Victor, 54

Victor, 54

Meet Victor…

I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness.

Victor, 54
Incarcerated: 27 years
Housed: Correctional Training Facility, Soledad, CA

Prison is a very dangerous place, especially in the crowded dayroom where we have to wait until the guards unlock our cell doors. So when my five foot, one inch, hundred and ten pound buddy, Cuba suddenly stopped talking and his sight appeared to see through me, I got a bit nervous. We had been talking for about five minutes and everything was fine. He was telling me about a funny incident that had happened at his job in the kitchen, and we were both laughing. I call him Mr. Magoo, he is a naturally funny guy. His strong Cuban accent and bubbly personality made his conversations extremely funny. That day, he made me laugh so hard I impulsively gave him a slight hug for a second or two, before backing up to continue laughing. That’s when I noticed something odd, “What’s wrong, is there a fight behind me?” I asked him. I quickly turned and scanned the people behind me. Everything seemed normal. The place was packed with inmates waiting for the cell to unlock but no fight or signs of any unusual tension. Cuba simply answered, “Nothing.” I still had some laughter to unleash. However, my little friend was still frozen and staring through me. I looked back again. This time searching more intensely just in case the possible danger was aimed at me. I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness. Still, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, “What’s wrong Cuba?” I asked again. “You’re making me nervous.” “Nothing” he answered, but he would not look at me. He was still staring straight toward the wall. I moved to his left side trying to see what he was seeing. He was in his 60’s, so I wondered if maybe he was having a stroke. I’ve seen people having strokes, and they just freeze and stay silent. So, I asked him, “Are you okay Cuba? Do you feel okay?” He nodded yes, but remained a statue. “Cuba, please! I’m concerned. You’re getting me nervous. Please tell me what’s wrong?” After a few seconds, he looked at me, and in a very soft and broken tone of voice, he said: “Biktor, I’ve been locked-up for over 23 years and this is the first time someone has ever hugged me.” This time, I was the one frozen and speechless. From that day, and until the day he went home a year later, I hugged him every time I saw him.

Roy Lee, 68

Roy Lee, 68

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Meet Roy Lee…

The powers that be, have no idea all the good teachings Stacy did for people.

Roy Lee, 68
Incarcerated: 45 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I met a lady pushing a shopping cart through Quentin. It was full of art supplies, she stopped at all the cells and asked if I’d like to draw. From that point on she’d stop by every week and give me pointers. Twenty some years and three prisons later, I met with Stacy Hay, five days a week, in her classroom in the Arts in Corrections building and learned something new. She taught me that after three days of beating Mulberry bark with wooden hammers I could make paper. She taught me how to make hard back books from scratch. I learn mosaic art for a number of mascot projects for nearby schools. I sat with her for hours talking and watching her paint. Her paintings were beautiful, she could keep up with the best of them, she taught me momo printing. The flier I added was of a momo print I did of celtic knot work.

You draw out what you want, cut them out, ink them up, place them on a sheet of fiberglass, with a sheet of damp printing paper over it and run it through a press. She was one of the main driving forces in my life that has kept me upright. I brought music to her to copy for her shop, she was like an old hippy from the early 70’s, I brought Alanis Morissette. Her first CD was kind of racy. One day her husband was a visiting artist and he asked as he was sweating me, “Why do you give my ol lady stuff like that to play?” I remember telling him, it’s time to come out of the 60’s and move forward. It hurt to be moved from that prison. I heard right after I left they shut down the Arts in Corrections program. The powers that be, have no idea all the good teachings Stacy did for people. I’ve spent many years trying to give back, but with this system, it is sort of like the old west, once you are put in one spot, that is it! Like the old gunfighters who are not allowed to hang up your guns, but I will keep pushing forward with hope in my heart and peace in my soul.

Todd, 36

Todd, 36

Meet Todd…

It is unnatural to me for a parent to outlive his child. Facing this harsh reality while incarcerated forced me to deal with it head-on.

Todd, 36
Incarcerated: 16 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

How do you mend a broken heart? This is a question that burns through the forefront of my mind. Everyday, I’m faced with the reality of unnatural loss. There was one event in my life that was the most unnatural, and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t make this situation make any sense. I’m an alcohol and drug counselor, a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree, a son, a brother, a mentor, and friend, but the title I enjoyed the most was father. I became so accomplished in prison because I wanted to show my son that he should never give up no matter the circumstances. My son was my identity in here, and he was my motivation.

My dear son recently passed away at the age of 1, and my life was flipped upside down. Suddenly I had to figure out why I do what it is I do. All the while though, my brain still can’t compute the passing of my son. It is unnatural to me for a parent to outlive his child. Facing this harsh reality while incarcerated forced me to deal with it head-on. I had to reassess my focus and drive. Instead of just being a positive example for my son, every young man I know took his place. I want to eventually get my master’s degree in social work, then become a licensed clinical social worker, so I’ll be able to help other young men, like my son, who were impacted by having fathers, who are serving long sentences in prison.

That’s where I’m at now. Thanks for checking me out, this is just a small glimpse into my life. I just want to be of service and help people. Please feel free to respond. I’d like to end by telling everyone, “Keep pushing because it is going to get better, and you never know who you might inspire.” Thank you!

Alexander, 26

Alexander, 26

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Meet Alexander…

A friend is someone you can count on. Someone you share your thoughts with.

Alexander, 26
Incarcerated: 4 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

What is friendship and love?
Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
A friend is someone you can count on.
Someone you share your thoughts with.
Having a caring and loving relationship can last a lifetime.
Time is something you can never get back.
It’s priceless.
What is love?
Love is unconditional.
Love allows you to be vulnerable with another human being.
Love is being comfortable and safe.
Some people spend their lifetime
trying to find it in materialistic things,
but the thing is
it comes from within.
It comes from the soul.
Being in prison makes me feel alone.
At the same time
I stay motivated knowing one day
I’ll be free.

Bryce, 55

Meet Bryce…

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change.

Bryce, 55
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I look forward to connecting with people who won’t judge me for my past criminal behaviors and choices, and who will support me in my recovery from criminal thinking, drug addiction, and sexual compulsions. I grew up in Orange County, was in foster care for 2 ½ years, and lived in Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, and Lake Forest California, before my incarceration. The beaches, pools, and malls were my second home, and I loved camping, riding dirtbikes, and Disneyland. It was my dream to be a drummer in an original rock band or work in the entertainment industry. Instead, I worked in fast food restaurants, machine shops, and construction type jobs. My favorite past-times are either watching movies (too many favorites to mention) or listening to music, especially the 80’s. I love songs that are inspiring and like everything from Journey to sia, disco to jazz, and love-songs to country. Queen’s “Under Pressure” is a favorite.

While incarcerated, I have taken responsibility for all the damage I caused to innocent people, my family, the communities, and the world as a whole. I have become a victim advocate in stopping the harm, abuse, and violence, by participating in victim impact, domestic violence, and anger management type groups. I have also taught other inmates and facilitated the Prison of Peace (PoP) program that covers restorative justice ideas, effective listening skills, peace circles, problem solving techniques, how to make mutual agreements, and the mediation process.

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change. Through self-introspection and faith in my higher power, I have gained insight to my causative factors and have developed empathy and compassion for others and myself.

Today, I live a healthier, spiritually driven life-style, based on a life-long commitment to recovery and giving back. I am a 12-step member, I have a support network of people who care about my health and recovery, and I live with purpose.

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