My name is Ashley, I am 33 years old and my father has been incarcerated approximately since my birth. I'm not even sure how to begin describing what it's been like and how it's affected me. It's been a confusing life, filled with questions, doubts and uncertainties with a huge, unfillable void and many false hopes and dreams. One of the deeper struggles I've experienced living with my father's situation is the question of "good" and "bad". As a child it was a fairly universal assumption among my peers that "bad" people commit crimes and go to jail. Whenever I was asked "where's your Dad" I was ashamed to say he's in prison and found it difficult to answer the inevitable follow up question of what did he do. The main reason this was so hard for me was the confusion and internal conflict I felt trying to make sure the questioner knew my dad wasn't a "bad" person. I understand the crimes he committed were some of the worse possible. I understand people who do these things deserve to be imprisoned. What was harder for me to understand is why it never felt to me like he was a bad person.
I knew from an early age what my father did, partially from my mother's honesty and also from public information found on the internet. I've spoken about him and his crimes to him and my Mom as well as other family members and close friends. It feels like trying to make 2 puzzle pieces connect that aren't supposed to fit together. I couldn't match in any way the father I knew to the boy who committed those crimes. My Mom's unwavering love and support for him and our family's support for her have always shown me that things aren't as black and white as they may appear. I came to understand that sometimes a good person can do bad things, especially when drugs or trauma are involved. I've also learned that people can grow and change significantly.
Every interaction I've ever had with my Dad, in person, over the phone, through mail was thoughtful, loving, supportive, understanding, and especially remorseful. I greatly respect the path he has chosen since being incarcerated; he's done everything he can spiritually and mentally to better himself. He's become a student, a teacher, a mentor, a minister, a worker, a professional. He taught me about religion and right and wrong. He advised me and supported me even when I made mistakes or didn't follow his opinions. He's shared his life experiences with me, both good and bad and I believe he is a wonderful person but with a tragic past.
This has been the hardest part of growing up without my incarcerated father. Growing up without your real Dad is difficult enough. I think even more so when the life you dream of is wanted and agreed upon by all but out of anyone's control. When I think about how different my life would be if my father were able to come home to us I often have to stop my thoughts quickly because it's painful to think of the endless possibilities. What have I missed out on and what am I still missing out on?
Where do I even begin? Falling in love with an incarcerated individual is not something I ever imagined in my life. I mean to tell you the truth, I never even really knew someone in jail or prison before. So if someone would have told me that I would meet and fall in love with someone who was incarcerated I would have pretty much thought that they had lost their mind or something. I can tell you it is a very lonely, desolate, dark, and barren life. It is not something that I readily share with family, friends, or colleagues. It is like living a secret most of the time. It is something that you can only share with a like-minded individual. Someone who knows and can relate and HAS NO JUDGEMENT. As the years have gone past I realize, that I too am in prison, as your life on the outside becomes smaller and smaller as you back away from the opinions and the judgment of those that you made the mistake of sharing with. People don't understand it and people don't like it either. Visitation brings you somewhat of a replacement family or inner circle as you see the same people week after week and you know that only they go through the same things that you do by loving someone who is incarcerated. There is a lot that comes with that title and NO ONE could ever prepare you for it, as it is a journey that is only believable if you live it. It is emotional, sad, disbelieving, angering, and extremely wearing on one's mental well-being most of the time. You feel powerless, insignificant, and weak to the Agency in charge of you and your loved ones' life. Although I am a free civilian, they have control of my life in so many ways. The things that you witness are just short of unbelievable, and if I hadn't seen them with my own two eyes I would never in a million years believe those things to be true. Injustices, inhumanity, mistreatment, abuse, neglect, harassment, and unbearable, unacceptable living conditions. Some of the things I have witnessed will stay with me for the rest of my life and I can say they weren't even done to my loved ones but others. This is supposed to be the Greatest Country in the World, the Land of the Free and the Brave.......to see how its incarcerated population is treated is the third world in my opinion. The food, the amount of food, the lack of medical treatment, the daily treatment, the violence, the environment, lack of opportunity for betterment, the endless time of existence, and nothing to do but die mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Although the sentence is deemed the punishment, the real punishment is the daily life in America's prison system. Being witness to these things and being somewhat powerless to do something about it, eats away at your psyche as an outsider, I can't imagine what it does to the ones on the inside. The worry and stress you have continuously, daily, hourly fearing for the safety of your loved one, takes away your joy, your peace, your stability. After years go by you look in the mirror and you can start to see what it has done to you physically and emotionally. Your heart hurts, breaks, and feels numb at times as you can't protect the one you love. You can't pick up the phone and call them when you need to hear their voice. They can't hold you when you are sad or help you when you sick and tired or just need the one you love by your side for support. You can't cry on their shoulder when you need. Every night you lay your head down on your pillow alone longing for them to be lying next to you. You're out here supporting yourself, perhaps your children, household, and doing the best you can to support them financially, emotionally, and legally. It is a cycle that is of destruction to what a human needs to thrive for both you on the outside and them on the inside. But for the loyal ones such as myself, you CAN'T walk away. You CAN'T abandon them. You just can't leave them in that dark isolated world alone. If you are someone who is not directly impacted by an incarcerated individual, you would just say something like..." they did the crime, they deserve to do the time"....and "you made your choice to love them", but I have to disagree with all of that. I believe in second chances. I believe God put me on this path for a reason, I believe I have made difference in people's lives on this journey as difficult as it may be and I believe that I can walk away but I KNOW I AM TOO LOYAL TO DO SO. I WILL CONTINUE to hang on TO MY HOPE of his FREEDOM, to my FAITH in what I can not see but BELIEVE will come true. I believe that if I continue to be the voice for the voiceless, the light in the darkness, the hope for the hopeless and fight until my last breath, I WILL MAKE CHANGE for the incarcerated and my loved one or I will simply die trying and hope that others will pick up my torch and follow in my footsteps to continue fighting this good fight.
Tired but not Defeated
Good evening to everyone out there who is willing and ready to help show the world how the justice system works and how in a split second people's lives can be changed for ever. It can be changed forever; whether you are a victim or the person who committed the crime.
Life for me, changed at the age of 19 and I was given a life sentence; unfortunately, in Florida Life means life. No parole. No early release, or any type of opportunity at a second chance at life even though at 19 my life was just beginning. Youth and ignorance aren't a justification to wipe away the wrong of my situation or devalue the life that was lost. There are no words that could ever convey the depth of what I feel but I can only allow the whirlwind of emotions to fuel me to continue to make changes for the better. The young impressionable girl is gone. I have spent every year doing all and everything that I can to be productive and make better decisions to let the world know I'm not irredeemable. My life still has purpose and I know that God has not washed his hands of me. Forgiveness doesn't come easy not for myself, the family of the victim , nor for a society that has constantly been torn apart by violence. Yet I ask that you open your hearts and you will hear my cry for a second chance and forgive me for not taking into account anything that would result of what my actions would cause. I want to say I appreciate everyone's support it means a lot to me.
People ask me all the time how do I feel? Well let me start off by saying there isn't a time when I'm not thinking about that night on October 23 2010, when the young man’s life was taken. It hurts me to my heart to know that I was a part of the reason why an innocent life was taken. There isn't a night when I'm sleeping that I don't dream about it and I'm very remorseful for all the pain that I've caused. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and change everything and make things right..... I just ask that maybe one day Shannon's family can forgive me in the part that I played in the whole scenario.....I'm not a vicious person and nor would I purposely set out to cause harm to anyone. I want everyone to know, including Mr.Grffin's family...that I'm truly sorry and I pray every day that you may find it in your heart to let me see outside these prison walls one day. My change and maturity may not quell the anger that is felt toward me but I truly hope to have an opportunity to show the world as well as the people I've affected the best version of Jennifer Mee. I want to help any and every person I can to make better decisions and not have to make the same mistakes I did.
JACK VALENTINE - JULY 18, 2020
(Helped by an SF Representative)
The Prison Release Re-Offender Graveyard
Where There Is No Peace
My name is Jack Valentine and I have seen another side to Lady Justice's blindfold. A side that has left me with such hopeless despair that I do not know what to do... Believe in hope from the very Lady that took my hope away? Believe that Justice's blindfold hasn't been placed around my neck tightening with each passing day? Believe in an appeal process that seems as unlikely as the natural life sentence that I now have... once seemed?
I'm not the only one who has been buried alive by Florida's Prison Release Re-Offender (PRR) laws. No, there are so many more who have also met the mercilessness and senselessness of the PRR Statute. Some may love the fact that "criminals get what they deserve", but I would have to say they are so very detached from actualizing the reality of a Natural Life sentence... and so very detached from actualizing how easy "deserving" could be them... their child... brother... or sister.
For the rest of my natural life, the dark empty world of prison is the only thing I will ever know... just because I re-offended within 3 years of my release. The PRR enhancement has been one of the main pillars holding up the massive mass incarceration machine here in Florida. A machine that has created millions upon millions of senseless spending, and society has yet to have seen a return on their investment.
When I look at my criminal history I do not even come close to understanding how a court system could even be okay with giving me such a sentence. My crimes consist of possession of Xanax after being pulled over for reckless driving in 2008 (I was under the influence of Xanax), for which I got 6 months in jail.
Four years later in June 2012 would be the next time I came into the Lady Justice's presence after getting into a heated debate with two individuals at a bar. Being under the influence again, culminated in me feeling threatened and stupidly getting a shotgun from my trunk to make them leave me alone. For this, I would do 3 years in the Florida Department of Corrections for two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm.
The final nail in the perpetual coffin would come over five years later (2 years after being released from the FDC) on December 15, 2017, when I would go to a Target resale store to buy a vacuum cleaner with a false bar code. Lady Justice's finest hour would give me a Natural Life Without Parole sentence for what today would be considered a misdemeanor (theft of under $750.00)?!
Now granted, it was not solely the PRR's doing as the Target security personnel that stopped me at the door after paying for the vacuum would tell the jury that when he tried to take the vacuum from me that I pulled a revolver, pointed at his face, and told him to get out of the way. Lady Justice would not only hit me with the PRR enhancement (a Life sentence), but she would also sit silent as the State used clear false testimony to cement an Armed Robbery with a Deadly Weapon conviction.
Never mind the security cameras that clearly showed the ex-police officer (Target security personnel who stopped me at the entrance) was presenting false testimony (as if the police do not lie to bolster cases). Never mind that every camera establishes that I never had a gun, nor did I point a gun in his face... but the prosecution did not blink concerning using this testimony.
The jury somehow ignored the fact that it was late December around Christmas time, yet none of the cameras showed any of the many moms with children walk past me with worried expressions on their faces as I "supposedly" pointed a gun in the security personnel's face... none of them hurried out of the way... none of them even stuck around to make a police report concerning a gunman who endangered the lives of those within the store.
Today, the truth of what I did that day would have amounted to a misdemeanor (theft of under $750.00), which ultimately, means I possibly have to do another 30-50 years never knowing freedom again... all for a misdemeanor! Where is Lady Justice when it comes to the injustices that are perpetrated against the perpetrators?
Where is Lady Justice when I have sold my house to pay the exuberant cost that attorneys charge to represent you? Where is she when my grandmother got ill immediately after I was sentenced to life, and dying within a year? Where is this so sacred woman when my mother has to sell her house to save her only child's life... ALL FOR A MISDEMEANOR!!
My grandmother and my mother brought me here from Russia in the hope a better life could be found in the Land of the Free, but the only life I found here was taken by the PRR Statute. I'm left with trying to piece together how my actions have caused so much pain, loss, and sorrow to the only two people I've ever loved... I wonder if Mrs. Justice has such feelings about all of her failures?
With the deepest sincerity,
My name is Michael Rowe, and at 31 years old I am telling my story for the first time. I was born to two teenage kids who were very scared and confused as they knew nothing about raising a child. My mom was 15 when she became pregnant with me, and my dad was 17 years old.
My mother realized real quick that she was way in over her head, left me with my dad, and split. At this time, my dad was at the stage in his life where cocaine and the bar scene were mainstays, so being a full time father was not very conducive to his lifestyle. I have to say, he gave it his best shot, but I can only imagine how hard it is to juggle his own adolescence with the responsibilities of fatherhood.
He would, eventually, begin seeing this woman who had a son the same age as me, and they decided to move in with each other. She would become pregnant, and I imagine making a child of their own was very exciting for them. They wound up doing what everyone in the 90's did in that situation and got married.
Shortly after they got married something would forever alter our lives. My stepbrother was at his father's house visiting and was left unattended to in the front yard as his dad was partying inside. Innocently, he would chase his ball as it rolled into the street, ultimately, being hit and killed by a car. My stepmother would instantly and completely shut down, nothing would be the same after that day.
For the next couple of years my dad would become totally engrossed with trying to console his wife who was deeply depressed, and taking care of the new baby. There wasn't that much time for me, which left me to myself a lot. My stepmom and I did not get along at all. It was like she resented me, because she lost her son and my dad still had his, then I resented her, because I was always ignored and wanted my mother... a mother. Every now and then, my mother would pop in, and fill my head with empty promises about me coming to stay with her or taking me to Disney, etc.
After some time, I remember my dad started having an affair with some lady he met at work. He would take me along when he would go to her house, which would put me right into the middle of this big drama! Everyone tried to get me to turn on my dad and get information out of me. They finally worked it out of me, which created a sense of lonely regret for telling on my dad.
At this point, I was only 7 or 8, and though I was really smart in academics, I would always act out in class. For some reason, unknown to me, I would always throw tantrums, and it would also follow me home (it may have been the other way around) as I was constantly arguing with my stepmom... we could never get along. I would try to tell me dad my side of things, but he would never believe me and just accused me of trying to start problems between them.
He would yell at me and tell me that if I kept causing problems between him and her, then he would be forced to make a choice between his son or his wife (I assumed it meant he would chose her). From then on, I just bottled everything up inside, until I would have these massive explosions. The schools started making me go to weekly counseling sessions for my anger, which would only get worse by our having to move at least once every year.
My father would quit a job on a whim, and there never seemed to be enough money forcing us to pack up and move all the time. Shortcuts would be shown to me as a necessity (rather than an illegality) as our utilities would get shut off, and my dad would turn them back on illegally. He explained why he didn't want to be seen doing it and taught me how to reattach the power meter and turn on the main water meter. By the time I was 10, I basically, already knew how to think like a criminal.
It didn't stop there, he would also climb the power pole just to connect our cable to the neighbor's cable, so we didn't have to pay for something that we didn't have the money for. It all taught me that you had to figure out ways to get what normal families had, which set me up for some skewed thinking. It was a never ending story that provided no sense of security, while at the same time establishing that rules could be broken.
There were times when we needed money fast, so my dad would go around the house with a box to see what he could take to the pawn shop. About a decade down the road I would add my own twist to support a drug habit by pawning stolen goods, which would lead me to being arrested. The smallest things from a childhood can bend the acceptance of right and wrong to a level that compromises its original truth.
At the age of 12, I would experience what it was like to have a buzz as my parents threw a little drinking party with some friends when my dad called me and my best friend into the kitchen and handed us each a glass of 151 Bacardi. He told us, "It would put hair on our chest", and as it felt like a rare bonding moment, down it went (I'm still waiting on the hair). After that night he would regularly let us drink, and when he didn't we would just steal his booze and fill it back up with water.
Something in me changed when I started drinking, I felt more alive, like I could be somebody I had never been. Somebody that was brave, because inside I was a very frightened insecure little boy. When in school I never fit in, I didn't have money for new clothes or anything else the other kids had. I always had hand-me-downs, and as everyone smoked inside my house I would always smell like an ashtray. As a result, I was picked on and became more distant, secretly seeking approval to fit in.
My freshman year of high school I met a kid that was a lot older, he had a car, he smoked, drank, and was just someone that I knew I fit in with. I wanted to fit in so bad, but I never saw anyone that didn't make me feel like I was an outsider. Having a car was a huge deal back then, because it was what most every kid wanted above all else... freedom. To be able to ride around with someone that had a car meant I was, finally, the one every kid was looking at with a sense of envy.
My new role model would call for me to start smoking cigarettes and pot, so now my state of mind matched my "cologne". When my dad found out I was smoking cigarettes (he had this sneaky way of getting me to tell on myself, which is something I have to figure out as I have kids of my own), instead of punishing me like most dads he found it amusing and decided to support my decisions in life. I presume, since I was going to smoke anyway, or he didn't want me breaking the law to get the smokes he might as well buy them for me.
Well, like I said I really wanted to fit in with this kid, so one day we smoked a lot of marijuana and decided to take a trip to Walmart. He wanted a couple things for his car and didn't have any money, so I, trying to be cool would steal them. I was caught before I even left the store and taken to jail for petty theft. This was a wake up call of sorts, and I pretty much stayed out of trouble until my senior year... which would become the absolute worst year of my life (up to that point)!
I would learn what it was like to be bullied and tortured to the point where I wanted to commit suicide. Nobody at school seemed to care, and to make matters worse, the parents wouldn't do anything about it either. My father even called the other kid's parents and threatened violence on the kid, if he didn't leave me alone (he did love me and tried his best...sadly, society often looks at things from the standpoint that someone else's best is always someone else's worst).
It would all come to a head one night a couple months before graduation when they ended up jumping me, and beating me down real bad. I was so scared to leave my house or go to school I would simply drop out and never graduate. This sent me down a vast hole of depression, anger, hatred and so many other emotions that would be crippling at times. Life would take on a whole new level of not knowing who I was, or what this life was all about.
My dad at this point had a bunch of surgeries on his back and was pretty much a walking opioid pharmacy. I started stealing his pills to just numb all the pain and escape reality and after a while my dad would just give them to me. All of this just compounded all of my already compound issues, but I would attempt to press on with functionality in my life.
I was working full time with my dad, and he taught me his trade in new construction painting. We would wake up in the morning, pop a few pills together, and go to work all day. He really didn't know how messed up I was inside and that I was barely coping by using those pills. For years he didn't know that I was going behind his back stealing them from him... Well, maybe he did.
We would end up moving to Tennessee, and I got a job at a car dealership detailing cars. I hooked up with the receptionist who was a few years older, and we quickly fell heavily in love with each other and moved in with each other. Over the next year and a half we would become very bad alcoholics and would always end up fighting... making up and then drink some more... then fight some more and repeat the process all over again.
It was around Thanksgiving 2009 when we found out she is pregnant, and she would begin to change. I did not know how to change, which would only add to my already low self-worth state of mind. It wasn't the fact that I didn't want to change, it was the fact that I only knew what I knew and didn't know how to find something different.
She was from Santa Fe, New Mexico, so she wanted us to move out there to be close to her family and raise our baby. I quickly got a good job (somewhere in all of our "Jerry Springer" drama I lost the one I had) and we got our own place, but I still couldn't stop drinking. She grew up in a very normal, very loving family and I felt so out of place around the whole "ideal life". The only way I ever felt normal was when I was impaired, which would lead me to my addiction getting way worse, and she would end up leaving me. She would try to get me help, but I was so far lost in my own world I couldn't resurface.
My dependence got so bad that I was now using IV heroine, which led to me getting hit by a car one day while I was aimlessly walking down the street totally out of my mind. My family flew me back to Florida, because my legs were broken, and I couldn't take care of myself. Around this time my mom came back into the picture. She had gone to rehab and got clean, so she got me into that same rehab.
One night she was the guest speaker at one of the meetings there at the rehab. The place was packed and over 100 people sat listening to my mother make her living amends to me right there on that stage. She sincerely apologized to me, because she was so young and lost in her addictions that she couldn't be there for me. At that moment the biggest weight I had ever felt was lifted off of me. I fully understood why, because I was now doing the same thing to my own child. I truly forgave her, and she is now one of my strongest supporters.
I wish I could say I got it right the first time like her (well, I really don't know how many attempts it took her to get it right, but I do know that she got the only attempt I personally witnessed right). I have had some good stretches of clean time and have learned a lot about the disease of addiction, and about myself, my life. I think above it all, one has to be honest with themselves about the truth of their lives before they can ever become clean from a life of addiction.
I kept telling myself that I was still so young that I had plenty of time to go have fun, drink, party, and not take life so serious like any other normal person does. Except that I am not normal, or maybe I am normal and a life of addiction always leads down the wrong path. Personally with me, once I have one drink or hit, the lock comes off the cage and before I know it I'm right back in jail for something stupid.
The years of 2012 - 2016 were a constant cycle of go to jail, dry out, promise myself to do different, get released, and start all over again. I thought, I honestly gave it a full- hearted effort, but would fall to the deceptive "this time will be different" every time. My addiction only progressed and became worse, and it wouldn't take long before I wound right back up in jail.
In January 2017, I was released to a court intervention program called the Drug Court Program. I was court ordered to be prescribed this new drug called Vivetrol, which was suppose to make it impossible to feel the effects of opiates. As such I decided that since I had this new drug and there was no chance that I would get high, then it was good to go hang out and drink with my new friends (the turnover rate of friends was high in a life of addiction).
I would have a life changing event in March of 2017, and it would be a defining moment in my life. Only out of jail for about 84 days when I decided to take a girl, I had just met to my favorite fishing hole to drink beer, fish, and enjoy a good Sunday afternoon. When we were ready to leave, she asked me to let her drive, because I had been drinking. I told her that I was fine and decided to drive myself, after all driving drunk seemed to be a perfectly normal occurrence to me.
About a mile down the road I looked down at my phone for a couple seconds, unknowingly, drifting into the bicycle lane, and I never saw him. I would hit a tourist who was riding his bike on the side of the road. He would be rushed to the hospital and placed into a medically induced coma, because he had trauma and swelling to the brain. My selfishness and lack of taking life seriously, instantly, changed the lives of so many innocent people.
I was so scared at the time of the accident, I panicked and fled the scene. It was like something else took over my body, and my functions were no longer mine. After two weeks of running the police were able to figure out who caused the accident and found me at the girl's house that was in the vehicle with me. I would be arrested for Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Severe Bodily Injury and placed in the county jail.
I couldn't sleep at night, because I would dream about the accident and the fact that I almost took a man's life. Never before, had my choices so severely affected another person's life, it had only my own life... so I had always told myself. The gentleman whose entire world I had changed came out of the coma, but from what I understand he is permanently damaged in some areas of his life. I was told he lost some of his sense of taste, smell, hearing, and vision. He also suffers from seizures due to his brain injuries, and can no longer operate a vehicle.
While in jail, I requested to be put in the Faith-based dorm as I was shaken to my core, and wanted fully surrender to God. I told Him that I would accept whatever punishment I got, but I asked Him to show me what my path in life was. The prosecuter’s saw fit to show me grace, and I only received a 42 month sentence.
I thought that my whole life would get on track to where God was now in control of where and what I was to do. A thought that seemed to disappear after I got to prison. Prison was an entirely different world than anything I've ever experienced, and I was in no way prepared for the violence that is seen every day. I was as scared as I've ever been, and my promise to God took a back seat to my fear.
As my fear controlled my decisions, I felt pressured into joining a very violent white supremacy gang as they promised me safe harbor. They said we were family, and that meant nobody would mess with me. They tried to brainwash me and try to get me to do hits on other people who they were paid to get rid of. They would tell me that the hits were righteous as these people were violators.
The whole time God was in my ear tearing me down by convicting me on the life I was living. A life based on hate and violence, essentially, I was becoming the very thing I feared. It would take months before I decided that I couldn't be a part of this anymore. I was never honestly okay with hurting people as I understood the receiving end of such violence. I told them that I wanted out, and I would no longer do what they ordered me to do.
They placed a hit on my head, and I would have a knife put to my throat after 5 of their people jumped me. They told me to get off the compound or die, so needless to say, I obliged them. After all of this I have come to realize that the real fear rest within joining gangs as you lose your identity to an evil that all gangs are built from. The primary thought is for protection, and it never crosses your mind that you'll need protection from the very thing that you sought to protect you.
What brings us to this place in life? It is the fact that people get into trouble, usually, after a series of unfortunate events that they are unprepared for. They are unable to cope with these events and many get hooked on drugs to escape, which leads to prison. When they get to prison a lot of times they are have two choices, either :
a.) you pay money to the gangs to avoid getting messed up, or
b.) you join the gangs to keep from getting messed up.
In prison the damage promulgated by gangs only multiplies as its hand now gets to touch people who were once out of their reach. There are only a few prisons that offer classes to help better yourself and even when there are classes it is only available to a microscopic percent of the inmate population. I do not know how a society could ever expect those who enter the prison system the way it is now to ever come out a better citizen.
This is something that has hit me with great conviction as it explains why I've gone through every single thing in my life. There are so many people, youth who have gone, or will go through the exact same things I've gone through in life! They are the meaning to all of my misery, to all of my loneliness! My purpose in life is unfolding before my eyes.
All of my life I've always felt as, if kids are taken to me. Friends of mine that have kids, and my younger relatives always become drawn to me. They have always listened to me and looked up to me, so I can see how God will use me to impact the youth. I see myself in them, and no matter what was going on in my life kids always knew that I sincerely cared about them and what I said came from some sort of ability to relate with whatever they ere feeling.
I want to figure out a way to work with troubled youth, and people going down the road. I want to use my experiences to help implement plans to effectively bring about preventative action in stopping the cycle. I have learned that my complete thought patterns I had to change, but it has to be in a way I can relate. If a man tries to tell me how to fix the situation I'm in, yet has never actually been in my shoes a big part of me shuts off. I don't trust him, because I can't relate even though he means well.
It is just the opposite when it comes to someone covered in tattoos who came from a bad childhood and struggled with addictions. Someone who came out the other side successfully is a person I would, honestly, want trust. I would want to know him, because I know he wouldn't judge me or what I've done in life as he has been where I've been.
I'm not trying to justify my actions, or in any way excuse them, but I have come to a place where I believe I can use them to help others. I want to give back my experience by helping heal the heartbreak and depression in others. I want to help stop the cycle before it destroys another person. God helped open my eyes and told me that's not what was meant for me... I want the same for everyone else.
I am currently incarcerated and have about a year left. I will be using this time to sharpen the tools in my toolbox and gather all the help I can to make my mission a reality. Society needs more people that have experienced the worst side of life to help end the worst parts of life. It is those who have decided that they have had enough, and have changed that can best help others who are going through the same life struggles.
As a side note, I would like to add that my father was not and still isn't a bad person or father. He is simply a product of his upbringing. He never even had a father figure and his household was more dysfunctional than ours. He was just a teenage forced to be a single father and doing the best he knew. Through our troubles he has still always found time to tell me he loves me and he's sorry for everything. My dad is my best friend and my biggest supporter.
My testimony doesn't cover everything in my life, and there is still a ton untold. For me this is the beginning of activating a change in my life, to add purpose to it. I ask for society's forgiveness and acceptance as it plays such an important role in a person believing that they can change. Everyone has to believe that life can be different for them to seek a different life, so society showing that they believe in change will produce change.
I can't express how much positive support truly means to someone that is in a place so negative. We all war with a past that has so many failures and disappointments that belief in ourselves doesn't come easy. This is why society needs to understand how important their belief and support in the worst can truly make them so much better.
There will , of course, be people who still mess up, but this is because life will continue to be life and things will happen that will throw people. The important thing is when that curve ball is thrown, they have someone they know understands there to help them hit it out of the park. When society allows change to grow, then change will become accountable to itself.
I want to thank Society-First for giving me the opportunity to share my story and anyone reading this for your time. I know that I have a long road to travel, and we who have messed up more than the average person has to prove the change is real. I don't expect, nor do I not want to be held accountable to proving that I'm worth something to this world. I ask for your support in my change, and hope I find belief on the other side... even if you choose not to believe in me, immediately, I have faith that it will come one day. Thank you and God bless!