Chanell, 41

Chanell, 41

Meet Chanell…

I refer to my two awesome boys as my “Young Kings,” because not only are they kings by nature, but they’re also the kings of my heart.

Nothing is more important to me than my role as a mother.

Having been incarcerated for fifteen years of a nineteen year sentence, being a better mom and becoming the woman God ordained me to be, has been paramount and the inspiration behind all that I do.

In thinking about role models, I would have to give that honor to my mother Robin and my aunt Sharon. It is my aunt Sharon who I want to focus on now. The women in my family are strong and not easily broken by life’s circumstances.

Thankfully for me, I was born into such strength. Sharon was serving a life sentence, but by the judgment of man, that sentence was overturned by the Most High Judge, God.

My aunt served 33 long years before gaining her freedom. As a child, I made many trips with my family to visit her in the prisons which kept her physically bound. All the while not really knowing how free she truly was on the inside!

Liberation, true liberation, starts within. Many are free physically, yet still bound internally. My aunt has a care-free spirit which enables anyone who encounters her to embrace her. To know her is to love her! And that positive energy, faith, and optimism is in my opinion, what sustained her through a journey of over three long decades behind concrete walls.

I had to learn from her what it meant to be free on the inside. We were blessed to be able to reside together here in the same housing unit. She taught me how to serve my time in a way that made it count instead of only counting days. By her example, I learned to maximize the moment. And by her faith, I grew in mine because I see how God can shift a situation and do what I always thought would never happen growing up traveling the roads to visit her: my Auntie going home!

So let that be a lesson to anyone presently incarcerated. Never give up hope! You never know what God has in store for you. Don’t put your hope in man!

David, 45

David, 45

Meet David

In the past 5 years I’ve met murderers who’ve received a lesser sentence.

Horrific child rapists have gone free. Meth and opioid addicts come and go like the wind.

I woke up in the New Rino-Valley Regional Jail. I had no idea what had happened, why I was there, and no one would tell me.

I was severely beaten. Two black eyes, a fist print on my neck, a boot print on my arm, six walnut sized lumps in a line across my head, hand injuries, the left one is now partially crippled. This was local police retribution. I was placed into solitary confinement where I spent most of the next seven months.

In the SHU, I was beaten four times by the same guard, to the point of blood in my urine from kicks to the lower back.

I was the victim of egregious constitutional and human rights violations. I’ve had five years of open torture, gross abuse and inhuman treatment.

My writing has gained me the attention of prison admin who have repeatedly targeted me for retribution, often at the hands of white supremacists who are prisoner here, but friendly with their captors on the streets.

Up here, everyone seems to be some kind of related.

I have steadily improved my writing, but my state of being declines daily. I talk to all of three people, rarely leave the cell for any reason and have begun to give very serious consideration to a more permanent end to this nightmare.

Nine more years of dreadful psychological abuse and violence, with the always lingering threat of physical violence, seems like a poor choice of the two I have. Suffer, or call it quits, be at peace, and leave a lot of questions to be answered.

I’ve documented EVERYTHING in the past five years. Thousands of pages of journal entries, hundreds of essays and letters.

I’ve paid my debt and several others’ debts as well. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, and I’ve endured too much for too long.

For all the people who claim to care and all those who know, unequivocally, that I should be set free, I am still being held illegally, and no one has raised their voice. No one has once stood by me or attempted to defend me. Not a single soul.

Read David’s Writing

Shebri, 37

Shebri, 37

Meet Shebri

What I have learned about myself in prison?

Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.I’ve learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I could have ever reimagined.

I’ve learned that there are no limits to what I can do if I believe in myself.

I’ve learned that my voice and my life matter, and can produce positive change.

I’ve learned that there are many ways to be a mother, sister and friend even from the inside – all of them are important contributions I can make.

I’ve learned that I can and did survive what I thought I surely wouldn’t. 
Incarceration has taken many things from me, but I have done my best to extract the beautiful things from the situation that I find myself in. 

I’ve cultivated my passions and skills by studying revolutionaries, learning law, educating myself on prison abolition and reform and committing myself to positive change.

I’ve also learned the value of the little things: laughter, a phone call, human contact, and words of love and encouragement. Perhaps they are not so little after all.

Gwendolyn, 47

Gwendolyn, 47

Meet Gwendolyn

Prison Lives Matter

We are Breona Taylor
George Floyd
Freddy Gray
and so many more.
We can’t breathe!

The only difference, ours started on the inside. 

We sit here, day after day, calling out to people who are not there. 

We look for help that we will never get. 

We cry out for ourselves and the pain that we see in each other. 

We are losing this fight one breath at a time! 

But we’re begging for some oxygen! 

Please help us! 

Please speak to us! 

Please fight with us! 

PLEASE… Help… US… Breathe!

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