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A dilapidated room is seen through rusted bars and broken windows
Photo by Teresa Tauchi for Prison Journalism Project

Prison is a place that creates a mental curse.

Prison is a place where true friendship is shallow, but it makes no difference.

Prison is a place where you carry your own burden of sorrow. Prison is nothing but give, no take.

Prison is a place where you remember the happiness of freedom.

Prison is a place where a letter from home reads like a cable from the War Department. Before you open it, you wonder if someone is sick or dead.

Prison is a place where you live with men you don’t really like or admire, where you strive to stay civilized as you languish. In reality, you’re losing air like a sinking ship. So you try to kill time reading, playing cards, going stone mad.

Prison is a place where you learn to cherish your own company.

Prison is a place where, if you’re married, chances are you will watch your marriage struggle to survive, then, like a candle, melt away and die.

Prison is a place where few people need or remember you, and the outside world goes on without you. It is a place where you conjure up visions of the past to dilute the misery of today.

Prison is a place where the cruel hand of time will break your heart like a window pane, shattering your entire life. Sleepless nights will stare at you in the face. They will laugh at your careless blunders, the mistakes that trapped you in a cramped cell with a cellmate that is possessed.

Prison is a place where distance and absence do not make the heart grow fonder.

Prison is a place where you come to know yourself.

For with knowing comes self-respect and self-determination, and that makes you take on the virtue of learning more.

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.

Kenneth Baptiste is a writer incarcerated in California.