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‘Dear President Obama’

Letters by prison inmates to outgoing President Obama, written for The Beat Within prison writers workshop. One writer says, “You put ‘us’ on the map once and for all.”

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Letters to Juvenile Hall

Youths at several detention facilities were asked at a recent writing workshop run by The Beat Within to write letters describing what brought them there–and their hopes for the future.

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Prison Authors: “My Life’s Turning Point”

This essay was originally published by The Beat Within, a justice system writing workshop. It was written at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.The full name of the author has been withheld. It's cold out here and I've been practicing my left hand lay-up for about an hour now. I go up for another lay-up and miss it. It isn't any help that the rim is slightly crooked. I can hear my brother talking about a girl he used to […]

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The Beat Within: 'I Still Remember the Day It Happened'

This essay was originally published by The Beat Within, a justice system writing workshop. My name is Jensen Ramos and I am currently serving a life sentence for committing a crime as a juvenile. I committed my crime at the age of 17. I was tried, convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life. I have currently been in prison for 12 years now, and till this day I hate it. I still remember the day it happened. On January […]

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The Beat Within: When the Jury Says ‘Guilty’

This essay was originally published by The Beat Within, a justice system writing workshop. I sat there quietly, listening to him lie. He was telling everyone in the room about me. Who I am. The kind of guy I am. The kid I was. I screamed and shouted silently, violently, insides rioting. But I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I wasn’t allowed to. The courtroom was silent. Attentive, studious. As was the stenographer. Her fingers moving at superhuman speed. The […]

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Stress in Prison

This essay was originally published by The Beat Within, a justice system writing workshop. On a day-to-day basis I try not to let the stress of my environment and circumstances overwhelm me. There are highs and lows, and some days are far better than others. After nearly twelve and a half years of incarceration, I have become numb to a number of things: extreme violence, racism, isolation, and the lack of love to say the least. However, my insensitivity to […]