I have been incarcerated since the age of 16. I am now 41 years old, meaning I have spent more than half my life — 25 years — in jail. I came to prison as a child and in a few more years, I will have been locked up for twice as long as I was in the free world. That time is creeping up fast.
Prison hurts. It hurts the body, it hurts the bones, it even hurts the soul. I see so many men become bitter here. This place eats them alive. So much misery stews inside of them that nothing comes out of their mouth but hate. They hate the world, they even hate themselves. A man in here will stab you for jumping the line in front of him or staring at him too long. What do they have to lose?
I live this reality every day.
I dislike prison and I dream of leaving here every day. The first 16 years of my life in the free world don’t nearly compare to the long, hard, slow 25 years that I’ve spent in prison. It would be so easy to give into despair while mourning all of the years I have spent in prison, but that will not help my situation. Indeed, I am not innocent, and this is no pity party. I must not lose sight of my victims and the people I’ve harmed.
I once wrote that I am not a model prisoner because prison does not model me. What I mean by this is that the negative environment of prison has not consumed me. I have not become prison, and prison has not become me. Although I was sentenced to 241 years — in other words, death in prison — and told that I would remain here for the rest of my life, I never gave up.
Over two decades later, I am striving to be better. Despite being surrounded by the worst of the worst, I believe in the goodness of life. Life is a gift and not a curse. To me “all my life” means the life ahead of me. I am living for the future, not for the past. So, in spite of being sentenced to die in prison, I am going to live with purpose and make the best out of this gift of life.
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.