Robert, 66

Meet Robert…

My dad, uncles and aunts were alcoholic, so I followed suit. My mother never drank but had mental issues.

Robert, 66
Incarcerated: 19 years
Housed: Graceville Correctional Facility, Florida

There were eleven of us, poor, living in the country. We raised our own food: chickens, pigs, cows, horses, we had gardens, we canned, we grew walnuts and picked berries for pies. I was moved to a small town at 15. I got with a bunch of boys who were buck wild. I quit school and got into drinking a lot. Then I got into trouble with the justice system. I was sent to a reform school until I was 18. That didn’t do much, and I kept drinking heavily and started smoking pot. The heavier drugs followed later in life. I ended up in trouble with the law again, but not before I got my girlfriend pregnant. I got sentenced to prison until I was 21. While in prison I got married because she was pregnant, for all the wrong reasons. I got a GED certificate and a few vocational trades while in prison. Then I got out and went right back to drinking and weed. This was in the late 70s. My dad, uncles and aunts were alcoholic, so I followed suit. My mother never drank but had mental issues. Dad and mom would fight all the time and it was bad. They finally divorced after years of fighting. I got out of prison, and after a few years we divorced. I couldn’t hold jobs down.

Drinking and drugs became my wife. Working only for my habits. Went to a lot of AAs, NAs, and rehabs, but nothing worked. I would smoke, snort, drink, anything. Hash, pot, windowpane (acid), then on to ice and crack. I got married two more times and had four more kids. And divorced. All over my addictions. I’m 65 now and doing 50 years for something my DNA says is 100% not me. I have no one now. I’ve burned all my bridges. I don’t want alcohol or drugs, after it’s too late. I honestly regret hurting and using all those people. Some things in life you can’t take back, and it will haunt you the rest of your life. All I can do is ask God for forgiveness. But my regrets still eat me up. The drugs and alcohol only lead to three places: death, prison, or mental health institutions. I’ve been to two of them quite often, that leaves only one. This prison is the worst. It’s a private prison with a lot of stabbings over drugs and gang violence. I guess I do deserve a lot of it. I figure it’s got a lot to do with karma from all the wrong I’ve done. In some small way I try to give back to the world that I’ve taken and abused. I tell the inmates to stop before it’s too late, to look at me, this could be you someday. A life sentence with no one. You can sadly see in them that they’ll be back. When released, they’ll go back to what they were doing. I see a lot of myself in them. Well, it’s not an uplifting story, but there were some good things. I’ve got five kids somewhere. I hope my three girls and two boys make someone’s life happy and they are happy, too. I surely miss them.

Kristen, 27

Kristen, 27

Meet Kristen…

 Being incarcerated has allowed me to learn my self worth and realize that I will never be content in love with anyone, good or bad, if I can’t first love myself. Those who hurt me, I thank.

Incarcerated: 7.5

Housed: Lee Arrendale State Prison in Georgia

Growing up my understanding of the word love was warped. I grew up physically and sexually abused. I’ve always compared love to abuse. If a person does not lash out at you, they don’t care. I met a man, who I later ended up having kids with,  and he abused me for three years,  after I left the foster system. Every relationship and friendship I’ve had, has always been based on these negative habits. I consider my incarceration bittersweet because it helped me escape this man and time to sit back and love me. Being incarcerated has allowed me to learn my self worth and realize that I will never be content in love with anyone, good or bad, if I can’t first love myself. Those who hurt me, I thank. If it weren’t for the negative interpretation of love, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the real thing.

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’

Richard, 55

Richard, 55

Meet Richard…

The path to “True Humanity” can be long and very difficult.

Unfortunately, in 2000 I lost a murder trail and was sentenced to Florida’s Death Row. I have served 16.5 years, living in a one man cell with a small fan, 13” color T.V., a desk, and two legal lockers. I had to buy the fan and T.V. While fighting to regain my liberty, God removed my father in 2005, and my mother in  2012. I felt like I was in the bible story of Job! I was not allowed to attend either funeral, and this made their passing that much more devastating, without closure. I went through a period of depression. However, I did not cut myself nor did I take any medication, as God was reshaping my spirit and heart. The path to “True Humanity” can be long and very difficult.

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