Erik, 52

Meet Erik…

Even though I considered myself a cis-gender male, I helped many members of the LGBTQ+ community gain acceptance and understanding from other inmates that, quite often, embraced preconceived bias toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Erik, 52
Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Blythe, California

In the three years I spent fighting my case, I was the Head Trustee in the county jail dorm where I was housed. I was always doing my best for my fellow inmates and the jail staff alike, always letting my Hasidic beliefs guide me. Whenever a dispute arose, I would do all I could to bring the various sides together and help resolve differences. Through my actions, I gained respect, regardless of race, gender identity or creed. Even though I considered myself a cis-gender male, I helped many members of the LGBTQ+ community gain acceptance and understanding from other inmates that, quite often, embraced preconceived bias toward the LGBTQ+ community. One of my most profound interventions was when two inmates were preparing to fight. I brought the various groups rallying around their friends together and made a statement I know they will never forget, “You should settle this like men.” They took it as I imagined they would, thinking that I was promoting violence. After a dramatic pause I continued, “by talking it out.” I went on to explain the civilized way to settle differences is not through violence but dialogue. In their shock and awe many of those around stated they had never heard that phrase used like that before. I knew I had changed perceptions, minds and hearts for the better. I am happy to have contributed to a peaceful environment.

Before I became a trustee, there were fights every weekend in that dorm. After my appointment, we had roughly one fight per year in my two and a half years. I have found that by doing our best for ourselves and those around us we can make the world a better place, even while incarcerated.


A Love Everlasting

Passing through the realm of thought and action physical beings find a mutual attraction

Ride upon the pinnacle of sensuality, a culmination of geniality and rhapsody

Sense alive, pressed together, two bodies strive
Natural reaction to the spirit of Love inside
Eternity – a moment experienced at the same time

Protean movement, the climax they bring
Sentient emotions, desire and pleasure the well-spring

Souls born to this Earth at the right place and time
A euphoric, carnal connection
Their impassioned essence infinitely entwined


For the Sake of Love

If I look deep into those sky blue eyes. I can see the reflection of a dawning sunrise.

A brand new day to replenish our ways. A reprieve from what drew us apart.

The tumultuous road we found ourselves on. Past grievances and hurtful wrongs.

Our salvation knowing each other’s hearts. Find solace in casting aside the frivolous parts.

I go to her now to hold her hand. Fingers interwoven, like soft and lacy silk strands.

Bound together, our eternal true love.
A passionate kiss, two bodies pressed sung.


Remember the Night

In the heat of passion, bare skin glowing in the moon lit night.
Cool air and bright stars passing by, lost to the senses out of sight.

Skin soft and warm, supple to the touch. Eyes flash and shine tussles of hair lightly brush.

Every movement in unison and precise. Develop into feelings of mutual device.

Arms wrapped in a tangle of the love you both share.
Happy to use it all up, not a drop to spare.

The efficacious result a memory in time.
Renewed in the heart on a lonely, moon lit night.


Riding the Storm

On the shore of a raging sea
My thoughts are only of thee

As the tempest gains its strength
I hope for affection and peace, a love that shall never cease

In its height, crashing waves, high winds
can’t hear a sound
My voice so soft and timid, lost in the din, never found

Churning tides, whirlpool spin, icebergs collide
If only I could know the thoughts and feelings you hide

Boats capsize, lives gone by, breakers 100 feet high
Although you ignore me I still have to try

As the storm subsides, the clouds part, waters calm, the sun shines
Our love everlasting, overcome conflict and adversity all in due time

E, 42

Meet E…

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood.

E, 42
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

The common aphorism, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,” rings no truer than with my kids. I am cuckoo about them and my nieces and nephews. They are all the motivation that gets me through each day. They are also the sources of my trepidations that sometimes keeps me up at night. Beholding the faces of my children, hearing their voices, their laughters and giggles, and those of my nieces and nephews is like the thirst-quenching glass of water on a hot summer day.

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood. Prison can be a place of liberation for some, while for others it’s the total opposite, a place of frequent mental, physical, and emotional beatings. Similar to my childhood, here neither my feelings nor anything I say matters. The truths are considered to be lies, and the lies told about me are considered to be gospel; the caretaker is the abuser and the bully. I didn’t have a place of refuge while growing up, no one that I could trust and rely on for help; therefore, when needs or hunger came, which was regular, or when physical, emotional abuse came, I just accepted it, again, similar to prison.

Other ways that prison reminds me of my childhood is lack of help, and hunger. For reasons I will never know, other than two couples when growing up, people were unwilling to help me. In prison, all of my pleas and requests for help throughout the years were either completely ignored, or I was told they couldn’t help me. Child or adult in prison, it does not matter. Finding help has been an issue since childhood. For example, when I was younger, I lived with two family members. My late half-brother, who was my caretaker, was not around and my cousins, who never offered me any assistance, not even to bathe me or wash my clothes, which I didn’t know how to do then. Like everything else, being hungry in prison is no different from being hungry when I was growing up. It was and is a regular thing. My first prison-hunger incident, I was so hungry that I ate my nails to the flesh. I ate my own flesh! I didn’t realize it until I saw blood on my shirt and dripping down from my fingers. Even stranger still, I can’t recall tasting or drinking any blood, which I know surely had happened. Another time, I was so famished that I became delusional. For several minutes I kept opening and closing an empty food storage bin because each time I was convinced that I saw a piece of white bread in it. There never was. 

The things I went through as a child, while growing up, are still happening now. Thus, my trust in people is extremely limited. From 1-10, ten being a lot of trust, I am between 1.6-1.4. I am trying to trust because I need to survive; and all relationships require a level of trust. For a very long time I thought something was wrong with me. For people to have treated me the way they did. I reasoned then that I must have done things to people for them to treat me so badly and I was just swimming in denial; I didn’t want to take responsibility for my wrong doings. Now, I know I was not treated poorly because something was wrong with me, it was the hand I was given. I hope and strive for a better ending for my kids and myself.

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