"Thanks for all the love with my poetry Free Minds- I realize I have a talent the world needs to see and I promise I will expand it and share it."

-Alonzo, Age 18

Free Minds Members' Poetry

The Book Club & Writing Workshop inspires youths to write about their own life experiences, often for the first time. When they see other young inmates — of widely divergent writing abilities — standing up and reading aloud to the group, new members are emboldened to write and share their own words. In an environment where emotions are often suppressed, such writing can be extremely healing. To read more poems we encourage you to visit our writing blog, where you can leave comments for the writers.

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Lost and Found


I lost myself
In my mind
I lost myself
In this jail
I lost my mother
My father
But now
I’m finding
In Free Minds
Book Club


Where I Am


Where I come from…

I come from a hood where
thugs on the corner and gunshots at night

Where I came from
when you blink wrong that can be your life

Where I come from
the young kids runnin’ around with a knife

Where I come from
most of my friends’ parents are on the street at night.

Where I am going…

I’m going somewhere in life

Wherever I’m going
Going to do right
No more Streets or fights

Where I’m going
is a nice place
somewhere to stay out of trouble
and where people don’t judge
you by your race

If I Fall


If I fall, can I get back up?
If I fall, can I get up… I wonder.
The streets are like quick sand, always
slowing you down, but comes as a surprise
When it sucks you under.
I know if I slip a little
I can always catch my balance,
Life is like being on ice with no skates,
But I always like a challenge.
So you’re telling me….
If I fall, I can’t succeed… right
But if I don’t fall, How can I
Know what getting up is like?
Every time I fall, I’m determined to rise again.
Just don’t quit on me so easy, and yes
Sometimes I need help from a friend.
So maybe this time…
I won’t trip, even if I have bad luck
Because if I fall, I know I’ll get back up

Thank God


Life is hard
but I got to thank God
for letting me live
and all these years
and all the tears I’ve cried
I should be dead
but I’m alive
Thank You Allah

Untitled (Sometimes)


Sometimes I just want to cry
Put my pride to the side
And just hide
Tired of living a lie
But this once lie has got me by
Tho I walk thru the valley of
The shadow of death
I close my eyes and hold my breath
I chase demons and play tag
With the devil
The grave that’s dug
I dug with my own shovel
I wish I would have listened
A real long time ago
That way I would know
The path I’m hidin’ down
Is not the right path to go
So what do I do now?
Hands together, knees on the ground
Today I would make a change
Because today is a new day
And now I know
Where there is a will
There is a way

A New Choice


If a man wants something he’s never had
he has to do something he’s never done.
That means makin’ choices that he never made before.
Doing something that opens a new door.
Live a new way to have a new day.

Positive Retaliation


When you’re young and feel unsupported or unloved
you’ve never been taught about the one that’s above
When you bottle up your pain and misery and your emotions
Constantly beat you up mentally
There’s no one you can talk to, nobody to help or even guide you
When you walk down the streets that feel like hell
and all the stereotypes place you dead or in jail
You wonder how should I get back at these people?
Should I lie, cheat, and steal and show the world that you’re evil?
It’s time that I took a different approach
To be able to really brag and boast
To show that stereotypes can be proven wrong
cause I’ve been an object of perception for way too long
A lot of times I’ve been told that I ain’t going to be nothing
But positive retaliation is for me to be something

When Pencil Meets Paper


When pencil meets paper
I condemn the facility
Then come back with the remedy
Praying for all enemies
Cuz I’m too profound
Podium speaking I grasp the crowd
Wit compound word and plenty verbs
Gettin’ pension for my proverbs
Cuz when they hit ya it packs a punch like Moss Berg
Flyin’ round the city I’m a lost bird
In a lost world no longer neat
Just pencil paper everything else is obsolete
The pinnacle is here so where should I try and reach
When there’s no ripe fruits for me to reap
I’m beyond money, cars, clothes, and sneaks
So I write and out the pencil the graphite leaks
So peep my pedigree when my heart beats them beats
And after pencil meets paper let my mind bleed on beats

To My Daughter


I walk through the day, hidden in my disguise.
With fear in my heart and pain in my eyes.
Fear of a man?
Hell no,
Fear of a woman.
Well I would say so,
Not fear of bodily harm.
Like broken legs or broken arms.
I fear the way she looks at me today.
What she thinks of me because I am away.
I am sorry I betrayed her trust
When I speak to myself, I scream and cuss.
I can only apologize for all my mistakes.
But I promise to make it up to her!
Whatever it takes.
I have lost so much in search of gain.
When this journey’s over I will never leave home again.
All my life I dedicate to you.
Always know, without a doubt,
That I Love You.



I’m confined within a place
Where there’s no such thing as right
The days are always dark and gloomy
Like there’s no such thing as light
Respect does not exist
And violence is a must
Friends become your enemy
There is no one you can trust
Thieves, murderers
And some of the worst people to ever exist
I have witnessed beatings, stabbings
And other things that I’ll never forget
I’m confined within a place
Where silence is considered a threat
Manners do not exist
So you must watch where you step
The tension is always high
So it’s important to stay on guard
The only way to pass time
Is by playing basketball or cards
Getting on the phone can be very dangerous
Especially if you are next
Being distracted in such a hostile environment
Will be something you regret
I’m confined within a place
Where all hope is lost
Depression becomes inevitable
And my tears continuously fall
Is this place really hell?
It’s kind of hard to decide
This is something I must endure
As long as I’m confined

My World


I was born into a world where the only language men understand is violence and you have to be trained to go at the drop of a hat. Displaying physical aggression at any given moment. Gun, knife, or a bat, or hand to hand combat, you never knew. You just had to be ready to work with no hesitation.

A world where your reputation is everything, it can make or break you.
A world where it’s best to simply stay in your lane, play your role. Because when you try to step outside of yourself into someone else’s position, it’s only a matter of time before those that occupy that same position figure out that you don’t belong there. Then exposure can and will take place.

And in the world I was born into, exposure can be a matter of life and death… I was born into a world where there’s no such as thing as meek, either you’re strong or you’re weak. Predator or prey. Any chance of finding a grey area is slim to none.
A world where manhood is defined by how many girls you can have sex with, how much money you have, and whether your guns goes off or not.

A world where extortions, armed robberies and drug dealings are a part of everyday activities, from sun up to sun down. A world where the probability of your death being a homicide is much higher… I was born into a world where most people who don’t know how to cope with the pain of their struggle try to numb it with drugs and alcohol.

A world full of so much potential but the people have endured centuries of brain-washing that has taught them to hate themselves. The young man doesn’t value his own life much at all, so he surely won’t think twice about taking yours. The young woman will sell her body to you for a dime rock, a dippa or an E-Pill. How much value can she possibly be putting on herself?

A world where we’re conditioned from early on to believe that somehow being educated and well spoken is lame and un-cool. A world where the gentleman generally doesn’t exist because we’ve been terribly misinformed, whether it was directly or indirectly as to how we’re supposed to treat women. I was born into a world where most never escape, and blessed are the few that do…

I was born into a world where it’s not nearly as glamorous as mega-media would have you believe. It’s an everyday struggle to simply survive. I just wish that all of my brothers and sisters in the struggle the best. I would love to see my world rise above the current state of mind, back into our original state consciousness. I’ve highlighted the problems, but I choose to be a part of the solution. I will start by being the change I would like to see in the world. The more I learn, the more I will grow, the more I will rise and shine and be a source of light for others.

Word To Lil Brova

By E.M.

Well dis is what I got to say, don’t go out there running the street like me everyday.

I mean just look at where I am at and where I could have been in could have been at home with y’all but I’m in jail with my cuzzins and guess what we all failed.

I failed as a big brother to you I was there physically but not really there for you. I fought for you, kill for you, even when we were little I usta steal for you because that’s what I didn’t want you to do.

I got beat up for you, even got jumped for you because as a big brother that’s what I was there to do to protect and believe in you.

Since I was little my criminal way put me in awkward positions but as of today my criminal ways are finally finished.

Well what I’m really tryin to say is don’t be like me be better than me show me that running the streets don’t run in our family.

Don’t be no fool like me not going to school and breaking every one of mom’s rules.

Show me that you can go to school and get A’s and B’s and get on the honor roll don’t give it to the streets but give god your soul.

By the way give mom a rest she don’t need no more stress on her chest she already have enough coming from me that’s why she always have swollen feet but just tell her prop up her feet I’ll be home any day now from her son.


Quien no Sabe?

by L.V.

Quien no sabe que la tierra pesa?
Quien no sabe que el fuego quema?
Todos saben que hay cosas que lastiman
Pero hay quienes les conocen que el encierro
Es un sufrimiento del que no se puede escapar,
Hay quienes no saben lo que es reír por no llorar
Hay muchos que desconocen el sufrimiento

Nadie sabe lo que es sufrir
Hasta que la experiencia les toca vivir

Quien no sabe que la tierra pesa?
Quien no sabe que el fuego quema?
El ser un sobreviviente del encierro basta
Para ser un testigo del sufrimiento
Basta la experiencia para ver que hasta que no has estado presente
No conoces lo que es sufrir
Puedes escuchar historias, leer artículos, imaginar,
Tratar de estar en los zapatos de el que ha sufrido
No es lo mismo
La experiencia lo cambia todo


Who Does Not Know?

Who does not know that earth is heavy?
Who does not know that fire burns?
Everyone knows that there are some things that hurt
But there are some that know that imprisonment
Is a suffering one can not escape
There are some that know what it is to laugh so you don’t cry
There are many who are unaware of suffering

No one knows what suffering is
Until they live the experience

Who does not know that earth is heavy?
Who does not know that fire burns?
Surviving imprisonment is enough
To make you a witness to suffering
Enough experience to see that until you have not been present
You don’t know what it means to suffer
You can listen to stories, read articles, imagine,
Try to be in the shoes of one who has suffered
It’s not the same
Experience changes everything


Silent Voice

By R.D.

Hear me as I speak not out loud but silently.
No sound do you hear from me, but my words speak loudly.
My words hit you and your face drown with tears.
My words hit you and change appears.
I write to change I write to arrange all in a large range.
To not use your brain… You don’t think that’s insane?
To look down on each other that’s old it’s now lame.
To not want change you’re being ignorant you should be ashamed.
Assassinate your so-called differences.
Eliminate racism we are all human and we all possess a soul.
Help each other because we are all one in a whole.
No matter if you’re White, Black, or any race no one should be controlled.
I’m sixteen and I carry myself as if I was nineteen probably twenty years old.
My voice is silent but my words are very loud and they’re not getting old!



By S.N.

I know we are all in bad situation right now, like there is a tornado in our lives.
But I have a good feeling that one day the clouds will disappear, the sun will shine, and everything will be just fine.
We are all different and unique in our own way but we are all similar in one thing
We are like birds in cage hoping to fly in sky one day.
I say let’s visualize ourselves being a positive person doing things the right way
so we don’t get incarcerated for some stupid things and get a big time sentence.
In this orange jumpsuit we all probably look like convicts,
but inside we are normal regular people trying to survive just like everyone else.
If you reach deep inside and get to know us then you will be surprised,
finding out who we really are ‘cause we all have interesting story with individual history.
See I come from a different place and I have seen many faces
yet I have stopped to visualize ‘cause I see myself in better places.


Don't Give Up

By S.N.

I have come so far
There is so much I have seen
There is much more I want to see
But my incarceration tortures me
I keep my minds on books
That's what keeps me free
I'm a free man in my thoughts
My body is stuck behind this cell.


The Heart of the Streets

By Anthony

I come from the heart of the streets
where the gorillas can't be beat
And the untamed animals won't
be defeated

Disasters happen and the darkness
can't be treated

Therefore, I lean on my right and play to
the left
Hopin' I don't get left

I come from a family of animosity
But it's hard to see
So there ain't no need to let the father speak
Weakness and cramps
Working up and hard-headed like a concentration camp

I come from a short life so my life can
be cut short
So I gotta stay on track and pray to
The Lord


Borrowed Time

By O.

I’m hoping & praying I live 2 c another 2morrow
My life drowned in sorrow.
borrowed time is all I got left.
Last night many tears were shed.
Last night a boy bled to death
And as he took his last breath
he whispered to the shadows
dancing at night
I’ve lost, you’ve won the big fight.
This poem needs not no fancy words
just a lot of understanding and insight
to a suffering heart


True Feelings

By R.S.

You make me happy
You make me smile
You make my blood
run like the river
called the Nile
And it's so cold
you wrap me up
in towel just like
I was your child
You the reason I
think of black power
because you is
a strong black woman
who I desire

What Don't Kill Me Can Only Hurt Me

By David

Remember when I was on the moped and got hit off
or when I was on the dirt bike and my hand almost got cut off
you probably think I was a daredevil wit the sh*t I was doing
but I was always under the influence.
I remember when I was younger and my mama used to leave me
and always left my grandma to feed me.
I had a lot of attention but I never wanted to be seen
I never thought of crying 'cause that wasn't my thing
They say everything happens for a reason
I wish I knew mine while I'm sitting here counting out seasons.
Right now I feel like I'm in a lot of pain
and as 1, 2, 3, days go by
I still feel the same.
You heard, “What don't kill you can only make you stronger.”
Well, I believe that metaphor no longer.
When your heart was broke did you feel stronger?
I bet your heart felt like it was in a coma.
What didn't kill me left me wit a heart ache, cut, scare, bruise, or sore
and I never felt stronger then I was before.
Will I be stronger in the long run if you leave me?
Thinkin' hell of a lot I think I found the key.
Everybody go off what they hear or see.
When the truth is what don't kill
can only hurt me.


Hay Una Voz

By Luis

hay una voz de esperanza que me hace
pensar en el futuro y olvidarme de
este presente que es solo tristeza

hay una voz de esperanza que me brinda calma
y que con solo saber que estoy de pie me
hace alzar mis manos hacia las nubes y agradecerle
a dios por seguir con vida

hay una voz que me crea razones en mi
corazón y que me brindan calma y amor
a la vida y aunque esto no es formada
vivir aun estoy con vida,

hay una voz que me cuenta y me da
esperanzas a esperar el desenlace
de mi vida y que mi presente no será
lo que estará presente en mi futuro.

There Is A Voice
Translated by Free Minds staff

there is a voice of hope that makes me
think about the future and forget
my present which is only sadness.

There is a voice of hope that brings me calm
and that just knowing that I stand makes
me raise my hands towards the clouds and thank
god that I am still alive

there is a voice that creates reasons in my
heart and that brings me calm and love
for life and although this isn't formed
to live I'm still alive

there is a voice that tells me and gives me
hope to wait for the ending
of my life and that my present will not be
what my future will hold.



By K.B.

My vision obstructed by the bars on my window as I watch the sun's incline
Regrets escape for only a moment, moving along hastily as time.
Trying to drift away from this place of hate with gates laced with knives,
but I'm trapped within a cage that holds me close while manipulating my mind.
The stone walls whispers attempting to soothe my hunger while caressing my pain.
Freedom, I strive for though some days I feel as if my struggle is in vain.
My cries for help are smothered by screams of frustration, day to day stress I live through
Yesterday was like today and tomorrow is the same I'm trapped in a realm of déjà vu
Why's are no longer summoned while my pillow fondles my neck and head
Nights no longer filled with sweet dreams only nightmares pictures of the dead.
Tucked neatly in my coffin longing for slumber, just wanting to rest in peace
Instead I'm trapped in prison from being caged in by the streets.



by Rafael

You was there for me
when I was a little child

Always looking out for me
when I was down.

Taking me in without a frown.

Making me grin without a clown

I loved to be around you
and I still do.

You are my grandmother
and I will always love you.

You was always there and keep me going

Your beautiful smile is always glowing

I know I haven't been the best I could be,
but I have changed soon you will see.

To you my love goes to
and you will always be my lovely grandmother
that means the world to me!!!


Street Ambition

By Ryan

This a crazy life that I've been given
Wondering if the life that I'm livin', Is based on me makin' decisions
Stuck in da streets running and duckin' from these prisons
All because a vision, of me having a street ambition

(Verse 1)
Can u picture a picture by lookin' at a the frame?
My life's sort of the same, except I'm a picture of what I've became
Without a frame I'm unstabilized tryna find balance
Traveling through the valley of darkness with all this senseless violence
Tryna find the reason y the Lord put me on this earth
'Cause ever since my birth my moms left and showed me how much I'm worth
Waking up in the bed wit cold sweats and piss around my legs
Feeling 4 a figure in the dark that wasn't never there
So how wasn't it fair when I chose the streets over family?
Ain't nobody hold me down but Grandma R—, Auntie, and T—
Mawn did good but she couldn't neva settle my peace
The only one who was missin' was the one who developed me
Ever since a fetus u rubbed yo stomach and promised me
When I made my journey 2 this world that I'll live stress-free
I guess I had to bring a fee 'cause all my life I had 2 pay
4 a broken promise that was made before my birthday

(Verse 2)
My biography comes from a background full of struggle
From getting' in trouble 2 now fixin' this puzzle
Looking back at the past life of me being a toddler
Another child with a destiny aging without his father
Prison was my downfall but it beats meeting the alter
This probably a calling from God to get my life in order
U know ur mind's corrupt when u'll die 4 a quarter
In 2 deep wit the streets that I was trap on a corner


Daddy’s a Man Now

By Antwon

I can’t explain how bad I feel inside
Waking up in a cell sometimes Daddy cries
And that don’t make your father any less of a man
I love u with all my heart
And when you get older u will understand
That your father made a lot of wrong choices
I think I’m going crazy ‘cause I keep hearing u and your mom’s voices
Saying, “Baby, stay strong. Daddy please don’t be away long!”
I get mad when I hear the pain in your mother’s voice on the phone
It brings a tear to my eyes ‘cause I left u in the world alone
I told my baby moms, I’m ready to make a change
For my daughter I’m a man up and turn my back on the street game
Plus, I must say your mother’s strong
For holding the fort down
I once was a boy
But Daddy’s a man now

Pen Fiend

By DeCario

As I sit back
And operate this pen
In my mind
I feel like I’m a pen fiend
Sick with words
Sick with the pen
Whoa! Just had a brain freeze
Right back at it
Like your every day dope addict
Sick, can’t go without it
Got to write about it
In my eyes
I see the light
And only I can see what to write
Every day and night
I think, am I doing what’s right?
This is my life
Some say pray to Christ
But every time I think about it
I am back writin’ with the pen
Sick with so many emotions
And no one to talk to
So who can I turn to
But my pen
I’m just your every day pen fiend


By Robert, aka Rah-Rah

Brick walls, fences, and razor wire criss-crossed in a bind
Feelings overlooked ‘cause remorse is the punishment of crime
No warmth lives here but the wind that chilled
Where it’s a lot of counterfeit ‘cause fake outweigh the real
Not always behind walls and locked doors while doing time
But in the outside world, incarcerated in the mind
Not always what it seems, sometimes a blessing
Only what you make of it, not always unpleasant
A learning experience that’s strongly reckoned with
A chapter of one’s life that’ll never just shift
Forever with you, there all the way to the end
But what will you gain? Strength? Or will you bend?

Who Will Be There To Stay?

By Stephen

If I’ve got secrets to tell
Who can I tell?
If my dreams get broken somehow
Who will remind me I belong?
If I need some place to hide
Who will hold my hand for a while?
If my sky begins to fall
Who will stay with me til I smile?
If I ever need some space
Who will give it?
If someone breaks my heart
Who will help me unbreak it?
If I feel sad or empty inside
Who will show me I’m not alone?
If I get lost out there
Who will come and show me the way home?
If I need to get away
Who will go with me?
And if nothing seems to be going right and I need a friend
Who will be there to stay?


The Rain

By Dobey

So many tears fall from my eyes
Too many questions and so many lies
I made the mistake
I fell in love with you
I thought I was lucky
One of the few
I should have known it wouldn’t last
Feeling your love is just in the past
People asked, “Can you stand the rain?”
But now I can’t
‘Cause it brings too much pain


By DeAndre

My name is Deandre
My destiny is to stop the revolving door with my family
Because the males in my family always in jail or dead
Or not there for their families
So now I am a young man that is 17 years old
That is locked up
I’m about to start my own family
So I have to step up my game up
As a young man and as a leader in my family
To stop the bad
And bring in the new
That’s my destiny

I Remember

By Derrick

I remember when life was all about fun
Football, basketball…never about guns
I used to sit in the house and watch cartoons
Now it’s so much death on the news
In everything I did, I always excelled
Now I’m stuck in this little a** cell
I wish I could take back the stupid decision I made
Sometimes when I lay down, I wish my life could fade
I have so much talent, but it’s wasted on this
I just sit back and say “Life’s a bitch”
I sit in my cell sometimes and cry
‘Cause the way I live can’t be true—it has to be a lie
It’s so much violence, need to increase the peace
I wish violence was germs, ‘cause I keep some bleach
My life was hell, I wish people could see
Slavery is over, but I’m still not free
Doing wrong is easy, but doing right is hard
My mind travels to different places—I think it’s on Mars
The world is falling, someone yell “Timber!”
This is just some of the stuff that I remember

I Live In a Place

By Douglas

I live in a place where it’s dark
Where people always lie
Where the only time people come together
Is when one die
But the thing that hurts the most
Is when they mothers cry
‘Cause I swear I live in a place
Where only the good ones die
I was young and into sports
Kickin’ it with my friends
We all had the same dream
A dubbed out Benz
Only one way to get it and we all knew how
So we started selling drugs and made it our life
Robbing the old, helping the new
I wish back then, I only knew

Slowly Fading Away

By Jonas

I feel like I’m slowly fading
Like smoke into thin air
In constant search of a caring soul
But no one really cares
It’s rare to find a genuine heart, truly sincere and kind
Expecially when you end up in a predicament like mine
Snatched away from society at a very young age
With no guidance and no structure, I was living in a haze
But the past is done and gone and my future seems bleak
I’m slowly fading away
Like a drunk when he drinks
I think this life is worth living
Sometimes it’s hard to tell
It’s like I was born into Satan’s hands, then cast into hell
My potential is at a peak, where I’m beginning to see
But twenty years from now, who knows where I’ll be
Still locked in a cell where my potential and worth is a “was”—a thing of the past
So vast my dreams and goals, things I aspire to achieve
It’s a daily struggle for me to continue to believe
To believe that I could actually be more than a thug
To believe that a woman still wants to give me a kiss with her love
Still wants to see me smile and tell me I’m so cute
To see that I’ve blossomed into a wonderful man
Though I didn’t have rich roots
Locked away like this, everyone seems to forget
I’m slowly fading away
Into a bottomless pit
Out of sight, out of mind, damn it’s a shame
Sometimes I wonder if certain people even remember my name
In a predicament like this you become very aware
Before, ignorance was bliss and you don’t know to be scared
I feel like I have so much to offer
But am I really even here?
Time waits for no one, and no one sees my tears
I’m ripe and ready for whatever
I’m 21 years young
Sometimes my soul feels 80, like it’s almost done
I’m slowly fading away
Into a mist of confusion
Constantly wondering if my life is just an illusion


By Talib

If you have faith
Then you have one fear
Come here and hear
If you have faith
You “will” reach your goals
No matter what you were told
In this wicked cold world
To have faith you must believe you can achieve
And never allow anyone to cause or make you grieve
Faith is more than action
It goes beyond this world
Believe in the Supreme who created us all people
Human beings

My Relations With the Street

By D.T.

As I think about the streets, I think what they’ve done for me
The pain, the sweat, the tears, the urge and grind to eat
When I fell and didn’t succeed, I felt some great defeat
Hustlers, robbers, killers, they’ve all been good to me
I stop and think about my relations with the street
And if I don’t stay strong, I might could be dead meat
The loneliness drives me to commit crimes
But in the back of my mind I stay thinkin’ about dying
So what would the streets care if I was six feet deep?
I stop and think about my relations with the streets