Jerry, 47

Jerry, 47

Meet Jerry…

“I shot and killed a man. No matter how much I’d like to change the past, I cannot. But I can strive to be better.”

Incarcerated: 26 years
Housed: Thumb Correctional Facility, Lapeer, Michigan

I shot and killed a man. No matter how much I’d like to change the past, I cannot. But I can strive to be better. My first ten years of incarceration, I refused to accept responsibility. I blamed others. I was a drunk idiot. I began to attend AA. A volunteer asked me, “Do you feel you have a drinking problem, young man?” “I guess,” I replied with a shrug. “What do you mean, you guess?” I shrugged again. “Have a seat, we’ll do our best to figure it out.”

Now I train service dogs for Paws with a Cause. Today, it hit me how much these service dogs’ lives parallel our own. The incoming dogs come in young and wild while the outgoing dogs are well trained and mature. Like Digit, a new dog, as soon as my youth was over, I was caged. Convicts are yanked away from their loved ones, loaded onto transfer buses and shipped to strange places. Both groups are rewarded for good behavior. “Good boy, Digit, you’re doing a great job!” “Good job, inmate Jerry, your cell looks so clean!” We are punished for bad behavior “Bad dog, Digit. Down. No jumping. Go to bed!” “Damn it, inmate Jerry. Get out of my f***ing face and go to your cell!” We learn how to follow commands without question no matter how ridiculous. We come to rely on our masters for our health and happiness.

In prisons across America people slave away for pennies per hour, cooking, scrubbing toilets, cutting grass, farming, working in factories, building roads, digging ditches, the list is endless. Unlike the dogs, we are not loved and nurtured. Though in the end, many of us do leave prison better than when we entered. I can’t imagine how much better our system would work if the US treated its prisoners with respect and dignity. If we started with giving a little love, nurture, and the chance at hard work, how many of us would leave prison rehabilitated, the way the dogs do?

James, 47

James, 47

Meet James…

“I believe we as prisoners can and should unite by utilizing every resource possible to expose, and subsequently compel legislatures to change laws!”
Incarcerated: All my adult life minus 13 months

Housed: Lakeland Correctional Facility, MI

This is my third life sentence, no murder, no serious physical injuries, no sex crimes or continued pattern of crime. My crime was bad, but not worthy of a Death in Custody sentence. 

My real crime: Exercising my rights to self-representation.  I’ve been reduced to a spiritual being. I’m a realist not buying into bullshit. I believe we as prisoners can and should unite by utilizing every resource possible to expose, and subsequently compel legislatures to change laws. In here, I started a dialogue five years ago with others. I wanted to throw around some ideas and get the legal minds in here familiar with each other.

My two cents at the table concerned having the “Exception clause”  of the 13th amendment rescinded. It happened in Colorado! I highly recommend that if anyone is in contact with any prisoners in Colorado, please let them know that as a result of the “Slavery Exception” clause being removed from their state’s constitution, they can and should assert all rights possible: voting, cellphones, minimum wage jobs etc….  

I know it will take time for the imprisoned mind to awaken; but we need to let them know. I am extra grateful to the men in California who pushed for us all to get stimulus checks.  Big thanks and I hope they will correspond with me, so we can exchange some legal knowledge. California also has the ear of Nancy Pelosi, who can encourage the Federal Government to rescind the 13th amendment’s exception clause. If the Feds do it, the states will have to follow suit. After all, who in their right mind would oppose removing slavery language from anything right now?