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.

Ben

 

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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.

James

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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.

Tucker

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Dealing with Emotions

I had a real problem with dealing with my own emotions. My Dad taught me how to deal with just about anything, except for my emotions. I asked him one time about that, his response…”I don’t know how to deal with my own shit, how am I supposed to know how to deal with yours?” At the time I laughed, it dawned on me later that he was being serious. I fell into the BAD habit of using drugs to cope with mine, which just ended up making matters worse. So what do you do? What have you found that helps you to ‘center’ yourself? I have to isolate myself and crank up some music, so I can block out the world and focus on me. It is those little things that help to focus me, helps me keep on track. Without it, I get so wrapped up in whatever is going on that I lose track of what is important. Next thing you know you’re on your way to prison for life, or you are in trouble for whatever, or you just wake up wondering how life got to the place that it is in. Find what works for you, lock on to that, and use it. You might end up finding another method that helps later, use that one too! Get as many tools together as you can to make sure you’re heading the direction you want for YOUR life. After all, you’re the one in charge of where you are going. Make sure you get to a place you really want to go!

Wiz

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Getting Your Life Together

You need to quit trying to be an adult because your childhood years are important! Enjoy them, they don’t last long. Once adulthood sets in you’ll wish for the days of your younger years. We don’t think like that when we’re young, but you do as you get older. Don’t be skipping school with the boyfriend/girlfriend and doing shady things that will get you in trouble, especially when what I’m guessing you’re really trying to figure out is love and acceptance. I know you’re young and you’re just trying to figure out life, I understand that because I was there to not too long ago, but you have to practice self-control before things get too out of hand. A life in and out of detention centers, treatment centers, and prisons is not the life you want to gravitate towards. Believe me! This place is filled to the brim with people who coasted through life thinking they were invincible, thinking they could run and gun and just use and abuse people. It’s a lonely road and I promise you each and every one of these people regrets the road they chose. There’s a female prison in Wilsonville that’s packed full of women with the same story. They’ve lived fast, partied hard, and they’ve been abused by men who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about them other than the few minutes of pleasure that they provided. It’s sad. It really is. But the pattern is always the same. Young women trying to grow up too fast, experimenting with things that only led to unfulfilled dreams and broken hearts… You have the perfect opportunity to get your life together right now, don’t waste that opportunity because you never know how many second chances you’ll get in life.

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Instead of Hurting Yourself…

If and when you feel like hurting yourself, use a little self-control. Please. For us. Is it possible that you can find a better way to release your pain and frustrations? When I’m down and feeling horrible I write about it. I write poetry. I put down on paper exactly how shitty I’m feeling inside, and once I have it out and on paper I read it again and again while making slight changes and edits for clarity. When I’m done I have a finished piece of art that is beautiful and something that I can grow from and share with others to spark conversation. It’s an outlet and I hope you can identify something similar that would work for you. Hurting yourself is never the answer. When you feel like that please talk to someone and trust that the advice and encouragement they give will help you heal if you follow it.

James

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Your Decisions Matter

It’s okay to be kids and make mistakes, but it’s also vitally important that you understand that your decisions matter. Each one of them has the ability to change your life forever and cause others to feel unnecessary hardship. Your decisions can and will dictate the quality of life that you have. As a result of what I did I’ll have to live with what I’ve done for the rest of my life. I’ll have to see the parole board after a period of 25 years, which entails sitting in front of 3-5 people who hold my freedom in their hands. During that parole board hearing I’ll have to talk about my crime, my complete criminal and family history, my conduct while in prison, programs I’ve taken and what I’ve learned from them, a release plan, career plans, housing plans, and any support that I have from the outside community. It will be my job to show the members of the parole board that I can be trusted in the community. They can approve me for parole, or they can deny me for up to 10 years before considering me again. I’ve been here since I was 17 years old and I can’t tell you how scary it is to not know if I’ll ever get a chance to go home. And all of it over 20 seconds of extremely poor decision-making. The worst part? Committing a crime doesn’t just affect you or your victim. It affects all of your loved ones because they’re basically doing the time with you via visits, the stress that comes from having a loved one behind bars, and their overall naiveté to everything Department of Corrections’ related. I only say all this to let you see a glimpse of how bleak a future in crime can be.

As a teenager, and before my prison sentence, I was really struggling and didn’t have the confidence to speak up and ask for help. Instead, I started down a miserable path that ultimately led to my incarceration. I was a shy kid and my self-esteem was always really low because I had acne and crooked teeth. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I was bullied often and just spent a lot of my school years bottling things up inside which usually just leads to more problems. I never really talked to anyone about my problems; I just kept them inside and let them build up because I didn’t know how to pull someone to the side and say, “Hey, I’m struggling and I need some help”.

I’ve been in prison for over 19 years now and I’ll tell you with complete honesty; I wish with all of my heart that I had done things differently. I wish that I had talked to people about what I was feeling and had the strength to ask for help when I needed it. I wish that I had focused on school more, and I wish that instead of doing dumb stuff to try to impress people I’d have just stayed at home with my family where I belonged. What I did was wrong. Not simply because I got caught and didn’t want to face the punishment. No, it’s so much more than that. It’s the fact that when you get a little bit older and life slows down enough for you to catch your breath, you just see things a lot more clearly. I started to see that all the lying I was doing to my mom just to stay out late with girls was wrong and contributed to my heading down the wrong path. I started to see that stealing things, even if it was small trivial stuff like candy or CD’s, it was still wrong. I started to see that my attitude towards school, lack of helping out around the house, and the snotty overall attitude I had was wrong because all I did was hurt those who loved me. So many small things, things that most kids do at some point or another, but they add up. They accumulate until eventually something happens and it’s enough to send the whole pile of poor decision making over the ledge. And then an avalanche of shit that you can’t dig out from under covers you. It took many years of incarceration before I was ready to be real with myself, and it hurt once I looked in the mirror because in the reflection I saw the real me. That reflection showed someone who doesn’t want to be a criminal, someone who values family and cares about doing right by them, someone who dreams of having a family of my own, furthering my education, and carving out a little piece of life that I can be proud to say I’ve earned. So much pain and heartache could have been avoided if only I’d taken life a little more seriously, if I’d have valued another human being’s life for the precious thing that it was, if I’d just shown an ounce of maturity and the willingness to be straight up with everyone.

I want you to know that you still have a chance. Make something of yourselves before it’s too late. You have so much life ahead of you and you still have the opportunity to make any dream you have come true if you work hard enough. This prison is filled to the brim with guys who chose to keep acting like they were invincible: doing dope, stealing stuff, robbing people, assaulting people, trying to create the easy life for themselves at the expense of others, etc. Eventually it catches up to you. It catches up to everyone. It’s just a matter of time. Don’t be like the people that are overcrowding these prisons! You’re better than that. Those of us in the RISE UP! hope that through our experiences you’ll learn a better path than the ones we took and now regret. Learn from us. Please.

James

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