Mohamud, 24

Mohamud, 24

Meet Mohamud…

I can’t change my past decision or where I came from, but I change where I am going.

Incarcerated: 3 years
Housed: Northpoint Training Center, Burgin, Kentucky

I am a single father to a beautiful boy who means the world to me. I love him unconditionally.

My relationship with my son is unbearable, I can’t even explain how much I love and miss him every single day and night. Family means a lot to me, my son, my sister and brother who have been by my side since day one and we talk every weekend. My siblings and I share a strong relationship and are very close. The most important things I miss about being outside is my son, working, going to school and taking care of my family like any father and real men do. To me, all women are beautiful regardless of their height, weight, color, race, religion etc. I respect and love them all. While behind this wall, one thing I’d like to change is how I lived. I lived a double life and I got caught up in street life. I am thankful that I am the only person in my family that graduated college. I became a licensed medical technologist. Education is the key to success and with knowledge the sky’s the limit. I will keep educating myself and taking college courses. I try to be as happy as I can, smile, be positive and take it day by day. I hope to be able to go back to my family and never ever leave them again. I can’t change my past decision or where I came from but I change where I am going. God willing, I will make myself a better human, father and son.

Robert, 63

Robert, 63

Meet Robert…

Over the next two days I thought of the life I had wasted. I had been so caught up in self-pity and addiction that I wasn’t able to see the kindness in front of me. I made a commitment in that dry cell to change, no drugs or breaking prison rules. I am proud to say life is better than ever. 

Incarcerated: 13 yrs
Housed: Wildwood Correctional Facility, Kemai, Alaska

At seven I learned if I stole candy and shared, I would be accepted. The more I did, the more confident I became. My father was physically abusive to my mother and all of her five children. She divorced him, worked two jobs without any help from him. I grew up without any adult supervision. At eight I was sent to a reform school. To this day I can hear the staff saying, “No one cares about you. Your mommy doesn’t want you, stop being a cry baby.” At 30, incarcerated again, I asked my mom why she sent me away, “Miho, I didn’t want to, I didn’t know what else to do. The judge said if I went before the court one more time for you stealing, he would take all five of you from me. I’m sorry.” I had silent tears rolling down my face. Men don’t cry, another false belief that negatively impacted my life. I was in my 20s before I learned to read. I never fit in, always in the shadows. My relationships were all based on sex and drugs. My breakthrough moment came while I was sitting in a ‘dry cell’ no running water, no toilet, no bunk, just a mattress on the floor. I was placed in a long sleeve jumpsuit with the zipper in the back. Sleeves, legs and ankles zip-tied and duct-taped. I had to urinate. I banged on the cell door and a sergeant yelled, “We don’t cater to drug dealers and addicts. Piss on yourself.” The pain got so bad that every time my heart beat it sent a sharp pain to my bladder. I cried, “God please help me.” That was the last thing I remember before awakening from the most peaceful sleep I’d ever had. Over the next two days I thought of the life I had wasted. I had been so caught up in self-pity and addiction that I wasn’t able to see the kindness in front of me. I made a commitment in that dry cell to change, no drugs or breaking prison rules. I am proud to say life is better than ever. I do not express disappointment in self-destructive ways. I carve fossil ivory, whale bone, and antlers to donate to non-profit organizations. I simply take another deep breath and ask God for his calming peace. You know, just like He did in the dry cell seven years and six months ago.

Christopher, 57

Meet Christopher…

I came to San Quentin with my bag of hate and prejudices fully intact. Not really thinking of change. I’m not saying Moe is solely responsible for opening my eyes, but he became part of the solution, not the problem. Moe became my best friend and I am still blessed by his presence.

Incarcerated: 21 years
There have been many ups and downs and too many faces for my limited memory. However, there was one gentleman who got past my concrete exterior and took up residence in my heart. Mr. Darnell “Moe” Washington. I’m not a person who uses words like ‘friend’ freely. I have two friends counting Moe, and I am not easily impressed. He was easy to see in a world of back-stabbing cut-throats, a man speaking from his heart, humbly offering to shake my hand. I was impressed. I came to San Quentin with my bag of hate and prejudices fully intact. Not really thinking of change. I’m not saying Moe is solely responsible for opening my eyes, but he became part of the solution, not the problem. Moe became my best friend and I am still blessed by his presence. After reading Moe’s posting, he once again inspired me to write to you. I have been resisting in writing to you with the belief I deserve more. I am constantly challenged by my own inadequacies and the feelings that surface. I’ve been in a funk. I would like to make a small gesture – with one hand I connect to my heart and with the other I reach out to the world. To all who can find at least one thing, about themselves, no matter how big or small, that you can be proud of. I send you my gratitude. Through you I aspire to be better.

William, ‘Peedie Weedie’, 35

Meet William, ‘Peedie Weedie’…

Truth be told, I’ve never been anything more than just a pothead.

Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: Mark Stiles Unit – Beaumont, Texas

I’ve never been anything like a real big and bad serious gangster or anything like that. At 19 I got caught up dealing and messing around with a guy that meant me no good. I had lost my job, out of desperation for money, I let him talk me into hitting up a restaurant. Truth be told, I’ve never been anything more than just a pothead. Real deal – I haven’t been with a woman in over 15 years. I was a dad before I left. If a man was able to be intimate with his wife at least once a year, it just might lower the divorce rate or motivate a brother to stay out of trouble.

Charles, 61

Meet Charles…

Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb.

Incarcerated: 19 years
Housed: Carson City Correctional Facility, Michigan

I have a 25 year old special needs daughter with cerebral palsy. At ten months, she started having seizures, sometimes 80 to 100 a day. She had a three-quarter-subtotal-hemispherectomy of the brain. They removed everything on the right side of her brain, except for her motor-cortex. She is a miracle child and considering what she went through. I love her more than life itself.

I was given 37 to 70 years for an armed robbery, without a weapon and no money. There were no fingerprints or video of the crime. I was identified by a mustache, and the only person wearing the clothing that matched the description of the perpetrator placed in a lineup with four police officers. I was convicted by a jury and given a death sentence. I was 42 years old and not facing release until 2042.

Prison life is steeped in suffering, the prison a cemetery, and the cell my tomb. Life in prison is just a pale shadow of life in the free world. I strive to change, mature, maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and learn why I came to prison in the first place. Even though I was wronged, I maintain a positive attitude, striving to change each day the Lord gives to me. Life is a gift and miracles do happen. My daughter is living proof of that.

What really hits hard is the reality that I left my daughter with only one parent. I have missed 19 years of her life without a father to guide, teach, love, support and protect her. She’s the innocent one who had no say in the matter. It was due to my irresponsibility that she had to suffer and endure life without her father.

Family ties can wither over time. Loneliness breeds and thrives in the belly of the beast known as prison. It strikes insidiously, constantly and never dissipates. I may never experience physical freedom again. Walter Wenschell writes, “The vilest deeds, like poison weeds, breed well in prison air. It’s the good that’s born in a man that wastes and withers there.”

Out there, I only lived each day for the rush and escape that the drugs provided. The most basic hurt inflicted by my death by incarceration is a lifetime of boredom, loneliness, doubt and anxiety punctuated by piercing moments of insight into my feelings as a human being.

If the goal of my sentencing judge was to make me suffer for the remaining days of my life, then she succeeded. I wish the goal was for justice not to punish a man for life for an armed robbery of a Pizzeria with a toy gun and $149 to support a drug habit.Will I die unmourned and a disgrace in the eyes of society?