Photo by Rhodi Lopez on Unsplash

To A.S.

I cannot tell you how to feel about the way we’re treated in prison. What I will say is this: my decisions landed me in prison.

But while I’m here, how I eat, sleep, and spend my free time is up to me.

In my parents’ home, I ate what my parents provided at a certain time. I went to sleep at a certain time. My free time consisted of football, wrestling, baseball and track.

In prison, pre-COVID-19, I kept myself disciplined by asking the question, “How can I best show up for my community?”

I wake thanking the almighty Creator. Breakfast begins at 6:15 a.m. You can pick up lunch, as well. By 7:00 a.m. people are at their programs, work, vocational training, or educational class. At 8:00 a.m. the lower yard opens and if you are not assigned anywhere, you can play and hang out until 3:30 p.m. I can shower every other day, unless I’m assigned to a program, in which case I can shower every day. All this was before COVID.

As for hygiene, we get a bar of soap every week. If you are indigent you also get powdered toothpaste.

Education is key. I opened some books today on philosophy, ethics and sociology.

Yet even in my independence, I am dependent on you and others because no one is an island.

So my dear friend, may peace be unto you. If you have the time, write me, and we can have a real dialogue.

P.S. I hope you can find some joy for yourself. During this pandemic, we might get an hour to ourselves to exercise, use the phone or shower, but it is not guaranteed.


To A.F.

I am concerned about you.

You will not be able to get the time back you have done. Are you learning a trade or getting a diploma?

You are not what your past was. Do you realize how fatalistic your thoughts were?

I haven’t done time for you. My actions cannot change you. You, A.F., have to put the work in yourself.

Gangster life is not what it’s cracked up to be. “A child is born with no state of mind, and he is blind to the ways of mankind, and only God knows what you are going to do,” says Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Make your heart pure as gold. Make it soft. Right now you are enclosed in concrete and steel. Don’t let your consciousness be hardened.

Being locked up makes or breaks you, from being the best human to the worst. Take your time, young man. You are a gift. You haven’t missed a thing.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Anthony “Habib” Watkins

Anthony “Habib” Watkins is a writer incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison in California. He is serving a 33-years-to-life sentence for a fist fight that was his last strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law. His work includes “I Never Knew” in Open Mic Live 2016 Performances in Print Open Mic San Quentin State Prison and prisonuniversityproject.org @ news.