The latest events surrounding the death of Michael Brown has me wondering about the future of the the world we live in. I think of the events that have taken place and wonder how will this change the society.

I think of the racial split that will occur behind this event. I am grateful that the youth of today are more open to the diversity that makes up this country.

As these events unfold the discussion on the prison yard is interesting. Those mostly concerned are black, and you can hear frustration and anger in their voices.

Being incarcerated I have a different view. What happened was wrong, no doubt. But, the way that the community has decided to voice the wrong is not proper either. I know there are some who are taking advantage of a bad situation. But at whose the expense?

I remember early in my incarceration we decided to protest the living conditions within the prison. At the time I was being housed on the juvenile range. Someone came up with the “good idea” of throwing our mattresses and property on the tier and lighting it on fire. We were locked in the cells and started to throw out our stuff. We were yelling for our demands to be met. We gave them 5 minutes to fix 100 year problem.

We started to toss baby oil on the stuff, as baby oil is flammable and will burn. 5 minutes passed and a match was lit and tossed on the stuff laying on the tier. A big fire ignited and there was this loud whoosh sound. In a matter of seconds the tier was on fire. Smoke start to fill the locked tier and cells. We almost killed ourselves!! Guys were choking and screaming to be let out the cells. Guys were sucking air through the toilets. We would flush the toilet to get air in the bowl. The bars got hot to the touch. We almost killed ourselves! What did we do? Excuse my French but we did not get shit and we fucked up the prison some more! The prison that we had to live in because they were not going to let us free.

We took a situation that was criminal (the mistreatment of inmates is called cruel and unusual punishment) and harmed ourselves. We did not get what we wanted, a 5 minute fix to a 100 year problem. We ultimately made it bad for ourselves. It is more criminal to create a oppressive situation for oneself. This is what the people of Ferguson is doing to themselves.

Make no mistake about it.. Wrong is wrong. But you don’t fix wrong with more wrong. Something needs to be done. Answers need to be given. But this is a 400 plus year problem that people want fixed today. Sorry but I doubt that it will happen in that fashion.

We need to step back and readdress the problem the right way. Intentions need to be made clear. For what purpose are we here for? What is the goal and object of any demonstration and protest? I am glad that people are stepping up. But not the manner in which some of are doing so.

For those of us who can remember 9/11 we see how this event has changed the world, and not necessarily for the better. We are no more safer today. From what I hear it is more of a hassle to maintain privacy, to avoid being profiled, and to travel. I don’t know an outside world post 9/11 so I don’t know. But I will say this. What happened in Ferguson Missouri will be monumental in changing future events just as 9/11 change world events. The issue of race and poverty can no longer be avoided. When the time comes to address these issues, whether by dialogue or actually putting forth actions, what course of action will be taken.

We can no longer, as a society, avoid what is to come, in terms of social change and justice. To do so would truly be criminal.

Talib would like to hear other opinions about this situation. He is currently incarcerated but maintains the A Voice From the Inside as a means to reach out the public, and as a tool of awareness to what goes on in prison. He is open to taking all questions and comments. If you think others would be interested in hearing more pass the word, repost and sign up at his site.

This morning I woke up to some tragic news. An unarmed 18 year old teen was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri. This news has created some discussion among some of the men here in the prison. Some of the conversations surround the response of the community members. Some of the members in that community rioted, looted and even shot at the Chief of police.

I am old enough to remember the Rodney King case and how the South Central LA community responded to the acquittal of those officers. They resulted to looting and violence. As the old adage goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, I agree with that. Yet, there is something deeper happening here. Something I have not yet heard mentioned by those that have appeared on TV to give their advice/opinions of what went, or is going, wrong.

As a people we are what we are taught. Black people living in the inner-cites don’t feel part of a social structure where they view justice and equality the same as those that have their place in main-stream society. In the black community exists a very different type of law and order. A very different type of infrastructure, where the values and norms are not shared by those outside of their communities.

There is a teaching in these communities that in order to be heard “we” must rise up against “any” and “all” with the force/threat and use of violence.

How can one expect anything other than rioting and looting in a community that is most likely stricken by poverty and under/low class living? Where most of the community feels marginalized and ousted by members of other communities. Was anything else expected from them?

The most important question to ask is did it work? Did it get the attention of the authorities? Unfortunately, it was the rioting and looting that got the national attention this event deserved on its own. This is the training that I speak about. That in order to be heard, to get justice “we” have to act up.

Go a step further. This has made news alongside the broken peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. As well as the slaughter of Kurds in Iraq by ISIS. That has been the rotation of news all day. My heart breaks when I see the slaughter of innocent people, wherever they may be. But what is the message of showing this type of news, the killing of a young black teen, in between the killing of innocent Kurds, Palestinians and Israelis. Does it say that “blacks” in this country when they feel they have been wronged respond the same way as “Islamic Militants” or “Palestinian rebels”. And I use those terms loosely. How will public opinion be shaped by the way this event is covered?

Will it send the message there is not hope for “those” people? That is what comes to mind when I think about the Crisis in the Middle East. It is almost a hopeless situation. A situation where one wants to see peace by any means necessary. Do I have those same thoughts about the shooting of an innocent black teen? I most certainly do. Not just a young black teen but any young or old person that is attacked and killed by those that are entrusted to serve and protect.

What upsets me is the coverage of the events. One guy was talking to a reporter and tried to interject a piece about the “black” mindset in America. She cut him off with, “lets talk about the looting.” They repeatedly showed the interview of the Chief of Police where he stated, “last night was the worst night of my life.” Not to discredit him. As I sincerely believe he was being genuine and honest. He was not prompted and had emotion in his voice as he said it. Yet, what about the other victims of last nights events? Do they not share the same sentiment, that it was the worst night of their lives as well?

Anytime you get the “police” to admit to fear. Those who are trained for these situations, to not respond with fear, to say they were “fearful”. What does this say about those that evoke this fear? The must be dangerous and helpless.

It is sad and unacceptable that the community responded this way. This is not the way to respond to any event. The use of violence never solves anything. This is why the continual fighting around the world will never cease. As it goes to be said. There has never been a group of people to take down another group of people, with force, except they became worse than the group they took down. So, it is not acceptable to respond this way. Yet, I understand it. It all goes back to what we are taught. I goes back to what gets the attention needed for “justice” from the other side. That is the way the “black community” is often designed. It is “us “against “you all”. So, to get justice from “you all” this is what we must do. Sad to say it works. Until those that cover these events wizen up to this it will always be a response to events such as these.

Trust me I know. As a black man in this country I have heard this train of thought all of my life when it comes to finding the “solution” to “our” inequality issues. Even in prison. Guys always talk about stopping work or something of that nature. Although, guys have not been successful with this in years, they still mention acts such as work stoppage and events that took place in Missouri as the route to take. The route to justice and equality. Knowing that it has not worked in years and hence forth will never work again. Why, you may ask yourself suggest it as a solution. Because that is the way some of us “think”.
Until this mindset is challenged by those who have the position, influence and authority to challenge it many will continue to not only think but respond this way. As they search for “justice” and “equality”.

Hopefully, something good comes from this tragic situation. If there was one thing I could say to my “people”, and it is hard to say considering the history of blacks in this country, is that we are perceived by the perception we give. True the young teen is not at fault here. But what justice do you get for him by making it about you. When you respond out ignorantly you make it about you. What justice do you get for “him” by looting, robbing and killing your own communities. How are others going to buy into our cry for justice and solutions when we say we want it for us, yet we maim ourselves along the way. That sends a mixed message. One that is not to be trusted. What happens in this event? Nothing.

This is a true story about a friend of mine that was killed in a private prison.  Around the year 1996, Washington, DC started sending some of its inmates to a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio (CCA Ohio).  The agreement was that DC was to send low and medium security inmates to this prison. Rather than stick to this agreement they sent majority of maximum security inmates there. Mixed in with those inmates were inmates that had lower and medium security status.

Some of these lower and medium security inmates had never been around max custody inmates, therefore, they were easy victims. Most of them were assaulted, robbed, and harmed in other ways. For the max inmates it was the first time, for many of them, they were not caged in cells 23 hours a day. I had some friends that were in max (The Wall) years before being sent to this open population prison.

So, it goes without saying that most of them did not know how to respond to this new found sense of freedom. They were allowed to roam and mix and mingle with other people. They were able to hold and touch their loved ones on visits. Sadly, some of these privileges were abused and delinquency was pretty much rampant.

I was still in Lorton at the time that they were opening up this prison. I knew many people that were sent there. I was supposed to transfer there but I got into some trouble and was sent to the hole. Prior to going to the hole a friend of mine, I will not mention his name, was assaulted and sent to the hole. He stayed in the hole for about 30 days before being sent to Ohio. Due to the nature of what happened to him they had to separate him from quite a few people.

About 6 months after he was sent there I ended up in the hole. The second day I was in the hole a guy yelled down the tier to me. He says that a guy just got killed in Ohio. That it was in the papers and he was sending the paper down the tier for me to read. While he was yelling this out to me I had this feeling that it was my friend. I don’t know what it is but I seem to have a keen sense of things when they are not right. 90% of the time I am right.

Later that night the paper reached me and sure enough it was my friend. I knew his real name and there is was in black and white. Dead from multiple stab wounds.

One thing I found out when they began sending DC prisoners to CCA Ohio is that CCA was a company where one can openly trade and buy stocks. That used to be the talk of the prison. How in the hell can they send us to a joint where there is no telling who has invested stocks in the place??? So, for the sake of having something to do and talk about, I would get the papers and follow the company CCA.  How they traded, the price of stocks etc.

After this killing the company pulled from the market.  They were no longer listed in the papers.  I wondered about this for some time. I knew that it had something to do with the killing but did not know the facts.

About a year after this event I was sent to CCA Arizona. It was here that I met the guys that were shipped from CCA Ohio. They ended up closing the prison to DC prisoners, but they could not just opt out of the contract they had with DC.  So they just split the guys up.  Some ended up in Arizona, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  I just happen to be shipped to Arizona with some of the guys that were present when this killing happened.  The guys that did it got life on top of the life sentences they already had.  One happened to be there with me.  Actually he and I were cell-mates for about 6 months.

I will not go into the details of all that happened.  I will say that one of the guys that killed him was also in the hole for killing a guy in open population.  So, he caught two murders in the same prison.  The first one over a cassette tape, and the one in the hole in defense of his friend.  The guy I was in the cell with.

What happened was a tragedy because actually my friend had stabbed one of the guys first.  He almost killed him. That was because he was being assaulted and robbed.  He just happened to have a weapon on him and stabbed one of the guys during the course of the incident.  For that he was sent to the hole and the other guy went to the hospital.

When the guy got back from the hospital he plotted on my friend and when the time was right he killed him.  He ended up pleading guilty to killing him.  But, it did not make a difference because he was already serving a life sentence for killing a guy in another prison.  So here you have a guy, my friend, that had a 5 year sentence (this is why I call it a tragedy) and 2 years left on it before going home, killed by a guy that was already guilty of killing another guy in another prison.  Who was also serving life for the killing. The tragedy is that this guy started out with a 5 year sentence and was put in a situation where he was involved with the death of another inmate.  So, the killer and the killed both started out with 5 year sentences.

What was the response of the prison?  To lock it down and tear the prison up.  The had the roof of the buildings designed so they could open the top vents and drop gas in from the ceiling.  After the gas fills up the unit they repelled down into the units in ninja outfits and beat the inmates.  Inmates who were not involved in what took place in the hole.  They beat them savagely.  So bad that the inmates actually filed and won a class action lawsuit against CCA.  That was the cause of them taking the company off of the market.

The investors were not willing to take the risk of investing in a prison where the prisoners were uncontrollable.  Where assaults and murder were rampant.  This was not supposed to happen with lower and medium security inmates.  This is when it became apparent that these were max custody inmates being housed in a medium security prison.

This is a sad story for all involved.  For the killer and the killed.  For the families of both of them.  For the prisoners that were beat and assaulted at the hands of inmates that they should have never shared the yard with.  For the inmates that were beat at the hands of the police.  For the inmates that lost property and pictures during the aftermath and response to what took place.  It is really unfortunate to think that at the end of the day there was money to be gained.   That peoples lives were/are put at risk for a dollar.  What makes that different from any other crime that is committed in society?

It is not the private sector that is to govern crime and punishment.  It is the job of the government.  But, today you have more private prisons opening up all across America.  No prison is considered a place of peace and sanctuary, but there has to be some accountability on those that oversee them.  Due to this lack of proper oversight a friend of mine lost his life.  What a tragedy.

I spent a few years in one of the biggest private prisons in America, Correction Corporation of America (CCA). It was an experience unlike any other. It is a unique experience to say the least. To be incarcerated in a prison system where stocks are openly traded, daily. To know that there are many people who are involved in the Criminal Justice System hold stocks and shares in CCA. I once, during a conversation, heard a college professor admit that even he had shares in private prisons.

Ultimately, incarceration is the burden of the government. Not the public. In the case of private prisons it has become a thing where private companies bid on contracts. The bid is not who can provide the most work related skills program or substance program. Rather, who can feed them, cloth them and provide medical attention to the for the lowest price.

Whatever company wins the bid now must set up the services needed. They often use other private companies to provide those services. So they bid out the the lowest bidder.

Aramark is a private food company that service CCA facilities. They have the worst food ever. The rations are low and the quality of the food is poor. Often carbohydrate induced and processed meats are served with every meal. Vegetables and fruits are hardly served, if ever. When they are served they are often of the lowest quality and grade.

The clothes that are provided are no more than a pair of scrubs. Two piece outfit. A short sleeve shirt, regardless of the weather, with one pocket. And, a pair of pull up pants with no pockets. This outfit saves money on tailoring expenses and other accessories needed to wear pants, such as a belt. Which cost more money.

This is just a small glimpse of what it was like to be in a private prison. The list of what is often wrong with these prisons can go on and on.

Privatization of the US Prison System
The US Private Prison System
Privatization of the US Prison System. An Infographic from ArrestRecords.com

For some time now I have been thinking about what it means to be civil. I have discussed this with many of the guys that I know and no matter who I discuss this with I always find some inconsistencies in the responses.

Can you imagine living some place where there is a subculture that has very little resemblance of the greater-society? In terms of right and wrong, do’s and don’ts, and good and bad. The subculture of prison will not allow one to be civil. The be civil, in terms of what it means in the greater-society, is to me an outcast, or rejected amongst the vast majority of the population.

What is even sadder is that without understand what it means to be civil, or better yet to know how to act and think civil, is like bearing the mark of the beast. Because, the prisoner, inmate, convict mentality is so deeply embedded within this person that they lose sense of what it means to be civil, in the greater-society.

As of late I have been feeling my stripes, the ones that I have earned from doing so much time. There are not a lot of guys that can say that they have 20 plus years under their belt. That in itself grants me a lot of leeway to be me and do me amongst the other guys. So, I have been taking certain liberties, that I would not have dared taken as a younger guy in prison. Such liberties as greeting people in the morning with “good morning” or being courteous enough to let some one go before me through a door. Saying “thank you” when someone does something for me.

As I do this I often track the times that others offer the same courtesies to others. It is as if one is going to be labeled soft and weak if he says “thank you” to someone else. To smile is like being told you have an incurable disease. It is sad to see that many want life on the outside but do not know how to conduct themselves in a civil manner.

When a fight breaks out guys run and search out the fight to watch, what can be at times the death of someone, and ogle. When someone is about to be taken advantage of it is not common for those around to turn and look the other way. Or to laugh and ridicule at someone else’s misfortune. You will find these attitudes among throughout any prison in the world.

What I have come to know is that this attitude and behavior is often a cover up for the lack of substance in someone’s life. The danger is that after years of acting like this it becomes part of ones psyche. To act out and be heartless becomes normal. It becomes part of ones way of life.

Civility is what is needed to stay out of prison. To be able to adapt to the rules, regulations and right of the greater-society. Civility is not something that is read in a book. Rather it is something that is applied in ones daily life. It is what opens the door of opportunities and understanding. It is something that has to be practiced. Often in here it is not practiced.

Here the bad are deem as good. The good are deemed as rejects. The man with the most time is often lauded as the most respected guy in the joint. More time usually mean more crimes, of heinous sorts, were committed. This is often overlooked. That, in most cases, for a guy to get 100 years may mean that who knows what was committed to get that type of time.

I remember when I would tell guys that I had 20 years to do it was automatically assumed that I had killed someone to get it. The response is never about the victim or the family of the victim but more along the lines of, “man you must have been a tough guy out there.” Or the one that I hate the most, “better him than you.” Most people out in the free world would automatically question the choice of taking someone’s life. Most will make you feel bad about doing so, and would want to hold you accountable for these acts. Yet in here guys like this are often the most respected. The bad people have been exalted and made to be good. Do not get me wrong there are some good guys in here. I like to think of myself as one of those guys.

I often wonder how long can a person survive in the greater-society with a prison mentality. Not long. I tell guys all the time that the way they think about life, others and the world is not going to fly out there. The codes by which they live by will never be accepted out in the free world. That no one wants to be around people that are rude and disrespectful. Someone who is always ridiculing and criticizing others. And, definitely they do not want to be around people who only topic of conversation surrounds the drugs they have used or sold.

So, what does this mean? It means that as they find themselves rejected by the public-at-large they have to find some place to fit in and be accepted. That means seeking out the sub society of criminality. It is here that those sub cultural ideas are given any attention. It is here that they find acceptance and form alliances. It is here where the plot to commit more crime is either formulated or play out. More crime means more victims. The cycle continues.

Civility is something that is not stressed enough in here. It is hard to stress it when those powers to be, the ones that hold the authority, are not civil towards others. In order to train a monkey you have to think like one. In order to catch a criminal you have to think like one. In order to guard an inmate you must think like one. At times you must at as one. So everyone walks around here trying to prove they are the toughest. That is the attitude from the top to the bottom. The staff act as gang member because they have to oversee so many gang members. So they use intimidation to exert authority. They have to yell to get a point across. The same way that they act is the same way that inmates act with one another.

If people would be just a little more civil in their dealings the society may become a little safer. Just something to think about.

Today a guy asked me if we could talk about something that was bothering him. He is about to go home and has to be released to a shelter. What he wanted was advice on how to approach that situation and deal with the transition. There are questions that when I am asked I have to actually take time out before answering them. I mean after 20 plus years incarcerated it is hard to give unbiased advice about going home. The last of my worries would be going home to a shelter.

Anyway it got me to thinking about this question, “Where do you start?” Everything that he spoke to me about was how things “used to be”. I know that it is easy to get caught up in the thoughts of the past and the “good” times. Yet, those are the times that caused most of us this punishment.

I asked him a few simple yet direct questions. How do you view this current situation? Do you think that prison is a step down from a shelter, where you are free, or a step up. I mean in order to see being free in a shelter as a dooming thought he has to see prison, some how, as a better place to be than free. So, that is where the conversation began.

This guy was not seeing the bigger picture. All he could see is the images that were circulating in his head about shelters. He was so caught up in this thought that he forgot to look around him and evaluate his current living situation and condition.

So, where do I begin. Here they have cells, like the one that I live in currently, where there are 3 guys living in a cell the size of a bathroom. This is how they have dealt with the overcrowding of prisons for years. They put another bunk in a 8 by 10 cell. It is hard enough for 2 men to live in there, let alone 3.

There is a toilet that we all have to share. That means if someone has to defecate late in the night the other two guys have to endure the stench that comes from his bowel movement. There are no windows to air the smell out and the ventilation is not the best.

There is no room in the cells and alone time is impossible to get. Tempers flare and arguments ensue all the time due to the stress of living in this type of setting. I get frustrated when I need to get in the shower and can not get in at the time that I want to get in because the cell is being occupied by one of my cellmates.

The food here is not that great. It is carb induced and veggies are hard to come by. The meats that they serve are processed and most red. Literally, one will eat red hamburger meat for all three meals. For breakfast it will be cream and beef, lunch will be hamburgers and fries, and for dinner chili mac. Only to come back the next day and have red meat served again.

The showers are out in the common area and guys cooking at the microwaves can look right in and see you showering. There are 12 showers and all of them are located where one can look right inside of them when they are being used.

The mail and other stuff is always monitored, that goes without saying.

And in a nutshell you can not leave and move around the way that you want to. You are not free. So with this being said I think a shelter is an upgrade to this. But he has to be able to see this for what it is. He has to be able to see the here and now and compare it to what he wants.

Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many guys here. We often only look at where we come from and to where we want to be. This is often done to escape the reality of where we are at. But here and now is where it begins. This is what the focus need to be on.

What is going on in your life now that will not allow you to see what you want in the future. As I asked a friend the other day, “what are you holding on to that will not allow you to let go?” This is the question that I posed to him. There has to be something else going on that will not allow you to see what is really happening in his life.

I hate to say this but as long as he sees nothing wrong/bad about this situation he is bound to come back. That was the part I forget. This is his 4th time back in the system. Every time before he minimized, chalked it up as something small. He see himself as the victim. This is the attitude that will cause him to leave and create more “real” victims. That is the tragedy of this system. When certain attitudes, beliefs and thought patterns are left unchecked the greater public suffers the most.

For many guys the worst, “prison” has already happened. For many of you it is hard to even phantom the idea of coming to prison once. Let alone 2, 3 or 4 times. For many guys once the shock of it all wears off the become immune to the side effects of prison. The younger guys are the worst. I have heard many guys in their early 20’s say they have another run in them. They think that they can out live the time due to their young ages. This is the way they see their current situation, as a time to play and meet friends and to get tatted up, as they say.

So, back to my friend. After talking to him and putting things like this to him he had a chance to think about the way he was thinking. I don’t know if he still feel the same way but at least he has another way to think about the situation.

When it comes to change one has to start with NOW. What is going on NOW. Not what I want, where I came from but what am I going through NOW. If one truthfully begin now it will allow him to be objective about the past and what he wants the future to be. It is this objectivity that is needed to begin the process of change. It is easy to be blinded by the glitter and glam but what is the truth?

When I think about where I am at now and what I am going through I know that this can never happen again. I can never put myself in this situation EVER again. There is not a fast buck that could entice me to fall into this trap ever again. The guys that I know that think the way I do go out and never return. They understand what it takes to get out and stay out. That is having a strong dislike for the way things are now.

I have spent quite some time, lately, reflecting on life. My life and the life of those around me, near and dear. A guy told me something quite profound today. He said that the price that we pay for some things makes us more appreciative when we reach what we are seeking. Looking at my situation this way it makes sense. I guess that is the price that I am paying, bittersweet, but it if this is the price to appreciate life I am willing to pay it.

I look at others that come in and out of prison and often wonder why. It may be that they don’t see that they are paying off their life in installments. That life does not have that much value to appreciate having certain liberties. Freedom is priceless yet so many people willingly give it up for next to nothing.

I don’t wish prison on anyone but if you could just see the conditions of the men/women here you would weep. The American public is not getting the real when it comes to the penal setting. There is no structure in place. From the top down. There is no real concern for the public. The order of the day is not helping inmates change but to just enforce more rules and regulations. Rules and regulations that have nothing to do with survival on the outside. The only concern is that I have my bed made before I leave the unit in the AM. That I have my shirt tucked in while outside the unit. That I talk with respect to those in authority while it is of no concern what I do to those around me (inmates). It is a game and the losers are those that have to accept many of us back to the community.

I am once again teaching in the school, ESL and GED in Spanish, and this is by far the saddest learning setting that I have been in. Upon my introduction to the department I was greeted with this. ” These guys don’t want to learn. Are you sure you want this job? You have to have the hard convict exterior to deal with these guys.” All of this was said to me by those that have been entrusted with providing educational structure and information to these men. My response was, almost sarcastically but honestly, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is a statement that refers to human beings. Humans are humans no matter where they are. Here in prison we are often referred to as other than humans. Many of us are simply known for the crimes that we have committed. Circumstance of those events do not matter. Only that we are guilty of committing them.

The assumption is that we don’t have the capacity to be other than these crimes. It is sad that in order to be taken seriously for a job that requires patience, care and dedication, I had to explain my prison resume. What is that? That is me telling them, in so many words, that I have been in 20 plus years. That I have been in almost all the serious and dangerous penitentiaries that the BOP has.

This is a medium prison so the age group is younger. The crimes are not as dangerous and the guys are generally serving shorter sentences. Those here that have been in a lengthy amount of time come down from the USP (United States Penitentiary) which is where most of the lifers are at. The climate in the USP is very hostile and violent. It is in the USP that most of your prison deaths occur. I have been to 6 in the time that I have been in the BOP. It was not until I explained all of this to them that I was taken seriously. I still look young for my age so it is easy to look at me and misjudge my age, time spent in prison and experience. I rather prefer it to be and stay that way.

I thought by coming to this place things would be better, in terms of education. Sad to say that is far from the case. But every sad story has a happy point.

After the first week of working there has been a drastic change in “my” students. They want to work, they want to learn, and they want (even if they will not admit it) someone to care. Someone who is going to dedicate time and put forth the effort to help them. “No one cares what you know until they know how much you care.”

Often people ask me why do I do what I do. How do I do it? I tell tell them that what I do and how I do it has more to do with me than them. That I care that much, if not more about myself, that I can care about others. See part of paying the price with this incarceration is learning to appreciate life. Mine and those around me.

I think a lot of times people who have been convicted of murder are often written off as psychopathic, cruel, heartless and careless. Yes, there are convicted killers that are like that. Just as there are people out in the world that are as equally cruel, heartless and careless. People who have no regard for human life. How often do the “responsible” people find themselves behind the wheel of a vehicle after a night of drinking? How often do people text and drive? Eat while driving etc. How many people have died at the hands of these people? These acts may make them careless but not necessarily evil and bad.

So, when I show care and concern for others it surprise many. It is hard to see the human side of someone if all you know about this person is what a piece of paper says about them.

Imagine spending 20 plus years without having your human side catered to. Where you are dehumanized and looked down on. It is a hard task to endure. What helps me is caring for others. When I care and show concern for others it allows me to gauge how much I really care about myself. It opens the door to getting that validation from those around me. Those who acknowledge my intelligence and strengths. It helps keep the fire inside of me burning; It keeps me hungry for more. That is one of the benefits of helping others. When you see others succeeding due to your help it just does something internally for you.

If this is part of the price that I have to pay I know that when I am, one day, free from prison, that I will look back at this as a priceless experience. I will enjoy the moments that I have left. I will have the capacity to connect with my human side and the human side of others. There is so much in life to be grateful for. I am grateful that I have not lost my way. Rather, I have found my way. My faith in the Creator is strong, I have the love and support of my family and friends. I am in a rather good place. The least I can do is help someone else get to that place in their life.