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An empty two-lane highway; concept of fleeting friendships in prison
Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

In prison, miles away from home and affection, we often build friendships with other incarcerated people. Everyone’s release date is different. With my 200-year sentence, I am always the one who is left behind. It’s so hard to see them go.

Friendships are crucial in an environment so far from family. They can be a rare solace. 

When you go to the prison recreation yard with a plan to work out, your friend is the one to say “hi” first; or he goes with you and you talk about your day. When you’re having a bad day, your friend is there to pick you up. When a family member dies, he might make you two burritos so big you can’t finish them both in one sitting.

When the court sends you a one-sentence denial of early release, affirming you will die in jail, your friend sits with you on the yard as you grieve the loss of your future. He is there when you celebrate good news too.

After two decades of watching friends go home and fade away, I’m at an impasse. Sometimes I wonder, is it best to cut all ties with friends before they go?

Recently, my friend of a few years was granted parole. As the days counted down to his release, he said something that I didn’t like. I pulled away instead of talking about it. He pulled away too. It became awkward, and I just couldn’t find my words. I wanted to say, “You’re gonna do great out there! And I’m gonna miss you, bro!” But I stayed quiet.

Now, if I have a friend who may be going away, I try to find my words. I know I may not get another chance.

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.

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