By Zachary Smith

I want the world to see what the inside of a cell looks like for someone who is condemned, not to capital punishment, but to death by incarceration. The items are things that are important to maintaining my sanity and help my understanding of how society can sentence a person to life without parole: my Brother ML 500 Memory Typewriter (over 20 years old), “The Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene, a journalism packet from Prison Journalism Project, and a copy of Poets and Writers magazine. All of these things relate to how I express myself with limited freedom and resources. 

I would love to have a room of my own. Not that I have a bad cellie but because it would give me freedom to stay up at night and reflect upon my life and what I am going to do with the little freedom I have. I would burn the midnight oil and pour out my heart and soul in a memoir through my blood, sweat and tears. I might stay up, listen to music, sip a cup of coffee and stare at the moon and stars when the words won’t come. 

Most days, my heart is too heavy for sleep, and I’m exhausted from the stress of my situation. Life without parole is a weight that weighs on me from the moment I open my eyes til the moment I close them.

 
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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Zachary A. Smith

Zachary A. Smith is a writer and artist incarcerated in Missouri. He has studied law for over 20 years and has earned a paralegal degree with distinction from Blackstone Career Institute. He is the author of the “Smith’s Guide” series. His latest additions to the series are “Smith’s Guide to State Habeas Corpus Relief for State Prisoners” and “Smith’s Guide to Second or Successive Habeas Corpus Relief for State and Federal Prisoners.”