Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Dear Zamar, 

Though you are only five years old now, I’m writing to you years ahead of time. My son, nothing is as it seems. I grew up poor, but only time will tell how you will grow up. My time, however, has told a different story. I’ve been in prison now for almost four years. I have five and a half years left. This time I’ve served showed me the truth about who I was. 

I was a product of my environment. What does that mean? It means that my surroundings determined who I was. My mom dated drug dealers, my older sister dated drug dealers. So in my mind I believed I had to be one. I never realized how deeply my environment influenced my identity. But now I do. I never had a dad to show me who I was, who I am. But now … you do. 

You are king, Zamar. Regardless of the barbed wire fences between us, I will always be a part of your life. Nothing will ever overcome my efforts to reach you. I love you, young king. 

Love, Dad

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Manuel Pagan Jr.

Manuel Pagan Jr. is a writer, father and passionate musician. His music can be found on Apple Music and other online platforms under his artist name “Zona.” He is incarcerated in Pennsylvania.