Photo by krblokhin on iStock.

If freedom is a road, it is paved with the stories of these men. It is a road I walk on and hope to be a part of someday. That road is the path from prison to being granted parole.

Before we went on quarantine, a lifer (a person sentenced to life in prison) in my unit was granted parole. Though still in quarantine, he awaits his final release approval from the governor. I asked him and others who were being paroled if they would be willing to be interviewed. Stacey Morris, a fellow incarcerated person, was one of those who agreed. He was granted parole and is awaiting final approval. 

Q: What year did you come into prison, and how old were you?

Stacey: I came into prison in 1999 and I was 23 years old. I am now 46.

Q: What were you sentenced to, and how long have you been here?

Stacey: I was sentenced to 30 years to life for the crime of burglary under the three-strikes law. I’ll be in for 23 years on April 14. 

Q: Was there ever a time when you thought you’d never get out, and how did you cope with that?

Stacey: Yes, there was a time when I thought I’d never get out, but I always kept it in my heart that God would not allow me to do the rest of my life in prison. And that’s mainly how I cope with it. Also, I strongly desire to see my family again. 

Q: A lot of people in here still have no release date or opportunity. Do you have any advice or encouragement for them?

Stacey: To those who have no release opportunity, stay doing the right things and go to self-help groups to improve yourself. Stay away from people who don’t want to change for the better. Also get a job in prison. It will help you keep focused, and you will gain job skills. And always remember, laws change all the time, and you need to be prepared for that opportunity.

Q: What was the hardest part about serving a life sentence, and what do you look forward to the most when you get out?

Stacey: The hardest part of serving my life sentence was knowing that I could possibly die in prison and never spend a day on the outside again with my family and friends. 

What I am looking forward to the most is all the little things in life: meeting and getting to know my nieces and nephews and all my loved ones. I’ve been away for 23 years. I am also looking forward to eating a real hamburger and other different kinds of foods. I am a simple guy, and I will continue to take life one day at a time. Prison has taught me patience, and that whatever life brings to my front door I can deal with it all. 

The purpose of this column is to highlight the stories of those on Freedom Road and to understand the fears and hopes of lifers and those without a release date. It should be noted that well over a million dollars was spent to incarcerate Stacey for 23 years, given that California prisons spend an average of $106,000 per year on each one of its prisoners, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. His crime was robbery. Do you think that this was the best way to spend taxpayer dollars? 

(Additional reporting by PJP)

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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Jessie Milo

Jessie Milo is a writer, artist and poet incarcerated in California. He is a volunteer for InitiateJustice.org and an advocate for mental health.