

Vasil, 43

Vasil, 43

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Meet Vasil…

My people are those whom I know, in their heart of hearts, have a place for me.

Vasil, 43
Incarcerated: 16 years
Housed: New Jersey State Penitentiary, Trenton, New Jersey

I am my people because I’ve shed blood, sweat and tears with my people, for my people. I am my people because I’ve shared the good, the bad, and the ugly with my people. I am my people because I’ve experienced strife and struggle with my people. I’ve been in toil, striving for success with my people. People aren’t your people because they simply say so. People aren’t my people when they have failed to show up in my time of need. Time and again the struggle for success is when your people need you the most. Actions make you my people. My people are those whom I know, in their heart of hearts, have a place for me. Talk is cheap, those who do without saying are the people to me; my people you are, I am yours. Together, we are the people!

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