Poems and Stories


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THOSE WHO HAVE EARS, LET THEM HEAR

My name is Willie Thomas. I once was a member of a well know gang. In 1980, I was locked up for shooting a rival gang member who transgressed against one of my gang family members. At the time I thought that I was doing the right thing, you know? - standing tall through it all; showing my unconditional love and commitment for my homies!

My journey down this road of organized confusion began in 1975. I didn’t get along with my step-dad, so to avoid the daily conflict with him I would go to the neighborhood park and hang with my so-called friends. We mostly spent our time together drinking, getting high, and telling our sad stories of how no one cared about us or understood us, and as time went by we began to function as a group!

We made commitments to each other but we never disrespected ourselves by turning into puppets. We all functioned together daily, but with our own identities and freedom to be ourselves and make decisions for ourselves! That is something that is really not a part of today’s gang mentality. No one seems to have their own identity, which basically means there aren’t any “men” or “women” in today’s gangs. It’s just a bunch of “kids” who are followers! Another thing that’s very different in gangs today is that they don’t respect anyone including themselves. The first rule of success is learn to respect yourself. You will make better decisions in your life and you will want more for yourself out of life!

Now let me enlighten you on what exposed me to the fact that gangbangin’ (what some call a second family) is B.S. Here’s the conclusion to my story: What made it clear to me that my misguided loyalty to my gang family was a waste of time was the fact that over the last 24 years, not one of my homeboys or homegirls has wrote me a letter, sent me a care package, or even came to pay me a visit! But you know who was there for me “standing tall through it all”? - my mother and that same step-dad I had tried so hard to escape from!

Tell me, can you see the irony in this picture?

The moral to my story is simple: love and respect yourself and know yourself! Then you’ll recognize that a real friendship starts with yourself. Also respect your parents, because when all the smoke clears, they’ll be the only ones still on your side and by your side.

With unconditional love,
Willie Thomas
California

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REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL

When nightmares persist,
and dreams seem too real;
When fear attacks,
and the mask is no longer steel;
When desire seems unquenchable,
and the eyes of others mirror what I truly feel;

REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL

When life has no meaning, and the world is at a standstill;
When words have nothing to convey,
and laughter is the irony of the day;
and tomorrow’s serenity seem so far away;

REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL

When music causes my body to sway,
and the expectations of falling in love
encourage me to face another day;
When a welcomed touch
radiate a warmth greater than heat, and a simple hug
brings about an overwhelming feeling of peace;

REFLECTIONS OF MY SOUL

When a child’s anger turns to rage,
and a mother’s tears fall because of pain;
When a father’s absence is provoked by shame,
and a friend’s life stolen by the cruelty of the game;

All you see…is reflections of me…
reflections of my soul.

Sammy Moore
New Jersey

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BLACK GHOST

I am a young man
with a soul too old for my years
I have seen far too much,
and suffered more than my share.

My entire life
has been a burnt pot of misery;
Its overdone stench,
so strong I may never be cleansed.

I am all to no one,
and nothing to anyone.

I am no child, lover or father;
seen less than even a man.

Some say I do not exist,
others say I was never meant to be.

Night is I, black and empty
at dawn’s earliest light,
I retreat to my lonely home, nowhere.

Desi Ricardo Sykes
New Jersey

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FINDING YOUR OWN BEAUTY

Some rare wild flowers
Are born deep in the forest.
No one notices
Their beauty and complexity.

Some do make their mark
In our hearts,
While others
Just evaporate
To become part of the winter breeze.

Only now,
Your colors are no longer
A simple green
Mixed together with the unknowns…
Because now
You are showing a beauty of your own.
And it is in this realization
Where you will find
Your answers.

G. Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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A MAN’S FEAR

A man’s fear -
Lives in the center of his existence.
It sharpens and crushes his emotions.
It shelters him from his enemies.
It trashes and destroys his joys.

Powerful as it is,
A man’s fear doesn’t let him live in peaceful awakening…
All the talk,
All the writing,
Won’t save a man from his own fear.
This fear has become
The very source of his life.

Only a man himself
Can cast away this monster out of his house.
It doesn’t matter
How much it is said…
Or the endless time spent in prayer.
The fear of a man
Is as stubborn and instinctive
As the lion’s fury.
It fills him with doubt.
It mocks his pretentious
Sense of stability.

I am a man!
I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve mated with this beast.
It now has become the host
And I, a guest to its domains…

Painful mourning -
Morning shouts -
Child’s sorrows -
Madness of the mind -
Anguish of the soul -
It encompasses all.

It is alive
And capriciously ahead
Of each step a man takes.
Fooling and tearing him apart
Manifesting his weakness
Any time he feels threatened.

A man’s fear
Is so rigidly
Rooted in his spine
That it has no origin
Nor an end.

It is undone,
Baseless, concrete.
It breathes life
But kills him inside.

A man’s fear
Dwells in his mind.

G.Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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DRAGON WITH THE HEART OF A TIGER

There are men whose heart is so pure,
Stood by my side while I faced my fears,
Facing the tiger that held my soul.
It gripped me so tight and wouldn’t let go.

My voice crackled and tears began to flow.
I got angry and almost lost control.
I shut down and closed my eyes.
When I opened up, everyone was by my side.
I felt weak but they urged me on.
They spoke to my heart and my fear was gone.
Anger and sadness slowly disappeared.
Then finally my dragon reappeared.
My dragon balanced out the tiger in me.
Now I feel complete and totally free.

M.D.
CALIFORNIA

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A POEM NOT OPEN FOR OPINION

Please don’t pretend to care.
Can’t give up, I hear.
Be strong and patient …
It all sounds so good.
Well, what do they know?
Let them spend a day
In my life.
See how they like
To eat the food
I eat
The bed I sleep on,
The lock-downs, the many faceless
Faces - looking at empty dreams,
The false hopes,
The close environment I live in.
See how they like
All those eyes on them.
Where? On this piece of land
“Of nothing goes un-noticed.”
Oh, what about the never-ending
Waiting for that moment
That won’t arrive
But so-desired.
So?
What do you think now?
How does it all sound to you?
Do you have a solution?
No?
I didn’t think so!
Yes, I am a convict, an inmate
Maybe
The worst of humanity.
What makes you so great
To cast judgment
Or to coffer false hopes?
How much time is enough?
Two, maybe three lives,
Maybe eternity?
Oh, but don’t kid yourself.
I am
But a mere human.
Unlike you…
I won’t be around
Forever…
So let it be
Or let me be.

G. Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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GET OUT OF MY FACE

It’s hard to accept it
But it is a way of life.
You tell me you wanna help.
You say that I need to change.
But tell me what you know
About being locked in a cage?

I cannot bear captivity.
My grip on hope is almost lost.
Having to survive through insanity,
I’ll keep my pride at any cost.

This is my environment.
I’ve adapted to it properly.
And now you come and attempt
To help me live life honestly.
Am I supposed to trust you?
Don’t you know that I’ve been beat?

People in the past like you
Said they’d meet me in the middle of the street,
That they would help me,
All I had to do was meet them halfway.
But they never came,
And I was left to get swept by the rain.

Look at me now; I’m doing time.
Just get out of my face with your lies.

I.P.
CALIFORNIA

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OUTCAST

Rough and tough was the story of my life.
Outcast at twelve, I’ve learned what’s right.

Broken inside but nobody knew.
Alone, I didn’t know what to do.

Black and blue the beatings I’ve learned
Escape my madness by hiding my pain,
Even if this demon drives me insane.

M.D.
CALIFORNIA

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A BROTHER’S LOVE

Deep inside I wish I was there for you.
I’m sorry for the pain I put you through.
Now that I’m locked up far away,
All I want is for you to be OK.

Chase your dream and live your life.
Hope one day soon we could reunite.
Always remember that I love you.
Never forget my love,
No matter what you do.

M.D.
CALIFORNIA

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SISTER

What a new day,
The day that you were born,
A day to rejoice once again life’s mystery,
A day I wasn’t part of …
I was so far away.

It seems destiny has a plan
To keep us from becoming
Bound to one another.

We share our mother’s history
But different ideas.
I am still a vague memory
In an unknown quest…

Still far from being the brother
You’ve probably wished for
At times.

I don’t see the point
In trying
To reach of something
I cannot have or be.

I only hope in time
All the barriers,
All the pain
I’ve constructed
Will vanish
And it won’t be too late.

Only one thought remains in my mind now,
“Forgive me.”

G. Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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WANTING LIFE BACK

I sit alone in my room,
And then I start to cry.
I ask God to reach out and hold my hand
And help me start a better life.
He tells me not to cry and that all will be fine,
But I still can't stand to be locked up here inside.
All I want is to have my life back
And for things to be like they were in the past.

Jonathan B.
California

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WANTING A CHANCE IN LIFE

I seem to stay up all night,
Thinking and asking God why I deserve to be locked here inside
When I really didn't mean to bring any harm to anyone.
I read my Bible all the time and say my prayers in the night
And I feel Jesus' presence by my side.
He tells me not to worry for He will be in court by my side and He will help me out,
For He says in the Bible that everyone deserves another chance in life.
I pray to God for the judge to have a heart and try to help me out
For all I want is to start a better life.

Jonathan B.
California

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HARD TIMES BRO!!

A Letter from a Prisoner to His Little Brother

Sammy, Hey little Brother,

Well first I would like to say sorry for not writing so long. But you know being in prison you don't got much to talk about, based on you live in a cell most of your days without no where to go. But recently I found you made some wrong decisions. I was upset based on you should know what’s right from wrong and them little choices you make become worse. I use to think I was too slick to get caught. But sometimes you don't and sometimes you do. But all it takes is one time and in and out you go. You got a chance to make something out of your life and be someone or you can be dumb and throw your life down the drain and be a number, a nobody. You think what mom does like ground you is punishment, no, it's just a taste because you ain’t gonna get no TV, no games. The game played here is with your life. You may do one dumb thing and lose your life. Trust me dying in prison is not funny. Sammy it's not a game it's all people get stabbed, throat's cut, lives took. I use to think it was all talk I learned the hard way, now I'm trying to go home and never come back. I live in regret every day. I wish God would give me one more chance to go back to school graduate, play baseball. I loved that sport I could have gone somewhere. Hell NO!!! I'm stuck in a small ass cell watching my life pass me by, and my wishes ain’t coming true. I'm through but you see your brother's gonna do his best to graduate get a college degree and no one's getting in my way. What you’re doing is stupid. I admit I was stupid, now you want to follow my footsteps. Well you’re going the wrong way and I guarantee, you'll wish you could go back and start over. Sammy there's not one person in prison who wouldn't love to go back to school, play sports, but they can’t especially them doing 25 year's to life. That's it. (THERE NEVER GOING HOME. THEY CAME IN CUFFS, LEAVING IN A BOX, "GAME OVER".)

You know I use to look at them school boys like squares, but you know they’re still out there living - probably got a nice ass ride, cool looking hina, money. Now who's a square? Me cuz my square ass ain’t got shit. Sammy I can only say so much to you, I don't know if you’re dumb like me or smart like a man should be. It’s your choice learn from me. I know you don't want to look dumb in front of your so called homies, but be a man and turn your self around. Do you wanna come to prison? Well you better learn to stand alone, cuss in here your on your own remember that. Sammy don't think we, your brothers don't love you. We would give anything for you, and I'd give anything to go back and be a good brother and spend every moment with you. I know you’re getting older and got more decisions to make, so make the right ones. Ain’t no life in here. Drugs never did nothing for me or anyone I know. There’s not one person in prison who ain’t in here for something that had to do with drugs. Sammy I can only give you my advice. You take it, you'll have a good life, you don't, you'll be here with me and the rest of the convicts who work to take you down and make you life harder. You know I love you and miss you, so learn from your mistakes, forget you so called friends. Sammy needs to worry and take care of Sammy. So think about what I said OK. I'm gonna close for now until you write me.

I Love and Miss You.
Love Your Brother - Carlos

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LIFE IN PRISON

I find myself imprisoned in Trenton State Prison where day after day the suffering and desperation grows. I will try to give you an idea of how it feels to be locked up like an animal. It is like being under water without being able to breathe and the more time that passes, the more you need to breathe; but you can’t. Or like having your hands in fire without being able to take them out and every minute that passes, the pain gets stronger.

This is not a game! It’s all a reality that is hard to live. The majority of prisoners will die here; their sentences are too long to complete. You have to dress in the same color clothing everyday, year after year. You eat the same food week after week. It’s the same routine which never ends; like a nightmare you cannot wake up from.

Here, there are no more opportunities to go out and do things better the next time. Life, in many occasions, does not give second chances and can be lost in many ways, at times without dying. Being locked-up is one of those ways. When sentenced to life, it means that, “LIFE”! They are taking your life. That is why there is a saying that prisons are cemeteries for the living. This reality is very different from that of the movies and what people think. This reality hurts a lot. Every word has a different meaning and many times we mistake what we mean. In the prison system, the word “LIFE” really signifies death.

THINK WELL!

Misael C.
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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LIFE

I refuse to remain silent
While our future is lost to
Senseless violence.
We’ve died enough.
We’ve cried enough.
But where is the strong source
Of love inside of us?
We should share love
And learn to give
I just want us to grow.
I want us to live.

Marcos D.
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO HEAR AN OLD GANGSTER'S VIEWS

FROM AN OLD GANGSTER DOING LIFE FOR ROBBERY AND MURDER

I have been in California State Prison since the summer of 1987. Most of that time I spent in one hole or the other. I was an active gang member in a motorcycle club when I was on the streets. I became a gang member because I liked the way it felt to fit in with dangerous guys. I didn’t feel so alone when I was with them. I felt like I mattered.

As cool as I thought it was, the truth is that it was just a weakness I had. I thought them dudes gave a f... about me, when in fact they didn’t care. Sure, at the time they played the part real well, but they only did that because there was no risk in that, and a whole lot of profit. I was a money maker. I would do the shit no one else would, so they pretended to care.

Let me tell you how it turned out in the end. When I got busted, none of them fake f...ers were around for long. The only time I heard from them was when someone was coming to the pen. Then it was all about brother this and brother that.

Now here is where it gets way out. Even in the pen, I had to play a roll like I am this bad-ass gang member. I was representing a gang that didn’t give a f... about me now that I couldn’t make them any money. Every time I went to the hole, and I went a lot, my so-called brothers wern’t doing shit for me. The crazy thing is that it was my family who stepped up and cared.

Well now it’s fifteen years later and the only ones who seem o give a f... about me is the ones I thought didn’t love me - yea, my family. My “brothers” who I killed for and was willing to die for are nowhere to be found. They are all dead, grew up and left the gang life, or are doing what I am doing - spending their lives in prison and seeing how stupid they were to ever think a gang would out-last when they didn’t need you anymore.

A Convicted Gangster
CALIFORNIA

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A CHILD'S TEARS

Who would ever think that life could ever get this far gone? I know when I was young kicking it with my dogs, I never saw all this coming. How was I supposed to know that by the time my twenty-sixth birthday rolled around I would be fighting the death sentence, or by the time I turned twenty-seven I would be doing a life sentence if a California state prison?

I knew I was not like all the other kids but I didn’t think I was this far gone. I didn’t think I would end up like this. Now I am forty-one years old and I all I know is being a convict. That is such a sad thing for me to have to say to myself. I want to do something that will stop all the other kids who feel like they aren’t like everyone else from ending up old and alone in a prison cell.

When I am in the visiting room, I see little kids playing and laughing with their daddies who can never come home; and then at the end of the visit (and the end must come), I see the same little kids crying because they can’t take their daddies home with them. I want to do something so that, just maybe, some of them daddies out there wake up and see what matters before they end up being the ones who have to hear their little kids crying because they can’t take daddy home with them…

I know the pain. The pain of your child’s tears can leave a burning scar across your heart, just like it did mine…

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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I CARE

I pretended I don’t care. I pretend I don’t care who hates who. I pretend I don’t care who’s cold and hungry. I pretend I don’t care who’s sad and alone or even who’s on the brink of their own destruction.

But it’s a lie; I do care; I care a lot. I care that my parents are getting old and I ain’t there to help them. I care that my wife is stressed out, alone and afraid she will go crazy with the sadness of it all.

I care my little three year old son is now seventeen facing a mad world fatherless, forced to face it all alone because I didn’t care when I should of.

I sit in my cement box and think of all the things I care about but CDC don’t see it. I just want to scream, “Why can’t you see I care? What do I need to do so you and everyone will understand that I do care”?

I care that I can’t be a part of society. I care that I have to live in a world of hate fighting insanity. Damn it; I care.

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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IS IT WEAK?

Is it weak if I throw my head back and cry?

Is it weak if I slam my fist into the stone wall holding me in this prison cell?

Is it weak if I allow myself to feel how angry and sad I am?

Is it weak to know that when I thought I was so hard,

I was just too weak to be who I should have been?

Tell me brothers,

Is weak for a convicted killer to want to learn how not to be so cold and hard?

And is it weak that I don’t care if anyone and everyone thinks it’s weak?

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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INSIDE THE CIRCLE

I don’t know what all needs to be done. And I don’t know how to do all that needs to be done. I only know I am willing to do what ever that may be. So if I can only see past the things that hold me back, maybe I will get them done.

I look around me in this place of hardships and I feel like I should cry for those who have forgotten how. I want them to find a way to escape the pain and sadness that spending a lifetime in prison can inflict on men.

I am just like them. I am one of them. I spent many years feeling that pain and the never-ending sadness. It cuts so much deeper than at any who has not lived with it could ever understand. It’s effects can make men into monsters and it can make men into something that no one can understand, not even themselves.

That is one of the most damning feelings known to man, to have to live with the thought that you are no longer worth anything to anybody. Just try to think how you would feel if you wasted your life. You’ll never see the light of day again, and if by some chance you do get a glimpse of it, you’ll be standing on the inside of a stone wall right where you will die.

And when you to die, the pain you inflicted on those who love you still won’t be over. Before they even throw your body into the box, your family will get a call telling them you’re dead. The man who calls only knows your name because he’s reading it off a scrap of paper. Don’t think for a second that he knew you or he cared for you. You’re just one more asset lost.

These are real thoughts of men spending their lives in prison. I understand it doesn’t make for good reading and I understand that most people think it is just what we should get after all that awful things we have done. I find it hard to think that men, no matter how cold they once were, cannot change and learn to give the one thing they seek - love.

As insane as it may sound to you or to anyone I know the truth. Men in prison, all men, need to be loved and when they are loved and needed they change. They become what the world needs. They’re still strong man with strong ways; however, I invite you to think of ways this strength and power can be used to help mankind. This is what we as the human race need. We need to stop stomping on everything we don’t agree with and look past or fears and our judgments and learn how to get off our asses and make the hard calls, make the choice to try to fix or offer ways to inflict change instead of pain.

So now I am right back to where I started - I don’t know what needs to be done and I don’t know how to do all that needs to be done. I only know that I am willing to do no matter what that is…

Are you willing to make changes or is it too hard as task for you?

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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LOST AND FOUND

Let me explain to you all who will listen where I first lost myself and where I eventually found myself. I was very young once with an idea of what life was going to be for me and everything that happened beyond the point dictated another position to react to. I was unsure about my own inner strength, so I wanted to borrow strength from others (safety in numbers). Since no one was speaking about things I was feeling, I thought myself odd and different from everyone else. This feeling pushed me into hiding who I was by pretending to be someone I was not, someone who could be pumped up into being violent, and someone who would go a great distance to prove how serious about life I was.

As a child all men in my view were serious bottom line hard-noses, so I too must become this creature if I wanted to be loved, feared and accepted. Since what I felt was not being talked about I had no confidence in becoming that. In short I would fight for 100 “popular points” before I would look deep inside for my own heartfelt point and fight for it, because I feared the outcome of the unknown. It is not easy to find your own way through this life full of bullies and dictators. It has taken over twenty years in prison to bring me to where I am today, not to mention the eighteen years of foolishly chasing a false dream of being a thug because I thought once I achieved the position of head thug, I could then be what I wanted without being questioned about it, which put simply was to be a man with a family of his own who loved him respected him and could count on him, not to mention a man who was filled with answers to life’s problems instead of that kid filled with questions and doubt. Needless to say I never married, became a father, instead I became a person who thinks independently, a person who looks deep into my own soul for the answers to life and now I look at this new test to achieve even more in becoming what I respect. Sometimes this is not in alliance with others; sometimes others want to test my conviction to myself; it is never easy.

I ask you one question, “Do you want to be true and loyal to someone else’s plan which offers a little protection at times, and even more danger in the long run of losing your life, your freedom, and worse your own self, your individualism? Or do you want to fight with the same vigilance to become your own person who you deeply see and want others to see as well as allow you to be”?

Brian H.
CALIFORNIA

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RESURRECTION

I once walked streets as dark
As my soul once was.
My personality was bleak
And even pushed away all I loved.
Turned only to myself
When I was in need of answers.
Thinking that I could only help
Because even within my family there were strangers.
How did I get to this point?
I try to rationalize
By blaming it on the times
That we were without furniture
And my absent father made me cry,
Or the times that the intruder
Tried to beat on my brothers.
And then when that intruder became me,
My heart only turned colder.
I was pretty good at rationalizing,
Waving the blame on someone else
Cause the weight already on my shoulders was.
I’ve been through the worst aside from hell.
I felt the only way to escape being the prey
Was to become the predator,
So I went to get my revenge
On the unsuspecting world
For forgetting about the gutter,
But what was done, was returned with certainty.
How could I have been so dumb?
I fell right into the hands of the enemy.
I was abducted
From what my mother thought I was
And incarcerated
Cause I couldn’t escape He who reigns over all.
But still,
I was walking dead and had no direction
Until I was given the gift,
Which resulted in my resurrection.
Thankful for having peace of mind
And a purpose or Cause, I so desperately tried to find.
It was always there,
Yet it was so distant.
But everything has its reasons.
Why it took so long to see
Is not the question.
I’m just glad to be
Part of your children learning lessons.
The book of life has saved mine,
A criminal and thief once
That has renounced crime.
The only thing that made me see
Without the blur of society’s haze.
And for the gift of my life back
I give praise!!!

Luis B.
NEW JERSEY

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TIRED OF BEING USED

I have some words for all those who are insecure, for all those who are tired of being used and manipulated by their so-called friends, and for those who have low self esteem.

I happen to think that if you identify with one of these “illnesses” you are being tormented my all - insecurity, naiveté and low self-esteem. Before you move on to a different page because you don’t think you suffer from any of the above, answer the following question, “Are you constantly worried about what other people might say or think of you if you don’t do, or if you happen to do, a certain thing? Maybe there is something you don’t want to do but you do it because you figure that it is better to give in than to have the people around you talking bad about you, look at you in a funny way, or maybe they might think you are not down. How can you look at people in the eye after you supposedly let them down? It is a very hard thing to do, but it’s not impossible. You might lose acquaintances left and right, but believe me, you are better off without them around you. The people that are still hanging around you after you said “no” to something they wanted you to do or to give, those few are the ones you should start to consider friends.

Where and how do you start? Start doing things for yourself. Do things you WANT to do. I read somewhere that there is no “I” in “esteem.” I can’t remember what was implied by that statement but I know what I mean when I tell you to put an “I” in “self-esteem.” Build your self-esteem by being selfish. Many people hear the word selfish and think of it as a bad word. Nobody wants to be known as a selfish person. In my vocabulary, “selfish” means that you come first. Example: If you and someone else eat lunch together and that someone happens to finish first and, in the nicest way possible asks you for your cookies or apple, you are likely to give it to that person. This is where you have to be selfish and say no. Look the person in the eye and let him know that you are hungry too. Little things like that can help you build your self-esteem. Remember when saying “no” always to look people in the eyes. They’ll most likely ask why not and say that you are messed up and that you are cold. Continue to look them in the eye and tell them, “No, I don’t want to” or simply “no.” If this helps you (I say “if” because I am not this amazing doctor that came up with a cure), if you feel confident and you start seeing people’s true colors, then you can start saying “yes.” People around you will know that you say “yes” when you want to and “no” when you don’t. Remember to stand strong in your decision.

Alex M.
CALIFORNIA

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THE NEW ME

I spent my life not knowing why
I lived with pain and fear.
I was my greatest enemy.
I shed a lonely tear.

I sought to find a softer path.
I stumbled and I fell.
I looked everywhere except inside.
I lived an earthly hell.

I found that what I feared the most
Was me and the way I feel.
I'd covered up my child inside
With drugs instead of what's real.

But I finally found the secret.
God knows how I pushed and shoved.
The greatest thing I discovered
Is the fact that I can love ... and be loved.

Miguel

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FORGIVE ME, LORD

I was so happy. Now I'm so sad.
How did my life get so bad.
I used to run wild. I used to run free.
Now cement and steel is all I see.

I lived for myself. I lived for the day.
I thought things would always go my way.

Then my evil world came crumbling down.
Now in prison is where I'm found,
Sitting in a cell, locked up tight,
Praying for forgiveness every night.

Jaime

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WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

I was out in the world, respected for my position, but hated for the same reason. My life was good and wealthy. When I looked through my eyes, all I saw was my boys and my name recognized - but not only by my boys, but also by my enemies. And guess who would pay for my acts - My FAMILY.

I guess leader wasn't to be my status but a real man, away from all that craziness from those who said they were my friends. Now I know exactly who to trust and for sure it's not my boys! Boys, that's what they say they are but they will play you like toys.

So one day I was so drunk and I started a fight and my boys were so jealous I was the star that one night after we battled the enemy gang, I was up to a problem a totally different thing. It was my own people, my own boys, against me and what could I do? It was so many I could see. The next day was the worst and I got jumped in front of my home. The jealous one had wanted my position so he had me gone. Now what was I to do? I had enemies and could not walk alone, and it happened again in front of my own home - by my enemies.

Now I read a book that starts in GENESIS. God has saved me and set free my soul. JESUS loves you too. I just thought I'd let you know.

Dongo, 97---Born again

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A STORMY NIGNT'S RAIN

My life as a boy was very rough.
Hatred followed me and made me tough.

I would look for new, but I always found old.
Neglected as a child, I was thrown out in the cold.

I began to freeze. I shut life down.
I rebelled against any new I'd found.

Through this ordeal, I refused to shed a tear,
Even though hatred and pain had risen to fear.

I was feeling sad and lonely and kind of depressed.
Not really knowing how I had gotten in this mess.

Then out of the blue came this voice in my head,
Saying, "Stop looking down. Raise your head high instead."

I let go of my anger, my guilt, sorrow and pain.
My life has been through a stormy night's rain.

Artie

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A MOTHER'S LOVE

Mom I love you and miss you so much.
Please forgive me for the loss of words.
To express how special you are and always will be.

For it was you who taught me love and tenderness.
You have always been there for me mom.
You have always shown me that you love me so much.
There will never be one in this world
That comes close to having your touch.

The wisdom from your words and the knowledge from your heart
Is something that could never be bought.
I sit here in tears because I didn't hold on to the life of freedom which I sought

Forgive me mom for anytime I disappointed you
Or in the slightest let you down,
But I'll always remember something I learned.
It's thanks to you mom now I've found
I've found I've been blessed by God just to have you mom.

I now begin to change my ways
And be the son you can be proud of
And smile proudly about one day.

I love you mom.
It's your voice I miss.
It's like an angel from above.
And I'm hoping that someday soon
I can show you just how much you're loved.

Artie

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THIS VATO DON'T CRY

How many years have passed since I allowed myself to cry?
I must have been a small child when a tear last fell from my eye.
It was much simpler back then I think.
My tears were never wiped or dried because, as a mere little guy, I had nothing to hide.

Yes, but the present is very different, and emotions are barricaded by foolish pride.
Yes, a tear - the meaning is beyond thought.
Emotional simplicity, how violently it's fought.
To be able to shed a tear, I'd gladly give an arm and leg.
Yes, but that's only inner thinking because I'm much too proud to beg.

Maybe, just maybe, when the time comes someone will be there to catch me when I fall,
Because if I have to continue life this way
I may not wish to continue at all!

Artie

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My Mom is Gone

My eyes water when I think of her.
I want to go back to the way things were.
I see her face in my dreams.
It's all so fake the way life seems.

I look up at the beautiful sky,
Talking to the Lord, asking Him why...
Asking Him why He took my mom,
Still not facing the fact she is gone.

She left on the 24th of November.
That is the day I'll always remember.
I felt like ripping out my spine.
Of all the mothers in the world, why mine?

My heart burns like fire.
It's burning for love and also desire,
Desire for love and desire for care.
I've searched for these things; they are not there.

I used to think I'd always hate.
I found I'd go crazy at that rate.

I close my eyes and think of my old home.
I open them up and I'm all alone.
Although alone, I am not scared
Waiting for my mother though she's never there.

I have a pain that never stops.
I wish someone was there to share my teardrops.
When I awake, I feel so refreshed.
I think of my mom and catch my breath.

I hope you never feel like I do,
Because it feels like my life is through.
I always crave for that gentle touch.
It's the little things that I miss so much.

There's a reason for her absence; that I know,
But if it were up to me she would never go.
I guess I'll leave on that note.
To my mother (rest in peace) this I wrote.

Jesse

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Lonely Feelings

I have this aweful feeling on my inside.
It is not fear and it is not pride.
This feeling inside leaves a painful spot.
I feel like my heart is starting to rot.

I see myself alone in some awkward place.
I think my heart is losing its pace.
I hope I would die; this I wish,
But I keep on going for this person I miss.

The sadness I feel, described also as pain.
I never feel happy because my heart is so plain.
Sometimes I dream of this glamorous place.
And all that I see is her beautiful face.

Sometimes I think that my teardrops are blood.
I feel it's my heart crying for love.
I hate the fact that she left me so soon.
I wish I could start over inside her womb.

She's still in my soul. This I know.
I know she'll stay there and never will go.
Inside I feel no need to live.
To hold her once more, my life I would give.

Jesse

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Thank the Lord

I'm thankful for
being locked up.
I thank the Lord
for giving me the opportunity to live a better life.
I'm not saying that being locked up is a good way to live
or that jail is a great place,
but what I am trying to say is that I live peacefully.
I was dead.
Now I live.
The Lord brought me into life.
Thanks to my Lord.
I see and think better
because the Lord turned my darkness into light.
I used to think life was a bitch but now I realize I was the bitch
not living my life the right way.
Life can be so wonderful.
if
we live with the Lord in our lives.
Now that the Lord lives within my heart
it doesn't matter where I live,
what food I eat
or what clothes I wear
as long as I have
the love of my Lord.
His love is a treasure to me.
It's worth more than anything in this world is.
Prison can be like paradise
if we want it to be.
It doesn't take much to live a good life
just
follow the Lord.
He'll lead you to his kingdom.
Even through all my pains and all my sufferings
I thank the Lord for giving me life.
Thanks to my Lord for all His love,
for caring so much for me
that He locked me up
in a place where I can be safe.
Even if I don't get out
I will always be
thanking my Lord
for all His gifts.

Janet

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Lost in a Dream

Lost in a dream
Unaware of the cause,
Lost like a drifter,
Lost finger in a wave of applause.

Lost in this dream
Sensing much danger,
I see all my loved ones
But I am still the stranger.

Lost in a dream
Like a train falling off its rail,
I am the lost one
And this is my tale.

Lost in this world,
This world of terror,
Looking into another world
Throught the eyes of a mirror.

Lost in these arms,
Arms of destruction,
Spinning in this life,
The life of corruption.

Lost in a sea,
The most lost I can be.
Get out of the path
Or you will be lost like me.

Jesse

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The Struggle Lives Inside Us

Some people say,
"Only the strong survive" ...
The "crazy" people who young kids look up to
While the whole world despise.

We're gang members -
No discussion, no choice,
Going crazy with rage,
Trying to get rid of the voice,

The voice that tells us
Who to hate, how to act.
We were born in this world,
No lie, all fact.

We have two families:
One's blood; the other is not.
We're the prey.
In a trap we got caught.

We're hated; we're rejects.
We are number one targets, targets from fear.
What they don't understand
Is that us villains also shed tears.

I wish I could make you see.
I wish I could make you understand.
You think gangs are our destiny
But none of us did plan.

We wished to be doctors,
Firemen, even police
But when us cholos were created,
The heart of steel turned into a disease.

I have to admit,
It's the thing to get into.
Sorry to say,
This gang life will always continue.

Jesse

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A Poem for My 17-Year-Old in Jail

You are there and I am here.
My Son made a mistake
For the drugs he did unlawfully take,
So we all must pay
Cause the law took Our Son away.
Now he's in jail, and our hearts do ache
Cause we can't go his bail.

One day on the phone
You said, "You are there and I am here
So how can you know what I feel"?
I say this to you My Son,
"You are there and I am here
This is how I know what you feel:"

"I am now
Sad, cause I miss you
And I can't kiss you;
Mad, cause I can't help you,
In this place you reside.
My God what kind of Mom am I"?

"Pain, cause I hurt you by telling you to leave.
I am SORRY, this I hope you believe.
Fear of what will happen to you
Before it is all said and done.
Forsaken, I must be in hell.
Can anyone hear me?
My son is in jail"!

"Wondering, why you are # 41
And how can I get it all undone?
Lonely, cause I need you
And you are not here.
Does his girl miss him?
No, I fear."

"Self-judgment about the choices I made
It cuts my heart like a blade.
Son I know I failed you but,
I know your love will never fade."

"Hungry, I want to feed you all you're favorite foods.
But, they tell me, not you,
What I can bring for your goods.
Loss of faith, my God where are you?
Are you really true blue?
Father God please forgive me
But it's too much to bear, can't you see?
Please please please take this cross from me.
But, I know it's only satan, wanting to slip in.
Damn you satan and damn you again"!

"Worried, will jail make a negative in you?
Will you learn new bad things to do?
Desiring, wanting to touch your face, to hold you,
To feel your warm embrace.
Depressed.. I want to die,
I want to kill these feelings inside".

"Time, one more month, a year, or nine?
It's enough to make me shout
My God how long is his time?
Now you see My Son, I too am in jail.
There is a virtual prison in my mind
And it is called hell."

Written for Dement #41
By: Mama (Monday, September 25, 2000)

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A "GANGSTER'S" PRIDE

All for his "Homies" tried and true,
The pride of his colors, the gang, his crew
He lives his life helping all those in need
Loving and caring shown in his deeds.
He laughs with his friends as memories are made
Little pranks, jokes, stories of his time he gave.
At times he sits so deep in thought
You wonder what this "gangster" is all about.

Adults pre-judge him for his appearance.
They see baggy clothes and slicked back hair
And think "no good" for him there is no chance.
Other kids see him with hate.
They throw gang signs, and call him names.
A fight they try to instigate.
He tries very hard to do what is right
He thinks of his mother's words,
"Don't pay attention walk away from a fight"

She prays for his safety as to God for him she cries
Trying to get passed the accusations against him, the lies.
He tells his friends about angels and trumpets and about the last days,
Things he has read in the Bible, as in his room he lays

It's so hard to be good
When people, adults, say you're a hood.
But if we can see past the clothes and the hair
We see they are our children in need of love, compassion, and care.
They are young people hurting and in despair.
We can do more for them than shake our head as we stare.
This young man has dreams of what he wants to someday be
To finish school, perhaps go to college, work,
How proud mom would be.

He loves his neighborhood where he lives,
Not by his choice, but his parents, no opinion he gives.
You watch my back & I'll watch yours
A promise given by each of the boys.
They care for each other as they make their way home
Not thinking of danger or doom.
A quiet night towards home his walk he begins
Not thinking that tonight his soul, will be required of him.

The Lord called him that October day.
As this young man takes God's hand, to Heaven, he's on his way.
He doesn't look back to what he leaves behind.
He's in the presence of Jesus and His Glory Divine.
This young man gave his life, so many would find theirs.
Gang kids are not evil or hoods by nature.
They are our sons, our daughters in need of affection.

This young man that lived a short 17 years
Will be remembered with love by his friends
And his mother through her tears.
As she kissed him for the last time in this life
She looks to the Lord for strength, comfort, and guidance.
For the days ahead that are filled with strife.
She knows in her heart that one day they will be together again
And as the pain and the heartache of the days
Without him come and are gone.
She continues her walk through faith in God's plan.

You may wonder how I'm so certain of what I write,
You see I am the mother and Omar my son.

To Omar with love
I love you mijo,
MOM

This poem was contributed by Pat in loving memory of her son
Omar Jesus Trujillo
January 30, 1981 - October 25, 1998

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PERDONAME JEFITA

Kicking back thinking about those old school days
When I was a chavalito with my gang-related ways.
My jefa is in my face - "Will I ever change"?
I'm only ten yours old and acting hella strange.

Running las calles late at night selling yesca en la esquina
Hiding from my carnalitas so they won't tell my jefita.
Kickin' it at the barrio cause the barrio was my fam bam.
Grew up in the calles so all I know is how to gang bang.

Strolling through the callejones de cabrones
Spray painting my placaso and you can cross it out
Cause ain't no doubt that you're down when you're in a crowd.
But now it's my jefita whom I think about.

Perdoname mi jefita, querida madre. I see you really broke up inside
From all the devious things that I shouldn't have done
And of all the times that I yelled and rebelled
I'm paying back here alone in this little cell.

I shouldn't have been, homie such a burden to her.
I should have loved her and offered the world to her.
It's too late and all I do is ask you for your forgiveness jefita.
I cry out to you from this hell and from this madness.

Me dispierto unas noches sweating like a perro.
No puedo dormir y tengo mucho miedo.
Estoy soñando unas nightmare
A really bad nightmare of you passing away and I wasn't there.

I wasn't there to say I love you so much.
I wasn't there to see you cry or to feel your healing touch.
Jefita mia they say a man ain't a man
Until he's realized his wrongs and I do so I am.

I know you gave me life from God up above
The only women in this world with unconditional love for me.
Perdoname jefita mother in heaven, I hope you're listening to me.
I didn't say sorry and now your resting in peace.

I put you through hell and yet you still visited me in jail.
Now when I have a problem, who am I gonna tell?
I have to cry and I have to ask why.
Eight months after paroling mom you had to die.

I look up to the sky and I think of you
Cause every day that passes bye mother, I miss you.
Cause a woman like a mother there will be no other.
I just hope you're up in heaven with my father and brother.

I'm sorry mom for my crazy life.
I wish you could have seen me change when you were alive.
I know mother all the pain I caused you and all the tears that I made you shed.
But I ask you and God for forgiveness tonight before I go to bed.

--- Perdoname jefita.

This is dedicated to all those who have felt the pain and agony of losing their mother, whether it was by death or she just gave up on you. Keep in mind that our mothers really loved us. We just made bad decisions. If you are fortunate enough to still have your mother by your side, think about the pain you've caused her and think about how you would feel if you lost your mom. I've seen many young vatos lose their parents and all of them say the same thing, "I wish I would have treated them better." Now I'm saying it. Thank God she's not dead, but she gave up on me and I feel like the loneliest vato on earth.

Salvador P.

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UN TORCIDO EN MI CORAZON

There you sit
Behind the bars
Of my heart....

Building our love
And chipping away
At the cement in my soul.....

Now I am the one
On the outside looking in
Wishing I could break
Your chains and set you free....

But you are under lock
And I am without the key
Here I sit with the tears
And there you are with the fears.....

Our life was put on hold
And now our bed is cold
I thought that it was all so perfect
And now I am just so full of regret.....

I can't wait till once again you are free
And that I can see you fly
You look like a caged animal
But who is the animal here?
Is it the prisoners or the jailers?
Is it you in prison or is it me?

I feel like I am the one
Looking in on you from behind my cage
And you are the one behind the glass
Saying words that I can not hear
And wishing I could.....

Are we lost, like lovers on an island
Or are we just lost in ourselves?
Are we ready for life?
Do we belong in our cages of loneliness,
Hidden away from the world of love?

You are the Torcido en mi corazon
Here you sit behind the bars of my heart
Your tears melting my soul
And your voice freeing my mind
Making me ready to love you......

Rachel

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Children Without a Father

I am the father of three. I left my one daughter when she was three years old; my son was five years old. I have another daughter that I have never seen and to this day. I do not know where she is. They are without their father; part of the consequences children face when a parent is incarcerated.

My baby, Jennis, is my first daughter. She is always asking, “Dad, when are you coming home”? I answer, “Soon baby, soon.” But every year it’s the same question, and my same answers. She has been dealing with this burden for the last fourteen years of her life. It hurts me to see her suffering. She knows that I love her and that I would give my life for her. But we all know that a child growing up without a father is difficult. That is just the half of it. I wonder what other sufferings she endures knowing that I am in prison.

My son, Angel, is my first boy. When I was out there, I loved being around him. He made me feel good every time we would spend time together. This year he is going to be twenty years old. I know he hurts not having me there with him. I sit back and hope he knows how I miss him and that I would do anything to be with him. I want to show him that I am a good father, but being behind these walls makes that very difficult.

I strongly desire to be with my children. They deserve the security of having dad home when they need him most. I correspond with my children, and, from time to time, we communicate by phone. That is a beautiful feeling-hearing their voices. One thing I always love when we talk on the phone, when they call me dad. The hearing them addressing me as dad is a feeling that the dwells deep inside of me and brings joy like no other to my life.

As for Jessica, the daughter that I have yet to see, I can just pray one day God will honor me with her presence. I realize now that if I was not in prison, her life, my other children’s lives and my life, would have been much different.

I never had a father around me. I know the pain of not having a father at home. My mother raised me, my brothers and sisters on her own-(God bless her). I do not take anything away from mothers, but a father’s presence at home is important. That, I am reminded of every day I spend in prison. I give the mothers of my children so much respect. I cannot imagine how tough it must be for them raising children on their own.

There are many young fathers out there who still have the opportunity to be part of their children’s lives. Many of us in prison wish every day for that second chance. Don’t let your young daughter or son suffer like my children have.

Hector S.
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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From Vietnam to Prison

I was born in a small village in southern Vietnam. Our house had no running water, electricity, or indoor plumbing of any kind. The only protection we had from the rain was a roof that was covered with banana leaves. Clearly, we were living under destitute conditions.

While we lacked material possessions, and we were certainly poor by any standards, my parents continued to cleave to their hope and faith. My parents were willing to risk their lives to bring us hope, which they did time after time. They wanted us to have the freedom and opportunity that is guaranteed by this great country. I was eight years old in 1981, the year that my mother and father decided to escape Vietnam in a small boat. There were over fifty men, women, and children cramped in the boat so tightly their legs had to be curled up in a fetal position. Women and children were placed inside the boat where the engine was located. It was unbearable most of the time. The men were required to position themselves on the roof of the boat. They were forced to hold on for dear life because of the constant rocking of the boat caused by the waves.

For three days and three nights we were constantly being pounded by thirty foot waves. We were then stranded in the middle of nowhere with no food and very little water. It became a daily routine to be limited to a couple of spoonfuls of water. No one on the boat could have imagined that we would have been lost for so long.

On the third night people began to lose hope and started to panic. They were convinced that the waves would capsize our small boat and we would all drown, and this seemed even more likely because there were no life jackets on board.

My mother and father were fully aware of the danger we were facing and they prayed to God. They asked Jesus to guide and protect our boat. Other frightened people began hysterically praying to Buddha and other deities. The next morning we were miraculously rescued by the United States Navy. Everyone was overjoyed that their prayers had been answered.

In 1982 we arrived in the United States. We were uneducated and unable to speak English. My parents accepted any work that was available. They worked very hard to provide for us.

In 1985 my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctor recommended surgery informing him that he might live six years or longer. My father decided to refuse the operation because he did not want to increase the financial burden on my mother. Within a few months my father’s health rapidly deteriorated.

My father changed from a healthy, active person to a sick vulnerable man, unable to take care of himself. Most of his time was spent in bed. Then one day he got well enough to climb out of bed and requested that I push him outside in his wheelchair. He wanted to see everything around him. While I was pushing him I could hear him repeatedly mumble about how beautiful everything was, and how he wanted me to take care of my mother and young siblings. My father’s words to me were valuable and clear. I can even hear them now. When my father spoke to me I couldn’t conceive that he wouldn’t be around to take care of me. This was soon to change. The next morning while I was in school, my mother came and took us all home and broke the news that my father had passed away that morning. Strangely, my feelings were of anger that he had gone away rather than of loss and sadness.

After my father passed away my mother had to work night and day to support the family, often leaving at seven in the morning and not returning home before midnight. There was no one that my mother could turn to for help. My mother and us kids were alone in this strange country. All of our friends and family remained in Vietnam. For years, she was content to wear the same old clothes to church and work, just as long as us kids were provided for.

Her hair has turned grey from all the worries and stress of a difficult life. Her back is slightly bent and her hands are hardened from years of labor. Her body continually aches from untreated injuries. My mother’s attitude is that if she spends money on her own injuries, surely she is neglecting her family’s needs. What little money she managed to save had to be sent to my grandmother and her siblings in Vietnam. Yet, not once, did I ever hear her complain of her situation. She gives so much of her love, energy, and soul to those around her. She rarely thinks of herself.

My mother doesn’t ask much of us. All she asks is that each one in the family makes her proud. Conversely she would lay down her life for our happiness. Mother teaches, “The only way we can live our life is when we love our life and love everyone around it.” So many nights I lie in my bed thinking of all the bad choices I made in life. I cannot blame anyone because all the choices I made were for myself. I never chose to sacrifice even a little of me for my mother. I failed as a son and as a human being, and the sad truth is, I have no excuses.

Thank you so much for your time and understanding. I pray that when you read this, that it may find you in good health and happiness and God’s loving care.

Mike D.
California

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A TEARFUL HEART

I have three sons. Ages 22, 21, and 13. I never thought in all my life I would have all my boys locked up for wrong decisions they made, that has effected every inch of me in different losses. I always wanted the best for them and tried to lead them on the right track but my words were unheard.

I was extremely effected when my 13 year old got arrested for a felonly charge, that would change his life to the point where his Momma had no say so. I was no longer their disciplinary authority. They were to be told what, how, when, and no ands if or buts about it by someone who didn't even care about them. You would think my 13 year old would have learned by his brothers' mistakes, where they would communicate through letters, and give him advice about a reality, that there was no fun and games in the penitenicary. I kind of think he wanted to know what his brothers were facing and wanted a taste of it.

What I say to all is when a child is facing incarceration and whatever mistakes he has made not only effected him but also his family, especially me, because I raised them. At first I felt failure and blamed myself. In time I realized regardless, it wasn't me to put them in that horrible place. They made decisions that I had no control over. Wrong decisions for a child are a learning experience. Each child will have to learn on their own or if for a miracle that he decides to learn from anothers mistake and not to put himself there, great!!! I'm a mother that feels lost and hurt and deeply lonely for her boys. If the Lord permits, one day we can all be together as a family again. My greatest wish of all is to be able to hold them and be a part of them. My last wish of all is them. Sons, Momma loves you and misses you very much. Please realize what has been done to our lives and make a change and love who you are. You are special men and I know this too shall pass. Again, Daniel, Carlos, and Samuel remember you can and will be everything God intended you to be.

Love with deep tears of pain,
Your Mother - Jeanette

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LOOKING BENEATH THE SURFACE

Under the scars and the tattoos
Dwells a man who cares.
Under the hate and the anger
Lives love and compassion.
Under the mask of “Fuck it, I just don’t care!”
Lives hope and dreams.
Under the “I don’t need anyone” role I play
Is a desire to trust.
Under the blood stains on my hands
I find shame.
Under the cold outside
Is a man who needs to be loved.
Under the biker, killer, convict
Is a father, a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend.

I’m like a bucket of water in prison
Who would like to be poured back into the streams of life.
So I ask God Almighty to forgive me
For pouring my bucket of water in the sand.

Rick M.
California

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THINK ABOUT IT

Hi, my name is Alfred. I’m 48 years old. I would like to share a little wisdom with you, also some pain that I have been through for the last 20 years.

I was on death row for 15 ½ years. Then the Ninth Circuit Court overturned my conviction. Now I’m awaiting a new trial. I have done 4 ½ hears in county jail while I wait. I’ve seen my friends lose their lives in prison. I’ve seen things in prison you would not understand nor want to see.

The wisdom I want to share with you is, never let your pride or ego take control. Always use your common sense to make your decisions. Never put your hands on anyone and NEVER take another person’s life. You won’t ever be able to make it right again. When you hurt someone or take someone’s life, you also hurt all the people that care about you and love you and also the person’s family and friends that you hurt or killed.

I used to think like this, “So what if I go to jail. Who would it hurt? I’m the only one that would have to suffer from being in jail.” But that isn’t true. My mother, my kids, friends and everyone that cares get hurts and always worry about me when I’m behind bars. Why? Because I didn’t think enough about those that love me and care about what happens to me before I went and got into all this trouble that has caused everyone pain and suffering. I thought my actions only affected me when I was in the street using my drugs and drinking… trying to be cool in the eyes of the players in the fast life.

There are only two things in life that you will be sure to receive from living in the fast life: a prison cell and/or a plot in the graveyard… Believe me! There are very few that get out of the game and stay out without letting the fast money, big pretty cars and bright lights take them down.

You’re always worried about what your homies and wanna-be friends will say or think about you. We always have to get in the last word in an argument. We always have to be right about everything. But having the last word isn’t going to make you any more right. (If you feel you’re right is all that matters) Why exchange words that might only end up with someone’s feelings getting hurt or even a life being taken? “Over what,” who is right or what others might think about you? That ain’t cool. Think at all times what you do could cause pain to so many people: family, friends, etc. The pain and suffering touches far more people than just you. If you react with your pride or ego instead of common sense, it will lead you to the biggest problem in your life… or even take your life. Think first before you react. Don’t act according to what you feel people will think about you. You’ll win in the end and in the end know in your heart that you’ve done things right.

I have a question I’d like you to ask yourself, and don’t answer it until you truly think about it. Let your answer come from your heart not your ego or pride. Be real with yourself. Has anyone ever asked you what you really want to be in life? Have you ever really thought about it, what you’d like to be or do, not what other people say you should be but what you truly would like to be? Do you realize if you’re free and alive you have a fairly good chance at trying to be what you’d like to be? But there’s no chance at all from a jail cell or grave. Being healthy and free is what it will take. You must make them your top priority. Always remember that.

No one ever asked me what I wanted to be or do. That’s why I’m asking you the question now as I sit here in this cell, a cell no bigger than your bathroom. I’m hoping this letter might help someone from choosing the path I chose. I’d like to help in any way I can to keep our young people from entering this sad cruel world of confinement. I hope and I pray they will hear wisdom (my pain) and it might help them from a situation much like the one I put myself into.

Never let material things control you to the point your decisions come from your ego or pride instead of your common sense. If you do lose something to someone else, you can always work for the money and buy it back, but you can never buy your freedom or life back.

I’m locked up in this cell 23 hours a day, five days a week. Two days a week I stay locked up 24 hours - all day. Can you handle that, year after year, out of your cell one hour a day?

Two of my friends lost their lives over me using drugs and not being able to think right. They’re dead, why, for what? They don’t even get to come out for an hour; it’s all over for them. I’m truly sorry. I mean that form my heart. My family and friends know that’s for real, but my being sorry can’t change things. It doesn’t bring back my friends or even give them an hour out.

Jail and prison is no joke. Don’t let the stories you hear (from those that haven’t even been here) fool you into letting your ego or pride think for you instead of your common sense. Be yourself; think for yourself and do what’s right. Stay away from drugs. They won’t make you cool.

There’s an old prison saying, “Don’t let 5 minutes of fame turn your life into a world of pain” or a life in prison or even a graveyard.

Alfred D.
California

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THE LOST CHILD

My insides burn with a terrible rage, as they brought me shackled and chained to this cage. Yet from early on I was taught, schooled in the ways of the wild. Thus I am known as the LOST CHILD!

No one cared or took time to guide me in positive paths. Now I am destined to spend my life wrapped in concrete and steel. Every day I respond to a number in place of my name, but to uncaring society, my name is LOST CHILD!

If I were shown loving and caring and prepared for life, and how to fend for myself, I would not be sitting with those society has forgotten and put on a shelf. Every day another comes in; a new face to this place, known simply as another LOST CHILD!

Which increases the multitude of attitudes and minds I must juggle! So let me say this so that it will be embedded in your brain and recorded in your mind. Take heed and do all in your power, if possible, to remain free; or you will find yourself crossing the gates to this place. Then you will be another casualty, another youth lost. Yes, you will be another number added to the list… The list of the CHILD LOST!

Pedro C.
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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WORDS SPOKEN IN ANGER ARE VIOLENT

Tragedies strike sometimes for no particular reason. I’d like to share an episode in my life with you where someone was seriously injured because of words. It all started when an acquaintance did not know how to stop a virus called “anger.” Five of us were going to a party. Jose was in the front seat; his girl was in the back seat with two of her friends and I was driving. During the ride, Jose and his girlfriend were arguing back and forth to the point that they could be heard, even though the music was blaring. The car was running low on gas, so I pulled into the nearest gas station and filled the tank. Before we could leave, a man approached the car and said, “I hope you paid for that gas.” Jose decided that the guy was trying to look tough in front of his girl, so he tells him, “get away from our car before I get out and knock one of them rotten teeth out of your mouth.” The guy just turned and walked away.

As we’re waiting to get out of the parking lot, shots shattered the back window. I stepped on the gas and took off. We thought it was over, but ten seconds later his car was crashing into the rear bumper of our car. He came around on the passenger side and shot at us a couple of times, blowing out both the windows on that side. Then he pulled up behind us and tried running us off the road, but he only managed to tear off the rear bumper. Finally, I lost him by driving through a red light, and just barely avoiding a major accident. When I turned my head to look in the back seat, it was filled with blood. Everybody in the back seat was bleeding from the glass except for Maria. She took a bullet in her back and was unconscious. She survived the surgery, but she will never be able to walk right again.

All this because of an act of anger. If Jose was not arguing with his girl, he probably would not have said anything to that guy and there would not have been any problems. Always remember, when someone speaks in anger, they never know who might get hurt as a result of that anger. This time it was Maria, who only wanted to go to a party but instead ended up handicapped for life.

This is one of many tragedies that happens every single day because of angry words. They could easily be avoided by learning that once something is said, it can’t be taken back.

A prisoner
Reprinted with permission from the magazine "Inside Out"
New Jersey State Prison

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THE REALITY OF PRISON LIFE

Prison has given me the opportunity to learn what reality is, that life isn't just one big game. After seeing many people serving life in prison I realized, do I want to spend my life waking up in a cell eating food that's not satisfying, asking myself, why spend year's in prison suffering, when I can spend years in a college, making myself prouder and happier.

Being incarcerated gives everyone a different prospective about life, realizing no one cares about you but your family. Everyone involved in gangs does what it takes to gain the respect and to be acknowledged by those who got respect. But something I learned from prison is respect ain't always the best thing in life.

My attitude has changed for the most part. I'm still involved in gangs while incarcerated and don't plan on changing what I have lead myself to doing more time for. But I have got the chance to learn about myself and who I am, I’ve let go of drugs and learned what I want to be in life. I never had a role model, but that doesn't mean I can't become somebody else's role model.

The drugs I used made me do the things I did - stealing, robbing houses, stealing cars, messing with guns etc. Sometimes it was for respect to be the bigger man, but still once addicted to meth it was to support my habit. My attitude was I don't care and I’m unstoppable. If anyone steps in my way I’ll do, what I must.

If I had one more chance, I’d go back to school, get into sports, no drugs, no gangs or people who would destroy my future. I'd open my mind into becoming something. Young gang members don't understand that life is more precious then a 40 oz. of liquor and weed, even some corrupted women.

I use to think I’d never end up in prison but you can't out run reality, you gang bang, it's either prison or dead, the already dead ran out of hope, the convicts get a second chance, but you only get one life.

An Inmate, C.A.G.

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DILEMMA

I’m in a trance, a daze of pure nothingness,
Stuck in a place that’s present and also in the past,
Looking at myself with uncertainty,
Doubting my every move.

“What am I supposed to do,”
Is the question I ask myself.
Is this the path, the right path?
Think. Think. Think!

I seem to have answers to everything
But to this question I don’t.
I have people counting on me.
They think I can do it, which brings more confusion

… to my dilemma.
Ricardo M.

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CHANGES, IN MY LIFE

Hello my name is Daniel and I'm 22 years old and I'm writing this letter to let you know a little about what I went through. In my life I was innocent, just a boy trying to do good. I use to get A's and B's in school. But once I hit 15 years old I went down the wrong road and started doing drugs. I was the type of boy that was quick to hate people, I was just mad at the world. So when I started to do drugs and drink it took all the anger out and I would feel a lot of relief and I wouldn't be mad.

I felt like myself but I was doing drugs so much that I would go out and steal cars and take from others because I didn't give a damn about shit. I had to do what I had to do to survive on the streets and just to have money. But after awhile I took awhile I starting stealing a lot of cars. But doing all that shit, stealing and taking from others, it didn't do nothing for me. But put me in the County Jail, then prison. I been in and out since 98" and now prison made me into a man and I came out with respect and my head up high. But just because I just got out of prison doesn't make me a bad ass or a down ass homie, it just made me look bad and people look at me different, because I just got out of prison. So I don't feel like a down ass homie. I feel I'm the dumb one and I lost out on 4 years of my life in prison.

I lost out on my lil brothers life, he's already 14 years old and he's growing up so fast and I don't want him to follow my foot steps. I want him to do better for his life and not go through what I went through because it's not a place for him. I can't see him in prison behind bars. So my advice to him is to just do good and stay in school and be a good boy for my mother and me. I want him to graduate from High School and go to college and be someone. He don't need to be like me. He needs to just be himself and forget about everyone that wants him to do wrong. I know I haven't been there for him because I been in and out of prison. But he loves me no matter what, even if I'm a bad brother. I wish I never went that wrong road I should of went straight and maybe I would of lived a different life, maybe I could have something in life instead of being just a number and a criminal.

But I can't change the hands of time. Now that I'm out of that hell-hole prison, I feel like a whole different man. But all I got to do now is look forward to my goals and don't look back to all the hate and sadness. I want to go on with my life and be someone that people can trust and love. Not someone who people say "Where Daniel? In prison. He ain't going to amount to nothing and never have a normal life." But I don't want people to talk bad about me because I'm not really a bad person; I just made some wrong decisions, in my life.

But now I'm going to make up all the bad for good stuff instead of doing wrong. I'm going to do right for once in my life. I don't like being caged up like a crazy animal. I want to have a family of my own. I would be the best father I can be. I would never leave my kids. I want to have a big family so when I pass away, I got my babies, so everyone won't forget about me and to take over what I didn't finish. But now that I'm free in the real world, I feel like I can do what ever to better my life. I stay away from my homies and now I got my real friends and that's my family and that's the best thing you can have. They will never leave you on your own. You can always go to them and they will always be down for you and always got your back to the fullest. I love my mom with all my heart and she means the world to me, I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have her. She's the best mother anyone can have; I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's the one that cares for me and wants me to do good for myself.

But all I can do is try my best. Can't just change everything in just on night. It takes time. So right now I'm taking everything slow. NEVER GO TOO FAST WITH YOUR LIFE. IT'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE. So I just pray that I can be a good man and a good son and just stay out of trouble and find a girl that's going to love me to the end and always be down for this lonely man. I hope one day I do find that special lady to love me till I get old and die.

What I say to you, is don't rush your life, stay young as long as you can and be happy and just forgive your enemies before it's too late. Live a happy life because you never know when you might end up being in the wrong place, wrong person, wrong time and like night and day, your life will change, and you can't do nothing about it. Be careful of your choices; think before doing something foolish; your life could change in a minute. I am an example of what wrong decisions, did to my life and if I could change it, believe me, I would. I know it's not too late for me, for I woke up, looked in the mirror, and now the decisions I make will be the right ones.

Daniel G.
CALIFORNIA

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THE FOLSOM STATE PRISON EXPERIENCE

It was a quiet calm Monday afternoon inside Folsom Prison wall. I felt uneasy with the peacefulness around me knowing, that this is a level four prison and violence could occur at any moment, but I pushed the negative thoughts aside and continued on discussing strategy for our next soccer game.

Our peacefulness was broken with the sound of an alarm. Within seconds, the loud speaker on the yard announced, “Yard down!” Everybody rushed to find a decent spot to sit down. After four years in prison, I still get startled hearing the threatening announcement, “Yard down!”

As I sat and worried, thoughts rushed through my mind, “I wonder is this a false alarm or did someone really got hurt.” I sat in dazed wonder and watched all the correctional officers in a confused state running to the place of the alarm. This time someone did get hurt. A stretcher rushed by with an inmate lying on his stomach motionless, blood flowing from his neck and from the side of his stomach. Medical personnel tried to stop the blood, but it didn’t work.

Did something he did warrant such a punishment? I sat there in disbelief thinking. Did he have a chance to explain himself before he was attacked? My confused mind kept questioning, “Did he know it was coming and did he have a chance to talk to his loved ones before this happened?” I know his mom is crying over his suffering - just like mine would.

Why can’t we look at another human being and see that that person is also in the same sort of pain and sadness like everyone else? Why do we have to show how tough and macho we are by hurting someone else. I am sick and tired of all this macho tough image crap. I wonder if he is going to make it. All these questions I have will never be answered because I am afraid to know.

Note: I found out later that he did survive the attack.

Mike D.
CALIFORNIA

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LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT

My name is Willie. I’m a 43 year old convict who has been incarcerated for 22 years and I’m hoping that I can help! You see, I used to be a gang member and I tried so hard when I was younger to please anyone and everyone just to be accepted. I did many things that I’m not proud of, all for the sake of being called a down homeboy or a “Rida,” ironically traveling down the path to California State Prison! Yeah, there were some good times, but once I was gone, life went on for all my homeboys, homegirls, friends and family. They all continued the good times without me, and in the 22 years of my incarceration, I’ve only heard from one so-called homeboy! Imagine that! My family kept in touch the best they could, but within these 22 years I have lost my mother, my grandmother, my baby brother, my baby sister, and my sanity for a short time! The sad part is I did this all to myself and I never took time to value what was really important…

Well, now I have a date for parole and guess what? I don’t have anyone or anything to parole to! Is this what you want your life to turn out to be? If the answer is yes, then keep rolling with your gangs and neglecting your family (mother, father, sisters, brothers, etc.)!

You see, life is what you make it, and if you want to be loved, respected, understood, accepted and most of all free to move as you choose when you want and how you want, must do 3 simple things. And I guarantee you that your life will change for the better! If you want to stay out of prison, if you want to have better relationships, if you want to be completely successful, all you have to do is:

  1. Know thyself. - You must learn who you are and what you want out of your short stay on this planet! You must learn to treat people the way you know you want to be treated - no exceptions!
  2. Respect thyself. - This is very important because when you respect yourself, you make better choices and you won’t allow anyone or anything to influence your judgment! Always remember “Class is always better than trash.” So respect thyself!
  3. Love thyself. - You must always remember that in order to truly love anyone, you must first love yourself. Put you first in life and you would understand what it means to be loved. When you love yourself, you don’t do anything to jeopardize your well being in any way! Your health is determined mentally and physically by the way you treat yourself.

So from this day forward, love yourself, respect yourself, and know yourself and if you stay true to yourself, you will touch the stars and move mountains!

With love, Willie T.
CALIFORNIA

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LOWER OUR MASKS

Let us as men lower our masks. Let us show our truths. Let us as men step away from the heartless animals we must be in this den of madness. If only for a little while, let us as men of strength show our souls.

Let us as men of power extend our hand without it being firmly wrapped around a scrap of prison steel. Let us as man of wisdom and compassion take a youngster and teach him of life instead of cutting bloody furrows into his body as we take his life.

Let us as man of honor forget the hustle. Let us go beyond race or who we worship or what the homeboys think we should do or the prison bullshit. Let us as men for once look at our needs to become the man we know we could have been and should have been.

Let us as men of chance bet on ourselves. Let us trust each other. Let us spin the wheels and for once give something of ourselves away. Let us as men lower our masks.

Rick M.
CALIFORNIA

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NO LONGER A MYSTERY?

What if
Everything
We have been waiting for
Is here
In us,
All around,
Like the air we breathe,
Only we’ve been too blind to see,
To realize
Life is what it is,
No longer a mystery
A hidden paradise up in the skies
Far from our reach?
What if
One fine day
This realization suddenly comes to you?
What then?

G. Alvarado
CALIFORNIA

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THE ABYSS WITHIN

I find myself in a dark place.
It is not physical.
It cannot be seen.
It found a nest within me
And started to grow and take over.
It prevents me from doing what I want.
It is weakening my will.
Though it is within me,
I find that I look out from inside it.
It surrounds me,
Almost drowns me.
I manage to rise to the surface
And catch my breath once in awhile.
This is what I'm doing now.
To express myself is to breathe.
My breathing is desperate
Therefore my thoughts can be incomprehensible.
I do not know what this dark place is,
But I do know that I am not alone.
If you understand and visualize what I write,
You know about that dark place
That has become part of you,
That part that pulls you down.

Alex M.
CALIFORNIA

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