Roger, 45

Roger, 45

Meet Roger..

“My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth.”

Roger, 45

Incarcerated: 30 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Stockton 

On the brink of a new year, I was introduced to the two latest members of my family, my nieces. They have further fueled my drive for freedom and continue to be a shining example of progress through and despite duress. I’ve been incarcerated since I was a teenager, and at that time, my youngest brother and sister were the same ages as their children; my nieces are now. I walked into prison with an immature and biased belief system fueled by what I was taught by the males in my life and neighborhood. This ultimately led to my association and inevitable incarceration. Resulting in an innocent woman losing her life. To this day, I regret the choices of my youth and am genuinely sorry for the hurt I caused. My two nieces and the unwavering love of my mother and other women have opened my eyes to the importance of supporting our better halves with our strength, drive, power, and ability. Because without them, there would be no us! My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth. Having been one of these youths myself and recognizing the lack of positive male role models and activity groups for the youth still within the community, I believe that it is time for someone who personally knows the importance of teaching and raising our youth, the futures of our communities and the world in a way that promotes peace and progress. I write this hoping to find new friends from all walks of life who might share my aspirations. I go before the Parole Board in July and expect to be found suitable. Hopefully, these goals and endeavors can and will manifest sooner than expected. I hope to hear from anyone striving for change.

 

Michael, 41

Michael, 41

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Meet Michael…

My name is Michael, I breathe air and I am not a monster. Thank you for giving me a face, a voice, and for seeing me as a person.

Michael, 41
Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

Growing up in a poor household I can remember being different, sounding different, and feeling like I didn’t fit in. I came to learn I had a learning disability and stuttered. I felt less than, devalued and worthless. I was made fun of in my household, and with my classmates which reinforced my bad feelings about myself. I could not read, nor learn as the teachers wanted me to, so I acted out and became the bully, so I would not be bullied.

I began to use drugs to cover up my feelings of worthlessness, insecurities, and inadequance. My addiction progressed from pot, alcohol, to mushrooms then acid. By 15, I had been in juvenile hall and a boys ranch numerous times until I committed my life crime at 18. I was an out of control, extremely calloused and violent young man. While incarcerated from a young age with an extreme sentence, I continued my dysfunction in a maximum security prison. I had deflections and an aggressive attitude.

Ten years into my sentence I was stabbed eight times and removed from the yard for surrendering my life to my faith of Jesus Christ. I was shipped to another prison with more programs, self-help groups, and education. My mother passed away from her addiction, my life was in shambles, but I had my faith. I leaned on my support and coped in a healthy way. It was my first test in recovery and I passed. My job wanted me to get a high school diploma, and I barely knew how to read.

I was transferred to a new prison and met Ms. Drake, who saw potential in me. “I’ll hire you as a clerk, if you give me your word you’ll get your diploma.” This was the first time in years someone believed in me. I agreed. She helped me, gave me reading materials, taught me math, and assigned me a tutor. I poured all my time and energy into studying. I passed my test. Ms. Drake was proud of me and so was I. She said, “off to college now”.

One day a student rushed into the education department wanting to stab Ms. Drake. I intervened and placed myself in between them and deescalated the situation by using calm words and listening to his frustration, while protecting her. The officers came and took him away. I had protected another human being. I got a life saving certificate which could take time off my sentence or help in my parole board hearing.

My life began to get some normality. I continued my education, and my ministry and I started facilitating self-help groups. I will graduate in 2024 from Fresno State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies. Today I live my life as a memorial to my victims. My life is for service and giving back to my gated community. I hope and teach that one less crime equals one less victim. I honor God by living a sober life that praises Him with my words, actions, and service. I am a human that is kind, respectable, calm, loving, caring, and compassionate.

My name is Michael, I breathe air and I am not a monster. Thank you for giving me a face, a voice, and for seeing me as a person. God bless you.

Todd, 60

Todd, 60

Meet Todd…

Education and my desire to be a better man became my saving grace. It allowed me to continue to foster a solid foundation with my daughters.

Todd “Silk”, 60
Incarcerated: 25 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA

Upon receiving a life sentence, I thought my life was over. When I got arrested I had four daughters ages 5, 7, 8, and 11. My greatest fear was that my girls would grow up hating me. After all, it was my selfish acts and irresponsible decisions that took me out of their lives. How would I be able to convince them of my love, after putting so many other things ahead of them?

In my journey of self-discovery, I found the one avenue that allowed me to build that connection with my girls, education. I always wondered why people volunteer and I chalked it up to ulterior motives. I decided to assist someone with their math homework. It was that day I understood the joy and fulfillment of giving back to someone, expecting nothing in return. I’d always been a whiz at math, so I immersed myself into tutoring others in the subject. I then became one of the founding members of a group solely dedicated to helping incarcerated men earn their high school diploma. I continued to preach the importance of education in my letters to my daughters. Somehow I knew just mere words would not be enough.

I got back into college myself, while working as a tutor. I now had three daughters in college and one soon to enter. We began a healthy competition amongst us when it came to college grades. I was earning A’s and B’s and challenged them to do the same. My girls were able to see I was striving to be a better person regardless of my circumstances. I watched my daughters excel in college as I beamed with pride. Little did I know they too beamed with pride at my accomplishments. It was education that kept me connected to my daughters.

I had one younger sister that was my best friend and biggest supporter. She was proud of my accomplishments, not only in education but as a person. She attended my very first college graduation here at the prison, and passed away shortly after in her battle with cancer. My heart was broken, as this was the fourth member of my family I had lost while incarcerated- grandmother, father, mother and sister. My hurdles seemed insurmountable but I refused to give up. To date I have earned four associates degrees.

Education and my desire to be a better man became my saving grace. It allowed me to continue to foster a solid foundation with my daughters. All my hard work paid off and I was found suitable for parole and will be released in September, 2023. Education and my determination allowed me to hold onto the love of my daughters and they look forward to meeting me at the gate, my day of release. Upon release, I will continue to make my life one of service and helping others because these very things returned me to the man I was meant to be, my authentic self.

Keith, 31

Keith, 31

Meet Keith…

I haven’t heard from Corey, but I talk to his mom and his sisters. I thank him for showing me true friendship, and installing a passion in me to help others.

Keith, 31
Incarcerated: 10 years
Housed: Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, Delaware

My cousin and I walked onto the bus and immediately started acting like fools with this quiet, real chill kid in the back row. A couple days later, I’m walking down the street and the kid from the back row talks to me. He invited me into his home. I ate crabs along with his family. I met my best friend that day. His name was Corey. We hung out everyday after that, and stayed at each other’s houses. He knew he could do whatever he wanted at my house, and being around his family was a breath of fresh air for me. His household was one I’d only seen on TV, two parents, two sisters and dinner at the table every night. When my fridge was empty his mom welcomed me in and fed me. He never judged me for being dirty, wearing messy clothes, or my mom smoking crack. When I was down he always lifted me up. He showed me the real definition of friendship.

What I learned from him I carried into adulthood. He taught me to literally take the clothes off my back for others, to feed the homeless, and to pay for families to be housed at hotels. I was still out causing people harm, killing my community at the same time and building it up. I was a hypocrite. Twenty years of my life is taken away for those actions, yet my passion to help people has overpowered me as a whole. I haven’t heard from Corey, but I talk to his mom and his sisters. I thank him for showing me true friendship, and installing a passion in me to help others.

Jose, 50

Jose, 50

Meet Jose…

Doing time for crimes that came with gang life and drug use became a way of life. I did find love, but was never able to be loved or show love, due to the lack of knowing love.

Jose, 50
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

For most of us normality was not normal as we come from broken homes, drug addicted parents, gang infested and crime ridden neighborhoods. I’m in no way justifying my poor choices but sometimes we roll with the hand that was dealt us. I was all in. Home was just a place, there was no family unit or love. My mother ran from my father who was a very bad man to only end up with another man who wasn’t very nice. She was a drug addict and an alcoholic and my step father was a very hard man to please. I found no purpose for life as I turned to the streets for acceptance and purpose.

I joined a gang at 12 and was awarded to the courts by my mother at 14. Doing time for crimes that came with gang life and drug use became a way of life. I did find love, but was never able to be loved or show love, due to the lack of knowing love. I even had two daughters in hopes of becoming a better person, but I was too broken and by then, a full blown drug addicted gang member and an outlaw. I’ve lost so much to living a lie, and running from reality by doping myself up. I’m 28 years into a life sentence for a crime I’m not guilty of. I’m 50 and just now have been three years sober. I have a new hope in life and it is to give back to those I’ve hurt, including myself. And don’t ever give up on whatever your circumstances, the sun will shine. I’d like to thank you! Not many have empathy for those incarcerated for not abiding by rules of society.

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