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by Thomas Weed
It’s me, Thomas Weed, once known as Confusing Mind so many years ago when I had the opportunity to participate in workshops ran by Matt and Michael. Now, over a decade later I find myself serving a seven year 8-month sentence because well, I guess I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
Having touched each and every part of the criminal justice system, I’ve seen first-hand how broken it really is. From Juvie to Group homes, to County programs to Prison. Entire novels have been penned by far greater minds than mine, mapping out the school to the prison pipeline. It’s a given that life is unfair.
As much as I’d love to say we all have an equal chance to succeed, the simple truth is that this is not so. The underclass is at a disadvantage, straight up. So basically, if you were born into a poor family, raised in a shitty neighborhood, or look suspicious to a clean cut white man with a badge or a cellphone then you need to try extra hard and work that much more to avoid the cuffs and this is coming from a white man who is color blind.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be just like my dad. He was an outlaw, a tough guy, and was “running things.” When I was nine years old Dad was killed. He had been out of prison for exactly forty-two hours.
Two days before he was released, I was removed from the only home I’d ever known, Grandma’s. Turns out my mother had regained custody of my sister and me. I was driven five-hundred miles north and delivered to my mother, who I hardly knew at all.
Over the next two months I was notified of not just my father’s murder, but my Uncle David’s as well. Then Grandmamma also died. I was told that my father and Uncle David were both killed in an outlaw biker club war. They both rode with the Hells Angels.
I was to spend the next three years lost and alone, eventually abused by my mother’s new husband. I became full of shame and self-hatred. That was four decades ago. This is the first time I publically shared that fact. I lived with and medicated that shame and self-hatred for 36 years.
By Cristian Bost
I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart by getting my message out there. When you guys sent me the November publication of The Beat Within with my short message, it made my day. The majority of these kids are going through the same thing I went through as a child, from feeling abandoned, to feeling nobody cared about me and that I had nothing to lose, but that is why they need to know people do care about them.
I am sending you this drawing I did to show my appreciation for all your hard-work and dedication. This world needs more people like you guys.
The drawing has a lot of meaning to me. I chose to use the word “adversity,” because it signifies the struggle that some of us face with incarceration. The heart to me defines strength. I also chose to go with wings, because to me wings defines the freedom we have. Whether that be inner freedom or outer freedom.
by Harry Goodall
The main thing I want to do is be a dad. I have two kids, but have missed all of their lives because of a prison sentence. I feel that just because I helped in the creation of my kids does not make me a dad. I’m just a donor. It’s other scenarios that had complicated me being involved in their lives, but I have had to learn to live with that. If I didn’t place myself in prison maybe the restrictions wouldn’t be there. After all, you’re not placed in prison because you’re a good guy.
As a result of missing all of their lives, there is some resentment in how my kids feel about me. They are not to blame. How can you explain to someone that has needed you all their lives, that you felt the crime you committed, that you had to do it. I have estranged relationships with my kids. It’s sort of hard for them to accept me and what I can offer them as I have always been missing from their life.
by Keith Erickson
The scars of my childhood are the very parts of me that so many men like me, incarcerated men, want to keep locked away from the rest of the world around them. The Alternatives to Violence Project Workshops bring out the courage in men that you would never expect to witness within a prison. This weekend was like a whirlwind of emotions and laughter that left many of us crying, yet with the realization that our personal afflictions are so much bigger than just ourselves—they also belong to so many others within and outside of these granite walls.
Fatherhood/Parenting: this was the focus of this weekend’s workshop. New faces, some familiar, yet uncharted territory for many of us to share due to the scars that are concealed beneath the billboard display of tattoos that take up much of our bodies. It is a well-known fact amongst us prisoners; the Alternatives to Violence Project is designed to make you uncomfortable in order to make you comfortable. There is no growth without the pain of finally beginning to confront the damage that’s been done to you, including the damage we’ve all been guilty of doing to others. That’s the beauty of these workshops: we learn to love, trust, and support men around us regardless of where it is that we’ve been, all within a crash-course un-fold of three days. In the bigger picture, we’re restoring our humanity while helping one another heal.