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Growing Up in Prison: What I’ve Learned During My Eight Years of Incarceration

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Often I read articles and essays about the experiences of prisoners and their families. The tales are harrowing and heartbreaking. Mothers worry about the safety of their sons. Fathers concern themselves with not who, but what will come walking out the prison gates upon the termination of their child’s incarceration. And prisoners, well, while they are fairly vocal when first entering prison, this drive to communicate seems to dim, and their responses become more physical and forceful. All three tell an important narrative, and I feel that my story can help to illustrate the damage our prisons do to those subjected to them.

I came to prison at the ripe old age of 20. My prison journey started at the Polk Youth Detention Center in Butner, North Carolina, where I was to start serving a 15-month sentence for poor decision made while I was a senior in high school. I was a scared kid, certainly not someone with a convict or criminal mindset. I still remember climbing into the prison bus and bumping into a fellow man and quickly responding “Sorry, my bad.” To this he immediately responded, “Don’t apologize. It shows weakness.” I had a lot to learn, mannerisms the least of my worries.

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