It was the first time I felt peace. She sat close to me in the visitation room, her head on my shoulder. I felt safe, at home.
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison
It was the first time I felt peace. She sat close to me in the visitation room, her head on my shoulder. I felt safe, at home. I grew up afraid and neglected. Beginning my life term at 16 impacted how I grew as a human. People say prison is its own little world; and that is where I learned about the world. I have spent nearly half my life locked up. Behind these walls I learned about people, relationships, and life. The problem is the only help offered to inmates involves drugs, gangs, and criminal behavior. It doesn’t teach self-respect, patience, confidence, or skills needed to be a good human. I wasn’t learning how to be a man, I was learning how to be an inmate. My institutionalization came slowly and subtly. I thought I was doing well. Staying out of trouble was my goal, and doing the right things. The problem was my values and beliefs were becoming shaped by prison culture. I didn’t realize this until Covid, when I began meeting people from the penpal-site, writeaprisoner.com. Talking to outside people showed me an entirely foreign caliber of humanity. One particular friend had no problem pointing out when I said something outrageous that only an inmate would believe, like normalization of violence, prejudices and anger. I began to see that my mind frame was that of a bitter inmate. My ideas on justice, society, and friendships were all corrupted. Luckily, that friend held me accountable for the things I said, helping to challenge unhealthy values and beliefs I had accepted. It helped just having normal conversations about things like having dinner with family, a job and having a dog. A wise man once told me the goal isn’t just to get out, or beat the parole board, but to prepare for success after prison. Today, my wife inspires my change by motivating me to be a better man and a better husband. I no longer focus on life here in prison. I see my future and who I want to be. That hope is now what teaches me about life. I have a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I’m actually learning the skills of patience, work ethic, integrity, and self control so I can succeed on the outside. So Ashleigh and I can succeed together.