Michael, 33

Michael, 33

Meet Michael..

I am forever grateful for finding the strength to shift my perspective by finding opportunities in unfortunate situations and turn that pain into the desire to be successful.”

Michael, 33

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: California State Prison – Solano, Vacaville

Being away from family, familiar faces, physical touch, and outside communication have not happened intentionally. Despite growing up behind these electric and barbed wire fences, being in prison has forced me to become a respectable man, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I have a ten-year-old son I love beyond his physical appearance. I have enrolled in parenting classes to sharpen the tools I will need for this beautiful creature I created. Throughout these eight years, I have lost ten family members to overdoses, heart conditions, and a suicide. How do I cope with continuous tragedy locked in a concrete box with no visits because my family is too far away? I have had not one visit since my incarceration. When is there time for healing? Shutting down felt like the only logical thing to do, I cut off everyone I knew. The people I grew up with, females included. I felt like everything, and everyone was a distraction to me. I closed that door to companionship while focusing on self-development, proper etiquette, and financial freedom, which is imperative for my future success. I took the initiative of getting forklift certified while incarcerated. I still and currently enjoy the Solano Community College Rush Scholars program, majoring in business and technology, I graduated from Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute and was accepted into a chef program upon release. Being alone has its rewards. I am forever grateful for finding the strength to shift my perspective by finding opportunities in unfortunate situations and turning  pain into the desire to be successful. Now, that door to all beautiful things has opened for me once again, and this time, I am ready to walk through it with grace and confidence.

 

Nathan, 57

Nathan, 57

Meet Nathan…

“I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges.”

Nathan, 57

Incarcerated: 15 yrs

Housed: California Correctional Training Facility, Soledad

My mom Jamie was 16 and my father Abe was 31, neither were honest about their age. They both claimed to be in their 20’s when they met. Abe was a heroin addict and my mom’s parents were both alcoholics. They loved Abe. My grandma Vivian was beautiful with a great intellect, she was kind and thoughtful when sober. When drunk she could get really mean. She told me Abe was a good man, overly intelligent, he loved me and took care of me. My mom said he was the one to get up with me at night. Abe was from a wealthy Jewish family, I’ve never met because they disowned him over his heroin addiction. Abe fled the country to avoid prosecution when I was two. I have no memory of this, but have to imagine this must have been traumatic, as I never heard from him again. My mom has never been a drug user or drinker. She had to take care of her own parents and mothered them at an early age. She never had any judgment about others drinking or using drugs. My mom met Bob and he promised her he would never have any trouble with the law and he kept that promise. I never saw them fight or argue. One day they just decided to be friends, which they stayed until Bob passed away, while I was in jail fighting murder charges. Bob had a jewelry store, pet shop, pawn shop, antique shops, he ran a hotel and bar when he met my mom. He dabbled in stocks, cars, and real estate. He was successful at everything he did. Bob was not affectionate, but he always helped out and gave good advice. Bob was a good man, a better man than I have been. He tried hard to instill his good character traits in me. Though he did tease me when I was young, calling me Suzy because I was wimpy. I was a very scrawny and sensitive child. He was never unkind, he just grew up during a less sensitive time. To him calling me Suzy was innocent, maybe a little humorous, but with no ill intent. I can look back now and see where that might have been a contributing factor to my own distorted self body image, where my fall began. I believe I can trace back my fall to its very inception. One single thought that I believed to be true but wasn’t. All it took was for one doubt to sink in: “That I wasn’t good enough as God created me, that I was too skinny.” My mom met Tony when I was eight. Both Bob and Tony have been good fathers to me, Tony and my mom are still happily married. Tony is also a man of good character, honest and always ethical, but very proud and stubborn. I have a great love and respect for him. My mom went to catechism and her first communion until she was 10. At that age, she saw a car accident where a little girl’s head went through a windshield. She couldn’t understand how the God she was being taught about could let such a thing happen. She told her mom church was a waste of time. She never gave God or the Church another thought. My own belief in God was innate, it was as if I was born with it. My parents never tried to influence me in any way, however, I have been inquisitive. As a small child, I would contemplate the universe and infinity. I couldn’t comprehend infinity, so I would have to imagine what was at the end of the universe, there had to be something. I would imagine a wall. But then if there was a wall, there had to be something on the other side of the wall. So, I not only couldn’t comprehend infinity, I couldn’t comprehend not infinity. I thought, if this is the case then I had to believe I was foreign, and limited in my ability to comprehend. I would try to imagine what the world would be like if I no longer existed in it, I tried to imagine my non-existence. My conclusion was it didn’t matter. I knew my mom didn’t believe in God, so every chance I got to talk to a priest, a Christian, or a Catholic; I would always ask the same question: what happens to someone who doesn’t believe in God? The same answer always comes back; they go to eternal hell. I would always answer back; “but what if they are a good person?” I would get the same response; I’m sorry, I wish everyone could go to heaven, but non-believers can’t. None of this changed my belief in God, and I am grateful that God is not how man would make him out to be; because if that was the case, we would all be in real trouble. What it did do, is give me an unhealthy disdain for religion, especially the way Catholicism and Christianity were taught. At 8, I had a friend Bobby, who invited me on a one-week camping trip. Late the night before we were to leave, his mom dropped off a list of things like games and cards that couldn’t bring. My Mom thought it was odd and told me that she didn’t think I should go. I was packing my magic tricks and things that I would not be able to bring. She said she had a bad feeling about this and I really shouldn’t go. I whined and cried telling her Bobby and I have all these great plans. She gave in, thinking how bad it could be. She said if I had any concerns to call her and she’d come pick me up immediately. When I arrived, I found out it was a Christian camp. Which was deliberately withheld from me, my mom, and possibly Bobby by his family. I was deceived intentionally. I refused to cooperate in their games and demanded to be able to call my mom to pick me up. For a whole week, they never let me use the phone. I was basically kidnapped under false pretenses, and held against my will. When I was brought back home, my mom said I must have had a good time because I never called her.  I said, no I didn’t, everyone including Bobby had to give their lives over to God and I refused, because I thought it was stupid, and I’m never speaking to Bobby again. Can you imagine if this was done to a child today? Don’t get me wrong, I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus. I love Him as an elder brother.  My mom and Tony always do right by others, not because of any religion,  it is the right way to be, they are just really good human beings. Much better than I have been. Neither believe in or give thought to God or an afterlife or think there is any kind of reward for being selfless. It is just the way they are. My mom believes when we die that is it, we no longer exist. I cannot even comprehend that thought. My mom’s Christian friends tell her that she is a better Christian than most Christians they know. She has always had a great wisdom about her, much greater than could be acquired in this lifetime alone. She is always so busy, she barely has time to do the things she would like to do. She belongs to a women’s club and they do charity work for the homeless, cancer and heart patients, and work with other charities that bring aid to foreign countries. She is always donating her time. They give scholarships away for kids to go to college. Something she never had the opportunity to do herself. She is just such a beautiful human being.

Dale, 56

Dale, 56

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Meet Dale…

My blood beats her name.

Dale, 56
Incarcerated: 17 years
Housed: McPherson Unit, Newport, Arkansas

I want to share my late son’s memory, for closure not only for me but his siblings as well, his name was Marshall.
Here is his last poem before he died in protective custody, he was also in prison, he was 32.

What makes me tick?
With my soul scraping the bottomless pit of hell prison while looking for a sign of peace, I manage to encounter an angel that oversees my future. It’s almost like a miracle sent from God. I’m facing what seems to be the most exciting part of my life: At the most damaging time of my world. My guardian angel knows my heart and intentions and wants the best for me. She knows and wants to please each and everyone of my lustful desires. I can’t stop thinking about her because without her, I’ll die spiritually, emotionally and possibly physically. The breath she exhales is the enacted air I need to be happy. She holds my heart in her hand and has the ability to crush it to pieces at any time. My mind is wrapped around her soul like a wedding ring. I pray to God she never takes it off. My blood beats her name. My life is helpless without her skin. When she looks at me my body gets hot and my hands want to touch her in the most delicate ways. Even though I’m bound, she sets me free. I promise never to leave her side. I promise never to let go of her grasp. Baby, don’t ever let go of me. You are my air and I can’t go on without you. You make me feel like a man. I won’t ever stop loving you. So will you guide me to heaven?

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