Chimezie, 40

Chimezie, 40

Meet Chimezie…

Through her letters, poetry, song lyrics, phone calls, visits, deep thought provoking conversation, and mental stimuli, Beauty helped me elevate beyond the wallows of my self pity.

Chimezie, 40
Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, Shirley, Massachusetts

In the early years of my bid, I never slowed down long enough to write letters. I was always in some form of trouble. If I wasn’t lifting weights, I was chasing someone who owed money. If I wasn’t in the hole, I was headed to the hole. An intellectual connection with a female was the last thing on my mind. I lived in a crime college, and criminality served as my solace. That changed when a friend introduced me to a young lady, I’ll call Beauty.

Beauty and I began exchanging letters, then phone calls, and eventually she came to the prison to visit me. I remained non-committal and detached. My primary focus was on the wrong things. In 2013, the Supreme Judicial Court denied my direct appeal, and the reality of a lifetime prison sentence became a realistic reality. I was devastated. I was on the floor y’all. I tried to pull away from Beauty, but she pulled me closer to her. Through her letters, poetry, song lyrics, phone calls, visits, deep thought provoking conversation, and mental stimuli, Beauty helped me elevate beyond the wallows of my self pity. My mind was able to transcend the imposed limitations of prison and depression, through Beauty’s otherworldly devotion to our bond. Beauty nurtured me back to form with love. When I was close to defeat, I rose to my feet. The universe sent me an angel that changed the trajectory of my life. I’m humbled and forever grateful.I’ve learned firsthand, love is the only emotion strong enough to override human nature. Love is divine power. Inspiration through love is a divine influencer.

To Beauty, you saved me from myself. To the women loving incarcerated citizens of our communities despite conventional wisdom telling them to do otherwise: You are the heartbeat of an often forgotten tribe. To my fellow incarcerated citizens, follow your hearts, and dare to love. Love truly conquers all. May peace be with you. Always and forever.

Anthony, 56

Anthony, 56

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Meet Anthony…

I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends.

Anthony, 56
Incarcerated: 22 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

I was born to a drug and alcohol addicted mother and suffered fetal drug and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends. My babysitter used to tie me up in ropes just so he didn’t have to watch me. I would scream and cry growing up but no one believed me or cared. I’ve been on suicide watch more than once. One day at the age of four, I was kidnapped in front of my school and thrown into a van. My dad and detectives found me five hundred miles from home in a stranger’s room. I also was bullied as a child. I suffered from a severe learning disorder, but by the grace of God and much PTSD trauma treatment, I didn’t give up, and now I try to help others. I got my GED, and now I’m in college working hard on a sociology degree. I’m also a certified youth facilitator mentor. All my family and my ex-wife have died since I have been in prison, but I am resilient, and thanks to Jesus and hard work I’m happy to be alive.

Ahesha, 40

Meet Ahesha…

 I had to learn to love myself to become the mother I am today. It is a real cold feeling sitting in this 4’ x 5’ room with all my thoughts.

Ahesha, 40
Incarcerated: 6 months
Housed: Gloria McDonald Women’s Facility, Cranston, Rhode Island

I’m not defined by my crime. I’m a beautiful mother of 10. I have learned I can prosper in the worst conditions. I had to learn to love myself to become the mother I am today. It is a real cold feeling sitting in this 4’ x 5’ room with all my thoughts. Time has helped me process my bad feelings and the pain I’ve been putting my mother and kids through. Now I have graduated from all the bad things I have done. I’m trying to work on my bachelors degree. I know when I am released in 18 months that I’ve put my loved ones through a lot of pain. When I was standing in front of the judge and he gave me 18 months and said,  I am sorry it had to go this way but it’s for the best, it made me feel alone, like nobody cared, it made my little heart hurt. I was afraid of what I might go through when I started my sentence. I really didn’t know how I was going to feel without my mother, who is really sick with only one leg. And without my children, who are being taken care of by friends and family. My kids are 25, 24, 20, 18, 14, 13, 11, 9, 7 and 5 and I know they wonder why I’m not there to take care of them, like only I know how. When I look at my childrens pictures, they are my motivation to stay strong, to stay happy and to stay stress free without crying. I won’t say to my mother how I should have done this and done that. I’m reminded daily of the bad things I did to get this sentence. Yet, I am motivated by all the good things I’m going to do with my bachelors degree and be there for my kids. I want my kids to be so happy and proud of me. I really want them to know that I have achieved my goals and they can achieve theirs. I’ll be a free woman ready to do the right thing. I will never forget there is hope, faith and purpose! I have the power to change and I am determined to keep bad people away from me. I have learned a lot of new things because knowledge is my liberation. 

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.

Mauricio, 24

Meet Mauricio…

I ruined my life completely, it’s the end, there is nothing that can be done from here, they say I’m dead, I don’t even exist anymore.

Mauricio, 24
Incarcerated: 6 years
Housed: California State Prison Corcoran, California

I came to this country at 17 from El Salvador,  looking for better opportunities not only to help my family, but to have a sense of meaning. All that changed after I committed this crime months after I came to this country. It was a hard situation, not only because of the crime, but  because I didn’t know English or the laws in California. It felt like being blind. Some say that my life was over,  I ruined my life completely, it’s the end, there is nothing that can be done from here, they say I’m dead, I don’t even exist anymore; that’s all good, it has its truth in it.

When they said nothing can be done from here, I found that I can do a lot. When they said I was dead and I didn’t exist anymore, I started to live.  I have improved for the better and  found a new beginning. Two paths were open to me and I once heard a wise man say, “Choose the one that is less transited” and that’s my daily living. Being incarcerated hasn’t only been a challenge,  it has been a huge experience. It has helped me to mature as a person, as a man, to know myself in a way I couldn’t before, to understand why I think the way I do, and why I did the things I did. Most importantly, I came to know God not only as God , but I have a relationship with him. I owe everything I have accomplished in my life, everything I have and all I am today to him. I’m doing my best to make progress, to keep learning and educating myself to be the person I couldn’t be and to serve others. 

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