A Death in Prison

I just wanted to write and tell you about an incident that happened here at the prison last night. This is something that is unfortunately pretty routine at times in here and it’s one of those things that if you play…eventually you’re going to pay. A man lost his life in here last night. Not to violence. Not to a peaceful passing. He lost his life because he fooled everyone into thinking he was sober, clean and getting his life together.

What am I talking about right? That doesn’t even make sense…

The man who died was a dope addict. Meth. Heroin. You name it. He was very well known in here and when we saw him out and about it was usually hanging on some cop’s leg trying to convince them he deserved “such and such privilege back”. That was him. He was always getting dirty UA’s and that was just kind of the norm for him. So get to the point right? How did any of that kill him?

He convinced the cops here to allow him to have visits back. They had previously been taken away as a result of the many dirty UA’s. Anyways, during his visit he swallowed drugs in an attempt to smuggle them back inside and he overdosed later in the evening. He died.

Death isn’t a pretty thing. It’s unfortunate and sad and even if that’s what he intended to do, it still has devastating effects on his loved ones. Imagine how they feel today. Imagine how the person who smuggled him the drugs feels knowing they brought them to him. Imagine the children that will only remember that their father died in prison. I think the point I’m trying to make is people care about us out there and it’s not fair to them when we continue down destructive paths.

Take care.


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Away from Gangs

Well, all is well with me. Just hanging in there. That’s all we can do. You talk about gangs and that whole lifestyle. I lived it for many years. I was a hard one man, couldn’t tell me anything. I ended up getting 25-life for a murder that I didn’t even do. But because I was associated with a gang I was lumped into the group who did. I took the fall for it. Gang affiliation is not a good thing, trust me. I was 18 when all that happened and I’m 33 now. 15 years is a long time to sit here, especially when none of the homies have come around or shown support. Ghost. I left the gang life years ago but it still carries a stigma for me. Choose better man, choose better. I ended up giving my life to Christ and I’m now an ordained minister. I try to reach out to those who just need a little help deciding to turn from that lifestyle. It’s my life now. I got out and that means others can as well. Don’t join a gang. No matter how attractive or how flashy it may seem…it’s a false sense of what life is about and the loyalty that is branded is never what it turns out to be. We at Rise Up! are a part of this writing project to help youth see the errors in their ways before it’s too late, I hope you’ll give some serious thought to the choices you’re making. I hope this helps you start down that path. Stay up.


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Success Is Not Cheap

I want to begin by telling everyone there that without all the hardships, craziness, and pain that life has dealt me I wouldn’t be the man I am today. Even the mistakes, the screw ups, and all the bad choices. They allowed me to grow into the man I am and into the relationship that I now have with God. I’m thankful for that. This time in your lives is full of opportunity, take advantage of it. These moments are helping to shape you into the person you’re each going to be and these steps are important parts of the process. Don’t give up. Think about your work ethic. Everything worth having in this world is earned through hard work. Success is not cheap and it never will be. Success will never lower its standards for anyone. To be a winner you can’t do what losers do. Winning and losing don’t mix. If you read about the people who’ve had an impact in this world you’ll see that they all have one thing in common…they did what no one else would. Or they took different routes than others that ended up leading them to success. They chose to set themselves apart and become leaders in some fashion. Anything is possible you guys, no matter what your past looks like. I know where I am now, but I know where I’m going. I can tell you that I will never come back to prison. 100% no ifs, ands, or buts. This life sucks and it’s not something to be proud of. Change is imperative. I choose to fight for my dreams. I choose to better myself. I choose to see myself not as a victim, but as someone who can still make a mark on life for the positive. God is with you always and Jesus is our Lord. Trust in Him and lean not on your own understanding. He will direct your path. Stay up this week ya’ll.

Bobby J.

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More than Who I Was on My Worst Day

Hey guys! It’s James and I just wanted to write and encourage you all to hold your heads up. Why? Well, because you matter. That was something I think I could have benefited from hearing when I was your age, so hey, I’m here to let you hear it. I know how easy it is to look at your current situations and become depressed, or feel hopeless, or just wonder if things in life will ever feel ok. I know how that feels because I’ve been there myself. My struggles started around the age of 12. I had really low self-esteem and just wanted to know what it was like to be accepted…to fit in…to feel like I belonged. I wasn’t much of a trouble maker and I had a pretty normal family life, but because I didn’t know how to set appropriate boundaries for myself or others I started stealing candy. Then I started smoking weed. Then I started lying to my mom about things and quit paying attention in class. That was me not having self-control and it culminated in me taking another person’s life one night when I was 17; it had devastating repercussions for many many people. I never grew up wanting to be a criminal, I never wanted to let people down, but all of a sudden I was in jail for life at the age where most kids are thinking about prom and the proper way to let a girl know they’re feelin’ her. Instead I was introduced to adult prison. Cells. Gangs. Drugs more available on the inside than they ever were on the outs. I was introduced to anger, and men with severe mental health issues. I was introduced to adult officers who looked at me like I was the biggest puke who ever lived even though they didn’t know a thing about me. I was a convict. That’s all that they saw. I was locked in such a scary environment and I thought my life was over at that point. I think that’s a pretty normal reaction to such a drastic change in environments. It took me a while to get some traction underneath me, but I’ve made a life for myself here. Over the last 20 years of my incarceration I’ve: strengthened my bond with my family, earned a GED, got in college and graduated with 3 degrees, secured the best job in the prison, the best living situation in the prison, the best of a lot of things. I did it because I looked in the mirror and decided that I wanted to be more than who I was on my worst day. I wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to learn and become a man. I did these things by practicing self-control. Wasn’t easy at first, and yeah there were hiccups along the way. But ya’ know what guys…I’ve now had over 15 straight years of clear conduct. No write-ups. No cell ins. Nothing but behavior that shows I’m a man who can be trustworthy, honest, and dependable. Takes time, but the effort is worth it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to be free again, and that’s sad to say since I came here at the age of 17. But I’m responsible for what I did as a youth and the possibility of potential freedom means enough to me that I’ll try my hardest each and everyday to get to the point where I’m allowed to have that taste of home again. It’s worth it to me. Even during the tougher times when depression and other frustrations mount. I continue to fight and I always will. I hope you guys will as well. Have a great week.


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Do Better and Be Better

Let go of small petty things, it’s not worth the energy to hold onto them. You can’t go back in time to fix something, or to make a different choice when something didn’t turn out right, and that’s why it’s so important to have self-control and make wise choices in ALL moments. We all have regrets; it’s part of human nature. Don’t beat yourself up over something that you cannot change though, it doesn’t serve a purpose. Pick your head up and move on: decide that you’ll use it as fuel to do better. We believe in you. Let me ask you something…think about something really special in your life, something that means more to you than anything else in the world. If you knew that screwing around and doing the dumb shit that you’re doing would cause you to lose that…would you still do it? That’s kind of what it means to lose your freedom. Most of us in RISE UP! Have lost our freedom for the rest of our lives because our lack of self-control when it mattered…we got weak and chose the wrong decision. Think about the price that has to be paid each and every time you end up in a place like that. The price your loved ones have to pay. Be better than that! RISE UP!


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Waking Up in Punishment

It’s been really nice outside here lately and that always coincides with missing freedom the most. BBQ’ing, going to the river, concerts, all that fun stuff. It’s a bummer not being able to do what you want. When I get visits they’re limited…it makes me sad not being able to do more things with my wife and daughter. My daughter was only 2 months old when I came here and it’s not fair to her that dad’s not there everyday. I know she needs me and I hope those of you who are parents are thinking about how important being there with them really is. Everyday my family and I suffer from the choices I made years ago. One choice…years and years of consequences. Everyday is one where I wake up in punishment. I have no friends here. My real life is beyond these walls with my wife and child. Not in here with these knuckleheads. None of you want this type of life; even animals hate to be caged…

What are you doing to make sure that unlike us, you avoid setting yourself up for years and years of pain and regret? Prison isn’t a badge of honor; it’s a constant reminder that we’re constant failures at the most basic of rules. Every time I see my daughter I’m reminded that I failed her by putting myself here. Why? Because I only cared about myself and my addiction and how I felt. Selfish right? It’s true. It’s hard for me to do my time…I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is for James, Travis, Kyle, and a few of the other guys who write who don’t know if they’ll ever get to go home. The point in this? Avoid this place. Avoid the behaviors and poor choices that lead to the front door of this place. Make good choices, set realistic goals for yourselves, be successful and enjoy life! Break free from the cycle of drugs and shady company. Misery loves company. Drinkers want drinkers around them. Drug users want fellow users around them. Successful people want successful people around them. Be the latter!

Bobby J.


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Every choice that you make will in some way affect the rest of your life. Beyond that, each choice that you make will affect other peoples’ lives. It is the classic parable of the pebble in the pond; the ripples are far-reaching and permanently change the totality of history. This goes for both positive as well as negative choices. The good things that can be achieved with each positive choice build upon themselves and have the ability to change lives, your own as well as others. There is unlimited potential to what can be accomplished with the time and energy that a lifetime affords. Just remember how much what you do impacts your future, the lives of those around you, and the well being of those you care about most.


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On Wisdom

As a teenager the word wisdom was as foreign to me as some far away land in Southeast Asia. As I sit here finishing up a 22 and half-year prison sentence I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my life. I’ve realized that it was the poor decisions I made as a teenager that led to me spending all of my adult life in prison.

For me the unwise choices I made had to do with seeking acceptance from my peers. I wanted validation so much and I was willing to do nearly anything to get it. I joined a gang and I allowed others (my peers) to dictate my decisions, or rather, my fear of rejection from them. The true definition of wisdom is looking ahead before you act, because one day you’ll have to look back on the choices you made.

The question is where will you be looking back from? A prison cell? A street corner? Or maybe worse, maybe up from a grave?

Maybe you don’t get validation or acceptance at home, but be assured, you matter and your life has value beyond what you even know. You can do anything you want in life. I have learned it takes true courage to be set apart, and oftentimes this means being willing to be rejected. It could determine your destiny. Don’t give up, you have value and purpose.



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Self-control and Putting in the Work

Each of us in RISE UP! knows that prison is a horrible place to spend your life and we want more for you. Not much good happens in prison and you need to know that you’re in a very fortunate position in that you can make those changes now before you’re in a situation like ours. Your future can and will be amazing if you put the work in. I think the most important thing for you to do is practice self-control. You have to learn to control yourself when things start to spiral out of control. The measure of a man is his ability to conduct himself as such. You know the issues that you deal with poorly; self-control means working on those areas of your life so that they don’t set you up for failure. You can do it! Every single person in RISE UP! believes in you. Our only goal when we write to you guys is to get you to see that your choices matter; you can achieve anything you want in life if you’re willing to practice self-control and put in the work. Each of you has potential and the only person who’ll keep you from reaching it is you. Remember to keep your head up.


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Not Invincible After All

Hey guys, my name is Tucker. I was incarcerated when I was 19 years old and I have been here for a year now. I received a 44-month prison sentence. When I was on the streets I had the mindset of I didn’t care about anything, couldn’t anyone tell me anything because I felt invincible. I was wrong. I found out the hard way. My family didn’t have much money growing up so I looked to hustling when I was about 15 years old. I just wanted to feel like I had something, and like others respected me. Now I’m sitting in prison alone, with nothing to show for it. I started smoking weed when I was 13 years old, and that led me to eventually trying other drugs like meth. By the time I was 18 I was smoking meth everyday. I got my first felony when I was 15. I’ve done a lot of negative things while growing up, things I’m not proud of, and it led me to the doors of adult prison. Now I’m working on bettering myself and making positive decisions while here. I’m still young so I know I can turn my life around, and that’s the goal from here on out. I wanted to be part of the RISE UP! Program because I want to be involved in something positive to better myself. I also want to help kids my age and younger, to be an example that coming to prison at a young age does happen. I’m here for Burg 1, Attempted Rob 2, and Felon in possession of a firearm, and delivery of meth. Sort of a vague description of me but I hope that my story helps some of you think about your own situations and turn your lives around.  Take care ya’ll.


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