“A New Look”

UNFORTUNATELY IT’S THE NORM IN THE PRISON ENVIRONMENT TO SEE HOPELESSNESS, UNCERTAINTY, AND DESPAIR LURKING IN THE EYES OF MANY MEN. AS MONTHS TURN TO YEARS AND YEARS TURN TO DECADES THAT LOOK BECOMES HARD AND CALLOUSED AS ETCHED IN STONE. WHAT SHOULD BE A FRIGHTENING SIGHT TO SEE, HAS SADLY TURNED TO ACCEPTANCE. DOOM AND GLOOM IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY IN A PLACE WHERE THE BRIGHT SPOT FOR SOME IS A PIECE OF BAKED CHICKEN ACCOMPANIED BY A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE FOR DESERT. IT’S THEN YOU MAY SEE A SLIGHT GLIMMER OF HOPE RESIDING DEEP WITHIN. 

THROUGHOUT 27 YEARS OF INCARCERATION I’VE SEEN JUST ABOUT EVERY LOOK ONE COULD IMAGINE; FROM THE TOUGHEST MEANEST GUY TO THE MOST MILD MANNERED AND RESERVED. THERE’S A VARIETY OF LOOKS AND GAZES IN WHICH RACE, AGE, YOUR CRIME AND MASCULINITY CAN’T SEPARATE.
THERE’S THE PRECIOUS LOOK IN A MAN’S EYES WHEN HE RETURNS FROM A VISIT SEEING HIS LOVED ONES. THAT’S THE BRIGHTEST LOOK YOU’LL EVER SEE. HIS EYES SHINE LIKE THE HIGH BEAMS ON A CAR TRAVELLING DOWN A DARK ROAD.
THE WEIGHT OF HIS PRISON SENTENCE THAT DWELLS DAILY IN HIS EYES LIKE A SQUATTER IN AN ABANDONED HOUSE IS TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED WHILE HE BASKS IN THE TIME SPENT WITH HIS CHERISHED LOVED ONES.

THE NERVOUS LOOK A MAN HARBORS THE MORNING HE’S SCHEDULED TO BE INTERVIEWED BY THE PAROLE BOARD. DESPITE HAVING SERVED HIS TIME, COMPLETED ALL NECESSARY RECOMMENDATIONS, AND HAS REDEEMED HIMSELF, HIS EYES ARE STILL FILLED WITH WORRY KNOWING HIS FATE HANGS IN THE BALANCE FROM THAT HORRIBLE DECISION HE MADE YEARS; EVEN DECADES AGO.

THE BLANK GLAZED LOOK THAT OVERTAKES A MAN’S EYES AFTER HE’S PUT BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS INTO HIS APPEAL SPENDING COUNTLESS HOURS IN THE LIBRARY POURING OVER CASE AFTER CASE, TWEEKING IT NUMEROUS TIMES BEFORE FINALLY FILING IT WITH THE COURTS; ONLY TO GET DENIED IN RECORD TIME WITH A FLIMSY EXCUSE THAT HOLDS NO WEIGHT BUT CALLED JUST AND FAIR. IT STINGS AND FEELS LIKE A SLAP IN THE FACE AFTER ALL THAT HARD WORK.

THEN THERE’S THE GHASTLY AND SULLEN LOOK I’VE EXPERIENCED SEEING IT MORE TIMES THAN ANY ONE PERSON SHOULD IN A LIFETIME.

THIS LOOK IS PAINFUL ADDING A HEAVINESS TO MY HEART THAT’S BEYOND MOURNFUL. IT’S THE CRUSHING LOOK IN A MAN’S EYES WHEN HE’S LOST A PARENT, CHILD, OR SIBLING TO THE ENEMY DEATH. 
THERE ARE NO WORDS TO UTTER TO A MAN WHEN YOU WITNESS THIS LOOK IN HIS EYES. ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS SAME PERSON YOU WALKED THE YARD WITH, EXERCISED WITH, ATE CHOW WITH, EVEN SHARED A CELL WITH…NO LONGER LOOKS THE SAME. HE DOESN’T LOOK AT YOU; HE LOOKS THROUGH YOU LIKE YOUR NOT EVEN THERE. YOU UNDERSTAND BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE. I NEVER IMAGINED THERE COULD BE A MORE DAMAGING AND SOUL STIRRING COUNTEANCE IN A MAN’S EYES WITHIN THESE PRISON WALLS. WHAT COULD PUT SUCH A LOOK IN A MAN’S EYES CAUSING HIM TO ROAM THE PRISON YARD AIMLESSLY WITH HIS GUARD DOWN IN A PLACE WHERE VULNERABILITY IS PREYED UPON? WHAT COULD POSSIBLY CREATE A LOOK THAT’S DIFFICULT TO PUT INTO WORDS NEVER BEFORE WITNESSED?

ENTER CORONAVIRUS, AKA COVID-19. HE SLYLY APPEARED ON THE SCENE PLACING FEAR IN HEARTS, TERROR IN EYES, TREMBLING IN VOICES; RUNNING AMUK, UNNERVED BY THE HEINOUS CRIMES COMMITTED BY THE MEN HE NOW RULES OVER TAUNTING THEM WITH HIS MENACING PRESENCE. HE HAS BECOME THE “ROCK BOSS” DEMANDING OUR TIME, ENERGY, AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION WITH AN “I COULD CARE LESS” DISPOSITION TOWARDS ANYTHING YOU HAD GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE; RULING WITH AN IRON FIST AND WRECKING HAVOC. 
“I’M HERE GET USE TO IT,” HE EERILY WHISPERS WHILE ROAMING FROM PERSON TO PERSON; UNSEEN, UNNOTICED, CASUALLY INFECTING EACH MAN DIFFERENTLY. 

A NEW LOOK NOW DOMINATES OUR EYES IN THE TRAGIC FORM OF TRAUMA, STRUGGLE, DEPRESSION, AND EXHAUSTION, ALL BIRTHED BY THE CORONAVIRUS THAT HAS INVADED THE PRISON POPULATION.

Written by: Connell L. Howard #234626 @jpay.com

Living a Life on Hold

I am unfinished. At fifty two, I am the owner of a life that feels unlived. There is a tension that runs through my days like a rubber band stretched from this moment all the way back through the years to that moment in August 1987 when two gunshots changed my life forever. At some point in each day I feel myself cringing in anticipation of that rubber band snapping! I fear that snap almost as much as I want it, because it is then (and only then), that my REAL life will begin again.

One of the most common mental tricks that men use in prison to keep their spirits up is to tell themselves that this, (prison) is not their real life, it is an interruption of their real life. Their REAL life will begin again when they get out. In fact the most common phrase you hear in prison at the begining of a conversation is; “When I get out of here I’m gonna…” And everything we do behind these walls is either aimed at getting us out, trying to maintain our community ties with family and friends, or finding ways to fill up our days and kill time while we wait on the other shoe to drop. Everything in here has a temporary feel except the place it’s self (which seems to perpetually consume the youth of our comunity).  

We live in a half dream, half nightmare, trying not to let any of the things we experience in here matter because; “When we get out..” it will all be behind us as if it never existed. We don’t say what we really mean or do what we really want because it might spark conflicts that will keep us in here longer when there is nothing in here that we value enough to make that sacrifice. What we do is opt for the least objectionable alternative in a situation full of unsatisfactory choices. But how long can a man live like this? How long can he go on treating the events of his life as if they are things separate and apart from himself? How long before he grows numb to the value of his life, when almost every choice available to him gives him no satisfaction? Creating that distance in your heart between yourself and the things in your life, ensures apathy. It fosters indifference, and often ends in an embittered soul. It’s the chief reason why so many men come home from prison seeming so “cold hearted”; because the emotional isolation required to successfully navigate long prison stays is killing their ability to become emotionally invested in the world around them.  

Without regular contact with multiple people in the free world, men in prison tend to become intellectually stagnant. They become frozen in time, relics of a bygone era. Often you can determine in the course of a conversation how old they were when they came to prison because they are often locked into that maturity level. They are living their lives in a prolonged holding pattern without the usual pressures and experiences that provoke maturity.

I came to prison at ninteen, if I left today I would leave with thirty two years of prison experience but hit the streets with the same real-world experience as that nineteen year old they locked up in 1987. With little idea of how to maintain a household, or an intimate adult relationship. All I would have are theories and supposition based largely on what I’ve read or seen on TV. Yet the people who deal with me will look into my fifty two year old face and expect more. When that rubber band snaps how long before the sting of it subsides, and what will the life that remains to me look like? Prison only prepares you to succeed in prison. It is a life lived on hold.

T. L. Thomas Bey #194430

Family & Friend Support Pt 2-Joseph

Dear Readers,

The one thing many prisoners yearn for is support from family and friends. When many of us came to prison, we were forced to be alone. And for many of us that unknown experience is scary. Support in most cases is given in the beginning of our sentence but as the days and years pass things begin to change. Life continues to go on without us. Its a cliché quote that says, ” Out of sight, Out of mind” and sadly it plays its way out in our daily lives as the days and years pass. Its not that they love us less or they don’t care but life doesn’t stop for them and unfortunately were no longer present.

Nothing about prison is normal or humane. Prison is a abnormal environment. This is why support is truly needed. Family keeps a prisoner engaged with reality. Family reminds us that we are human beings that have emotions and feelings. Support is giving help and encouragement. 

Prison places a enormous hardship on the mental mindset. Its a daily struggle remaining normal in a abnormal environment. Some have the mindset of not changing and they accept the negative trajectory of their life.

For those who do seek change and accept that this is a positive trajectory to a new life. They now are seen as the abnormal individuals in this environment where the criminal mentality is deemed normal. So we seek the support of positive people to keep us focus and motivated in are journey of being productive citizens.

The support from family and friends is very essential to our mental growth and change. We need to be encouraged with positive words of hope and change. We need to know we are loved, missed and needed. This comes by way of letters and phone calls. Simple jpays that say I love you and stay focus go along way. A lot of men don’t like to write other men however understand that its needed. Men need to seek counsel from other men. Steel sharpens steel. Men that will hold us accountable to take our rightful place in this world as productive men. 

When many prisoners got incarcerated a lot of family members were young so bonds and relationships were unable to be developed. Now as they come of age into adulthood, they have no idea who we are but we have no idea who they have grown to be. I’m embarking on a journey to learn my family as we speak. When I left they were baby’s and teens now there mothers and business women. Who have no idea who I am as a man today. They only know what is told to them and somebody else’s perspective of you is subjective or bias. Especially if they haven’t had any contact with you to see your growth and evolution. I would like my family to get to know the man I am today because Im no longer the man I was 13 years ago. When I am released I will need their support more then ever. The parole board wants to know that prisoners being let back into the communities have some form of a support system.

Prison is designed to destroy family ties by way of systematically employing many tactics to discourage healthy and consistent relationships. For example, you may be from Detroit but instead of housing you within reasonable driving distance they house you up north 5 to 8 hours away. Knowing that this will discourage your family from visiting. They make the application process to visit complicated by denying applicants because they failed to put N/A in places that don’t apply to them. Making them fill the whole application out again only to deny them again for something trivial. These tactics are meant to discourage families from visiting. It has happen to me numerous times so I speak from experience. Physical interaction is another very important aspect of support. 

Friendships come in many ways. We cherish them because a true friend is hard to find. Everyone wants to be your friend when your doing good and on top but your TRUE friends will be by your side when your at your lowest.

The voice and message I’m sending out is this, if you have someone in your family or if you have a friend incarcerated reach out to them. Your support is truly needed. A simple, “How you doing” and Keep your head up goes a long way. Remind them they are human beings because this system is designed to dehumanize them. Its not all about money and food packages. We need to know somebody cares. Despite the mistakes we have made we still are human. If you truly love them know they need your help as they change. No one makes it to the top alone.

I thank you for reading my post. Please leave a comment and continue to visit for more thoughts beyond the wall.

Joseph Green

Family & Friend Support-Jerome Walker

My name is Jerome Walker, but most people call me Don’Jay or DJ for short.

I am here to talk about how essential it is to having family & friends support while being in prison.

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During my first 5 years in prison, I had little to no family support due to the crime I committed, or from their misconception on what had took place.

By not having any support, I let it dictate the way I did my time. I was considered what most called a hard ass. I didn’t listen and came in as if I had a chip on my shoulder. I began to lash out as I was catching unnecessary tickets and constantly getting in trouble and going to the hole. To me, it was like without family being by myside, I began to contemplate was life really worth living?

The saddest thing is when I got locked up, my daughter was only 8 days old. I didn’t have the support of her mother, nor did I had the support of my family.

I only could hear through new prisoners coming in telling me how such & such died, and how my daughter’s mother is out there struggling.

There was barley any pictures coming in, any money to buy the necessities.
A lot of people had to rob and steal because they were unable to have that family support that all people in prison needs.

5 years into my time, one close member in our family died from cancer. The family came together and reached out to me and decided that life was too short to harbor unwanted feelings.

I was reached out by many family members and friends.

Having family and friends write to you and tell you to keep your head up, and we are in this with you made everything felt like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I instantly changed my behavior. I put away my childish ways and became a man. I managed to get my GED, some certificates in Culinary arts, Custodial maintenance and many others. I started to interact with family more, and my dark days seems to have light in them.

Family support is so essential for us on lock down, because without it, it seems like we are fighting the world alone. Sometimes we become depressed and want to give up on life. It’s like, if they don’t care, why should I?

My happiest moment is when I had help from family and friends in finding my daughter 3 years ago. We have built an unbreakable relationship, and she is part of my support system.

My biggest support system now is my mother, sisters, daughter, uncles, father, cousin, and many of friends. There’s light at the end of my tunnel as I strived to be a better person for my family, myself, and friends.

I have a petition going towards my release in accordance to the change of law dealing with juvenile lifers, please go to my facebook page at Jerome Jay Walker click on the link and signed the petition I have on there. If you don’t see it, please send a friend request and I will accept you as a friend, you will then see the link and be able to sign it, and please, share it with your friends. Thank you for signing.

Sincerely,

Jerome Walker #277651

Naeem Nusaga

Naeem Nusaga shared his thoughts with Joseph and I surrounding his own conviction and how he identifies with “Writing my Wrongs” written by Shaka Senghor.

Naeem

ABOUT MY CONVICTION: 

At age 19, my best friend Henry Dillard and I were both wrongly convicted of second degree murder and other lesser offenses in the County of Saginaw, MI. Ironically, there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE that directly linked us to these two crimes, nor, did any of the various identifiable prints collected from both crime scenes matched any of ours who were alleged involved. After four friends were identified and arrested, investigative officers pressured and coached two of them to lie against their childhood friends; in order to save themselves from a possible life sentence. These two alleged eyewitnesses, Christopher and Rodgers, have since confessed in sworn affidavits to this unmitigated truth.

Moreover, I look forward to sharing with you “my true story” and the intriguing dynamics behind how two investigative officers were manipulated and bamboozled when they sought out information about an actual crime(s) from a notorious drug informant named, Robert ‘Bryant’ Wilbert, who diverted their entire investigation and spun a cogent tale so intricate, you’d thought it was professionally written and produced on a movie set in Hollywood; except, this was no hollywood script…this was MY LIFE!

MORE ABOUT NAEEM: 

During 26 consecutive years of a wrongful imprisonment, I’ve maintained an excellent institutional record as a model prisoner and only incurred one (1) major ticket for being inside the gymnasium unauthorized. I’ve opted early on to use my time constructively to become better, not bitter. I refused to be your average prisoner. I acquired a High School Equivalence Certificate, Tech Math, Custodial Maintenance, Introduction to Computers, Mentored the Youth, employed at MSI Laundry for seven (7) consecutive years, and even penned four (4) books; including “The Girl In The Mirror” that I dedicated to both my lovely nieces, Core’Ana and Core’Asia Davis, with the hopes of inspiring all teenage girls to live about negative influence and identify with the beauty within. My third book “Confronting The Hood Mentality” (although COMPLETED, not yet published) is directly aimed towards helping young black American youth in the inner city to avoid cultural pitfalls, peer pressure, and to boldly lead a purpose-driven life.
Today, I am a man of great faith, insight, integrity, and committed to using the rest of my life making a positive impact in the lives of others. Granted, prison doesn’t have the most favorable conditions live in, but it does however have the most favorable conditions to GROW IN, that is, if you expend your time constructively. With maturity, I’ve now gained a new perspective on life and is all for healing, not hurting my community. Upon my release, I aspire to engage in public speaking, book tours, support prison reform, and work with at-risk youth.

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My synopsis of the memoir: “Writing My Wrongs” by author Shaka Senghor

When I first opened and began reading from the pages of the memoir ‘Writing My Wrongs,’ I was quickly captivated by the life journey of James White, Sr. who had later intellectually evolved into the man now known simply as Shaka. Like a tiny, fluttery butterfly that’s admired for its beautiful wings, he too had to undergo a mental and spiritual metamorphosis of his own inside an American prison.
Unfortunately, no gun has ever been manufactured with a ‘rewind button’, meaning once you squeeze the trigger and the projectile exit the metal barrel of the gun at a high velocity, there’s no taking it back! You then have to live with the consequences of your actions, and by living with them, what I mean is you have to make atonement for your actions by understanding the damage in which you’ve caused. While serving 7 years in solitary confinement, Shaka began atoning for his transgressions and misdeeds, while confronting the hurt, pain, and unforgiveness from his past. Before long, the journey of redemption, forgiveness, and enlightenment prompted him to write a poignant letter to his victim. 

On page 4, he openly writes: 

“Today, when I look back, I wish I could change the past. I wish I could restore your life so that your children could have known the safety and security of having their father in the house. I wish I could bring you back to life so that your wife could enjoy the presence of her husband and your parents could see you reaching your dreams.”

The acronym for L.I.F.E. is Lessons Improves Future Experiences! Often times, we have to go through something in order to become something. We must learn from our past experiences and commit to do better in the now experiences, in order to improve our future experiences. As human beings (or God’s children), we’re all subject to make mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all is NOT learning from them. Against all odds, Shaka chose to learn from them by turning to deep introspection. He then was able to RIGHT his wrongs by “Writing His Wrongs”, then followed them with corresponding actions that gives us all hope for change. Yes, making a change for the better can be hard and difficult, but it is possible, especially if you lean on God’s broad shoulders as a source of guidance and strength. As no man is given a cross too heavy to bear!!

C.H.A.N.G.E.-Joseph

Cultivating · Higher · Altitudes · Navigating · Growth and · Evolution

To cultivate is to bring the best out of something, To bring about a skill yet discovered. The highest Altitude on the human body is the head which safeguards the brain.

            Cultivating Higher Altitudes means to bring the best out of your thinking, to deviate from the way you once thought, to study and gain more knowledge of your culture and the intellectual awareness of self and bring about and promote positive growth for the youth. Altitudes must be reached by going beyond what many may consider a standard. We must work harder than expected. We possess total control on how we react and proceed to the circumstances and difficult situations that will arise in our lifetime.

            Navigating is a travel upon a route, yet this route is life. Sometimes it is planned and most times it’s not. In life, we know not what lays ahead, yet we travel forward. We encounter the good and the bad. Growth and Evolution is a process in life no one can avoid. It is a part of our human make up.

            Navigating Growth and Evolution means traveling on this road of life and understanding that we all have and will make mistakes. Understanding that those mistakes were needed to shape, mold, and teach very important life lessons to the individual. As we grow, we begin to evolve.

            Evolution is the very essence of our creation. From an embryo to a fetus, from a fetus to an infant, from an infant to a toddler, from a toddler to a child, from a young child to a teenager, from a teen to an adult. We will always evolve. But will we evolve for the good or bad? Our culture and world have evolved.

            Cultivating Higher Altitudes Navigating Growth & Evolution is meant to invoke thought which hopefully brings about CHANGE. We must all begin to cultivate our minds with the things we read and experience so that we think more productive than destructive.

            Mentally is where your growth can truly be seen because thought becomes actions. Aspire to show growth through actions, not just words. Let’s begin this process one day, one moment at a time, understanding that in order to do this, we all must…CHANGE.