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.

Our Wedding Day, by Jimmy

Our Wedding Day, by Jimmy

Our Wedding Day

Jimmy, 38

Incarcerated: 20 years

The most beautiful dark brown eyes set in a divine Navajo face looked up at me. Her hair done in a ribbon, her dress and white blouse pressed. In her wedding dress, I saw her for the first time since she snagged me up at a powwow. I was scared, was I really good enough for this girl? I worried about whether or not I could make her happy, make her smile and laugh, and feel safe and supported. I have felt intense love and adoration for this woman since the day we met. Now, on our wedding day in Stockton Prison, my brain was melting into a sticky soup of doubt and self judgment. Then she smiled. I looked at this wonderful woman, and in those eyes I can never seem to look away from, I saw me, I saw us and I felt the deepest sense of tranquility I have only ever achieved in the hottest sweat lodges. She asked me if I was ready and I smiled and said yes.There were so many things that had gone horribly wrong leading up to October 15th 2022, our wedding day.

She agreed to marry me two years earlier. We turned in our papers to be married on June 8th of ‘21, but Covid killed our hopes, just like it almost killed me. With no visits, random phone times and almost no way of communicating, we both were scared, alone, and afraid for the other. But the prison emails and my long, consistent, weekly letter responses kept hope and our love alive. This girl, my wonderful blessing from the creator, who grew up on a reservation just north of mine, who spent the last several years waiting to marry me, and I her, patiently thinking and planning for us. She never faltered, never doubted, and kept me afloat. Without her I would have been totally lost years ago. She is my good medicine. When she said “I do” it was the most meaningful two words ever spoken to me. At night, I sit at our lodge in San Quentin and I count all the reasons why I am so in love with this wife of mine.


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