Message to the World: "The outside world believes everybody in prison is a bad person. That is not true. Some people just make bad decisions, and some people are just products of their environment. Most guys in here, if given the right opportunity to be successful, would not come back."
Wisdom: "Strength comes from within, but wisdom has to be sought."
Presence: "I would give back to the younger generation by becoming a better role model."
Message to the World: "I just want the outside world to understand that our getting caught is what makes us prisoners. And we get caught for being human. I wish that the world could see that the jail system is a reflection of the free world. That legal system is only the mirror. Are you really innocent?"
Wisdom: "I believe that more hugs would change the world."
Presence: "I want to help. I want to be a Helper. I would like to be that boost that we all need."
Message to the World: "That we're human beings - not animals - and to look past what the crime was. That's the past. Look at us now and how hard we have to work to change and stay that way. So please forgive us as you would want forgiveness.
Wisdom: "We ask God not to judge us on a mistake that we've made, but we don't give each other mercy."
Presence: "I would like to share what I've been through with anyone who wants to change in their life. My story speaks for itself. Also, prayer is the best armor we can ever have. And trusting in God. And we got to stay positive. Peace!"
Message to the World: "Prisoners are people just like you. Not everyone in prison is guilty, and not everyone is innocent, but many of us have a heart and desire to do better. Everyone deserves a chance in this world.
Wisdom: "Don't take life for granted. If you think you got it bad, there's always someone who has it worse."
Presence: "I dream of making a difference every day. I want to travel the world as a missionary for God. I want to help hurting people."
Message to the World: "The 'world' should know there are way more than 250,000 former veterans incarcerated throughout the United States, and 90% had an honorary discharge. In the military, at some point we look into the mirror and say, 'Who am I?' Behind all the bling, awards, ribbons, etc. is that little guy who decided years ago he or she had to be a certain way, and we return - knowing that mechanism prevents the return."
Wisdom: "'To the degree you can let others be, you can be.' I learned a deep compassion for my fellow man, starting with love and compassion for myself. There truly is no 'them' and 'us'. I like 'we' now."
Presence: "The presence I experience is a conscious, awareness 'being' that adds nothing (judging, interpretations, thoughts) that are not there. My goal is to be continuously beyond a chattering mind."
Message to the World: "Notwithstanding anything anyone has done, behavior does not happen in or from a vacuum. Regardless of how cruel, vicious, horrendous the behavior of any individual, it comes from a place within that is real to the actor and must be expressed. It is extremely important to find the place from which it comes."
Wisdom: "There is only one church, and the membership card is your belly button and your inherent soul, which is holy... Life will not be mocked. Anything you think, do, or say or intend, you will experience the consequences of, whether good or bad or neutral. That is the law."
Presence: "I am already the presence I want to be, and I am already making the difference I want to make."
Message to the World: "We're people. We've made mistakes. We're paying for them. Be more compassionate - it could be your son."
Wisdom: "Enjoy your lie no matter how bad it seems. You can change your day. We cannot. Be open and enjoy."
Presence: "A caretaker. I would like the heal the pain."
Message to the World: "I would like for the outside world to know that me and many others like me are not the monsters they may see us as."
Wisdom: "Hello world! It's me, here in the belly of the Beast, with just one message: 'It's okay to cry!'"
Presence: "I want to be a force of kindness, understanding, and love just as God tells us to be."
Message to the World: "We are people. We are human beings and not the dregs of humanity. The key should never be thrown away from us. We are good people - just like you on the outside."
Wisdom: "Don't judge us. We made a mistake, and we can still and will be productive members of society."
Presence: "I would like to pay it forward, to give back. I would like to help youth never hate."
Message to the World: "Change is possible! No matter what mistakes you have made, everyone of us is a loving, compassionate human being at the core of ourselves, and and all any of us need to do is to realize that. Marion Correctional Institution is the flagship for not only Ohio but the nation!!! And it's because of the strong values of the staff and leaders that allows to have programs like yours come inside the walls of prison. To me, MCI is not a prison - it is a place where man comes to heal and take the time to find their true selves. Their core selves..."
Wisdom: "You can't judge a man until you have been in his shoes! True freedom is not a place, time, or person - it's a sense, a feeling that's deep in your soul that brings you joy and peace! One of the things I tell others when they are struggling and down is that we all struggle, we all fall down, we all fail. The only difference between the person who failed and the one who succeeded is the successful one got back up and tried again after failing!"
Presence: "A good man, father, (grandfather one day), brother, friend, (husband one day), volunteer... A counselor and facilitator."
Message to the World: "What happens in prisons affects you. With the massive number of people cycling in and out of prison, the culture that has developed in here is headed for a neighborhood near you. You may not know it, but somewhere in the circle of people in contact with you, there is an ex-offender. If you care what type of society you live in, you should care what type of culture exists in prisons."
Wisdom: "You are not broken, you don’t need to be fixed. You need to heal. Most of us understand a physical wound healing. A cut that scabs over and eventually heals. It may leave a scar, but you will be functional again. And scars show character."
Message to the World: "We understand we were wrong for what we did. We realize we have to 'pay a debt to society' for us to come home. However, what is going on behind these walls in general is not benefiting anyone - prisoner nor society. The system is broken, and everyone knows it, however no one wants to be the one to do the work to fix it. All the while, during that time, lives are being destroyed and thrown away. Most places don't even treat you like you're a human anymore. How can we as a society expected a change if we keep doing the same thing we know doesn't work? How can we sit by and expect someone else to fix the problem?
Eventually you are going to meet, live near, or fall in love with an ex-con. The rate of people being imprisoned in the United States is the highest in the world. Don't we as a country want those people to have the skills necessary to lead productive lives and feel that they have a chance at being better people? Rather than broken down souls that feel like abused animals and angry that no one cared enough to help them?
We have made mistakes and bad choices in our lives. Some of those mistakes and choices cost us to lose everything around us. Living with that burden and guilt will weigh you down and destroy you, or it will turn you bitter. With the right support structure, those lives can be turned around and become productive. However, the people doing that have to be serious about doing their jobs and not just say that they are doing what they can for us. Because how would you know any different? That is proof that the system is consistently getting worse - not better.
So we must come to one or two conclusions. Either society as a whole is getting worse, the system in place doesn't work, or the people that are entrusted to do their jobs are not doing what needs to be done.
So how do we change the problem? First is the awareness of the problem. We are not being rehabilitated - we are only being punished and thrown away to rot. If people are unaware this problem exists, then it will go on without scrutiny. However, once this problem is challenged, the system in place will have to make a decision. Say that something will be done about it or looked into it. However, what actually happens is nothing. The buzz wears of, and they are back doing what they always have done.
Then you have the people that change the name, do funny diagrams, and use cool words to replace a system that is in essence the same system with new buzz words. We need people that have a vested interest in changing people's lives for the better instead of punishing people. We have the punishing thing down. However, we are seeing that it doesn't work with stopping the problem as a whole.
I would like everyone to know the truth about what is going on behind these walls. In the 15 years that I have spent in prison, I have seen two different types of prisoners. One being the men that have definite sentences that know when they are going home; short of catching another case. Then there are the guys that have to see the parole board.
Typically the guys that are doing 'flat time' are doing whatever they want because there aren't many worthwhile incentives for them to better themselves. They are going home on X day, and nothing will change that. The definite 'flat timers' are being cycled through the system at amazing rates. These guys are coming back with new numbers for a short stay, let out, then months later they are back with a a new number and another short stay.
Then you have the men that have to see the parole board. Now these men are portrayed as the worst of the worst. Violent, dangerous inmates that are scary and should be feared. Some of the are, and some of them are not. There has been a generalization of these men as if they all fit in one box. Can we be that presumptuous that all these men are the same? The parole board guys are doing a massive amount of time. The average stay for a man seeing the parole board is 25+ years. I believe that the general conceptions of these people, though, are misconstrued.
We all have character flaws and have made decisions that were not the best. There are a lot of good men that are imprisoned, and, given the right opportunities, they can re-enter society better than when they came in. Warehousing an individual isn't making the problem go away. It not only punishes the person that committed the crime, but it also punishes the family he was in. Locking the man up and not helping that man tend to the issues that he has and helping to truly rehabilitate him only keeps the cycle going.
If we truly want a difference in the world, we all have to put a stake in it. We can't assume that someone else is going to do it. I only ask that you keep an open mind and ask yourself, 'What would I have done in those same shoes?'"
Wisdom: "How can we ask for forgiveness if we are not willing to forgive those around us?"
Presence: "What I want in life in here is to help the people that I can with opening their souls and healing the pain that they hold inside that eats them alive each day. I want them to see that people love them and care whether they succeed or fail. I want them to see that they are a part of a network that, when they do something, it affects everyone around them.
I want these men to become men and become responsible mentors. I want these men to have confidence and get the skills they need to not come back to prison. I want these men to help the relationships they have and had with the people they love. I want these men to be happy and pass the knowledge and wisdom they have to the other people in their lives so those people can use that knowledge to make their lives better and not make the same mistakes that we all have.
I want to become more disciplined in the things that I do. I want to be a friend that can be counted on no matter what the situation. I want to develop the trust that I can be looked upon as a mentor and a person of great influence. I want to have the skills that I need to have great communication skills and anger management.
I want to have a network of people that I know where, if something need to be done, if I can't do it, I can find the person to do it and wants to do it because of the great things we are doing. I want to give every institution the opportunity to have the skills that I have learned in this place. I want to help change the public's perception of inmates and have them see us as people who are worth the investment of helping - not throwing away for live.
I want to help the kids that are here to see that there is a better way at life than abusing the community they live in. I want them to have the respect of not only themselves but those around them, to want to change and help build a community in prison that is together and not separate and only out for themselves.
I want to be with my family again and enjoy the things in life most people take for granted. I want to build a legacy that has helped change the world and prove that, just because you were dealt a bad hand in life, you still have the chance at drawing better cards.
Ultimately, I want to be free inside and out."