I remember a time of freedom and the belief in the goodness of people. A time that I had no concept of the harm and hurt that I was about to put my family and those that I love through. I remember going to court mere days after turning 16 and not going home afterwards.
I remember a year later when the juvenile guards transported me to the county jail, from whence I would go to the Department of Corrections. I looked at those guards with pleading eyes, longing for them to somehow take me back to the juvenile center and not leave me there, but with the changing of the cold metal shackles and the slamming of a heavy steel door, I was left standing in the foyer of hell.
I remember being locked in a cell, listening to the shouting of the other inmates, the men who up to that day I saw as ‘adults’, or people that I should respect and look up to, who I thought knew everything, it wouldn’t take me long to learn how wrong I was.
Several times each month we were taken up to the roof top where we could watch the cars drive by. I remember on Halloween, the one right after 9/11, I dressed myself as a dead terrorist while sitting in my tiny cramped cell, another time when a cell partner and I went to war with our neighbor by throwing coffee back and forth on each other through the bars, the time that a different cell mate grabbed me by my neck and threw me into the wall, and the time that a man spit on me.
I remember the bus ride to prison. I listened to these grown men talk about how great things were going to be once we got on the yard. The food, the rec, the commissary. I remember thinking how much I would like to be with my mother, where the food was great, I could go places and the grocery store had so much good food in it.
I remember trying drugs for the first time in my life, knowing that I had never even seen them before hand, I got drunk for the first time. I remember once stealing a partial turkey out of the kitchen and nearly burning myself because count was delayed. I remember friends I made and people that abused me. I remember falling in love in prison.
I remember for every positive memory and emotion, that there are countless more that remind me how scared and depressed I was; there are still sights and sounds that can make me have a panic attack, all I wanted to do was go home. I remember learning not to trust people, to have to always watch my surroundings and that no one was nice unless they wanted something from me.
I remember seeing people get beaten and stabbed. I’ll never forget walking past a friend and seeing him sitting on the floor. He was holding his neck and had blood and sweat running down his chest — I can still see it as if it were a photograph.
When I went home, I vowed never again, but here I sit. I can remember sitting on the bus and telling people on my way back to prison how nice things would be once we get to prison… You know what I don’t remember? Life on the outside.
— Guy L.