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A group of incarcerated men in red prison uniforms
Illustration by Teresa Tauchi (Source: Depositphotos)

I entered the prison system at 18 years old. Back then, I needed guidance and leveling out. It’s something the more seasoned gentlemen here have provided me with time and again — even more so than my own father has in the last decade.

Over time, these men have become my prison family. I almost hate to place the word “prison” in front of “family,” because the relationships I have built are genuinely familial, regardless of environment or circumstance. 

Many men have offered assistance and camaraderie, not only for matters of incarceration, but also for life in general. They have passed no judgment on me, understanding the nature of my mistakes. And instead of reprimanding me, they have encouraged my development so that when I am released, I will be a far better man.

One of my originals, or OGs as I call him, is a man by the name of Country. He gave me a job when I was lost, corrected me when I was mistaken, cooked for me when I was hungry, expressed pride in my growth when earned, and has been an incredible role model. 

Every day, a group of gentlemen in my prison encourages me to work out and direct my energy positively. When stress arises and tensions build, they help me decompress through pushups, a competitive game of cornhole or a volleyball match.

Men at my prison have also helped me grow in other ways. They have led me in prayer and offered insight on religious scripture. They’ve provided me with crucial knowledge on development, life and happiness. These men have encouraged me to leave behind selfish perspectives and conceited deceptions, and have opened my mind and heart. 

Last winter, Country came to me with an idea to make Christmas a bit easier for us incarcerated folks. He made personalized cards for every member of our prison block. Together, we passed out the cards to each cell, along with bags of chips and cookies.

These men give me hope for a better future. Being as young as I am, they play an instrumental role in my development. They have become a group of father figures that I rarely had on the outside. I am extremely grateful for my prison family.

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.

Preston J. is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania. He uses a pseudonym.