Troy, 57

Troy, 57

Meet Troy..

I have been clean and sober since October 26, 1999, and serving others is a massive part of my recovery.”

Troy, 57

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed:Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

My favorite memories here are of the young men I have mentored and tutored and helped them earn their G.E.D. Many have been released and are out of gangs. They have landed their first real jobs, most enrolled in community colleges, and some have earned university scholarships. They proudly sent me copies of their first paychecks, library cards, college enrollment papers, and parole early parole discharge papers. Several parents have tearfully thanked me over the telephone. As rewarding as it is to help young men in prison, transform their lives, and break the cycle, I would much rather go into schools, juvenile detention facilities, etc., to prevent as many men as possible from ever coming to prison. I have learned that the young men I have helped are good people who wanted to do better; they just needed someone to show them how that looked or make them aware of their worth and potential. My life has been filled with many blessings and miracles, and I must pay them forward. As an addict, I committed lots of property crimes, which harmed so many people, left communities in fear, funded neighborhood terrorists, and took so much from cities, counties, the state of California, and the taxpayers. I now give back and make amends in every way I can. I have been clean and sober since October 26, 1999, and serving others is a massive part of my recovery. I will never harm another person. And to everyone I have harmed in any way, I am so genuinely sorry and remorseful!

 

Jorge, 34

Jorge, 34

Meet Jorge…

“Whether my mom knew it or not, the seeds she planted long ago started to bloom later in life.”

Jorge, 34

Incarcerated: 15 years

I can clearly remember how proudly my mom’s eyes would glisten when she shouted in praise, while I won trophies in basketball, soccer, and baseball. As well as medals and ribbons in track and field. My mom always supported me and was thrilled with my athletic accomplishments. She would display my prizes on her living room walls and cabinets for guests to view. However, I struggled internally as a youth, with many dysfunctional qualities like being angry, resentful, and extremely insecure due to being abandoned by my father at the age of two. For a long time I viewed myself as an academic failure with learning disabilities. This intimidated me, adding to my uncertainty as a person. I felt like a child unworthy of my moms love and affection for what I did excel in. I lacked any emotional strength to connect with my mom or accept her tenderness and enthusiasm about my accolades. Whenever we had a dispute, I would selfishly try to hurt her by tearing my awards off the walls and breaking my trophies. In my distorted thinking, I lashed out to try to gain control of the influences of her rejections. My unhealthy communication skills made me approach situations aggressively without care of hurting others. No matter what I thought, she always pushed me to be better and find my authenticity. Whether she knew it or not, those seeds she planted long ago started to bloom later in life. Today, I’m in prison and in spite of my self-doubt I decided to go back to school to test myself, since I always cheated off others who I believed were smarter. Surprisingly, I passed when many in the class failed. A small grin came across my face, I found the spark I needed to pursue my education. Most notable, my G.E.D, a Computer Certification, an American Sign Language Certification, and finally two associates in arts degrees. My graduation ceremony will take place in 2024 and I pray my mom can attend, so I can see her beautiful eyes glisten with joy like they used to. I hope she proudly decorates these awards wherever she’d like, because I promise never to disrespect her admiration for my accomplishments again.

Tony, 50

Tony, 50

Meet Tony…

 “I don’t want to grow bitter and dark, yet I can feel my mind slipping further and further down the rabbit’s hole turning my warm heart into ice.”

Tony, 50

Incarcerated: 23 years

I have made peace with the thought of the possibility that I might never go home. But, where do I call home? I have built a kingdom within my heart because I am not this body, I am a spirit, avoiding the bars of my bones, to imprison me. I cover myself with the clothes, where the seeds dress themselves from the inside out. I have fallen down this rabbit’s hole and have become a stranger to my two daughters and son. I do not wish to lie to you, but even my family has faded away. I am responsible for turning myself into a ghost. For four years, I wrote a book, poured my heart and soul into it, and my teacher wanted to publish it. He took it and I’ve never seen him or it again. I hear he still teaches in prison. I am a typical short story of a gang member, who grew up being taught and schooled by some of the greatest hard core rappers – glorifying this cemetery I now live in. Of course, lots of positive changes do happen in our prisons now, with lots of self help groups. But, what good is a treasure chest full of gold, if you keep running from grave to grave? I’ve seen many people receive lots of certificates of accomplishments, yet they have not changed but, only for the worst. You ask me what I love? I love to paint the elements of destruction and I love my little radio. I don’t want to grow bitter and dark, yet I can feel my mind slipping further and further down the rabbit’s hole turning my warm heart into ice. 

Angela, 52

Angela, 52

Meet Angela…

When I started my sentence in 2021 I felt all alone. Now I have a companion always with me.

Angela, 52
Incarcerated: 1.5 years
Housed: Avoyelles Women’s Correctional Center, Cottonport, Louisiana

Since my incarceration I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. I never sat down long enough to get to know my savior. Now, I was baptized in the water here inside these prison walls. Now I take my 15 year sentence and devote my time to studying the word… No drug, no amount of money can compare to the freedom I have been given by the Holy Spirit. When I started my sentence in 2021 I felt all alone. Now I have a companion always with me. I learned that no matter what situation you face it is important to have peace and joy. Joy must remain because Christ suffered for us, and we share in his suffering. One thing prison or man can’t take from me is my attitude of being thankful, loving, gentle and humble. Never let anyone take your peace and joy. My motivation is in Jesus, knowing I messed up in life but I have been forgiven by just asking God to forgive me and turn from sin. Now I know when my time is done on earth I’ll be with my savior. (Eternal rest) Theology (Study of the word) is the highest education anyone may ever get… I encourage everyone out there to find freedom inside prison walls. God’s word will set all captives free.

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