I grew up in the Hilltop area of Tacoma, Washington. By the age of 12 I had experienced my first year of incarceration. While in the juvenile system I struggled to find structure within my life and quickly returned to a criminal lifestyle upon my release. It wasn’t until I was years into a 45-year sentence that I realized things had to change.

I never did well in school during my younger years. However, I had an opportunity to take another run at education and possibly earn a college degree while serving my sentence. Painstakingly, I — along with the help of many — pushed myself to complete classes and eventually had enough credits to receive a college degree. This sparked something in me and also revealed a talent I didn’t even know I had — a gift to express myself and my surroundings through my writing.

I started writing about situations I’d previously lived through and soon found a passion for fighting to educate society around the misfortunes that took place within the prisons I was forced to reside in. It didn’t take long to see how my writing could not only lift my voice but also expose harms done to others. I have found a deep love for giving  a voice to those who are not able to do so for themselves. 

This, in my eyes, has been my biggest accomplishment — fighting for equality. No matter what it looks like or who it’s connected to, I’ll stand next to anyone being oppressed or abused. Given the harms suffered by the millions connected to the carceral state, I know I’ll be inspired to continue using my voice for those who cannot do so for themselves.

ALL STORIES BY CHRISTOPHER BLACKWELL

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