Tony, 32

Tony, 32

Meet Tony…

To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt.

Tony, 32
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: California State Prison, Corcoran, California

Fresh out of high school, a couple community college classes, and a sudden sharp turn to facing the Death Penalty. I came into the system at 18. I use the word system because each step of the way works in chaotic unison. Before my crime occurred, I had been in only one fight in my entire upbringing. A fourth grade brawl over a girl behind some classrooms. That was my share of violence. Before the System. Yet, if there was one thing I did do compulsively, it was lying. Lie to my parents about my herb habit, lie to girls about my faithfulness and lie to myself about who I really was. Today, I’ve tried to correct my actions. I’ve come to accept that I was a coward and I don’t have to continue being that person. The more I understand the extent and damage of my actions and inactions, the heavier the weight is. I see so many people ignore the reality of why we are in this system. We block out what we did and do so many different things except what we’re supposed to – accept responsibility and change. It’s understanding how a mother will never see their child how a person lives in fear in their own home; how pain and its scars never heal; how no matter how hard you try to make amends; you know it will never be enough.Trying to share these things with others here is like trying to communicate with someone who speaks a foreign language.

Nine out of ten people give up and the tenth one is fifty-fifty. The road is mine to take though. I made it after all. And after fourteen years, I’ve refused to give up. I’ve refused to accept this is all there is or will be. When I was found guilty, I didn’t give up. When my appeal was denied, I didn’t give up. When my countless self-written petitions were filed and denied, I didn’t give up. I feel like giving up is an easy way out. The craziest thing, though, is that I’m up for a possible re-sentence. A second look. A second opportunity. And I’ve struggled to keep my head up. I’ve fought myself to stay positive. I’m facing a fear I can’t control, a future I can’t predict. To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt. I know most people don’t see it this way, they don’t even stop to think about their victims. I hear it all the time. It sounds like eating foil wrap. However, in the same way that one can find excuses for any given situation, you can also find solutions. Today, I am sentenced to life without parole. Knowing that my change can be the change that pushes me to make a positive impact. Hopefully along the way I can help others also.

Lamar, 34

Lamar, 34

Meet Lamar…

This woman was the answer to my prayers. I thought I just needed a penpal but I got a mother. I call her my Godmother and I truly love her as if she made me.

Lamar, 34
Incarcerated: 13 years
Housed: East Arkansas Regional Unit, Marianna

I gave up on life because I wouldn’t be living anymore; I’d only be existing. I envied others who got all the mail, visits and talked on the phone. I left my daughter when she was eight and I get out when she’s 28. Prison can be a lonely, cold and bitter place. I’d attempted suicide before but I lived through it, so I lied about what made me nearly die. This is my second prison term. My first term I served seven years. I felt I deserved this hell. I felt I deserved the mistreatment from officers and my peers, too. I didn’t shave, exercise, or write home. I crawled into a shell. I thought to myself, “This is God’s will.” Until one day, I wrote to a bookstore asking them to donate some books. I received a letter from a woman named Claire. Since that day, two years ago, she has made it a point to write to me every week no matter what. She sent photos and I’ve even called her.

This woman was the answer to my prayers. I thought I just needed a penpal but I got a mother. I call her my Godmother and I truly love her as if she made me. She stayed on me (in a good way.) She’s very religious and very loving. I love my real mother but I have two of them now. Claire stayed on me about getting a GED and I did it, I did not want to but I did it. She encouraged me to write a book. And I did it. In fact, I just finished my second book. I haven’t found a publisher, but I’m proud of my accomplishments. Some days are hard, but she stays with me. I thank God for this woman. God didn’t give me what I wanted but he gave me what I needed. I’m somebody and I’m not forgotten.

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