Questions about Prisoners

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Answers

vines

Why doesn't my brother love me? While he's locked up he claims he loves and cares for me but when he gets out he forgets that he has a little sister who looks up to him. Because he was locked up I really didn't get to grow up with him, so I tried to kick it with his gang just to see what he was like. All they showed me is disrespect. Sometimes I wonder if my brother was just like them?

Itís too bad you feel your brother donít love you. I donít think thatís true! You know what happens Ė a lot of times when a person is locked up they become clear-minded about those people and things that are important and they reach out to them. So if your brother says he loves you when heís locked up, itís cause he does.

Itís so easy to forget promises made or feelings you get from being locked away once you are out, and if your brotherís running around with his old friends, heís just caught up in the moments of fun. If he was in jail awhile, he just might be making up for lost time.

Yeah your brother is just like his friends, but being his little sister, heíll always love you. Just remember right now - your brother will always be your brother.

Richard M.
California

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My dad was in prison all my life. He always told me he was going to change when he got out (a new man I guess). Well he got out and he was still just a peace of crap. I would like to ask every prisoner that has kid why do ya'll make promises you can't keep ? I understand you live one way your whole life and you don't know how to change. But for all of you that's been in prison for 5,10,15 years - you can. You have time to come up with better ways of doing things, so please some- anybody tell me why you have to lie to you're kids??? They never done anything to you but love you !!

Nacole

Hi, my name is Desi. I read your letter and it caught my attention because I can relate to your situation. First of all, I'm sorry to hear that your father told you he was going to change and stay out of prison and he didn't. Reading your letter, I've seen you used some strong words towards your father such as he's a "piece of crap." That's your father you're talking about. He may not show you but I can guarantee that man loves you.

I myself came from a family that both my parents find themselves in and out of prison. It hurts me just like it hurts you. The only thing different between me and you is that I found myself on that same path that lead both my parents to prison. Now I'm doing time just like my parents did time.

I'm sure your father's intention in telling you he's going to do good were sincere and he so much wanted to do so. But you see there's things that people get themselves into that prevent them from doing good. A good example is drugs. When a person first starts using drugs, they think it's cool and they'll just do it once and awhile. But before they know it, they're addicted and they can't stop. Only you yourself knows your father's downfall.

Yeah, you would think by a person spending 5, 10, 15, 20 years in prison they will better themselves. Some do while others don't. The truth is, it's on the person, but like I said a person's downfall can prevent them from bettering themselves. So a person's best bet is to work on their downfalls. By you reading this letter, I hope you find it in your heart to help your dad and let him know you love him. Believe it or not but he needs you just as bad as you need him.

Respectfully yours - Desi
California

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Do you have children?

Denise & Hugo

I have a son who was going to turn ten. He lives with his mother.

Mike D.
California


I have two children a boy who was five and a daughter who was nine. Their mom donít let them come and see me, which freaking hurts.

Tommy
California


Yes I do have children. Because of my wrong choices, they grew up without a dad.

Manuel
California


Iíve got three ex-wives and five kids Iíve never been a father to.

Aaron B.
California

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Every time I go visit my dad with my mother, when we get home my mother cries for a long time. Do fathers cry after a visit?

David

My name is Jason. I have been in prison for fifteen years and I have a sixteen year old daughter When I first got locked up, I used to see my daughter a lot. Almost every time I returned to my cell after seeing her, her mother and my mother, I cried. I think that happens a lot with the men in this place. They may not admit to it, but I think it happens more than prisoners want anyone to know. I can't speak for anyone but myself and I can tell you that leaving your child after the visit is over is one of the hardest things I have been forced to do.

My daughter is now a young lady. Ten years went by without us seeing each other because of problems between her mother and me. Three years ago I saw Jessica (that's her name) for the first time in a long time and I cried as if I were a five year old who just got spanked for doing something wrong. I cried for a few reasons, not just one. The biggest reason was guilt for having put myself in a situation where I could be and was taken away from not only her but her mother, who was my wife at the time. I failed in doing what I promised to do for them. I see Jessica only a couple of times a year, and every time I go back to my cell after seeing her I cry. The biggest reason for that is because I can't be with her to help guide her through life; which I think is a lot harder now than it was when I was her age. And I worry if that is the last time I am going to see her.

I don't know how old you are David and I don't know all the circumstances surrounding you and your father. But I can tell you this: when you are grown and have kids of your own, don't put yourself in a situation where you give anyone the power to take you away from your family. Not being with your family is a very lonely feeling; the worst feeling in the world. I feel that the measure of a man is how well he takes care of his family. And that is something that to this point, I have failed miserably. Don't ever let anyone make you feel like that, especially yourself because it's a terrible feeling.

Jason J.
New Jersey



My name is Miguel. I am a father of three - ages 3 1/2, 4, and 5. Visit is an inspiration to us. It is a time to unite with our loved ones. We go through long periods of time without seeing or talking to our families, and when the time comes that we are at visit the happiness is overwhelming, and I for one have to hold back tears so that my loved ones don't worry about me when they go back home. However, once I am back in my cell, I normally break down. I am not saying that I cry after every visit, but there are some visits that just tug at my heart, plus I know that being out there without me is really hard on them and what they have to go through in order to come in here and visit me. So if your father does not cry while he is at visit with you and your mother, it does not mean that he does not care about you or that being away form you is not having any effect on him. Crying is a sign of sorrow and sadness, and as you may know David, we all have something to be sad about. Don't be afraid to talk to your father, just ask him how he feels.

Miguel R.
New Jersey

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Don't you regret not seeing your kids growing up?

Sincerely - Rosie

Dear Rosie,

"Hi" I'm Jesse. You asked if I regret not seeing my kids. To be honest with you, that has been the most hurtful and painful feeling I've been through. I've been shot, stabbed, and repeatedly jumped, but that's nothing compared to the pain I feel now and the hopelessness that I feel not being able to do anything about it. I will get to see my daughter soon, the first time in 3 years, and about the fourth time I have gotten to see her for a few weeks. She's only 7 years old. And I got a boy but I don't know where he's at.

Sincerely - Jesse G.
California

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Do you regret not seeing your family?

Melody

Hi Melody,

Yes indeed, I do regret not seeing my family. And thereís a lot of guilt, hurt and pain around that. My work is to not be drowned by that because it is essential that I learn the life lesson that fate led me here to learn and grow from. If I donít learn it, this kind of regret, guilt, pain and hurt will be repeated until I do learn it.

Respectfully - Ken T.
California

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How do you feel about your family? Are you sorry that your parents and family are sad or angry? How do you feel being in there and not seeing them?

Lilia, Marilia, Hugo, Melecio & Sergio

I love my family so much because they have been with me through thick and thin. Iím sad that I have to put my family through this. They went to my court and continue to drive 700 mi. to see me. I miss my family sooo much and not being able to see them is unbearable.

Mike D.
California


I feel the same way. I regret hurting my family. I was selfish and only thought about myself and not them. My mom might die in a few years. Sheís very sick and Iím so sad that I canít be out there to help her.

Tommy
California


My family loves me although they are a little ashamed of me, but we still love each other very much. Yeah, it hurts what I did to my family. I hate part of myself for it.

Manuel
California


How do I feel without seeing my friends and my family? Well, for one thing you have it backwards; itís my family and then the friends. And the reason that I say it that way is because your family will always be there for you and your friendsÖ well 95 percent of the time they would not be there for you when youíre doing time (trust me on that!).

Rafa
California

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I am curious about something. I am married to an ex-gang member and drug addict. We have been married 2 yrs. And have one son, and we lost a son at birth. For the prisoner's with children and wives, what makes you choose drugs, and crime over, those you supposedly LOVE so much!??? I am trying hard to trust my husband, and welcome him home with open arms but I am hurt. Maybe youíre advice or even just why you did it could help me. Thank you.

Iíve never been a gang member but I was a drug addict that put drugs before anything else. Itís not until I found myself behind bars and without the most important people in my life - FAMILY - that I realized how stupid and blind I was.

Because of my addiction I am doing life in prison and I have lost my family. Every day in this place is a reminder of that, and of the person I should have been to my family, myself and others. Many men in prison echo my words.

Drugs is something that gets in our veins and turns us into zombies, irresponsible, uncaring, forgetful, etc. We donít wake up until the end, and most of the time, itís too late to correct those mistakes. Your husband needs to know that he still has that opportunity. You need to help him see the many prisoners, men and women, who have lost the company and support of their loved ones because of drugs and gangs.

You must sit down with your husband and talk to him. Be open with him; let him know everything you are feeling. Let him know about people and prisoners that have lost their loved ones and how families are destroyed because of gangs and drugs. Tell him to be open with you and ask him how you can help him leave the negative things behind. Finish your statements with this: FAMILY TOGETHER IS HAPPINESS, AND OUR CHILDRENíS FUTURE DEPENDS ON TOGETHERNESS.

If he continues to ignore you and the responsibilities within the family, I advise that you donít welcome him home until he does experience the pain of being without a family, thus changing his life.

William G. - A prisoner with many regrets.
New Jersey



My name is Jason. I was married at the time of my arrest and, although I am not into gangs, I am a recovering drug addict. There is no just reason to choose drugs over family. Drug addiction dictates how a person lives his or her life - itís that controlling. As I look back on my life (I have been in prison over 17 years), it was straight-up foolishness on my part in choosing drugs. This decision has haunted me and most likely will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.

My daughter is seventeen years old now and I was out of her life for fourteen of those years. That is something I deal with every day of my life. Choosing drugs over my family is one of the biggest mistakes I will ever make in my life.

As for trusting your husband, that is something only you can determine. Some people ďdoĒ time and learn how to value what is important in their life. Others let time do them and they only learn how to find a way back to prison. I donít know him (your husband) well enough or you for that matter, to really give you advice, but I do believe people should be given a second chance; especially those once dependent on drugs. The thinking process of a person not on drugs is very different than that of a person who is using. Also, you must do what is best for your child as well.

I hope in writing this, you can find some type of assistance with your problem. If your man is not deserving of another chance, then itís best to make that intention clear and move on with your life. Good luck!

Jason
New Jersey



Iíve never been married but I do have a thirteen year old son. I havenít seen him since he was three because of drugs. For whatever reasons we do drugs, one of them is not to intentionally hurt our loved ones. It is believed that we have control of our habits, that we can stop whenever we want to, but that is a false illusion. The crime comes from the drug addiction. Your husband loves you and your son. Maybe he cannot come to terms and admit that he has a problem, even more ask for help. Sometimes men can have too much pride. Be gentle but firm with him in explaining how you feel. Once you tell him how you feel, then itís up to him what he chooses. Always give him your strength because a son shouldnít grow up with a father whoís on drugs or in prison. Mine lost me for fifty years.

Otto S.
New Jersey

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I would like to know if some of you don't have kids and may be in there for life sentence, don't you guys regret what you did because you may never have kids?

Sincerely Rosie

I begin answering your question by letting you know that I regret what caused my incarceration simply because of the act itself; and not just cause of things I will and have missed out on. I am no longer that same person, nor do I feel the same but most importantly, I do not think the same; so, I wouldn't be hanging out with people who would put me a risk for a situation such as this.

Yes, I am serving a life sentence, two of them to be exact. I was arrested when I was sixteen and sentenced at seventeen to two life sentences and won't be able to see parole until I've had sixty years served already. By then I would be seventy-six or seventy-seven years old, if I actually get to live that long. When and if I see parole, it's not guaranteed that I will be released. They can come to the logical conclusion that I've spent too many years in prison and can't function in society. The cold truth is that I have a ninety-nine point nine percent possibility that I will die behind bars.

When I was out there on the streets I lost my virginity at the age of thirteen. As I told you before, I got arrested by the age of sixteen. In that short time, I've only slept with four girls; none of the girls got pregnant. Since the first time I wanted to have a child and desired a family to call my own. Two people weren't the only ones that died in my case. It was the two main victims, me and my other two co-defendants, cause we're just walking dead, and the children we could have had died that day also! I think about this and it hurts me daily! The thought of not bringing forth a life into this world leaves me void inside. My bloodline and name won't be passed on; no one will call me "Papi"; and no one will look at me with eyes wide open full of awe like I'm perfect, simply because I'm their father.

Guys in here constantly tell me that I'm better off not having any children in this situation, that the shame and/or pain of having children out there in the world is too great to bare. Though I can understand their hurt, they don't understand mine; and maybe I'm being a bit selfish here. I don't agree with them because they still have the possibility of reconciling with their children. Their kids have the potential to live good lives and contribute in a positive way to their community. Even better than that, these children have the potential to learn from their parent's mistakes and become better than their parents. These children constantly bring light into this dark life when they accomplish small and big things in their lives. This makes the guys in here who have kids real proud and happy to see another day. I don't have this. When these guys die, in here or out in the free world, they can die with the comfort of knowing that they left a good person behind. In having kids, they understand what it means to be a parent, thus they are able to understand their own parents more. I can never say this.

Some say that I can't understand what it is to have a child when serving a life sentence, since, after all, I don't have a child of my own. They are most likely right too! Yet they continue in their children and can see parts of them in their child. They can't understand the emptiness of not having that.

I regret ending up in this place and never being able to live a normal life, whatever that may be. At twenty-three I know the life I do have to live through: never to be able to bring a life into this world, to teach it, and to explain life as I understand it.

One of the harsh realities of prison.

With love and respect, sincerely - Luis B.
New Jersey

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Why did you do what you did is it because they gang told you to or because you wanted to show off for some of the veteranos, How do you like it in jail?

Eric

Well Eric,

I was involved in a crime that I wish I wasnít. I donít tell you the exact crime because itís something that should be left in the past. Iím not here for rape though so donít think that way. I was involved in the crime because I wasnít thinking straight. I wasnít pressured; I just went without thinking. I donít like being in jail because I canít be with my family and plus, I donít like being caged. But itís too late now. Just donít do a mistake thatís going to lead you to prison. Stay out if trouble.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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Was whatever you did worth the life you must contend with?

Sarah

I don't know if it was worth anything. The whole act was pretty stupid but it happened. Now I have to be brought around to deal with this. But that's just me. Some fools would answer your question by saying yeah it is worth it. It's just crazy like that. But whatever it is, everybody in their life will face something and cope with it, good or bad. It's just the way of life.

Respectfully - Ricky
California

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If you could turn back time and change things, would you or no, and why?

Marisu

I'd go back for sure and the reason why is that I took a life. That's what got me "life without parole." I'd be able to prevent a lot of pain to my victim's family, my family, my victim, and lastly, myself.

Respectfully - Robert
California

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Would you take back what you did and do something better?

If I could, I would have done something better with my life instead of gangs.

Respectfully, Oscar
California


Of course, I would take back what I was involved in and use the energy on something positive.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Would I take back what Iíve done? Absolutely!

Eric N.
New Jersey


Yes, I would take everything back and do something better because now I know about life.

Hector S.
New Jersey


Hell yeah, Iíll take everything back! I have to go through 50 years of this torment.

Otto S.
New Jersey

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Hey ya'll

I wanted to ask a prisoner if he feels pain for his crime. Does he feel guilty an in hiding the rest his life?

Sugarbear

Dear Sugarbear,

In your question you ask if I feel pain for my crime. I feel lots of pain for my crime in many ways, being that I lost someone in my family before and so I know what Iíve done and live with guilt every day. Itís especially hard because I was wrongly convicted. But I did the crime, just not the way they say I did. I hope to have answered you.

Sincerely - Jesse
California

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Did you think about the possibility of going to prison for the crime you were about to commit? If not, why not?

Ashley

Well, when you are out with friends or out by yourself you donít think about too much. All you do think about is that action at that time and 7 out of 10 times there are drugs or alcohol involved and in my case there was both. I did not think about going to prison. What I could tell you is that I was only thinking about coming up on beer and money. Prison was the farthest thing in my mind. You see, when I was high I just did not care what I did, who I hurt. I also thought that nobody would catch me or tell on me. After I did commit my crime, I got away with what I did, or at least I thought I did. What I did not realize is that I had just shot someone just because I wanted more. The next day is when I found out the police had me on camera and that the guy was in the hospital and knew it was me who did it. So at that time is when I knew I was going to prison. Not till three weeks later they caught me. That is when I realized I was on my way to prison. Why I did not think about going to prison at that time was because of drugs and alcohol. That does not give me or anybody a reason to go out and commit a crime or even murder. My advice to people now is to think before you do something because prison is not a place to be for anybody. I hope this letter helps you or anyone who reads it. Prison life is hard and things happen when you least expect it so please think before committing any crime. Thank you for your time and understanding.

Respectfully - Albert
California



I was not naÔve to the consequences of my actions. I knew very well that the activities that I was involved with were illegal, and that if caught I would stand a good chance of going to jail/prison. But like most of the guys who I have come to know during my 16 years of incarceration, I thought I would not get caught. I thought I was smart enough to get away with what I was doing, and as you now know, and like all the guys here, I knew nothing. If I had thought more about the people that I love and what it would mean and do to them for me to come to prison, maybe I would not have done what I was doing. The problem was, I did not think, I just simply did, and at times I just didnít care. You would not believe how much thinking and caring an incarcerated person can do in 16 years.

Sincerely - Luis D.
New Jersey

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Do you regret what you did? And if you are free again would you do the same thing you were doing again? How does it feel to know you hurt your family just to be somebody important?

Lilia & Sergio

Man I totally regret what I did. I didnít get nothing out of it. Well I got respect from my friends but respect doesnít make someone love me or take care of me. I lost everything for nothing. Iím separated from my family and I lost my girlfriend and my son. If I was free I would never, never do anything foolish again.

Mike D.
California


I regret what I did now because I know that I have hurt a lot of people to get what I wanted.

Tommy
California


Yes, I regret what I did. My life was thrown away for nothing but a color.

Manuel
California


I could truthfully say that I do regret what I have done. About how does it feel to hurt my family just to be someone important, to tell you the truth the situation that Iím in currently I did not do it to be someone big or important as you put it. You can say I was someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rafa
California


I regret nine out of ten things Iíve done wrong.

Aaron B.
California

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If you were only in there for a little bit but had a fun time when you were doing the thing that got you in trouble, would you regret doing it?

If I were in here for only a little bit but I had a fun time doing the thing that got me in trouble, I probably wouldnít regret doing it, but I would regret the heartache I caused my family as the result of the consequences. The thing is, you have to take into consideration the effect your actions have on others, especially the ones you love.

Chris
California



I have been in trouble before and I had fun doing it but even though I did regret it, I found myself getting in trouble for using drugs again. Sometimes you just canít help it but to be ignorant and sometimes the penalty for that is a lot of time. I hope this helps you.

Jesse G.
California



Well most people do have a good time when they do the things that get them in here and most people will regret it. As soon as they get arrested, they realize it really wasnít worth it. A few minutes or a few weeks of fun to is never worth the few years of your life that are going to be taken away. But thereís always some people who will say it was worth it, but even those people will eventually realize it wasnít worth it when they think about all the time they missed spending with their kids and their families. Everybody regrets it.

Sergio
California



This question is a good one. You can and you will get different answers positive or negative ones, especially form the youngsters. To me, a manís freedom is more valuable than any fun you might have! Any man who says otherwise is lying.

Glad to help.

With respect - Juan
California



Well, Iím going to begin by telling you that no matter how much fun you had doing whatever you were doing, itís not worth the pain that you are going to suffer with this little bit of time behind this wall that disallows you from being with your loved one. Let me tell you that it doesnít take three months or a year for you to lose a loved one. It only takes a deep breath or the blinking of an eye for an eternal pain of a lost loved one. So if thatís what you thought was worth having fun while it lasted, prepare yourself for the everlasting pain.

Jean M.
New Jersey



Ask yourself, would a fleeting moment of pleasure be worth years of agonizing loneliness and despair? Imagine being deprived of your cherished freedoms or those things that fill your life with meaning and purpose, for years at a time. Could you still rejoice in having done the dastardly deed that gave you an hour or less of pleasure even though it filled anotherís life with pure hell? What joy is there in watching another human being suffer? What joy is there in knowing that you too will suffer while drowning in a sea of misery and self-pity? I was taught to think 5 times before you speak and 10 times before you act. Then maybe what you say or do might be right. These are my reflections based on 51 years of living and close to 30 years of imprisonment. Listen to your heart. It will tell you if what you read is good for you by the way it strikes the cords of truth.

James C.
New Jersey



Hi, my name is Hector S. and I am serving 90 years to life in prison. As I read your question I try to understand what you are saying, and the answer is ďNOĒ because what I use to do I wouldnít want to do it again. Yes it is fun but at the end is pain for you and your family.

Hector S.
New Jersey



Doing something negative is never fun and yes, I do regret what I did. Just remember, negative is not the way. Stay away from trouble. I hope this answered your question.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

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Why you are in prison? How many years are you going to be in prison? Will you ever be able to leave the jail? Why isn't anyone trying to get you out?

Andrea, Lilia, Sergio, Virdiana, Marilia, Hugo & Gabriel

I'm serving 26 years sentenced. I'll be getting out in the year 2017.

Tuan
California


Me, I'm in here till 2004.

Ricky M.
California


Iím 30 years old and am in here for murder. I am serving 35 to life. My family paid a lawyer to get me out and right now my appeal is in the Federal Court. I still have a chance to get out early.

Mike D.
California


I am 34 years old and serving twenty two years. I only get out when I finished my time.

Tommy
California


Iíve been in prison nine years now almost ten; this is my second trip to prison. Iíve spent 80 percent of my life since I was fourteen behind bars. I got where I am by simply being ignorant and using violence to remedy any situation I was in. Iím currently doing life for murder.

Aaron B.
California


I am in prison over a drug deal gone bad in which someone was killed. I am serving life for murder.

Manuel
California


I'm in here for 11 years, with a couple more to do.

Respectfully, Oscar
California

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Did you think you were doing the correct thing?

Sergio

I knew I wasnít doing the right thing but it was hard for me to stop. I was blinded by greed and pride.

Mike D.
California


Yeah, I knew it was wrong but I didnít care at the time.

Tommy
California

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Iíve read all the responses from you prisoners and I just wanted to say that I donít understand why you guys are doing time when you all sound very smart. Why donít you make something out of it? Better yet why didnít you before you got locked up?

Andrea

Andrea:

I just read your e-mail and I'm answering (from a correctional facility). Yes, we're a smart group of individuals who liked the thrill of the freedom we had so therefore we do our thing and take the chance without thinking about the consequences. Everything comes down to--our pride!!!

Jimmy M.
California


We didn't make something of ourselves because we were wasting our time in the gang and hanging out. Learn from our mistakes and make something of yourself.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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How did you guys end up and jail?

-LiL Pequena

We ended up in jail because we were loyal to the gang and our friends and eventually, we got caught up committing crimes. It's not worth it. Be something productive and steer your gente to good things. It's not bad to have friends as long as you're staying out of trouble. There are too many emotions in gangs.

Respectfully, Oscar
California

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How did you feel when the judge told you that you were guilty?

Denise?

When the judge sentenced me I felt that my life was over. Iím just a number now.

Mike D.
California


I felt that since I did my crime I just have to do the time. I didnít feel guilty then.

Tommy
California


When the judge sentenced me, I felt like the world ended, for I received a prison term of 15 years to life. I have been in prison for 17 years already.

Manuel
California


When the judge told me I was guilty, I felt hate, sorrow and fear.

Aaron B.
California

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I would like to know what made you guys so angry. What made you behave the way you do? Was it for love, money, respect and power or was it because of fear?

Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it.

Jenny

Hello Jenny,

You ask a good question. All of the above. I wanted the respect of elders and the power that came with being established. Fear drove me to having this desire. If I had been secure in myself, I would not have needed to build a rep. I felt, with the power of being both respected and feared, money and love would come naturally.

Brian H.
California


Dear Jenny,

I am sure by now your assignment for psychology has come and gone. However, I would like to reply to the questions you asked ďwhat made you guys so angryĒ as well as ďwhat makes us behave the way we do.Ē You made a real good point but I donít know if you fully understand the depths of the question, ďWAS IT FOR LOVEĒ? I feel that almost every action a child makes is for love in one manner or another. I can only speak for how it was with me, Jenny, but I know I wanted someone to love me; I needed someone to love me.

Have you ever seen how a child will act out when he is ignored? So why would we as grown-ups stop doing what has worked our whole lives? I wanted attention (a substitute for love). I got it from the gang I ran with. I was too wounded emotionally to comprehend the damage I was doing to myself and to those who came in contact with me. I just wanted to be noticed and later I wanted to be feared (confusing this with respect). So indeed what I did, I did for love.

The money, power and violence were only by-products of the immature unemotional search for a place to fit in and a childish attempt to find love in whatever form it manifested itself. What is ironic is all of them actions were indeed acts of fear. The fear being that no one would love me, thus I would be alone, and yes Jenny, I fear ending up old and alone. I think we all do. No one wants to feel alone and unloved.

I hope this somehow helps you understand the motivation behind some of our actions. Everyone needs to matter and everyone wants to be loved.

With respect - Rick M.
California


My name is Al. My friends call me Nay Nay. Iím 50 years old. I have been locked down now for 22 years and 8 months. I came here from death row and San Quentin where I was for 16 years. Now I am doing 31 years to life. One day I just might be paroled. I am writing you this letter about the questions you were asking in your letter. ďWhat made you guys so angry? What made me behave the way I didĒ? I can only speak for myself, and from what I know from being around people I know that are in gangs and are angry people. I would get very angry because I didnít have, or was not able to have the kind of money I wanted and I saw my friends having. I have always felt if I had the money to do and buy the things that my so called friends had and I wanted I would be happy.

I wanted to look powerful and respected by other people that I thought were my friends - because if you are really someoneís friend you are their friend for who they are, not for how they look or what they give you or have. I would behave in ways I did only to get respect from people in the streets. I would do a lot of things out of ďfearĒ of what other people would think about me and how I would look. In my heart, that wasnít really me acting the way I did. Drugs would play a big role in a lot of what I would do in the streets, wanting to look hard with power, so other people wouldnít mess with me.

Iím not in no gang but I know a lot of guys that are in them. Why? Because they are scared and donít want other people not to want to be their friends. They are in these gangs to have power and respect, them not knowing that they have to respect themselves first before anyone will give them respect. You have to give respect to receive any. They want power and money. They feel if they have lots of money they can have big power over other people. Thatís why they sell drugs, to feel powerful and respected. A lot of them want to be loved and understood. They really are scared of what others would think and say if they would be their own person. They feel they have to be like their so-called friends Ė ďhomeboys.Ē I feel a lot of anger comes from not being able to be yourself and express the way you really want to be. So people react in ways that they are really not so they can be seen.

I hope what little I have shared with you helps someone. I would like to say this to any young person: ďAlways be yourself. Love yourself first and always respect yourself. When other people see that coming from you, they will be more able to respect you for who you are. You will have more power than you are looking for. As for money, work for what you want and save for what you dream for. You will appreciate all that you get from your hard work and you get to keep it. Donít let your fear or a so-called friend who says they Ďcare about you homieí and they have your back cause you to end up in a prison cell or in the ground. Donít lose your freedom or your life to anger or trying to get respect or fast money. Always think before you react to anything.Ē

My prayers are with you all - Nay Nay
California

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How much do you think poor social skills contribute to a kid taking "the wrong path"? Do you think that if we could teach kids better social skills at a younger age it would reduce the number of people who end up in prison? What percentage of the people in prison are socially immature or weird in some other way?

Thanks - KPC

Dear KPC,

Good social skills are extremely important for individuals to be able to understand each other and their world. Statistically speaking education, any form of education, is an important factor and social skill is something that is learned. The United States Sentencing Commission in its 2001 Annual Report regarding Federal Prisoners reported that, of all the individuals sentenced to federal prisons for the fiscal year of 2001, a total of 54,092 (45.1%) had less than a high school education; 31.3 % were high school graduates; 17.% had some college; and 6.3% were college graduates. Just seeing the decline of percentage in these numbers as the level of education rises, clearly shows the role education plays in the number of people who end up in prison.

As for your second question: ďWhat percentage of people in prison are socially immature or weird in some other way,Ē that one is a bit difficult to respond to. In a prison setting, being ďsocially immatureĒ or even ďweirdĒ is very relative. A prison is where society hides away its most ďweirdĒ or those who do not conform to societyís norms. The better question would be what is society doing to insure that these ďweirdĒ people are more socially matured when they are finally released back into society. Presently I am surrounded by a large number of ďkidsĒ between the ages of 19 and 22 who are extremely ďsocially immatureĒ and ďweirdĒ to societyís standards, thus the reason why they are here. The problem is that these young individuals are being kept in isolation units under 23 hour lock-down where they hear nothing but their own voices and the voices of other similar individuals. And most of them are set to be released to society within the next 24 months.

Yes, teaching kids at a younger age better social skills will no doubt reduce the large number of kids coming to prison. However, know that those coming out of prison will also be influences on kids when they are outside the home.

A very much concerned friend - Luis
New Jersey



K.P.C.

To answer your question of the percentage ďsocially immature or weird in some wayĒ people in prison, yes, this percentage is huge from my perspective and Iím no exception. You ask whether teaching these youngsters better social skills at a younger age will help reduce the number of people in prison - absolutely, yes. Telling someone what I believed 20 years ago was so simple because it had been drilled into my head by myself thinking I could adopt someone elseís beliefs and gain their level of respect in the neighborhood, or by someone feeding their ego by blessing me with their ideology backed by an iron fist. This usually left me fighting someoneís battle while they ran the other way. Survival skills include socially defending my position without resorting to violence to prove a point. Knowledge of human behavior is also a must. People will act according to whatever is going on in their world and will much of the time try to make others suffer the blame for their misery. Iíve learned Iím not obligated to feel responsible because someone chooses to feel bad or angry with their life. I donít have to let the problem of another become a controlling factor in my life. I can choose to offer my support. They may or may not accept it. Their decision has no bearing on who I am, so I donít take it personal. When Iím faced with a problem that creates so much anxiety that my decision making becomes clouded, I have learned to separate myself from the problem by - first bringing someone else to mind who I care about and imagining they were in this situation instead of me. Second, I imagine they were coming to me for advice (I would be able to rid myself of this anxiety and think clearly about the problem and all that comes into play with all the different responses. I then come up with what I feel to be in the best interest of this person I care so much about). Third, I remind myself that I am this person. Then I start building the courage to follow my own best advice. K.P.C., I hope you are able to find something of use out of what has taken me so many years to learn.

By for now - Brian
California



Greetings K.P.C.

Respects are extended to you and those close and dear to you. Now, in response to your questions, poor social skills have no place on which path one chooses to go down. It is solely your own choice, meaning who you hang around with, what you participate in, how you carry yourself, and how much advantage you take on your parents and those other family members. Your lifestyle has a big role in where youíll end up in the future. I could explain more on these examples but I wonít, not now. You need to ask your self some questions and see what your heart says and grow on your own. Look and see if your ways are at all negative and if so decide what you want to do to change if you want to be more positive.

Social skills can be taught at any age, again itís up to the individual person to choose how he or she wants to live life. There are many college graduates and other very intelligent people that are behind these walls, whose social skills are extremely good. Here in prison, there are different yards and, to my knowledge, the majority of the immature and weird are pretty much on their own yard and, throughout the prison system, the percentage is pretty high. Weirdoes are everywhere though but to give you a percentage out of 100%, those that are weird or immature are about 65 to 70 %. The rest are just people who either made wrong choices in life or are sick due to drug use. Thatís all. Well I hope this put some new thoughts and questions in your mind. Always think before you do anything you are your own destiny-holder. Just live life slow and in peace.

Respectfully - Joey
California

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How many people that are in jail right now have come from the projects?

Shannon

Dear Shannon,

I am a prisoner in the state of New Jersey. In this state the majority of prisoners come from the inner city, public housing, or projects. As you know, prisons are full of poor people. Many of my friends in prison - their families are under the section eight housing program and this is true for many others. I hope the answered your question. Good luck in your class and future schooling.

A friend - Luis D.
New Jersey


Shannon:

First of all I congratulate you on your obvious intelligence. Maybe when you become a lawyer or congresswoman--hey, maybe even President!--I'll appreciate a bill that gives schools in our area the opportunity to have teachers like you have. I'd say 98% of the people in prison come from the projects or low income families that have no structure at home. I'm counting on people like you to help out the next generation. I thank you in advance.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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Was your life hard as a kid or was it alright.

No, my life as a kid wasnít hard; it was good.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


You asked was my life hard as a kid. Well, to think of it, then it was awful but I realize now that through all the struggles my family suffered, my parents tried their best and it couldíve been worse.

Eric N.
New Jersey


About my life, it was a good life because my family was always helping me and advising me to do the right thing.

Hector S.
New Jersey

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Do you believe in God?

Jose

I believe in God.

Mike D.
California


I donít believe in God; I believe in Buddha.

Tommy
California

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So who is your idol.

My idol is my mom.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


You want to know my idol. Well to be honest, it would be my Tio Johnny. He wasnít a great man in history but he was a good man who struggled and survived and above all put his family first.

Eric N.
New Jersey


I never had an idol because I never thought that I was going to live this long.

Hector S.
New Jersey


Who is my idol? You are, because you are free and donít have to endure this torture day in and day out for the next ten decades.

Otto S.
New Jersey

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Is it true that you guys feel safer in prison, and that life in there is better for you guys?
I was just curious because I have a cousin that keeps going back to prison and when I ask him how it is in there he tells me that life is better in there than out here???????

Sincerely - AMBER

Dear Amber,

Hi, my name is Jesse. In regards to your question, NO it is definitely not safer in prison. Some people might think it is better for them in prison because of their low self-esteem or other circumstances but it is not safer in prison. People that you think are your best friends will turn on you in a heart beat if ordered to do so. Don't get me wrong, you can avoid a lot by minding your own business and not grouping with crowds but even then, some things happen and it depends on the individual to choose what he's going to do. I myself have been in prison for the last 6 years and am doing well till this day cause of my actions and cause I have put my pride aside and humbled myself to Out Lord Jesus Christ. I hope I was of some help to you.

Your humble servant in Jesus Christ.
God Bless.
Jesse G. - California



Dear Amber,

Yes, some guys may feel safer in prison. But in no way is it better. Some guys would rather choose life inside and give up all the luxuries of freedom in order to live a life that is very predictable. When people get used to a way of life it seems safer, but it is not better. As for me, I will be out soon and look forward to making a better life out there.

Andres E. - California



No! I do not feel safer in prison. How can I when I am in an environment filled with hatred, depression, loss of hope, anger, resentment, physical and mental abuse, etc. This is a place where most of the men have nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, but think and think; and if you are not strong, an outburst can occur that may lead to violence or mental damage. I have seen too many fights - some that have resulted in death - over matters as small as a pack of cigarettes.

Life being better in prison, that is the most misconception statement I have ever heard. How is it better in prison when your freedom has been taken away from you; or when you are constantly ordered what to do; when choices are made for you; or when you are served meals that you would not give to a stray dog? How can prison be better when your family and friends are told when they can visit you, when they can talk to you, when they can touch you, and when to leave your presence? Not being able to see your children in their special moments of sport activities, graduation and unforgettable events does not make life in prison better. And I am not even going into the pain of not being able to see and comfort a loved one who is lying in a hospital bed.

I believe the only time I will feel safe is when I am home with my loved ones. I will consider my life better when I am again given the opportunity of freedom. For now, I do not feel safe and my life is definitely not better.

Responding to your question,
William G. - New Jersey State Prison



Dear Amber,

My name is Stevie. I am a prisoner at the New Jersey State Prison in the State of New Jersey. I am glad to have the opportunity to read your question and will try to answer it to where I hope you will understand me as being a prisoner and a person that is doing a lot of time and not coming from a person that has been in and out of prison. Prison is not a place you can call a "safe place" to be. I am confined to a controlled environment where there are 1,822 different attitudes that you have to be around everyday or until you go home (1,822 is the number of prisoners in this prison). So no matter what your cousin told you about prison - NO!! - it is not a safe place to be, nor is it a place where I or anyone would like to spend the rest of their lives. So be smart and stay in school and stay out of trouble. Then some day you can go to college so someday you may get a chance to save someone from making the mistakes made by me and your cousin. So stay mentally strong Amber.

Stevie - New Jersey State Prison



No! It is absolutely not true that it is safer or life is better in prison. First of all, you are surrounded by all kinds of criminals from all walks of life. In society, I chose to be around these kinds of people. Now, I have no choice! I can't wake up tomorrow and decide not to deal with this. It has become my world.

Moreover, I cannot be responsible for what is on someone else's mind. A prisoner or officer can decide they are tired of looking at me and take steps to make me disappear. This is also possible in society, but in prison it is a constant reality. I can't pack my things and move or insist people leave me alone.

I can only watch my back and pray I am prepared when my turn comes, and everyone gets a turn! There are very few places in the world where a person can be safe. Trust me, prison will never make the list! By the way, if I were you, I wouldn't pay too much attention to my cousin. He can't care too much for you if he will have you believe anything other than prison should be avoided at all costs.

To answer the second part of your question, the real reason your cousin continues to return to prison is because he has not embraced the lesson to be learned. If life were better in prison, it wouldn't be given as a punishment. Your cousin lacks the courage necessary to overcome what he has put himself through. Once he became an ex-convict, his success in life would depend on EXTRA positive effort on his part.

Since it is always easier to do wrong, that is what he chooses. It's not because life here is better; it's because he has convinced himself that this is the best he can do. Who do you know that would spend 24 hours a day around rapists and murders if they had a choice? Prison takes away the basic human right to make a decision. Your cousin should value his life more.

Sincerely,
Eugene T. - New Jersey State Prison

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Dear prisoner - Here you find me writing you all a note to say hi to all but most of all i have a friend in prison right now and he says it's all good in there but deep down inside me i know it is not all good. Is it because they try to act like they are all bad or is it true?

You are asking if prison that it is "all good". Well, in some prisons it is "all good" but only for a period of time. In prison there would always be some problems. I think your friend is telling you this so you would not worry that much.

Rafa
California/P>



The truth is that the Department of Corrections takes everything but your thoughts and soul at the door. Prison is dangerous, dehumanizing, demoralizing, debasing and oft times hopeless. In minimum security facilities, there is so little focus on education, treatment and reform, that most spend a few years becoming more vicious criminals.

In maximum security, lifers have nothing to lose. Who can be more dangerous than such men? Every black-eye that society deals with is magnified by 1000 in prison. The truth about prison is that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy!

Sincerely,
Eugene T. - New Jersey State Prison



Hi, I'm answering your question about how prison is. Well, let me start by letting you know a little about myself OK? My name is Juan. I'm from California. I'm 25 years old and I've been in jail since '91 for murder. Since then a lot has changed and the way I think is one of those things. I was a kid in a gang that didn't know better at the time. I went to prison as soon as I turned 18 and I'm still here right now but I find myself with only a few months left. I'm ready to face freedom because there's nothing better than that unless you like being told what to do at all times. Prison is just a waste of time and away from your family and from things you like or love to do. Right here you do what you're told to do not what you want. So if you're thinking of being part of a gang or just want to do things that sooner or later are going to put you in a place like where I find myself at this moment, you know it gets old being away from my family because they are your real gang. I've been in a gang since I was 8 years old. I know that's hard to believe but it's the truth. I'm going on 10 years now behind bars cause of gangs and you know what - I didn't even do what I'm doing time for and God is my witness on that. I hope you will listen to what I'm saying cause life is too short. So if you're still in school, get good grades. And if you're kicking back with the bad guys or girls, think about what you want to do with yourself, cause once you're in here, it's like being born again but just in a different world with a lot of violence and hatred. Well, I hope that I answered your question. Take care.

Your friend - Juan
California



There is nothing fun, exciting, or "cool" about being in here!

Robert
California

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Is it that hard being in jail without parole?

Thanks - Ortencia

It is that hard being in prison without parole. In 14 years the world has passed me by. My nephews and nieces have grown up. I've lost family and friends, and every day in here is bad. This place will test your mind, body, and soul, and if you like even the smallest freedom, you'll stay out. The only thing I know is that I'll leave here dead.

Robert
California



Ortencia,

I cannot talk from experience because I am not a "lifer" although I am doing what is called life on the installment plan. I don't know which is worse, losing everything all at once or losing everything over and over. A lifer learns to make the best of a bad situation and prepares himself mentally, or he doesn't accept it, in which case he will be in for a hard ride because there is no getting out of it either way. The hardest thing is realizing that you no longer have any choice in anything you do for the rest of your life, which could be a long time.

Chris
California

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Hi my name is Terra and i was wondering, how lonely do you get in prison? Did you ever have plan for the future? Don't you miss having a women? I always wanted to ask someone in prison that. I just never had a chance because I don't know anyone in prison. I hope I don't bother you. I would love to know what u guyz think.
Love Terra Maria

Well, it does get lonely in prison. Yes it does because you miss your family and your kids. But for me, I'm lonely but I was part of a gang and a lot of my homies were here. That was like my family.

Yes I do have plans for the future. I want to go to college and become a welder and I want to be off parole within two years after I get out. Also I plan to look for a good-looking young lady to be with. Well, now you know someone that's in prison so whatever questions you got I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Steven G.
California

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I always wanted to ask doesn't it get lonely in there? Don't you ever wonder why you committed the crimes you do? As for example I have an older brother than myself and he's always in and out of jail. I always ask him aren't you tired of being in there being told what to do I would hate it. But then again he always goes back. Why? What are the gangs like in there? You probably have to watch your back at all times it's sad isn't it? Well thanks for giving me this time to ask a few questions.
FROM Alexandra

You wonder if it gets lonely in here. Well, I'll let you decide for yourself. I'm locked in my cell 24/7 except for a 15 minute shower every other day. Also a one hour yard exercise every 4 days or so. So imagine how lonely that can be.

I don't think much about the crimes I committed cause I'm trying to forget that part of my life. Plus thinking about it would only drive me crazy.

I can't really explain why your brother is always in and out of jail. With me personally, I'm always in and out because I'm institutionalized. But peer pressure is the main thing, always trying to impress the friends around you.

Prison gangs are much harder than in the street. You can't run or hide. No second chance for a mistake. Every mistake is dealt with. The rules you live by are much harder. For example, you can't go to sleep between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. You must always be alert between those times. Watching your back and watching what you say and do is a 24/7 thing. Prison life is very hard.

Tuan
California

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Is prison hard for someone who is his first time there?

Lucy

Yes! Prison is hard on everyone, even those who have been down more than once. For some there is physical hardship, for others there is psychological hardship. Depending on the prison that a first timer gets sent to, he will suffer different kinds of hardship, and that would depend on the length of time he has to do in prison. If a first timer has strong family ties, the family will suffer the hardship right alongside the person doing the time.

Sincerely - Luis
New Jersey

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Are there a lot of people with good intentions in there or do you foresee them returning?

Yes, there are a lot of men here with good intentions. Many of them will be successful upon release, not because of their intention to be a success but because of the things that they are doing right now to get ready for that day. Unfortunately some men will return, but my hope is that the majority will go on to become productive members of society and will give back to their neighborhoods, families, and loved ones.

Nathaniel T.
New Jersey



I have met many good men in prison. Many are here due to a mistake they wish they can go back and correct. Many men had drug and alcohol problems that destroyed their lives. They are now regretful of their acts. I see them using their time by involving themselves in school and programs that will help them become better individuals and some to become better spouses and parents.

As for seeing them returning when they are released from prison, I can truly speak on behalf or several individuals that I have become close with. I foresee them being released and making a positive impact within their home and their community. I see them making the right choices and learning from their past mistakes; also, honoring their responsibilities within the family unit. If they ever do return, it will be for visits to mentor inmates that have given up hope; and to be an example to those who are soon to return to society.

Unfortunately, I have met many more men that I believe will return to prison after being released. Their negative attitudes while incarcerated tell me that they will continue their anti-social behavior in the streets. They do not believe in helping themselves and helping others, and they do not believe in the programs that are offered to them. If they are lucky to escape death when released to society, I do foresee them returning to prison.

William G.
New Jersey



Yes, there are many good people here with good intentions and yes, you can foresee the ones that most likely will come back. All of us, excluding those who are unjustly convicted of a crime they did not commit, are aware that we are here because of something we have done wrong. There are also many of us who have realized that it was an ignorant mistake that brought us here in the first place. Many of us will even dare to say that it will not happen again and that thought itself is a good intention.

Whether or not you act on that thought or intention in a new way (positively) determines the success you will have in the future. If you do not make any kind of sacrifices to change in a positive way and become accustomed to that change, you fall stagnated in ignorance and perpetuate a life of crime that will eventually bring about your death or the return to prison. Prison is all about punishment now-a-days with the most dehumanizing negative environment that you can imagine. The hardest thing to do in here is to stay positive, but it can and is being done by many including myself in order to honestly be reformed before re-entering society.

Pucho
New Jersey



We can see faces but we cannot see hearts. I cannot say if there are a lot of good people in here with good intentions. I cannot foresee the destiny of others; therefore, I cannot see or foresee them returning. I only hope that when they get out they do not come back in here.

Carlos B.
New Jersey



You cannot look at a personís intentions by where heís at. Every killer is not a murderer. Sometimes things happen in our lives that are unavoidable. Just because a person returns doesnít mean he wanted to.

A Prisoner
New Jersey



There are some people here that have good intentions as well as quality like myself. Yes, I do foresee a lot of people returning because there are many that still do the same or more of what they did to get here in the first place, but I hope Iím not still here to see that and I wonít.

Edwin T.
New Jersey



There are many people with good intentions in prison, but thatís not enough to guarantee a successful return to society. A successful return is dependent on many factors. How they deal with these factors will dictate their success.

There are many negative and positive factors, The Yin and the Yang. However, when these two forces reside in union with each other they produce positive energy. Our choices are based on our influences. If we are surrounded with negative influences, then we are likely to act out in a negative way. If we are surrounded by positive individuals, then we are guaranteed a better fate.

If I were to choose to be a professional football player, I would have to dedicate myself to working out in the weight room; I would have to learn the game; I would have to practice daily; and a little talent wouldnít hurt. There are things that I would need to do first, then later I would rely on factors that would be beyond my control.

If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have to attend Med. School and possibly work as an intern at a local hospital. Then only, would I be able to apply for a position at a hospital.

In other words, I would have to take a substantial step toward achieving my goal.

These are the positive things I could do to accomplish my goal. However, there could also be obstacles that would interfere with my goals such as certain individuals who are always pushing people to do negative things. Their purpose is not to build, but to destroy. Family issues may serve as obstacles. There may be an illness in the family or siblings telling you, ďYou canít,Ē or the lack of resources to finance college tuition. Whatever the obstacles, you must remain focused and make decisions that will not hinder those goals. This is a common mistake made by many. For example, one might engage in criminal activity thinking this will help them accomplish their goal. Often times this makes things worse. One might just accept the fact that they have been dealt a bad hand and say what the heck.

I personally would never accept this fate. For this reason, I will continue to improve my situation. After all, every architect is the builder of his own good fortune. I can make conscious effort to place myself in a positive position. The rest will be dictated by luck. My chance of success increases because I have taken steps in that direction.

Wilfredo C.
New Jersey

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I have a relationship with an inmate for about 1.5 years now, and I start asking myself; will he ever open up to me a 100%??? Why is this ďopen upĒ issue so hard/difficult? What is it all about anyways; why is it such a big thing in there??? It's just something I cannot understand. Thanks in advance. Take care.

Melanie

Hi Melanie,

My name is Becky. I just want you to give it some time and when he thinks he could trust you, then heíll tell you. Donít make him, because then heíll think youíre up to something and maybe for him itís a big thing. But who knows? If you really love him, youíll understand what heís going through. Donít push him to tell you; just let him on his own. Heíll tell you what he wants you to know about him or his life. Well, think about it and take care and God bless you.

Becky
California


Melanie,

If for the most part people in prison donít like to ďopen upĒ as you say because of any sign of emotion can be seen as a sign weakness as perceived by others to be used against you as leverage in a given situation, and by yourself in that by opening up you are forced to face some real issues that you just may not be prepared to deal with in the environment you find yourself in.

Iím sure every individual has their own reasons for wanting to keep certain things to themselves. Some might take that approach just for the simple reason that they donít want to be vulnerable. Knowing that youíre in the real world while heís locked away can cause a lot of mistrust because your life is going on and his is on hold. You are meeting new people every day and even though you may be totally faithful, thereís always that nagging suspicion in the back of our minds and we build up a wall to keep us safe from betrayal however unlikely that maybe. Well I hope that helps a little.

Chris
California

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Why now do you think about you life when you had a life before?

I think about life now because before it wasn't worth thinking about, and I don't want to waste precious years in prison anymore. One week in county ain't nothing--try 10 years. You think the streets are crazy? In here, you see people stabbed and killed a lot more than the streets. Value your freedom because you don't know how good you have it till it's gone.

Con respeto - Oscar
California


When I was younger, I really didn't think about my actions or who I might hurt. Well, I guess I did, but when you are young all you want to do is have fun, party and meet girls. And since I didn't have anyone to give me advice, I thought that it won't matter what I did. My parents were very loving parents but they were always working, and I was raised in the heart of the barrio, so I was always around the older homeboys. Many of them are dead or doing life in prison. To tell you the truth, I am happy here because probably if I would have been on the streets I would of got killed, because I was a wild kid and doing all kinds of drugs! Itís crazy. I started doing time at the age of 13. And you know what? I put my parents through a lot of pain and tears. When they visit me it hurts to see the pain in their eyes, and to see how much they love me, even though I made them suffer a lot. My parents love me no matter what I did in my past. They might not like what I did, but they love me. Every parent loves their kids no matter what they do, but it's not worth making your family suffer because they would do anything for their kids.

Respectfully and sincerely - Joey A.
California

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My daughter's father is doing a life sentence, and the question I've always wanted to ask him was "does he ever have nightmares about the ordeal"? We are very close but I am so hesitant to ask him that and also "does he feel remorse"? Is it a bad idea to ask these questions???? He's been there for 11 years now and these questions sit here with me, but I am hesitant to ask.

Sincerely - Cari

Cari,

I got your letter and itís OK to ask questions and I think you did good by asking this. Well, first let me tell you Cari, Iím not doing ďlifeĒ thanks to God, but I have a primo that is. So your question is if people in here get nightmares. Yes, they do! I get them too. I donít know how your husband feels, but yes we do get lonely, sad, and we even cry because weíre so hurt inside and we donít know how to talk about it to our loved ones. So just give him some time and when you feel better to asking him, just ask him if you want to know how it is in there.

I wish you the best and God bless you and your daughter.

Becky
California


Cari:

I think it would be good for you to ask your daughter's dad those questions. I'm sure it will give him the opportunity to get that weight off his shoulders and be able to talk about it instead of keeping it bottled up. I'm sure he carries a terrible guilt.

Respectfully - Oscar
California

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What do you think is the most important thing you have lost besides the free world and your parents? - Lupita

Hello Lupita,

The most important thing I have lost besides the free world and my parents is being able to watch my own kids grow up and letting them know their father does love them. Also I've lost my right to lots of things like choosing a doctor. But the most important thing one can loose is their sanity due to the loss of loved ones' contact, etc.

Jesse G.
California

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Is it a support to have your girl while you're in jail?

Itzani

It is always good to have support from your girl or anyone in your family. Jail is a place where nobody wants to be. Your girlfriend is your most important support because she can always show you love and can reasure you that things are going to work out for the best. She could also keep you out fo trouble if you are willing to show you how important she is to you. The bottom lime is if you show that you can do the time with her support then, yes it is always good to have your girl's support. Just remember support is good no mater who it is coming from.

Albert
California

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When a person is send to prison, is it for their benefit? Doesnít it do more harm than good? Should we figure out another answer? I believe when they commit a crime, thereís more going on in their life. Also what are there chances of returning back to prison?

Gloria

Well Gloria, first of all I have been in prison for the past seven years and did two years in the county jail fighting two different cases for a total of nine years. Now as for the benefiting from it, well it depends on how and what you want to do with your time. They got a lot of programs to help you out if you choose to, or you could get caught up in the wrong crowd and start doing things to keep you from achieving your goal, whatever it may be. So some people do benefit and some just donít care. But please donít get me wrong, a lot of people do go in to prison wanting to and do benefit from it. If youíre a strong person and set your mind to go in and make something of yourself and come out with the most you could educationally-wise then you are benefiting from it all. Like I said, it does not do harm or good itís just how you do or what you do with your time.

If you get sent to prison then youíll be asking yourself a lot of questions about why, how could this have happened, should I have just stopped? Nobody really knows the answers but yourself. As for why people commit the crimes and things going on in their lives, honestly sometimes that does factor as to what happens. Not speaking for others, but for myself, I was going through things that I could not handle such as gang, drugs, and family problems among other things in my life. I do feel that for the crime I committed there was in my life hurt, pain, sorrow, and grief. And over all others, I thought to myself, maybe itís for the best I get caught and finally get some help that I possibly need. Some people do have reasons for committing crimes and others do things just to see if they get caught or get away with it. And then thereís people who got everything off going for them and just canít handle for the pressure.

Now as for peopleís chances of coming back, I have seen people go home and be back in a matter of weeks sometimes days. It just depends on the certain individual if youíre she wants to do good or just canít handle being out. So the chances are about 50-50. Well Gloria, I hope I helped you out with some insight.

Albert
California


Dear Gloria,

Your question is complicated and difficult to answer for some, especially the government. For others including myself itís not so! For example, here in California ten years ago they passed the toughest law the world has ever seen ďthe three strikes lawĒ which gives human beings 25 to life for stealing food! Look at the news, newspapers and around you. This is a crazy law hasnít stopped anything. If you donít educate people, crime will never stop. Education is the only answer. The state and local governments are always short on funds. They said the budget cannot cover those types of educational programs. In fact they close down public parks because they canít afford them anymore, especially those in poor neighbors.

As for what are their chances of returning back to prison, in the state of California 86 % of all parolees come back into the system with a new criminal charge.

Look what this government does around the world. They give $38 billion a year to Israel. Right now they offer the Turkish government $20 billion for their friendship. Well, the list is long but thereís more than 100 billion dollars that the U.S. government gives away yearly to different nations. If the Federal government gave us five percent of all the taxpayersí money they give away yearly for educational programs, we wouldnít be having such a mess in California, the highest populated prison system in the world. Thatís a shame for this superpower of the world to run this type of capitalism system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and jail!

My own personal experiences kind of rough but Iíll let you be the judge. On August 22, 1995 I got arrested in Orange County California. Since then to now Iíve been housed in the hole, which means lock-down 23 hours a day. Any time I leave my cell, which is not often - just see the doctor, dentist, or whatever - Iíll be restrained in chains. The other human contact I get is when the cops bring my breakfast, dinner, mail, and the other stuff we need to survive in this hole. As for visiting, I wonít ask my family to make a cruel trip a thousand miles drive just to see me through glass for an hour, plus the road to Pelican Bay is dangerous. As for trades or jobs or any educational programs like that, it doesnít exist in here.

In a few months, Iíll be getting released back to society. My opinion is that this Department of Corrections hasnít done a good job reforming me and thousands of others who get paroled from this concrete box.

Good luck - Juan
California


To Gloria:

Your question is two-fold. It can help you if you see your wrong and really want to change. To others, it brings the worst out. They may have so much hate in their hearts and will always find a way to blame others. It seems like they just donít get it, and those are the ones who are most likely to return.

A prisoner
New Jersey


Well Gloria,

When people are sent to prison, at times it benefits them. What I mean about that is, take me for example. When I was in the streets, I never realized what I was capable of doing - how to operate a computer, write poetryÖ and it even helped me to open my eyes, to realize that prison isnít the place to be. Coming to prison helped me in many ways. God knows why it was written in the Book of Life the purpose why Iím in here. Who knows; something worse might have been in store for me if this never would have happened.

I believe prison is the answer for anyone that commits a crime. Itís like the saying says, ďDonít commit the crime if you canít do the time.Ē But I believe as well that everybody deserves a second chance. Thereís always a big chance for someone to return to prison. I donít know why because one time should be enough. None is better! But I think that no one will ever know why, unless the person thatís in and out of prison tells you. Youíre right; sometimes when people commit a crime, thereís something going on in their lives, but we canít do nothing unless they seek for help. Doing something negative is not the answer; thatís what we all have to learn.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Gloria,

You posed some very interesting questions. The belief that when a person is sent to prison itís for their own benefit is common. However, everyone in prison is unique; no two are the same. Where one person may benefit some by entering prison, another will not.

The problem stands in the judicial systemís lack of respect. When a person commits a crime, that person is no longer human in their eyes. In fact, that person now represents profit for the state or government. Prisons are a big industry where tax payers suffer. The idea now becomes, how long can we store that person in human warehouses.

In turn, the person convicted of a crime is stripped of their identity and turned into a number. Now, said person is given more time than he or she may be able to handle.

Prisons were built to rehabilitate, but most prisons have very few programs that will aid in this. Now persons who sit locked away in these prisons begin to suffer. Being ripped away from family and loved ones will make one think about their lives and change. But after years upon years sitting in prison with no identity, without society even knowing this person exists, he or she may become bitter, which then reverses any rehabilitation that occurred.

However, it will depend on a personís mental strength and stability as to how much they can endure and change before the massive amounts of time handed down by judges begins wearing away at them.

When a person is released from prison re-enters society, it is upon that personís desire to remain free. But there should be changes in the amount of time given and the providing of essential programming, so that every individual will have all the tools necessary to prevent re-entry into prison.

Eric N.
New Jersey


Gloria,

To answer your question, first we have to look at the recidivism rate. Out of ten prisoners released to society, eight return, one makes it, and one dies. Most of the people sent to prison come form poor situations, one-parent households. The father is not around, dead or in prison, while the mother is on drugs or working one or more jobs just to make ends meet. The jobs are scarce or she has no school to get a good job. I can keep going and going with the problems that arise out of being poor or lower middle class. Like I said in the beginning of my answer, eighty percent of all first time offenders return back to prison.

Isnít it ironic that a country that has a majority population of people of European descent, that the majority of people that are incarcerated are either Black or Hispanic descent? I cannot believe that the majority of peoples can create or rather do less crime than the minority. While a person is serving time, they spend at least seventy percent of their time in their cell. A man who serves at least ten years in prison under these conditions has no hope of surviving in society.

A man commits a crime and society screams for justice and also has to foot the bill. Over eighty percent of those sentenced for a crime will return back into society, a society that has advanced and changed. How does a prisoner being released into a changed environment expect to lead a productive life? I was just talking to someone here in prison that has twelve years in. He is expected to be released within the next three years. We were talking about something as simple as a C.D., something that he has never touched, something that he knows nothing about except what he has seen on T.V. Does he have the chance of surviving in a technological world?

There isnít any educational services provided here besides a G.E.D. There isnít any trades or college courses. If you want to further your education, then you have to pay tuition just as if you was on the streets. This can range into the thousands of dollars. How is this expected if the average pay is $30 a month? Out of this they take out thirty-three and one third percent towards fines. The remainder is used for personal hygiene products such as toothpaste and shampoo. There are no grants or help of any kind.

Now a person gets released and commits another crime. Now the taxpayers pay again for this personís confinement. Jails have become privatized, meaning that private companies build them and then they are leased to the state, becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. So why educate when you can keep them confined, costing the taxpayers billions of dollars?

Prisons are run by the Department of Corrections, meaning that they are supposed to provide a corrective service. Now, how can there be corrective services if none are provided? Over 90 percent of the people incarcerated, are incarcerated with some kind of relation to drugs, whether it be dealing or under the influence, but the only thing provided is N.A. or A.A. There isnít any psychological or teaching serves provided, just people telling their experiences. More needs to be done.

Instead of confining a person to a cell, why not sentence them to school - prisons that are made into learning centers? A person that is sentenced could come out of prison with a degree in business or economics. Now they have a means of surviving. People come out of prison angry because they know the struggle that lies ahead. Some go out and want to come back because at least in prison they can eat and have a job. Wouldnít it be more logical to educate? Prisons are being built at a fast rate. The more prisons they build, the more money corporate America can make, the more taxes will be raised. This is a form of genocide and till measures can be created to educate and return, it will continue to be an ongoing problem.

Otto S.
New Jersey


Gloria,

It is said that prisons are designed to rehabilitate the convicted and, at the same time, keep the streets safer while the convicted are gone. It sounds reasonable but it has proven itself wrong. In my experience, these prison doors are like revolving doors. The same people whom I met in a juvenile institution are the same ones I know now in this adult prison. And usually each time we meet we have longer sentences.

I do believe in justice and that the wrong must be punished, but as you have asked, we should figure out more answers.

Giovanni
New Jersey


Dear Gloria,

Society has a greater benefit by sending it law-breakers & criminals to prison. However, if a person uses his time in confinement to better qualify himself to serve some noble purpose, then he as well as society are benefited. If a man does not change his thinking he cannot change his actions or his character & therefore will be faced with the same type circumstances he faced before coming to prison. Now you tell me if he's heading back to prison or possibly the grave.

James C.
New Jersey


Gloria,

When a person is sent to prison is it for their benefit? In my opinion, it is never beneficial to anyone to come to prison. Freedom is one of God's gifts to all humanity and prison takes that from you. Maybe at one time in the distant past, a person could have benefited from prison only because in the past prisons were all about rehabilitation. The educational and therapelltic programs needed to change a person existed and were probably mandatory. Today, the prison system is all about punishment. Although some programs for rehabilitation exist, they are not adequate or enough and it is a matter of choice whether you participate in them or not. In any event, you would still have to consider the fact that whatever you accomplish in here could also be done out in society with the proper guidance.

Does it do more harm then good? Yes, because now with only punishment and no real attention on rehabilitation most men and women who are ending up in prison will only become better at what they know, which is crime.

Should we figure out other answers? Yes, and it is one of the reasons why I am answering your questions. By way of our experiences, I as well as others, who have chosen to make a positive change in our lives, am trying to inform those out in society of the consequences to criminal and antisocial behavior. We strive to create programs that will assist us in our reform while in prison and try to provide advice for people out in the community with some situations and circumstances in an effort to deter them from committing the same tragic mistakes we have.

What are their chances of returning back to prison? The chances of returning back to prison depend upon the individual. Once you are here it is easier to continue in a negative life style then it is to change. If one is not willing to make the proper sacrifices to change in a positive direction then most likely they will be back.

Pucho
New Jersey


Gloria,

I believe that in most occasions it is for the benefit if certain individuals. Many a time, the crime is a drug offense and time away from certain environments does people good. In other occasions such as rape or child molestation, those individuals arenít penalized sufficiently. Others are given unreasonable time sentences. No one in this world is perfect. Mistakes happen and changes in peopleís character do occur.

In respect to it doing more harm than good, the only ones that suffer are the loved ones. A reality or taste of this behind these walls can affect one in one way or another, anyoneís view of freedom and life decisions. If any other forms besides the ones installed to punish criminals have not been thought of, they never will.

The chances of returning to all the stuff that caused your pain and suffering - donít forget it; just lead yourself down a better path.

Jean M
New Jersey

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What are you going to do when you get out of prison?

Erika

What am I going to do when I get out? That's a tough one to answer and one I've had years to ask myself. I can't say with any degree of certainty what exactly I'll do although I do know what I want. First and foremost on my list of priorities is finding a place to live and a decent job since they are both absolutely necessary in order to fulfill any other goals and objectives I may have.

Once I am stable and self-supporting, I would like to try and become a part of my son's life. I have a six year old boy who I have never met or seen other than pictures. He will be 11 years old when I get out and I would like nothing more than to be a positive part of his life and to be able to teach him not to make the same mistakes that I have. I just want a chance to be a good father. The hardest part of doing time is just knowing that I am not there for my son and I will do whatever it takes in the future to never be put in this position again.

Chris
California

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What I don't understand is when a gang member gets in trouble has to go to prison, why is it that they are a different person in there and when they get out they're back to the streets?

Thank You - Emily

Emily,

People are different in prison from how they are on the streets because in here you can't run from your problems. You have to face them head on and deal with them as best you can one way or another. The party is over once that steel door slams shut on you, and it's only then that you start to miss the things you took for granted on the streets.

Every individual has their own way of coming to terms with their situation. Those with parole dates sometime in the near future will usually try to salvage what they can with friends and family. They start making plans and promises for when they get out talking about how things are going to be different this time around - "you gotta believe them because they're for real."

Well, some are for real and have only good intentions, but reality kicks in once that door is opened again and you have the same temptations facing you only to find you missed those things too. It's not that we don't want to do things right. It's just that while we are in here we aren't given the tools to deal with our problems. There are no programs for most of us. We just do our time and wait for that door to open and, other than on the surface, we're no better off than when we came in. There are exceptions but they are few and they are only because that person chose to change his life on his own.

Chris
California



In my personal experience, once I got out of prison, I went back to the street because that's the only lifestyle I know how to live. Prison didn't change me; it only made me harder

Tuan
California

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Is it hard hard to leave everything in the back and start a new future?

Lucy

I have been in prison for about 16 years. This is my first time in prison but I must tell you that I am ready to face any future that is out there waiting for me. It will not be hard at all leaving all this behind. However, I know it will be hard for me when I am finally released, for I know things out there have changed so very much. But I am ready to face whatever comes my way. I will not however just leave all this in the back; I will take this experience with me to insure that I will not repeat it again.

Sincerely - Luis D.
New Jersey

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Do you plan to get counseling when you get out to reform yourself?

I have been incarcerated now for a little over 17 years. In that time I have tried to do the things necessary to prepare for a productive life once I am out. I donít know that I will seek out any formal counseling once I am out. I personally believe that if a person wants to be successful once he or she is released from any type of incarceration, they need to start preparing long before getting out. There are just too many things that come at you once you are out that often lead you back to poor choices if you arenít ready to stand against them. If you make an effort to get ready before you are released, then you may only need a little assistance from family, friends, or a support network to help you to stick to your new path.

Nathaniel T.
New Jersey



The answer to this question may vary based on opinion. If I were involved in or on drugs, yes I would seek counseling. However, given my present situation, I donít find this to be a necessity. I have at the present, a considerable amount of time to which the prison provides ample programming for me to change my flaws. These programs, along with the pain and shame of the realization of my given situation are enough.

Eric N.
New Jersey



My answer would be no. I would be wasting my time while here in prison if I waited until I got out to begin some kind of counseling toward my reform. If I do not get it done here in prison while I have plenty of time to do it, you can be sure that it will not be done when I get out. Reform is to improve by correction of error or to give up irresponsible and immoral acts, most of which we commit out of ignorance. If I do not know, think, or realize that what I am doing or am about to do is going to endanger my well-being physically and mentally by coming to prison, then prison would not mean anything. I would view prison as just another obstacle interfering with the progress of my goals and would ignorantly work to become better at the thing I know, which would be crime.

I would be in prison because of a negative sense of value, attitude, and mentality; and will end up going home with the same attitude and mentality only a lot better in accordance to the original sense of values that I had when coming to prison. For example, if I was a bad liar when I came in, Iíll be a good one when leaving. If I was a stupid killer on the way in, Iíll be a smart one on the way out, etc. The only counseling that I would even think of subjecting myself to would probably be done to satisfy a parole officer and would not have any real effect on my behavior. It would only be done to maintain my freedom and a continuous life of crime.

Pucho
New Jersey



I do not like to think about the future because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. I live day by day, so whatever I am going to do when and if I get out, I will think about it when that day comes.

Carlos B.
New Jersey



I cannot foresee my future upon my release. I still have fifteen years left of my sentence.

A Prisoner
New Jersey



Reform should be done prior to release from prison. The amount of time does not dictate whether a person has truly learned from his mistake. True reform is done from within. Prisoners deal with the consequences of their crimes at their own set time. For some this could be immediately thereafter or ten years later. Before a person can reform, he must look inside to get to the root of the problem. He must carefully examine and question the reasons for acting out in a negative way.

Iíve been imprisoned over 13 years. In this time, I have examined the many reasons why many of my peers have acted out in a negative way. It all boils down to one thing, the lack of knowledge. Most people I am surrounded by lack social skills. This is attributed to the fact that no one has taken the time to teach them how they should conduct themselves around others. The lack of knowledge can also limit the opportunity to get a good job. Often people become frustrated and turn to negative alternatives. The longer they continue participating in these activities, the more it becomes the right thing to do. Soon, the ends justify the means.

The constant pressure of parents having to work to provide a decent life for their children takes away from the time they should spend in the instruction of their children. Some parents are not able to give the proper instruction thatís needed because they never received it themselves. Maybe if I had a little more direction, I may not be here. This is not to issue blame, for I cannot find fault in those who have done their best with what was afforded to them. At least I received love; therefore, I can give love because I know how. Everything else I must learn.

Wilfredo C.
New Jersey



No, I am not planning on getting any type of counseling when I get out to reform myself because this is my first and last time I have ever been incarcerated. I made a mistake in life. Iím not a person that looks for trouble. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time but thereís nothing wrong with me to need counseling.

Edwin. T.
New Jersey

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Hey My Name is Jodie I was with my man for 3 years until he got thrown in prison for some horrible crimes he had committed. April of last year he got out on parole and he was a totally different person. He wasnít who I feel in love with. Two weeks later he got shot and died. I know I should be getting over him but I canít. Iím depressed and I donít know how being in prison changed him so much and know Iíll never know.

Jodie,

I am sorry to hear you are feeling so depressed and I know prison changes men a lot. I wish I could tell you how it happens but it is never the same for any two men. The truth is this is a hard place to live in. Hate is all around us at all times and no one wants anyone to know how sad they really are, so we get mean. I thought if I was mean enough everyone would leave me alone, but after I did it for that long it became a habit. I was safe as long as I didnít care. I know how that affects the ones who love us. What I would like you and all the others who cared for convicts to know is that regardless of what we turn ourselves into, it in no way is your fault. There wasnít anything you could have done to change him. And I feel it is normal for you to have a hard time ďgetting over him.Ē He was a big part of your life and love is hard to get over. You suffered a loss Jodie. Give yourself permission to mourn that loss. There is no time limit on sadness, yet I hope you donít become so engulfed in sadness that you forget you are still living your own life. Maybe you canít see it right now, but you have something to offer the world.

With warmest regards - Rick
California



Dear Jodie,

Prison changes people in different ways. Some prisons are more laid back than others and some are real bad. You should not dwell on what changed your old man Ďcause it could be so many things. But just try to do things that donít remind you of him. Stay busy so you donít stay depressed.

Your friend - Jesse
California


Jodie,

This feeling you speak of having for your man is very beautiful. Some people live out their entire lives and never come close to knowing this love you shared, so itís easy for others to say ďGet over him, move on, etc.Ē You can keep these feelings burning alive and still continue on with your life. Please donít confuse ďmoving onĒ with ďforgetting him.Ē

Brian
California


Jodie,

Greetings there Jodie! First off, let me take this opportunity to formally introduce myself. My name is Ricardo. Well no Jodie, before I try to help you make some kind of sense of your tragic loss, I would like to convey to you my deepest condolences.

Well Jodie, for some reason, your question caught my attention so I decided to see if just maybe I could help you gain some sort of understanding cause I know that I donít have the answers but I might be able to shed some light on the situation.

Well, Jodie, Most people go through various transformations in life, some for the better and some for the worse. Itís like they say, ďYesterdayís experiences mold us into who we are today.Ē But in all fairness, we all differ because lifeís experiences may affect people in different ways. I guess what Iím trying to say is that prison affects people in different ways. Some people let prison get the best of them which brings out the worst in them, and others take it as a learning experience, making the best of a bad situation and making an earnest effort to better themselves as people. One thing is for certain though, prison is numbing. When I say ďnumbing,Ē I mean that people shut down emotionally in order to better deal with life while in here, but unconsciously and unintentionally become ďdetached.Ē We may not be able to see it but to those that know us, it is obvious.

Personally though, I think that regardless of where we are at, we as people struggle to find ourselves at one point in life or another and some of us get lost in our search while others gain a keen sense of direction or understanding of who they are and who they want to become as people.

Jodie, whatever the case may have been, try not to dwell on the changes you saw him (your man) go through. Instead try to remember him as the person you knew he was and grew to love, the person you saw in him that most people didnít see or never knew, because regardless of the personal changes he may have gone through, Iím sure his love for you didnít change. It just may have been harder for him to express himself, but nevertheless his love for you was still there.

Trust me Jodie, I know losing someone close to heart is not easy and you have all the right to mourn your loss. But donít let it consume your thoughts or get the best of you too.

I could probably go on, but Iím going to go ahead and end it on this note in hopes that I may have helped in some small way. All I can say is I wish you the best and remember life ainít easy but there are better days ahead. So when life bears down on you, you must find the strength from within to carry on.

With care - Ricardo V.
California

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