James, 55

James, 55

Meet James…

My future is bright, I will be released on December 28th of this year and I’ll celebrate a late Christmas with my family.”

James, 55

Incarcerated: 33 years

Housed: LaBelle, Pennsylvania

We took a plane to Lancaster, Ohio to visit my dad’s parents. Grandpa and Gram had a lovely farm with chickens, a couple of horses, cows, a roaster, and some sheep. I was so excited that day, coming from the city to play with the animals. I was so happy to spend time with Superman, my dad, and he was dressed in his army ranger dress clothes. I remember it like it was yesterday. Gram and Pop met us at the airport. After playing with the animals and running around with Dad, he took me down to a creek where he fished as a kid, then up over a little wooden bridge. I grabbed my superman sunglasses and off they went into the water below. I thought Dad, being Superman, could fly down and get them. Dad was mad at first, but laughed it off, tickling me and that was my day with my Superman! My dad did two tours in Vietnam and retired honorably as a sergeant with a purple heart, he’s my hero. Now, all I want is for my dad and mom to be proud of me. I used drugs and alcohol and I have been in and out of prison for so long. Today, I have been clean and sober for nearly three years. I write and call my parents weekly. I miss them both so very much. My future is bright, I will be released on December 28th of this year and we’ll celebrate a late Christmas. For New Years my 83-year-old dad and I will talk and watch a football game together, I can’t wait!

Marcus, 23

Marcus, 23

Meet Marcus…

Memories will always last whether it’s of a past experience or just meeting someone you like.

Marcus, 23
Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

I met a girl I had a crush on in second grade. I didn’t know how to tell her since I was so shy. Throughout the school year we became friends and that was that. Eventually in fourth grade I met her best friend and I felt some type of way because she was more beautiful than her friend. We were too young to date so we just did everything together. We sat by each other, we ate lunch together, we went outside together and we did our homework together. The only thing we didn’t do is go home together but we did go to each other’s houses – what kids do best. The next year was upsetting because one of the girls was moving to Africa and her friend and I were devastated. She left and two days later I got kicked out of the school. I recently finally got a hold of one of them and we had fun, it was a mini date. The first question when I met up with her was how her friend was doing. Memories will always last whether it’s of a past experience or just meeting someone you like. The two ladies are always in my mind. Their names are Dara Shinner and Brittney Snodgrass. Today, Dara is still in Africa and Brittney is in college.

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.

Rolando, 37

Rolando, 37

Meet Rolando…

I’m working on furthering my education. I am also in self help groups to better myself and to find my way out of prison.

Rolando, 37
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I’m in prison on a murder charge. I like to stay busy and out of trouble. I love to play soccer and listen to reggae, oldies and rap. My favorite movies: Fast and the Furious, Titanic and Twilight. I like to cut people’s hair.

When I started my time, I didn’t know anything about prison. One day, I was standing next to three people fighting in the yard. When the officer came to separate them, he thought I was fighting too. I told him I had nothing to do with it, I saw a commotion and walked away. He then asked the officer in the tower what he saw, he said I had nothing to do with it. That was one of the scariest incidents I’ve been through. Another time an officer dropped something while talking to a sergeant. I waited for him to finish talking, and told him he had dropped something and that he could get in trouble. He was proud of me, because he said there are not too many people like me. He told me to keep up the good work. I felt proud. I’m working on furthering my education. I am also in self help groups to better myself and to find my way out of prison.

Marshawn, 37

Marshawn, 37

Meet Marshawn…

What gets me through each day is my family and hope. It’s hard but I constantly tell myself it could be worse.

Marshawn, 37
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: Stateville Correctional Center, IL

What gets me through each day is my family and hope. It’s hard but I constantly tell myself it could be worse. I haven’t always had hope. Prison is a very dark place and can suck the life out of you. For the majority of these 15 years, I’ve dwelled on my past, wishing I had listened to people. That I’d done things differently. Constantly thinking of my past has held me back from progressing  and has led me to make some poor decisions. Today, I try to take it one day at a time focusing more on the things that can make me better and have a more positive future! I now see light at the end of the tunnel. So many things are changing in the prison system. People are going home now, which I didn’t see as much in the beginning. It helps me visualize being freed, as well as my family, who have stuck by my side. They have given me the push when needed, this place is hard and distractions are everywhere. God is still giving me the opportunity to breathe, for that I put my best foot forward and continue to fight this fight to the end! 

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