Niiko, 34

Niiko, 34

Meet Niiko..

“God may not be there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time.”

Niiko, 34

Incarcerated: 17 years

Housed: Corcoran state prison, California

I’ve woken up for 17 years with the same hope and thoughts because my faith is the one thing that gives me hope. She always says, God is never there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time. I always told her if God cared about me, I would never have been sent to hell. We fought about this a lot, and then one day, her words rang true. She said, God let me stay here in hell because there was someone I needed to reach, that he would use me as his tool to give them his message. I thought it was BS. Then a friend of mine lost his family and mother within two days. He had been down for 10 years and the loss was so great he wanted out of this life. I had started to feel the same way but because of my mom’s faith, I knew it was wrong to end your life. I was too weak to do it myself. I started wondering how else to get this loneliness and pain to stop, so when I saw him giving things away and not getting high anymore, I just had a feeling. He sat down at the table I was sitting at, we didn’t talk at all. Then he said I could have his radio and seeing how this came from left field, I told him I wasn’t right in the head. How I had just lost my big brother and cousin and I felt like it was my fault because I wasn’t there to protect them. Then he opened up about his family and his mom and how he was planning to be with them again soon. I don’t know why seeing him so crushed made me change my mind. I grabbed his hand and we prayed for both of our losses and loneliness. I’ve since seen my mom’s words and faith play out. God may not be there when you want him to be, but he’s always on time.

Michael, 43

Michael, 43

Meet Michael…

After turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out.

Michael, 43
Incarcerated: 14 yrs
Housed: Alfred D. Hughes Unit, Gatesville, Texas

Months after turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out. By some miracle, I was barely breathing when they found me. After getting 16 stitches on both sides of my neck, I was sent for a mental evaluation. Back at my unit, I wanted to cry. I’ve never been suicidal! Looking at myself in a mirror, I realized I needed help. I’ve been raised up in the church, and that never got my attention. I’ve had homeboys and money, but still got into trouble. There were girlfriends in my life, but still something wasn’t right. I’ve gangbanged, been to parties and clubs, yet still I’ve had no peace. I’ve talked to doctors and counselors, still nothing good connected. Coming to prison, I’ve tried Islam, and my heart still felt troubled. It’s like I’ve done it all, and yet, nothing helps. In my desperate time of need, I felt hopeless.

Suddenly I felt an urge to pray. I didn’t know why, praying never done anything for me before. However, this urge seemed different. I fell to my knees in the middle of that cell and said, “If there’s really a God of all things, then I ask you Almighty God to help me understand the good and evil I’m going through, and I will give my life to you.” After saying amen, I got up not expecting anything to happen. Looking around my cell for some entertainment, my eyes landed on the Holy Bible and something led me to pick it up. I don’t know why, because I could barely read it. I’ve never understood it before. After picking it up, it fell open and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – there was a small image of a lightning display. It was just hovering between the pages. I assumed I was just hallucinating. So I closed my eyes and reopened them, and sure enough, it was still there. That’s when a notion came over me to attempt to touch it. So I led my left finger towards it in the hopes of feeling it, but to my surprise, it began to fade away. The urge came over me to go to the beginning of the Bible where I was led to read Genesis chapter one, two, and stopped at three. I hadn’t noticed how easy it was for me to read it as I’ve never done before until that moment. It truly scared me wondrously. My body didn’t feel the same. Something was happening.

I began to pray a new prayer. I said, “In Jesus’ name I pray, if you are real, then I’m asking you to help me beat my charges I’m indicted with. If you let me go home, I ask that you give me a son whom I will give to you. If you allow me to have a wife, please allow her to be someone you would come for, don’t let her be someone to impress the world with, and please let her believe in you. Then, give me a sign to know it’s her because I don’t want to be confused! Let our love join us together and take her away from the undeserving pain she’s receiving from perhaps her family, friends, or loved ones. In your mighty name I pray, Amen. I made it home. My brother Eric hooked me up with this Black girl days later. She became pregnant with my child, and we set a day to get married. But she went against the agreement once that day arrived, so I broke off from her, and told her I’d be there for my son when he arrived, but I couldn’t stand her lies. Days later, I met this Mexican chick who just out of nowhere came up to me and said, “I think you’d like my homegirl Scooter.” But she didn’t tell me what she looked like, or give me her number. Then she walked away. I didn’t dwell too much on it at the time. But three days later, I met a girl at my aunt’s place, and that whisper said, “She’s the one.” Me and the girl fell in love, then later I realized her a.k.a. was Scooter. The name was God’s sign to me. Then I found out that she’s not being loved by her family on her mom’s side, because her mom was full Mexican and her dad was a White guy. Scooter was only five years old when somebody in her family pushed her mom in front of a car and killed her because they were mad at her being with a White guy. It was hard for me to believe this at first until I met her family. Before, Scooter had told me how her Mexican grandmother had taken her into custody along with her two sisters and brother. She was not completely loved due to her being mixed. She said her grandmother allowed her mom’s brother to molest her. Then she told me that we had to elope if we wanted to get married. So we did! After getting married and God showed me he was behind our union, and finding out that she believed in Christ, I told her I was gonna take care of her problems, but she didn’t want me to go back to prison.

Now I’m doing 60 years. Sadly, Scooter is no longer with me, she has passed away due to being brokenhearted. My family thinks someone killed her, or perhaps she killed herself. And I’m wondering if I’ll ever know the truth.

Selena, 28

Selena, 28

Meet Selena…

 I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have human emotions simply because I was a prisoner. My solution to this was attempting suicide.

Selena, 28
Incarcerated: 6.5 years
Housed: Gloria McDonald Women’s Facilities, Cranston, Rhode Island

As soon as I walked into prison, I stopped being Selena and became an “inmate.” During the fifth year of my incarceration, I was sent to Segregation pending investigation for a violation of the prison’s no touch policy. I was a 26 year old adult who was punished for a consensual relationship and spent 15 days alone in a single cell. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have human emotions simply because I was a prisoner. My solution to this was attempting suicide. Fortunately, I survived.

In the past year, my life has changed for the better. I realized that I’m not alone in how I feel and I’ve been working with advocacy groups to humanize the justice system. I want to be an example of strength and perseverance for others who are locked up. Your life matters. You can channel your experiences into being the voice for those who don’t realize they have one yet. When we come together, people listen. Thank you SO much for the opportunity to be heard!  

Regal, 62

Regal, 62

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Meet Regal…

When you know your purpose on this earth, and you know your true value, then you know how much you truly are worth.

Regal, 62
Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California

To watch Regal’s one minute video on our YouTube, click here.

Download the six minute version of Regal’s Song for Everyone here!

I finally figured it out. I wrote a song and isolated a key component that would allow a person to commit suicide and-or live a destructive lifestyle like mine. I inserted it into a song in the form of a question, because this question needs to be asked each and every day. Because for some of us who can’t answer it, find ways to destroy ourselves. 

Would you know your worth

When on earth

If you can’t answer this question right now that’s all right. 

Just for now, it’s fine to answer the question like this:

Maybe, maybe if I stop walking around with my head hanging down

trying to be like all the perfect pictures that I see in society

and just use my time to be a better person, a better man

maybe then I can comprehend 

the question that’s for you and me:

Would you know your worth

While on Earth

Maybe when I come to crossroads in my life

Where I can choose wrong or right

Listen to that small voice

And make the right choice

Maybe then being in touch from within

I will understand the question

That’s for you and me

Would you know your worth

While on Earth

Maybe maybe if I know daddy’s strong

I can admit when he’s wrong

I can’t imagine [??] in a fight

Doesn’t let it left all night

When the storms of life come around

He knows that his relationship is strong

[unclear]

And as the clouds part

Blue skies so clear

From a place of peace,

Right frame of mind

Anyone can hear

Would you know your worth

Right here on this earth

Or would you ever know your worth

Maybe if I know that all of the above

Was a self check for love

Because you can’t love nothing

Or no one else

Until you learn to love yourself

And all of life’s hard lessons

And falling down

Will reward you

With the answer

To the question

Would you know your worth

While on earth

Maybe you’ll know your worth

When you know your purpose first

Right here on this earth

No one can take it from you 

Not even you

You know how we do

You know what God can do

When you know your purpose on this earth

And you know your true value

Then you know how much you truly are worth

Here it is– the story of my life. I hope you enjoyed it. Answer this question each and every day. You’d be surprised how many people need to hear it. Thank you.

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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