Jose, 36

Jose, 36

Meet Jose…

Since the beginning of my existence, I was cloaked in darkness, confined to small spaces. As cramped as I was, comfort and peace was gained by familiarity to my surroundings.

Jose, 36
Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: Susanville, California

Since the beginning of my existence, I was cloaked in darkness, confined to small spaces. As cramped as I was, comfort and peace was gained by familiarity to my surroundings. Like a seedling buried deep within earth, I too burst forth clawing for survival into a world unknown. My comfort & peace seemed to fade away. As I grew up, I pushed past resistance, elbowed my way through uncertainties in order to stand firm in a space I call my own. Becoming attached to things, to people, only to have them ripped away from my clutches caused a pain to stay. Disappointment, shame, sorrow was masked layer upon layer with rage, hate, and a heart that’s hollow. Resulting in my inner light to fade away. I sought friends from the free world whom might help me escape a dream twirl. Little did I know about the path laid down before me would illuminate the love that stood upon it. A love so majestic that it would revive my inner light which I believed to be non-existent. I held her picture in my hands and couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

I read and reread her letter until I felt my soul awakened. I couldn’t wait any longer. I made my fateful call to her. Like a bolt of lightning ZAP! Her voice struck a chord within my soul and I heard a melody so sweet, I dare call it divine. All I wanted, all I needed, all I had hoped and prayed for I found in her. A woman who looked at my tears of pain, fear, shame, anger, rage, and wiped them away. She listens, she knows, she feels all that I’ve fought, all that I’ve faced, sees in me a man of greatness, a man of perpetual elevation. My inner light was diminished because I had lost my vision. She clears away the fog, she finetunes my perspective, she stands next to me, forever, because she’s here to stay

 

(We were married March 18, 2023).

Jose, 34

Meet Jose…

I listened as my daughter babbled through the phone to string along a bunch of words, formulating her sentences and thoughts. I revisit that fateful summer night with each new milestone my daughter reaches, with each question she asks, with each conversation and new picture capturing her growth.

The hardest part about doing time is being away from my daughter. I was arrested when she was nine months old. For those nine months, she was my daily side-kick. I learned how to change her diaper, comb her hair (really rubbing baby lotion in and calling it a day), packing a diaper bag and putting her to sleep every night. On the day she was born, I knew I loved her, from the second I held her, she looked at me as I spoke to her. That moment was trumped when, when I heard her first words, “Da-Da”. My heart melted. At that moment, I believed that I would love her in a way she deserved. That belief came to a head when I committed my regretful crime. I was hit with a gut-shot that if I truly loved my daughter as I claimed, I would have thought about the consequences of my actions. Impulse has no forethought. I was taken away from my daughter and all those incredible memories. It should have never happened. I watched my daughter learn to crawl, walk and run, through a glass partition. I listened as my daughter babbled through the phone to string along a bunch of words, formulating her sentences and thoughts. I revisit that fateful summer night with each new milestone my daughter reaches, with each question she asks, with each conversation and new picture capturing her growth. It’s painful because I care so much. I didn’t consider my actions and it’s impact because I didn’t know how to love my daughter. This is because I didn’t know how to love myself. I had a very difficult upbringing. The common themes of: poverty, instability, food insecurity, lack of education, lack of resources, domestic violence, abuse, compiled with addicted parents. I was taught not to address mental health issues but to bury them. This was a patch work fix for a dam, flooded with suppressed issues until the gates burst. I could’ve let my uncontrollable waters flood the valley. But that would only create more harm and destruction. I remember one of my last visits with my daughter. She was three and I sat behind a glass partition. She wanted to kiss me but the glass blocked her attempt to give me affection. After many failed attempts, she began to cry – painfully. That moment greatly affected me. It started a conversation with the man in the mirror. If I cared as much as I claimed, then I would have to make a change. There is an old Daoist story about monks who created beauty of a thing’s essence not by adding to it but by taking away from it. Before I could incorporate those virtues to make me a better human being, I had to identify and face my character flaws and remove them one by one. No easy process. I had to wade in the pain, anger and sadness and not drown in the abyss. I read incessantly and vigorously. I revisited my life with each new discipline which relieved each trauma. I persevered because I cared. As a bi-product of all my hard work, I garnered multiple college degrees, facilitated self-help groups, developed bonds with family members in new and improved ways. My relationship with my daughter is limited to phone calls, but it’s stronger than ever. I used to lament about this limitation but now I see possibilities. I pre-plan our 15-minute phone call conversations. I write to her in journals to preserve moments without her near me. I vent, talk about my feelings, dreams, fears, anything I feel would include her in my mind and heart. The other day she answered my call out of breath. I said “Baby, why are you breathing so hard? What were you doing?” she replied “I’m just out of breath because I ran to answer your call, Dad.” over ten years ago I couldn’t imagine what my relationship would be like with my daughter. But I knew what my behavior would demonstrate: that my sustained change, and my actions, proves my love for my daughter. We walked through the light of love for over ten years. My daughter can feel the love through the phone, in the way that I speak with her. She runs to the phone to hear my voice.

Ignacio, 28

Ignacio, 28

Meet Ignacio

I feel that prison has changed me.

Incarcerated: 2 years 

Housed: High Desert State Prison, Susanville, California

May 2nd, 2015 was the day my sister passed away and something in me changed forever. I became careless about people around me, including myself. I began to get lost in my own world and into drugs. I felt like a part of me died with her. Things haven’t been the same in my life to this very day. I was a gang member and further immersed myself in it. I was dealing with the wrong people who led me to where I am today,  in prison serving a Life Without Parole sentence for 1st degree murder. A crime that I did commit.

From the minute I was handcuffed my life  flashed in front of my eyes. Within seconds my sister popped into my mind and I knew she wouldn’t want this for me: a life in prison, leaving my family behind. I have a son I barely know. I traded my street life and gang over my own son. I  was childish myself.  

Now that I am in prison, I have learned how to appreciate the littlest things in life. I am doing my best to be the father that my son never had. I am fighting each and every day to become a better person for my family, my son, and most of all, myself. 

I feel that prison has changed me. 

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