I believe the only way the crime will go down is if we have quality programming on the inside and the outside.  We need training to see that ultimately the outcome of good behaviors will be much better than those of criminal behaviors. Everyone benefits from programs like Free Minds.

I was only 16 years old when some friends I was running with committed a robbery.  They say ‘be careful of the company you keep’ and now I understand why.  At the time, I was getting good grades at a premiere public charter school in DC.  I was also seen as a standout basketball player.  Suddenly, I found myself in shackles, wearing an orange jumpsuit. I had never been arrested before.  I didn’t even know a youth could be charged as an adult so when it happened I was lost and in a daze. When I heard I was going to the DC jail I looked around to see who they were talking to because surely it couldn’t be me!  I was scared and nervous.

Prison is set up for you to fail but I was one of the few lucky ones. Not only did I have a supportive family, but I had Free Minds with me throughout my whole incarceration.  They have been helping me ever since I came home.  They talked with me about my goals and helped me to develop a plan to achieve them.  After being locked up for seven years, sometimes it felt uncomfortable just going out in public and doing regular every day things.  It was so helpful to talk with them and practice things like how to talk to a potential employer, and how to explain my history.  I’ve now developed strong public speaking skills and regularly speak for Free Minds as a “Poet Ambassador” at community gatherings on the power of creative writing to transform lives that have been traumatized by violence.   I am playing for a semi-professional basketball league in Washington, DC and have a fulltime job as a welder.  This road hasn’t been easy, but I know without a doubt that I am now on the road to success.

Tragically I saw a lot of guys lose themselves inside prison because they had no one and they just gave up and started to get into trouble. When they went home they went right back to the street life and became worse criminals. I believe the only way the crime will go down is if we have quality programming on the inside and the outside.  We need training to see that ultimately the outcome of good behaviors will be much better than those of criminal behaviors. Everyone benefits from programs like Free Minds.

 

A Cry For Help
By Juan
(Written while I was in federal prison)

Is there anybody out there
Who can help me?
These bars are taking away
My ability to see
They even caged up my mind
So it’s no longer flying free
These bars are sealed tight
So even my mind can’t break loose and flee
Even though my body is locked up
Don’t mean that my brain have to be
My mind should be soaring with the eagles
Or with the fish, swimming in the sea
Someone help me please
I’m going crazy inside
It’s like chess
I’m making moves that my mind couldn’t decide
I’m in a place where my mind is forced to hide
And the rest of me is just in it for the ride
It’s like a battle within
Easy to lose
But much more difficult to win
Someone help me please
Please hear my cry for help
Then a boy came and helped
My cry for help was felt
He was floating invisibly
Like he was stealth
And then I looked a little closer
And saw that the boy was myself
And then my mind broke through the bars
And broke through the doors
It flew in the sky with the birds and soared
My mind is now free
It ain’t never coming back
It is now free to roam
And I like it like that!

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