An Inmate's Confession
by Jacqueline L. Wade
I was a confused kid growing up in the fast pace world of society. I never knew my father and my mother was a drug addict. I lived in a drug infested neighborhood where violence and murder are a part of everyday life. At sixteen, I had to take care of myself so I started selling drugs. For years this was my way of life. It's when a drug deal goes bad and I found myself with blood on my hands... guilty as charged. I was numb for a while, out of sight, out of mind. There was a time when I would brag about it, the fact that I killed someone that was my way of dealing with my pain. In the joint, I gained a lot of respect from the other inmates because that was something that made the other inmates look up to me. But let the truth be told nothing can last forever.
But one day reality kicked in and I soon discovered that I was no longer a free man, just a number. In a maximum security prison I found myself confined in a six by eight feet cell twenty three hours a day, surrounded by brick walls with one solid door that locked from the outside. With a slit of a window that allowed me to be observed from the outside. Shackled and chain like an animal I became confused. I found myself in a state of constant remembrance, believing that there was a price, some form of life long penance that I had to pay. There's not a day I don't think about the crime I committed because I realized I had a conscious and too much pride to say I was sorry to the family I hurt. The guilt and shame was relentless. It was time for me to take responsibility for my actions. I needed to find peace.
I was twenty eight years old. As an inmate doing fifteen years to life for first degree murder, I was six years into my sentence by this time I had become resigned to the monotony of captivity. You follow the system if you want to earn your freedom, but just remember that's not guaranteed. This is a jungle, you've got to fight to survive. You've got to kill or be killed. You've got to watch your back at all times! This is why respect is so important and it must be maintained or it can lead to some violent situations. A snitch is the highest form of disrespect within inmate culture and may result in death.
I find myself still caught up in my addictions and my criminal thinking when the margin of error is like walking on thin ice. The one thing I realized is the culture shock of everything being out of control and what happens to you. You never know when your cell is about to be searched or when you're about to be relocated to another cell block. You don't ask question. Like I said before you just do as you're told to do.
Life in the big house, it's a lonely place. It's the loneliness of my life, the pivotal story of my existence, but it's how I choose to deal with it that will make all the difference. Being incarcerated, there's no one to lean on, no one to share my secrets with, and no one you can completely trust. My time in exile is my time to think. It's about who I am and what brought me to this place. I wake up every day on that tiny mattress, and I realize there are no choices any more, and there's nothing to look forward to. My life is an open book, a routine that I'm accustom to. I feel violated because there is no privacy. I'm being watched every moment of the day. Ive seen things in here that I dare not talk about.
Being incarcerated for an extended period of time I often find my mind wandering, trying to find peace. It's my way of achieving that measure of freedom. I'm no longer trapped in that little cage I lived in. I could go anywhere, be anyone, for a time at least. But there's always reality. I've learned to dig deep within and realize this is my life, my journey, and if I don't do what I need to do, I'm going to be stuck right here helpless.
One night as I was laying on my bed a bright light piercing through the slit of my window rested upon me. I heard a soft still voice saying "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Let go... come to me. I will give you peace." Those very words began to pierce my heart, as my eyes filled with tears, it was calm and peaceful. It was a feeling that manifested itself in the lightness of heart and trust something I never felt before. I've always been the kind of man who was known to be tough and maintain my emotions, but this was something I had no control. Desperate to find peace to fill that void of loneliness and despair I surrendered to God at that very moment.
In the big house Phony Christianity is called a "jail house religion" and it is not respected at all. This means that someone who professes faith in Christ will be closely scrutinized by other prisoners to see if their walk matches their talk. Some inmates are watching to see if Christianity really works. If you're real with God, He'll be real with you. I've learned that the energy it took for me to harbor anger, resentment, and hatred towards myself was exhaustive. All the energy I channeled to those negative activities and harboring my regrets was robbing me of becoming who God wanted me to be. It was letting go of all the things I was holding against myself so I could move on with God. Forgiving myself and accepting Christ as my personal Savior didn't let me off the hook. It didn't justify what I have done and it's not a sign of weakness.
Forgiveness is a choice that takes true courage and strength, giving me the opportunity to become an overcomer rather than remain a victim of my own torment. I was not alone any more. I could talk to God about anything. He's always willing to listen and I can trust Him. He's the father I never had. But I knew there were things I still had to face.
I was sitting in my cell reading my bible one afternoon. One of the guards told me the warden wanted to see me in his office. I was handcuffed and shackled and escorted by two guards to the warden's office. He asked me to sit down and he assured me that it was a social call. He told me about a program that allowed inmates to come face to face with the victim's families. The warden told me once I completed the program it would be presented to the parole board at my parole hearing. He gave me time to think about it.
I had a gut feeling this was something I needed to do. Not just for the family of my victim, but myself as well. All though I had my doubts and my fears I knew this was the time to get my heart right with the people I hurt. I guess this was God's way of answering my prayer. I wanted closure for the family especially for the mother of my victim. Throughout my trial I couldn't look at her because I was a part of her pain. It was so hard for me, knowing that I took the life of her only child. If I could turn back the hands of time I would have done things differently. So much for wishful thinking. The director of our program encouraged us to write a letter and apologize to our victim's family for the crime we committed.
I began corresponding with her through letters. She didn't sound like a grieving mother, but I felt her reaching out to me. She asked a lot of questions about me as if she was really wanted to know me. It felt kind of strange, but I had peace with it. I didn't have a lot to say to her, but I kept the conversation cordial. Each time she would write me her words would always encourage me to be strong and don't give up. She told me that life was worth fighting for. She sent me a picture of herself and her grandson and she asked if she and her grandson could come to the prison and visit me. I was shocked that she wanted to see me. But to my surprise this was the icing on the cake. This was the most important part of the program coming face to face with the family of my victim.
The day of our visit was really hard for me. I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure what I was going to say. I was very nervous. I prayed to God that this would be my opportunity to make peace with the family of my victim. As I entered the visitor's room the guard escorted me to the table and stood close by. When she saw me I introduced myself, extending my hand to her. But to my surprise she quickly stood to her feet and hugged me and said "how are you? You been doing okay?" I replied, "Yes, ma'm." She told me that she had been looking forward to meeting with me and she apologized for not bringing her grandson.
She said he had a bad cold and had to stay home. We sat down and began to talk. I had so many questions in my mind. She asked me "What's on your mind son?" She grabbed my hand, she looked into my eyes and said you need to be free... please tell me."
I hesitated for a moment, I asked her why was she so nice to me, knowing that I was the one who killed her son. She softly replied, "I want you to know that I love you and I have forgiven you for killing my son. God sent me here to tell you that so you could be free.
Tears began to stream down her face. She said "I miss my baby." I sadly replied, "I am so sorry... I would give my life for your son if it could bring him back. Please forgive me."
Then she softly replied "You are forgiven... this is not the end it's only the beginning. I'm going to continue writing you, praying for you, visiting you if that's okay. Yes, ma'm I'd like that.
She hesitated for a moment trying to hold back her tears, she softly replied, "I'm going to do everything the Lord has asked me to do for you." She embraced me in her arms once again. She softly replied, "Now it's time for you to move forward. Don't look back because the past doesn't matter anymore. I love you son." I couldn't understand how she could love me, but one thing was for sure she was a woman with a heart of compassion, the mother I never had.
My journey was bittersweet. It was bitter because I didn't want to be here. It was sweet because I began to heal, not just on the inside but on the outside as well. The reality is I cannot change what has happen, but I am able to give back some of what I have taken away.