Megan, 35

Megan, 35

Meet Megan…

“It’s ok to take life one day at a time. It’s ok to make mistakes. My mistakes and choices are what brought me to prison, but if it wasn’t for my mistakes, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Without my mistakes, I would not have a testimony.”

Megan, 35

Incarcerated: 7.5 

Housed: Anson Correctional Institution, Polkton, North Carolina

My entire life revolved around drugs and destructive relationships. It wasn’t long, I dropped out of high school and moved out of my parents’ house. I was 15 years old. All I wanted to do was find comfort, and I tried to find that in the wrong people and the wrong places. I never thought about what my life was going to be like 10 or 15 years down the road. My life consisted of using drugs or being around them. If people weren’t contributing to my drug use, they weren’t a factor in my life. I gave up on the true meaning of life. I gave up on my daughter and on myself. I pushed everyone away due to the pain I was holding onto. It was only causing me more damage than what I already had inside of me, including the ones around me. I’ve had my ups and downs these past 7.5 years, but I have never felt more free or more at peace in my entire life than I have these past few years. I only have God to thank for that. When you finally find yourself after feeling lost for so long, you start to see things much clearer. You no longer want to take life for granted, you see the bigger picture in life. It’s ok to take life one day at a time. It’s ok to make mistakes. My mistakes and choices are what brought me to prison, but if it wasn’t for my mistakes, I would not be who I am today. Without my mistakes, I would not have a testimony. My mistakes are what saved my life. I now know how to be a mother to my daughter. I’ve overcome my drug addiction, that was the biggest demon I ever had to fight, and I did it alone. I want to continue to be here for my daughter. I want to live! The first lesson in overcoming our pain is forgiving ourselves, and forgiving others. Without forgiveness, there is no moving forward. I want to make a difference, one day at a time. There is life after drugs. There is life after a life sentence. We can be set free inside these walls. What we achieve at our best moments doesn’t say much about who we are; it all boils down to what we become at our worst.

Lyle, 45

Meet Lyle…

Within a few months the classes on death row were eliminated. The rehabilitative ideal was purged. Central Prison became an increasingly violent place.

Lyle, 45
Incarcerated: 26 years
Housed: Death Row Central Prison, North Carolina Department of Corrections, Buncombe

We received a new warden. His predecessor was supportive of programs and even allowed psychotherapeutic classes on death row. We had just finished our last performance of 12 Angry Men, not the sort of activity one expects a group of condemned prisoners to be engaged in, but North Carolina’s death row is a congregate confinement unit. We are not locked down in our cells, instead moving around the block much like general population prisoners. The new warden wanted none of it. Ordinarily, shaking hands with guards or prison officials is forbidden. It can mean solitary confinement for the prisoner and firing for staff. There are very few exceptions. There is also the taboo amongst prisoners that you don’t fraternize with staff. Our last warden who allowed programs on death row, who infused the prison with the rehabilitative ideal, was an exception. He shook everyone’s hand, looked them in the eye, and treated every person as an equal. A human. I walked over and stuck my hand out, the warden shook it, thanked me for participating in the play, and wished me luck on my appeals. Feeling the moment, I turned to his replacement with my hand out and said I hoped the classes were something he supported. He looked at my hand. Then at me. Then at the new unit manager, a guard who climbed the ranks to make management and who had said he wanted to see sentences carried out. “We’ll see about that,” said the new warden. And so we did.

Within a few months the classes on death row were eliminated. The rehabilitative ideal was purged. Central Prison became an increasingly violent place. We look back on that time when we had classes and performed in plays with a sense of nostalgia. For a while, at least one warden remembered we are human.

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