Eric, 52

Eric, 52

Meet Eric…

And you know, I like to get A’s. I’m an A student. I work hard and I started having this pride about submitting my work, I’m eager to know how I did. I say, “I know I perfected, I got this, I aced this.” So now I understand why the recidivism rate is lower. You develop character, you change your thinking.  And you’re escaping, like I said earlier, the ills of prison and you’re removing yourself from that environment. And you become mature.

Incarcerated: 10 yrs

Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

Diane: Tell us about your family.

Eric: All my family members pretty much dwindled during the course of my incarceration. My mother has passed. She’s a 9/11 survivor. She worked at Meryl Lynch across the street from the towers. She inhaled the polarized glass fumes that subsequently caused fungus in her lungs. She passed from COPD due to complications of 9/11. I do have a brother. He’s out of state in the Navy. He’s touch and go, though. I’ve pretty much been all on my own during most of this bid. Despite all that, I’ve had to kick off the dust and move forward. College was definitely a way to escape the ills associated with prison. I don’t hang out too much in the yard. I only socialize with people that are like minded and want to go in the direction of making the best of this experience. We try not to go out the same way we came in.

Diane: Is there anything you want to share about your mom? 

Eric: Before she passed I remember being at her deathbed. I was able to get that visit. She said, “I’m very proud of you.” She knew that I was pursuing my education. She said, “You know, I’m sorry that I failed you.” 

I said, “No, you did not. It was all on me.” She did nothing for me to move in that direction. I said, “Mom, I’m gonna be okay.” And she passed like that. 

Diane: What made you enroll in school?

Eric: The parole board looks at education as a way to lower the recidivism rate. I wanted to assure them that I’m not coming back. I went to school solely for that purpose. It wasn’t that I had a passion to learn about things, right? But as I started, my thinking started to change and I started to have to critically think. I had to be responsible. I had to do my papers. And you know, I like to get A’s. I’m an A student. I work hard and I started having this pride about submitting my work, I’m eager to know how I did. I say, “I know I perfected, I got this, I aced this.” So now I understand why the recidivism rate is lower. You develop character, you change your thinking.  And you’re escaping, like I said earlier, the ills of prison and you’re removing yourself from that environment. And you become mature.

Bruce, 52

Bruce, 52

Meet Bruce…

It was during this time that I made a conscious decision to embark upon a journey of growth and self development. I enrolled in every therapeutic program that Green Haven Correctional Facility offered. There I pursued higher education, earning college credits and giving presentations on the importance of personal development.

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

When I entered the  prison system in 1996, I met a group of older brothers who introduced me to ‘The Resurrection Study Group’  which focused on Afrocentric values, history and culture. When I began attending classes I was encouraged to engage in deep reflection and introspection. It was during this time that I made a conscious decision to embark upon a journey of growth and self development. I enrolled in every therapeutic program that Green Haven Correctional Facility offered. There I pursued higher education, earning college credits and giving presentations on the importance of personal development. I made a conscious decision to not be bitter but to be better, I told myself I would not serve time, but rather I would have time serve me. While earning my AA from Sullivan Community College and my B.S. from Mercy college I  had the rare opportunity to present a Tedx Talk. I also continue to work with the nonprofit, Children of Promise (cpnyc.org) which caters to children of incarcerated parents. I am grateful for the elders who reached out to me early in my incarceration. 

Ivie’s Gallery

Ivie’s Gallery

Artist Ivie, 55

Self-Forgiveness is a work in progress
It takes a strong person to stand and live
With the burden of a sin, a regret, a remorse and not hide
Learning to live with your faults before forgiving yourself
Will light your torch for the long haul
It’s in the very learning of our faults that we find freedom

Kristal, 29

Kristal, 29

Meet Kristal…

“I really want to be a couples and marriage counselor,
and let people know when you really love someone,
you don’t hurt them, ever for any reason.”

Incarcerated: 6 years

He convinced me to come to New York to meet his mom, she abandoned him when he was four. We went through a lot together. He said everything would change and I believed him. Everything started again.

I was far from my family, he was still in control, I couldn’t go to a safe place. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have another choice but to stay and hold everything down. I was still married to another guy. I was so ignorant that after I got married I left him because I wanted freedom to party and do what I wanted. One night we were in a big fight and my husband called. He really wanted me to come back and start over with him, it sounded crazy to me.

He knew this guy had put his hands on me over and over again. Why did he want me back, I questioned everything. I couldn’t go back to him. When I’m released I really want to be a couples and marriage counselor, and let people know when you really love someone, you don’t hurt them, ever for any reason.

Today I’m fighting to get re-sentenced. I have finished everything possible in this place so I can go home. I live to be with my family. 📸: Kristal’s personal collection

Lovette, 48

Lovette, 48

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York

I am an inspiring writer who has been utterly transformed through my incarceration. I have gone from a victim mentality to victorious overcomer. I have suffered abandonment from my family to gaining a new family. I advocate for empowerment through my writing crusade and personal struggles. It’s not only helped myself but helped others. Through the blessing of this experience I’ve become stronger, more resilient and more motivated than ever before. Giving back has made  me a part of something larger than myself. Through my interactions and observations I feel I now have a means to impart change in the corrections department. I am thriving and the best part is I’m helping others thrive too. The joy of having persons express to me how my work has helped them hang in or lifted their spirits is the cherry on top of my beyond blessed incarcerated life.

BREAK THE CYCLE
In order to raise stronger men and women
We have to nurture. Protect and invest wisely in them.

Setting strong examples for the youth to follow-
Teaching them depth of character-Not being shallow.

The KEY is education and being a consistent, loving presence in their lives.
Ending GANG VIOLENCE. The senseless killing with guns and knives.

MENTORING THE YOUTH-showing them correctly right from wrong.
Instilling good work ethics so their rap sheets aren’t long.

Stressing the importance of a hard earned dollar-
Being pleased with the works of their own 2 hands—HOLLA!

Training a child up in the way they should go-
Disciplining them lovingly helps them to grow.

Our youth are the future – THE NEXT GENERATION
Responsibility and accountability 4 ALL
To improve this GREAT NATION!
IN A WORLD WHERE YOU CAN BE ANYTHING…
CHOOSE TO BE KIND!

TRIUMPHANT

Listen here now obstacles…
Though you seek to deter me
I’ll go over, around and through-
I refuse to be discouraged or shut down by you!

Struggles in life have made me skilled in navigation
Learning how to maneuver, regroup and move forward-
NOT being crippled by stagnation

Triumphant amid injustice, abuse and sorrow
Many times NOT even wanting to see tomorrow
My experiences made me who I am today
I trusted in My Savior to show my the way

What sought to DESTROY me
I thankfully persevered and overcame
FINALLY coming to a place of HEALING
My life JOYFULLY will NEVER be the same!

TO FORGIVE

FORGIVE as you have been forgiven-
Make amends while you are still living.

Don’t allow grudges to hold you back-
Bitterness causes you to go off track.

Allow love in your heart to let healing begin-
Harboring hatred is a most deadly sin.

Unforgiveness separates us from others-
We’re God’s children; sisters and brothers.

Do something nice for someone who’s hurt you
Show them kindness and mercy – at least try to.

It’s a difficult task but so worth your while-
Who knows-give it a shot to make them smile.

You may restore the relationship – if it was broken –
Granting their secret wish which was unspoken.

Break down the walls with prayer, kind acts and love
Apology gladly accepted – with blessings from above!