Every choice made can change your direction, and it’s easy to end up going down the wrong path. Most of us don’t realize this until cold steel clasps your wrists and you’re being read your rights and haoff to jail
I’ve come across many people in prison refusing totake responsibility for their actions. After years of being incarcerated, they’re still pointing the finger at everyone but themselves. To be honest, for most here that moment of taking responsibility never comes.
Fortunately, I got the chance to meet a young man who’s more than willing to take responsibility for his actions. He goes by the name JC. I admire his strength and courage to do what he is about to say and do. I hope this story opens at least one person’s eyes and helps them to realize that the first step to rehabilitation is taking responsibility for your actions.
Let me tell you a little about JC before I get to my reasoning for sharing this specific story:
JC is 31 years old. He has been incarcerated since he was 22. He accepted a “plea deal” of 43 years to life out of fear of facing a death specification (lethal injection–A legal form of murder by our state). On top of his fear of the death spec his family retained attorney was arrested 5 days before trial. Exactly one month later he’d plead guilty to a crime he did not commit. Why? All due to “the code” of silence and his loyalty to his friends. They knew the truth of his innocence and have known it since the day of the crime, a robbery, turned fatal 9 years ago. Instead of “working” the case to sort out the facts, the system put 3 men behind bars with life sentences knowing one of them was not at the scene of the crime when it occurred.
JC wasn’t dealt the best of hands in life. Early on he found himself led down a path of crime, hustle, gangs, and drugs. At 22 years old you haven’t “lived” or experienced much of anything. To be hauled off to prison with no opportunity for release until he’s 65 years old, one could understand how he’d once felt that his life was over.
He’s since found the strength to continue every day. He’s educating himself about the law, is waiting to begin college, attends Bible study regularly and works out enough for him and I both (he says that the pain reminds him that he is still alive).
I once asked JC to tell me a lie he’d told recently: “Can you think of a lie you recently told, big or small, with good or bad reasoning, but a lie you allowed to slip out of your mouth?”
JC: “My whole life I’ve had to lie my way through friendships, criminal cases, school etc. Since coming to prison 9 years ago I’ve found no need to play Halloween. That shit is exhausting. I’ve just learned to tell the truth. Be as transparent as I can be, regardless of a person’s feelings. I grew tired of lying to my family, friends, women, etc. So if you ask an honest question I will give you and honest response.”
I also asked him, “What do you fear most in life and why?”
JC: “I have many fears. I don’t like to be alone. When I got here to N.C.C.I. I saw a prison cemetery for the first time. It made me angry. I was in tears. It did something to me. 1) If I don’t overturn this conviction, then I see the parole board Feb/2055; that’s 34 years. 2) Being in prison teaches you the ‘outta sight, outta mind’ all too well. Who is going to claim my body in the event I die in here? So then people get buried back there and forgotten about. Think about it. Every prison has a cemetery plot. Do you ever hear anyone mention anyone’s name in them? Nope, no one cares. They are buried alone with no one to remember them. They are forgotten about.”
While in prison he has lost his stepfather (best friend, the only man that ever played that role) and his aunt. He has a daughter who was born 6 months after he was locked up and has no communication with her. He married at a vulnerable time in his life (while in prison being the icing on the cake), and it fell apart barely two years later, which he blames himself for. Now he’s in the process of trying to get a divorce from a woman who honestly didn’t realize what she was getting herself into. The only family JC has is his grandma. The way he talks about her makes me yearn for my grandma. I admire his will to overcome feelings of defeat and his motivation to keep his head above water.
JC once told me “The stuff I was supposed to do that night, I never did. The stuff I never did, I pled out to.” It makes you wonder how many others land in this same position. Most long-timers take a plea in fear of a life ‘tail’ and becoming a lifer. And most lifers take a plea to avoid a death sentence. I’ve heard this more times than I can count. It’s sad and I stand in similar shoes.”
Now let me bring this full circle. JC typed a letter and sent it to me asking for my opinion. Through this letter he wants to reach out and make contact with everyone he has ever hurt, caused pain, lied to, cheated in any way, asking for forgiveness and to give them and himself closure.
These are his words…
Please Forgive Me
These are the hardest words I’ve ever had to speak or even think about. But I must address the past and what happened. I have to ask you for your forgiveness. My selfishness and ungratefulness in the past led to the hurt and pain that I have caused. I make no excuse for myself; there is no excuse. I have taken so many things for granted. It was all about me all the time. My actions and carelessness have led to the immeasurable pain in both of our lives. And while I know an apology can’t change the past, I’m praying that it can help you in the healing process.
I recognize and accept the wrongs that I have done, I own them all. While it’s sad that it took all of this time for me to see and understand the pain I’ve caused and how the ripple effect of my actions have hurt countless others as well, this place is the consequence of my actions. All of this has led to a change in me and is the purpose of my words. Because that change forced me to reflect and identify all the events of my past. I must now attempt to try and right as many wrongs as I can possibly manage on my own.
Forgiving someone who has caused you pain, it’s hard. I know. I have had to do it too. Looking back on all I have done has exposed some of the roots of my problems. It requires me to forgive. Please understand I am making no excuses because there are no excuses for my actions.
I believe that people become who they are from their own experiences in life, both willing and unwilling exposures, in their past or their upbringing; from what they learned, what they were taught by their family, what they saw as a child, and what they didn’t see or weren’t taught; how people treated them. It’s all created together a model for that person to live by.
I had a messed up model and former view of life. I didn’t care about or realize the significance of every one of my actions. But today thankfully I do. Me saying, “I’m sorry” isn’t going to change the past or what I have put you and countless others through. But it can start the healing process, not just for you, but for me too. Maybe you have already forgiven me. I hope so. But if you haven’t, will you please forgive me for the wrongs I’ve caused you and for the pains that I have introduced into your life?
Can you find it in your heart to see past what was and see what could be? Can you find it in your heart to accept my admittance of wrong doings towards you and allow these words to serve their intended purpose? Our lives have forever been transformed by my actions. But I deserve to take that transformation into a positive direction. Scars may remind us of the past and the pain, but they don’t define who we are as a person. I’m sorry for the scars I have caused. Please forgive me.
J.C. (NCCI) (OH)
JC’s judge asked him at sentencing if he had a soul. Would a soulless person be able to do what JC has set out to do? Would a soulless person cry and live in pain for the actions of his past?
Forgiving others is the hardest thing to do in life. Thank you for following. Please share this post with others.
Felicia (ORW) (OH)
Read more guest written essays and posts in the book titled “Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal” by Christopher Monihan. Available on Amazon in paperback and eBook.