Mike G., 28

Mike G., 28

Meet Mike G…

 “Today after a lot of healing and participation in self-help groups, I finally feel free.”

Mike G., 28

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: San Quentin

Growing up my childhood was very unstable, my father was an alcoholic, it took a toll on my family. At 11, my older brother and I started running the streets, he was 14. We were very close, I looked at him as a father figure, he was all I had. When I was 18, my brother was murdered. The only father figure I had was snatched from me in a very traumatic way. I was the last man standing in my family, it was my responsibility to look after my mom and two sisters, but I couldn’t, I was a mess! After my brother died, something changed in me, I was in a very dark place, the pain I felt was eating at me. I never gave myself the chance to grieve and deal with my emotions. I was a ticking time bomb, and unfortunately, I did blow up. Today after a lot of healing and participation in self-help groups, I finally feel free. Ironic right? I feel free while in prison, but for so many years I built my own prison inside of myself. And today I feel blessed, I have a beautiful family that loves me. One thing my brother’s passing did for my family, is that it brought us closer. Being vulnerable is something new for me and it’s liberating. Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.

 

Michael, 57

Michael, 57

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Meet Michael…

The car flipped three times. Shawnee asked, “Are you girls ok?” Mika said, “Sami’s not here.” They had to search for her in the dark.

Michael, 57
Incarcerated: 25 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California

I had a visit from my ex, Shawnee. She brought my kids Mika, 14, Sami, 7 and Stone, 4. Sami jumped into my lap and said, “Daddy, brush my hair, ” she loved me brushing her hair. It was crackling with static from the constant brushing. After the visit, they said they’d be back the next day. The next morning I was awakened, cuffed up and escorted to the program office. Once inside, I sat down. No one said a word. Next, Shawnee was on speaker phone, “I’m sorry, I killed our baby.” My mind refused to comprehend what I’d just heard. A month later, Shawnee came to see me without the kids, she’d brought pictures from the accident that had claimed Sami’s life. In one of the pictures, Shawnee was on her knees looking at her bloody, upturned hands. She told me Sami took her final breath in Shawnee’s arms, next to her, lying in the dirt was my sweet girl Sami. Her soft perfect stomach was ripped open, she had sticks and dirt in her hair. Sami loved me unconditionally, and now she’s gone. They were hurrying home so they could return the next day because Sami was insistent that she wanted to, “See my Daddy.”

Shawnee told me she was driving fast and her phone rang. When she reached for the phone, she heard gravel. She was going off the freeway at 70 mph. Sami had a terrible habit when sleepy, of removing her seat belt. The car flipped three times. Shawnee asked, “Are you girls ok?” Mika said, “Sami’s not here.” They had to search for her in the dark. They’d found her wrecked little body gasping for breath, dirt in her open eyes, and sticks in the beautiful hair I’d just brushed. I was so devastated, I wanted to hurt who’d hurt me! I cut Shawnee to the core with the most vile shameful thing. I was so wrong. Shawnee was no less broken. I’d seen a hurt I’d never seen before. Shawnee died three years later. She died in her sleep from a broken heart. Shawnee was 67 lbs when she passed. Hopefully my story will help someone else in their healing process.

E, 42

Meet E…

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood.

E, 42
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

The common aphorism, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,” rings no truer than with my kids. I am cuckoo about them and my nieces and nephews. They are all the motivation that gets me through each day. They are also the sources of my trepidations that sometimes keeps me up at night. Beholding the faces of my children, hearing their voices, their laughters and giggles, and those of my nieces and nephews is like the thirst-quenching glass of water on a hot summer day.

I’ve learned in prison that I was both emotionally and mentally off-balanced. Worse were the similarities between prison and my childhood. Prison can be a place of liberation for some, while for others it’s the total opposite, a place of frequent mental, physical, and emotional beatings. Similar to my childhood, here neither my feelings nor anything I say matters. The truths are considered to be lies, and the lies told about me are considered to be gospel; the caretaker is the abuser and the bully. I didn’t have a place of refuge while growing up, no one that I could trust and rely on for help; therefore, when needs or hunger came, which was regular, or when physical, emotional abuse came, I just accepted it, again, similar to prison.

Other ways that prison reminds me of my childhood is lack of help, and hunger. For reasons I will never know, other than two couples when growing up, people were unwilling to help me. In prison, all of my pleas and requests for help throughout the years were either completely ignored, or I was told they couldn’t help me. Child or adult in prison, it does not matter. Finding help has been an issue since childhood. For example, when I was younger, I lived with two family members. My late half-brother, who was my caretaker, was not around and my cousins, who never offered me any assistance, not even to bathe me or wash my clothes, which I didn’t know how to do then. Like everything else, being hungry in prison is no different from being hungry when I was growing up. It was and is a regular thing. My first prison-hunger incident, I was so hungry that I ate my nails to the flesh. I ate my own flesh! I didn’t realize it until I saw blood on my shirt and dripping down from my fingers. Even stranger still, I can’t recall tasting or drinking any blood, which I know surely had happened. Another time, I was so famished that I became delusional. For several minutes I kept opening and closing an empty food storage bin because each time I was convinced that I saw a piece of white bread in it. There never was. 

The things I went through as a child, while growing up, are still happening now. Thus, my trust in people is extremely limited. From 1-10, ten being a lot of trust, I am between 1.6-1.4. I am trying to trust because I need to survive; and all relationships require a level of trust. For a very long time I thought something was wrong with me. For people to have treated me the way they did. I reasoned then that I must have done things to people for them to treat me so badly and I was just swimming in denial; I didn’t want to take responsibility for my wrong doings. Now, I know I was not treated poorly because something was wrong with me, it was the hand I was given. I hope and strive for a better ending for my kids and myself.

Anthony, 56

Anthony, 56

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Meet Anthony…

I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends.

Anthony, 56
Incarcerated: 22 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

I was born to a drug and alcohol addicted mother and suffered fetal drug and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. I was heavily abused and neglected both physically and mentally as a child. I was also forced to use drugs and alcohol by my siblings and their friends. My babysitter used to tie me up in ropes just so he didn’t have to watch me. I would scream and cry growing up but no one believed me or cared. I’ve been on suicide watch more than once. One day at the age of four, I was kidnapped in front of my school and thrown into a van. My dad and detectives found me five hundred miles from home in a stranger’s room. I also was bullied as a child. I suffered from a severe learning disorder, but by the grace of God and much PTSD trauma treatment, I didn’t give up, and now I try to help others. I got my GED, and now I’m in college working hard on a sociology degree. I’m also a certified youth facilitator mentor. All my family and my ex-wife have died since I have been in prison, but I am resilient, and thanks to Jesus and hard work I’m happy to be alive.

Clayton, 31

Clayton, 31

Meet Clayton…

I learned to face my past head-on by writing, speaking, and accepting all that happened, I could have done this so years ago and prevented a life sentence.

Clayton, 31
Incarcerated: 6 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

As I crunched the paper, twisting it into a cross to place into my dad’s open casket, I never assumed I’d be made fun of for it. The bullies at school made sure to remind me of the open casket legacy which my father left behind after his overdose on heroin. While their dads were at ‘Meet the Parents Day’ all I had to present was a picture of a tombstone. Though their dads were important, I was belittled to live up to the curse my father left behind for me. Whether reality set in or not, one thing I knew for sure, “Like father, like son.” Addiction plagued my father. He passed it on to my siblings, and they passed it on to me. At age 16, my sister told me that by the age of three,  I was exposed to meth’s intoxicating high. Through tears she told me, and through anger I went forward. This admission was all I needed, to dive deeper into my progressing addiction. Years into my life sentence, I realized something. Rather than face the fact that I am resilient, I withered away behind the trauma. The young man who stroked his father’s cold, pale skin one last time.

Now, with nothing but time on my hands to think, I made a huge discovery. I found the source of my anxiety, fear, and discomfort stemming from the traumas of my childhood. Every day we choose, and these choices define our lives. I chose to perpetuate the trauma and the pain I carry, by passing it on to others. Just as I learned to face my past head-on by writing, speaking, and accepting all that happened, I could have done this so years ago and prevented a life sentence. Had I been strong enough back then, I would have spared so many undeserving people from so much suffering. I realize today that I am my father’s son, and my Father is God. Through the transformation which has occurred while walking in the fire, I will be able to reach others still trapped behind the tempest of trauma. To all the people I have harmed over the years, I owe my transformation to you. I will honor your lives everyday, as I continue to learn, grow and change; as I work to leave behind a new legacy on this Earth.

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