TRAGIC MISCONCEPTIONS: THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD ON A PRISONERS MIND

Every prisoner is unique in his own way. I cannot honestly say that the emotions i experience are the same emotions every prisoner feels. In fact, I can say without a doubt many prisoners lack the education to even process the ramifications of society’s misconceptions about them. A biased belief towards another group based on profiling, is the very essence of dehumanization, and ultimately oppression. It diminishes the value of another’s existance soley because of conflicting views.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer that i tend to dwell on how I’m perceived by much of society. I’ve read the tragic misconceptions, and heard the hatred of those on television as they angrily cast judgment upon prisoners as a whole. The sad truth is that the majority of those who have preconceived beliefs about us would probably befriend us if they gave us a chance. Thankfully we are not alone in our efforts to be given another chance. There are honest and good men isolated behind these walls striving to prove to themselves and the world that they are not monsters, they’re just people who made mistakes, and terrible choices in order to solve thier problems. Some were addicted to drugs, others were kids misled by troubled peers, most of these men grew up in poverty, with very little education and survived neighborhoods that taught them to be the way they had to be in order to survive. Neighborhoods where death and violence was the best solution to any conflict. For me those days are over. Education has shown me the most powerful weapon is knowledge and the best ammunition is words. And so, I study, and I write.

THE HOUR GLASS

Have you ever worried about what the future holds? I have. As a kid I always wondered where I’d be? Who I’d be? I’m none of the things I imagined. I’m a prisoner.

Looking back through the hour glass of time I can pinpoint the turning points in my life. Every time I turned left when I should have turned right. From my teen view point, this future wasn’t conceivable. I was in a group home looking forward to my release. I couldn’t imagine the hardships I’d face once released and didn’t try nearly as hard as I should have to ensure a better future, while in my last of several placements, i learned about being responsible for myself and the importance of saving for the future. I learned to save money, find a job and how to open a bank account. As a teen, I discovered finding a summer job wasn’t that difficult. For every $100 I earned I deposited $80.00 into my account. It was a great feeling knowing that I had money in the bank and it made me proud that I had earned it. I was careful not to spend that hard earned money because having it in the bank was an accomplishment. Especially for a poor kid like myself who had never really had anything to call his own.

A very good friend of mine, Elias, had, at that time, done a lot with the lessons he’d learned in placement. He kept his job, found a second part time job, and continued to save his money. After his release from our group home he remained in the city where it was located to continue on with the life he’d developed. He found an apartment, bought a new truck and wore nice clothes. He wanted more for his life and he worked hard to get it. I was proud of him. Elias was so happy with his life that he asked me to join him after i was released. Instead of taking him up on his offer I headed back home to San Bernardino, California. He drove down on many occasions with his sage advice-said, he knew that if I stayed in San Bernardino and started hanging around my gang I’d ruin my life.

I wanted to go with Elias. I wanted to run into my grandpa’s house, pack my bags and jump into that truck and get away from the reality of Elias’ words. But, I didn’t, even though it was obvious Elias had a point. I somehow felt that in following him I’d be betraying my family. Sadly, despite all of Elias’ efforts to create a better life for himself he was killed in a drunk driving accident a few years later.

Elias was right, I did what he thought I would and found my old friends. I became lazy in my efforts at seeking employment and in no time my savings was gone. I was panniless, jobless and soon to be homeless if I didn’t find a way to help with the bills. The more time I allowed to slip by the more desperate for money I became. Eventually I started selling drugs, using drugs and at that point not really giving much thought to the direction my life was headed. It wasn’t until I was arrested and taken to the County Jail that I found out how far I’d strayed from that prideful teenager who assumed he knew it all.

A lot of people think crime pays. I’m sure you’ve seen the riches of those who end up on the news. But the thing they don’t mention is that the money never last. Everything you gain illegally vanishes once you get caught, and sooner or later you always get caught.

I’ve done the math on my life. The numbers don’t lie. The thirteen years in on a life sentence. Had I chosen to accept a job once offered to me by McDonald’s I would have made $205,920.
That’s not including potential raises and bonuses. That’s enough money to have bought my own car, and put a large deposit on a home. Now, as a prisoner, if I’m lucky enough to get a job work for as little as 8 cents an hour, not even enough to feed myself with in prison.

If I only could go back to placement and make the choices that are now so evident to me. I’d gladly accept that job, and stay on the path I was on while in placement. Too bad I can’t have just one chance to start over. Looking through the hour glass it’s all so clear.