This is my perspective on prison life. I was sentenced to 120 months (10 years) in federal prison on a drug case and I will serve just over 7 years. I started September 3rd, 2013, and will be released between September 5th-November 17th, 2020.
When reflecting on my time in prison, it helps me to process by breaking it up into sections.
Section 1: Welcome To The New Reality
The 1st section is my perspective on the first few months, which was an adjustment period to being in prison. I was simply trying to figure out how everything works since nobody – not staff or other inmates – tells you much of anything.
The shock hadn’t worn off and I didn’t completely realize the full scope of my current situation. Guys who were in the county system are glad to be in a facility where they can move around and have more recreational options.
For me, I was on pre-trial release and was just glad to have sentencing done. Now that I knew how much time I was getting I was ready to get it over with.
I had such low expectations of what I thought prison life would be like, my reality exceeded all of them. This made my early life in prison much simpler. I looked at it as a new adventure, something I hadn’t experienced yet, but then came section 2.
Section 2: Comprehension
The 2nd section is my perspective of months 4-12, this is when reality started to set in for me. Looking down the length of my sentence, I realized how little I had done and how far I had to go.
By this time I understood a lot about prison, how my time was going to be spent, what kind of people I was going to hang out with. I had bonded with a bunch of guys in Milan early on, so that made this section a little easier, but that stretch of time I had in front of me was mentally draining.
I started to think about all the birthdays I would miss, the weddings, the funerals. I sank into self-pity. There were still parts of the outside world that I was holding onto and I knew I had to let that go. I started to ask myself and a couple of people around me, “When does this get better?”
Most people said, “Year 1.”
But another said, “That’s a load of crap, year 2 is the breakthrough year.” He was right.
Section 3: Will I Make It? Will My Family?
Section 3 is my perspective on months 13-24, I started to question whether I could make it or not, whether I was still going to be myself when I came out on the other side of this.
I saw the way people acted, who’d been in prison for longer sentences than me: serious and hostile, easily offended. I knew they would struggle if they took that attitude home.
Even so, I wondered if that would be me someday. Section 3 was better than Section 2, but my buddy was right, it didn’t get better until year two was under my belt.
Section 4: Auto-pilot
In Section 4 I give my perspective on years 3-5, where I went on auto-pilot. It happened naturally, I learned how to do time, or how I wanted to do time, and I tricked my brain into thinking about different elements of prison versus the time itself.
I started to see that I could do the time I was sentenced to and be optimistic about the future. I believed I would still be myself at the end of it.
I still wasted a lot of time as there wasn’t much meaning to the things I was doing, but I kept my sanity.
Section 5: Base to Final Approach
Section 5, the final section is my perspective of years 6-7, where I am now. And it’s a relief to be near the end!
Not all my time has been wasted in prison, especially over the last year. The biggest shift is that I’ve started writing and sharing through the blog. The connection with you has truly given my life meaning.
My relationships with my mom and sister are stronger and that is a huge blessing. Their courage throughout this experience has been inspirational. They are the reasons for the good relationship I have with my daughter, even though I have been locked up for over 70% of her life. That means everything.
In this final section, I have gotten clear on my life goals, personal and professional. I am ready to prepare for release, even more confidently than I prepared for “entry.”
If the same me comes out that came in, then I will not make it very far, very fast. It’s time to live up to the potential I had when I was young. This last year I have discovered the most about myself and I know the man I want to be. I’m excited about Section 6, my last year of incarceration to create the life I really want.
I can’t wait to see you guys on the other side!