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.