I’m serving a 25-to-life sentence because I took a man’s life when a confrontation turned violent. Violence happens so fast, but that’s no excuse. I am responsible for my own actions, and I’m also responsible for the lifestyle I was living that made violence acceptable to me. My life is an illustration of how the decisions made today will determine the options or limitations of tomorrow–the choices made in a single moment can change a life forever.
As of 2016, I have been incarcerated for 15 years, and I’m a very different person now than I was when I committed that horrible crime. I now understand how the choices I make almost always affect someone else. I used to operate with profound self-centeredness and a pervasive sense of entitlement; my impact on the world was consistently negative. I only consumed. I never gave back. Eventually, I came to realize that I was worth more than the way I had been living and that others were worth more than the way I had been treating them.
So I sought God in an authentic, personal way, and He began to show me ways to become a better person., I actually attempted to understand other people, rather than allow myself to be hurt and upset that they didn’t understand me. The process of fundamental character change was extremely difficult and excruciatingly slow, and it’s a job that’s never finished. It’s been a journey with endless setbacks, but I found it far less painful and discouraging once I understood that other people are more like me than they are different from me. I learned what it means to be human, and like an earthquake bringing down a tall building, my self-centered worldview crumbled. I can know what it feels like to be another person because I know what it feels like to be me–we’re all different, but we’re all the same.
In what amounts to a paradigm shift, I now have a deep desire to help others. My faith in God combined with my education in the social sciences has given me a new understanding of the world. Today I’m a good person, a person who cares about other people enough to be strategic in my efforts to positively impact those around me.
Many of the men around me need someone who intimately understands not only the loneliness and frustration of prison life, but also the unique challenges of changing while here. I can provide an example, showing them it really is possible to become a better person. My job as a GED tutor in here provides both the opportunity and the platform to be a role model for younger guys who need someone to believe in them and show them they are not defined by the mistakes of their past.
I may not be able to impact everyone in here, but I can certainly impact some. And those I cannot may be reached by someone else. While the emotional isolation of incarceration is still very painful, I find comfort in the fact that I can still positively impact even one person….
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