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Life Goals—Advice From Behind the Bars

We've all grown up in towns, cities and only know how to live the gangster lifestyle. It's the life we all know when we were growing up, but to be truthful, once you start to hit the Big House (prison), you'll see that everything you put your life on the line for ain't really worth it. All that bloodshed for a lost cause. For you youth that still have another chance to make it home, change for the better. Life […]

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A Glimpse

My entire life I've wondered how I would have turned out if my father was in my life. My mother was addicted to KJ (PCP) in the 1990's. One night when I was five we got pulled over in San Jose, California and she got busted with sixteen joints of PCP. She went to prison for five or six years and I was left parent-less. I've met my dad, that I can remember, three times in my entire life. With […]

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My Story, My Life, Part 1

My name is Kiffah. I grew up in a small city in the East Bay. In 1998, my life as I knew it was crashing to an end. I found myself in the Alameda County Juvenile Justice System. Fear and anger set the tones for the struggles I faced. Up to that point in my life, I dealt with my dad’s suicide when I was four, abuse for years, and a willingness to end my own life. Growing up through […]

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Up From The Gutter

Some of us can't help it – we were born into these mean streets Have you ever been the youngest of five with only enough for two to eat? When the Bible says to love your momma, but momma can't be found Then I go to momma's room and five naked men are standing around Or have you said, “Momma, I'm hungry” and she says, “I need another hit” Or been so long without any food your mouth can't even […]

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The Fence

“Okay, you can go outside for a little while,” relented my exasperated mother, “but do not go beyond the fence.” I was only ten, and my brother Jerry was seven. We had begged and whined for hours to go outside on another beautiful, Florida summer day, but Momma was always so cautious, especially since Jerry had been diagnosed with epilepsy. Finally, she lifted the just-out-of-reach hook on the screen door and my brother and I burst happily out on the […]

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Fences

I can recall a time in my life when I would see a fence and just had to climb it. The urge was irresistible. It didn’t matter if it was a chainlink, wooden picket or brick masonite. The height wasn’t a factor either. A six, twelve or fifteen footer just excited me all the more. I had to see what was on the other side. In my juvenile mind, that fence was a barrier, an obstruction to my happiness and […]

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The Darkest Box

My pain is frozen in time, present – it’s ongoing like a freestyle rap session; explicit four letter words permeate my imprisoned well being. So it is easy to see that I have nothing to brag about being honored as a “thugged out gangster” who has spent some two decades incarcerated. Just like a lot of the youth who’s eyes will grace upon my words and hopefully become entrapped within the hymns I try to blend into that infectious hardcore […]

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Learning From The Streets

Like many of the youth in the hood, I grew up fast, exposed to the entire elements of the psychological aspects of the street life. The street activities had become the main source of my education. A university in a sense, that offered vocational trades to anyone who expressed the desire of participating. There wasn’t any prior level of education required and no institution to be paid, just one's own desire to learn the craft. I chose the course that […]

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Just Another Lockdown

Today was a typical day — on lockdown: no work, no phone calls, no yard, cell feeding, showers every three days — absolutely no outside prisoner movement without an escort. Like most of the lockdowns here on Facility-A, in Lancaster, California, the restrictions are due to staff, not us. No riots, no fights, no contraband. Actually, like everywhere else in today's society — whether closed like ours, or open like the general public — there is a euphemism for the […]

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‘Learn from Mistakes’: A Prisoner Writes His Daughter

Dear Sassy, Hey, Sass, I know I haven’t written you in a while. I’m sorry for that, but I’ve had some problems in here I needed to deal with and haven’t been able to focus on much else lately. Also, I’ve been kind of disappointed with you for not finishing that book report. You’re starting school again, and I’m hoping you do much better this year. I can’t tell you how important it is to me that you improve your […]