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.

Jose, 32

Meet Jose…

“I have lived both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us.”

Incarcerated: 11 years

My life with a face tattoo.
When people see me with a face tattoo, their first thought is “He’s dangerous, he must be a gang member or criminal, he’s up to no good.” They start to be cautious or nervous. They clutch their children and personal belongings and judge me because of how I look. I was a lost kid and selfish. In spite of the consequences, my face tattoos would bring at home and on the streets, I didn’t care about anything except myself. I have a huge letter “P” on my cheek, along with a teardrop. All are gang tattoos and my poor decisions. At first I thought I was cool and everyone respected me. I wasn’t thinking of all the negative things it would bring. I found it extremely difficult to talk with someone. I was always judged by my appearance. I would get pulled over all the time. I would be followed and blamed for everything. Then there’s the gang negativity. I couldn’t walk in certain areas. Gang members would see me and start causing trouble. I couldn’t take my family around or be with them in certain places. When I came to prison, it brought its fair share of problems. It’s ironic, you would think that it would be normal in prison… NO. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always what you think. One good example, I was applying for a job in prison. I met all the criteria and had support from fellow workers. I never had a work-related incident and always had good job reports. Still, I wouldn’t get hired. I remember asking, “Why.” Her exact answer, “You look like a troublemaker and like you’re ready to fight.” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was the biggest load of crap I had ever heard. I was nothing but a good person and a great worker. I had changed my mind set and was humbled. But people who didn’t know me, didn’t know that. After a couple of months and having others protest for me, I was given the chance. Even when I was doing my training, she expressed her opinion and thoughts about me. How wrong she was. A month and a half later, she called me into her office and apologized. She had a false sense of who I was and I proved her wrong. I ended up being one of her best employees. I couldn’t believe it. She was apologizing but that happens when you judge a book by its cover. What she didn’t know, I’m a nice, humble person that made some horrible choices. Friends judged me as well. All my good friends thought of me differently at one point. It’s not until they got to know me, that their perception of me changed. I remember one incident the best. I was at the yard one night when one of my friends came over and started a conversation. We have never truly had a meaningful conversation. I told him that I was going to the parole board soon and asked his advice. Up until then, he thought I was a typical gang banger and didn’t have insight as to what led me here. I explained how everything in my life connected to my crime. I shared why my father was abusive. He told me his perception of me was wrong. Till this day, our conversations and respect for one another are deeper. The point – don’t just assume about us. There are a lot of people that look bad who really are but there are a lot of us as well. People who are good, loyal, loving, happy, humble and great, but just made bad choices. Take it from me, I have experienced both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us. I hope you see us differently. Ask my wife. She thought I was going to break her heart and play with her mind and emotions. She’ll tell you how wrong she was and that I’m the most different person she knows. I love you, babe. But who knows, maybe when I see someone, I’ll judge them and start walking far from them, act more cautious and hold my personal belongings tighter. I just wonder how they would feel?

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.