We are in contact with over 10,000 prisoners in all 50 states. Every single one of them has a story.
Founder of AI. Father. Musician. Writer. Beloved brother, son, uncle and friend. Texas Prisoner.
Today I am unconvinced there is anything like justice; that justice is merely a facade. Tomorrow I may change my mind again. Tomorrow, maybe the mass-incarcerated who know what’s behind the facade will work together and draw back the curtains. Who else but us and our families really know?
Have you ever seen a dream disemboweled? Heard it’s silence?
Hung up on shiny , sharded coils
dangling ephemeral viscera
leaving empty of humanity the vessels caged inside.
If I never got locked up on this case, if I was never wrongfully convicted, there is a good chance I could have traveled through this fast life without discovering my purpose. No God, please let me get locked up, use man’s wrongdoing and injustice to bring about greatness in my life. I can miss my physical freedom for 23 years, but I cannot miss my lifetime without discovering my purpose. (Update: Shawn was released on parole in December 2017. The Innocence Project of Texas is working on his case.)
See Shawn’s story on FreeShawnAli.com
Ben Ballard, CA
In painting, like in Zen, you can lose yourself in the details, and, by that, you find yourself. You discover who you really are. You’re willing to accept criticism and be judged. You build confidence that way. When enough people give you positive encouragement, you think, ‘Hey, I’m not such a bad person after all.’
Eric Burnham, OR
Eric works as a tutor in the prison GED program, and has nearly completed Master’s degree in Counseling.
When I was 21-years-old, I took another man’s life while intoxicated, and I was given a 25-to-life sentence in prison. I deeply regret the actions of my youth, and I’m ashamed of the lifestyle I was living that led to the death of another human being at my hand. But as much as I want to, I cannot change the past. I can use it to shape my future, however.
When good people are complicit in the mistreatment of their charges, no matter what the excuse, they are no better than those they watch over.
The best we can do is be a light in someone’s darkness.
Coming here at 13-17 years old and knowing you’ll never see the world again is crushing. Young people who might be saved by a realistic sentence and education are lost to drugs, gangs, and despair because they see nothing in front of them. Pride precedes destruction, but mercy precedes healing. If we save our children, even when they err, we save ourselves as well.
Being part of the strongest society in history, we should be leading the charge to not only survive, but allow everyone the chance to flourish. What kind of cataclysmic event will it take? Looking back through history – slavery, women’s suffrage, Jim Crow, genocide and world wars haven’t done it.
I won’t claim to have all the answers, but I will ask the questions, and hopefully, that’s a starting point. As for my part, I pledge to have personal accountability and invite anyone to join me, whether you are in a prison or a palace, change starts with you.
Martin Lockett, OR
I made a split-second decision to run a red light, killing two recovering addicts, who worked and volunteered for organizations (including MADD) and, in fact, were returning home from a clean and sober party that New Year’s Eve. It’s now been over 13 years since that fateful night. I have earned a Master’s degree in psychology, published my memoir Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose, and am working as an intern in the drug and alcohol treatment program here in the prison, accruing the necessary hours for state certification in substance abuse counseling. I sincerely hope that my lifelong efforts to help others overcome addiction will end up saving lives, thereby preventing others from having to live with the pain and agony of this enormous tragedy.
I had fallen so far from what I wanted in life that I was prepared to do anything to gain acceptance and approval. What I ended up with was 30 years in prison — having never shed a drop of blood in my life. For many, that is where the story would end, but for me — that’s where it began.I can be a good person whether I am in prison or not. The truly beautiful thing about this realization is that its true for all of us. Every man and woman incarcerated has the ability to be in prison without allowing prison to be in us. Granted, it takes courage and commitment to stand in the face of an environment as inherently negative as prison and say: I will be more than this. But we can do it.