Judged Cover


I’m known on a last name basis
In a place
Where numbers come with faces
Will you ever know me
On a first name basis?
More than the name I mean
I’m more than a criminal, you see
I once had dreams
Skateboarding and BMX competitions
Once an innocent seed
No impediments to my visions
Then came abuse as a child
My ability suddenly in question
A pure heart defiled
Smiles turned into depression
From selfless to selfish
What have I become?
What you consider wrong
Is normal to some
A bitter life prolonged
Is easier said than done
So I became an expression
Of what I felt within
Though innocent were my intentions
My life was filled with sin
Reckless in my behavior
Because I didn’t value self
Putting myself in danger
Was my cry for help
So I cried and I cried
So did my mother every night
While her tears were literal
Mine were more mystical
My actions held a deeper meaning
Preventing others from seeing
And a talented kid from being
All he wanted to be
Crime gave me meaning
And a gang provided safety
Until for my pain
There was no more compensating
It took a precious life
Just to see how precious was mine
It took so many squandered years
For me to value time
It took me all that doing wrong
Just to do what’s right
It took a cell all alone
Just so that I could cry
All you have to do is look on your screen
For you to make judgements about me
But that will never tell you
About the real me


  1. Achal Shah on February 23, 2021 at 12:22 PM

    This was very well written poem! I think this really allowed me to think about who I surround myself with and how the people one surrounds themself with can impact their life.

  2. Ayzhiana Basallo on February 23, 2021 at 7:31 PM

    Wow, this poem was so deep! I got every emotion of this poem and I felt every word. I really liked how deep you dived into this one. You gave examples from your life and you made it relatable to people. You really went within yourself and you did a lot of self-reflecting. The beginning of the poem really made me want to keep reading more and more. I really enjoyed your piece, can’t wait to read more!

  3. shai on February 24, 2021 at 11:04 AM

    MV, this is a really powerful poem! It shows growth and self-reflection, both of which are incredibly positive 🙂 sending my best wishes!

  4. David Liu on February 24, 2021 at 2:25 PM

    Your past does not define you. Other people’s opinions do not define you. The only thing that will define you is how you choose to act. Stay strong!

  5. Fabiola Vega Albino on February 24, 2021 at 11:11 PM

    great poem! it touched my soul I felt every word of it. Keep working like this.

  6. Fabiola Vega Albino on February 24, 2021 at 11:30 PM

    Love the metaphors and figures used. I thing the way this poem is written is very clever and sophisticated. Great work!

  7. Emily Bickel on February 24, 2021 at 11:50 PM

    Beautiful poem, friend. This required a lot of time and thought. This took me through your experience so beautifully – we are too quick to judge people in situations that we don’t understand. i have no critiques for this – super heartfelt and I loved every word. How unfortunate is this circumstance.

  8. Charese on February 25, 2021 at 2:52 AM

    Your emotions are so raw, and bring about such a different perspective about the world and its inhabitants; the wrongdoings that occur and result in circumstances such as your own. It’s such a well-written piece, and I admire your perseverance in all of your experiences. Your use of imagery is not only captivating, but inclusive where it helps to feel what you feeling; it induces sympathy. I love it

  9. sarahpimentel05gmailcom on February 27, 2021 at 10:51 AM

    The first lines of your poem are very powerful to me. I love how you talk about wanting people to know you on a first name basis.

  10. Gisela on February 28, 2021 at 7:10 PM

    Hi MV,
    Your poem makes us see the events in your life through your words. It’s vey powerful, it is very moving. We can feel your mother’s pain, and we can feel your pain. You mentioned that “..all you have to do is to look on your screen for you to make judgments about me, “ To be honest, the way you tell your story, it is hard for me to judge you, all I see through my screen is the suffering of a very wounded person. I can see that you went through a lot and your regret is real. I hope that though your poems you can feel some comfort. Keep writing. Thank you. Gisela

  11. Joyce on March 1, 2021 at 2:14 PM

    Dear MV,

    Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable in this poem. It sounds like you have done a lot of critical and positive self-reflection, and I hope you can love and value yourself now. I hope you are able to overcome the challenges you had to face in your childhood and forgive yourself for whatever mistakes you have made, because it seems like you know now what is right and wrong. This poem is written beautifully, it was really moving. The phrasing and rhymes you used make it flow well, and the story you are sharing is so powerful. You are an amazing writer and this is such an important message. I am wishing you all the best for the future!


  12. James Artis on March 1, 2021 at 2:45 PM

    Keep Writing, Keep Writing, Keep Writing…..This human existence is such a journey. The real you is always bigger than your mistakes. I really like the part about looking in the mirror. Please continue to write so the world can see your greatness.

  13. ken on March 2, 2021 at 1:03 PM

    Wow. This poem is so heart felt and emotional. I can tell that it has real meaning to you and that you are trying to express why you did the things that you did. It was very well written and was very deep. I loved reading it! Keep up the amazing work!!

  14. Casey Engel on March 3, 2021 at 12:42 PM

    You. Matter.

  15. Ayzhiana Basallo on March 3, 2021 at 11:10 PM

    Wow, your poem was so powerful. I loved reading it, it really got into my soul. So much emotion and so much value in it. It was absolutely amazing, I would not change anything about it. Keep being real and keep writing, poems can hold so much value and they are really helpful with getting things off your chest. I loved it, keep writing please!

  16. Gracie on March 5, 2021 at 12:01 PM

    I am an 11th grader sitting in my AP English class, and from the hundreds of classical poems i’ve read, this has, BY FAR, been the most powerful. You truly found your gift- keep nourishing it and keep proving to people that you are more than what meets the eye.

  17. Cameron on March 8, 2021 at 10:24 AM


    Wow, thank you for sharing with us your story. It’s dehumanizing how people will take one look at someone or their actions and make terrible judgements about the person. None of us know what it’s like to live in another person’s shoes, and we have to stop acting like we do! MV, you had so many powerful lines in this poem, but I particularly liked: “So I became an expression/ Of what I felt within” and “Putting myself in danger/ Was my cry for help.” I wish others would realize this, especially educators. Thank you again for sharing!


  18. Varun on March 9, 2021 at 6:28 PM

    I think the poem was good and really hit home the point that people in prison are also people, many of whom have complicated pasts and value their futures

  19. Ean Rogers on March 11, 2021 at 3:44 PM


    This is a really powerful, humanizing, and eye-opening story. It reminds us about the humanity of every person and how everyone has a story. It’s really thought provoking, I can’t stop thinking about it. The growth seen in those last few lines is huge and you can really tell how far you’ve come. I hope the real you is doing well and keeps writing because your story has the power to help people.

    – Ean

  20. Brittani Forman on March 11, 2021 at 4:00 PM

    Dear MV, nice poem! I like the short staccato lines. It helps with the flow of the reading of poem. Nice job

  21. Jill H on March 13, 2021 at 9:45 AM

    You’ve beautifully shared a piece of the real you in this poem – thank you you so much.

  22. Joseph M. on March 14, 2021 at 7:27 PM

    Dear MV,

    Thank you for sharing this poem. The lines that stood out to me most were “It took a cell all alone / Just so that I could cry.” This was so powerful in describing the way that we often feel the need to hide our pain, so that it ends up coming out as anger or destructive actions. It’s powerful that this poem ends up in a place of being able to be vulnerable– to be in touch with “the real me.” Even beyond the powerful message, I enjoyed the way that you told a long, complicated story while incorporating rhyme and rhythm. Thank you for writing & sharing.


  23. Veda on March 15, 2021 at 2:53 PM

    Thank you for sharing this and your vulnerability. It is truly admirable. This poem is just everything. Beautifully written with such an important meaning. Although I have never met you, I felt as if I could see you through this poem. This poem changed my perspective on an aspect of the world–an aspect of the world that I failed to recognize until now. Thank you for teaching me and making me a better human being. My heart goes out to you and I hope that you are able to do things that make you happy. You deserve it. Your poem evokes such emotions for anyone who is reading it and your word choices, the way the lines break, the way the poem itself flows makes it so incredibly powerful. This is amazing. Thank you so much.

  24. Melissa Norwick on March 23, 2021 at 1:06 PM


    This was one of the BEST poems I️ have ever read! Your words were powerful! You were able to express yourself and share apart of your life where most others tend to shy away. I️ think your poem is easily relatable to many other youth individuals. People who have been where you have been or feel the same things you have felt. Many people who can relate to this poem might read it and decide to change their path before it is too late. You are changing lives! The way you reflected back on your choices and wrote about how that has impacted your life shows growth. You are more than a last name or a number. You are someones child, friend, or loved one. Keep writing because you have a true talent. I️ wish you the best. -MN

  25. Derek H. on March 25, 2021 at 4:44 PM

    Wow what an insightful poem! It is so important that we take time to get know individuals on a deeper level and don’t let biases interfere with the way we treat others. Thanks for sharing, this changed my day!

  26. Joe Fargo on March 25, 2021 at 10:21 PM

    Dear MV,

    Thank you for sharing this poem. The emotions you convey and the rhythm you use to show them make your poem so powerful. I empathize with you, and I hope you continue writing.

    Best wishes,
    – Joe

  27. Samantha on March 26, 2021 at 4:36 PM


    This was such a vulnerable, powerful poem. You took us on a journey of self-reflection, hope, pain and suffering, and yet, you showed us how you still see a light at the end of the tunnel. This was beautiful, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.



  28. Emily on March 27, 2021 at 6:32 PM

    This is a great glimpse into your emotions and it’s incredibly powerful.

  29. Sawyer S on March 29, 2021 at 2:10 PM

    thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this poem. its beautiful. please never stop writing! I hope it’s helping you find some solace. Sending you love and light!

  30. Alivia on March 30, 2021 at 12:26 PM

    This poem is so eye opening, it makes me really think about what went on in your life prior to where you are now. I like how well this poem appeals to emotion. Also the part where a few lines rhyme make it even better!

  31. Eileen on March 30, 2021 at 6:41 PM

    Hello MV,

    I admire this realization of yours that people may look at you but never see the real you. I think you are a very gifted writer and have a strong ability for introspection. I think you have realized something important that the judgement people pass on you based on your actions does not define you. You are simply a human being reacting to your desire to survive and be heard, just like anyone else

  32. AYDEN JOZWIK on April 1, 2021 at 5:52 PM

    MV has a real talent for being able to write rhymes and themes in such a truthful manner. Reading this I felt like they laid everything out on the table about who they are, who they were, and who they hoped to be before getting into trouble. The fact that MV is so honest about themselves is why that first and last line of the poem was so potent for me. Since they have gotten into trouble they’ve been forced to take on a new identity which strips them of their ability to stay true to themselves or be judged fairly by society at large. MV is honest about how they didn’t fully realize the importance of the time and freedom they had until after they were put behind bars. I hope MV is able to use their experiences to keep writing because they are really talented at it and it seems like it has given them at least some form of release since as they mentioned they will forever be judged unfairly because of past circumstances outside of their control that contributed to their current incarceration. Writing seems to give them a chance to reclaim their identity and so I hope they don’t stop.

  33. Talib Williams on April 2, 2021 at 12:22 AM

    This was really well crafted. I read every line as if I was truly there by your side throughout your life. And even though I may never know you in person I feel reading this poem gives me a better perception of the real you. Great work

  34. Kylie on April 2, 2021 at 2:32 PM

    Hi MV, it’s ironic that in a poem that is so much about identity and the power of names that I have to start my comment with only your initials. I found your piece to be incredibly moving and well written. It has a natural rhythm to it that works beautifully and your use of alliteration throughout shows natural poetic instincts. The unconventional mix of rhyming on non rhyming lines really helps to convey a stream of consciousness feel to the piece that works really well for what is, at its core, a meditation on identity. I particularly loved the way you used literal and mystical when discussing the tears of yourself and your mother. Keep up the excellent work and keep playing around with rhyme structures to find your best mode of expression. Overall, really great work!

  35. Aprile on April 3, 2021 at 11:58 AM

    Hi MV, thank you so much for writing this poem. This is truly incredible, and I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences so eloquently in this form. I am thankful that Free Minds gives us the opportunity to learn about you, your past, and your present. You explained so much about how being a criminal is so commonly associated with immediate judgement, and I am sorry that you face such a connotation. I believe everyone truly is a good person and that all can learn from their past experiences to become better. I am working to advocate for you through promoting Free Minds events. You are clearly a very talented writer, and I hope to read more from you in the future. Wishing you the best in all that you do.

  36. maggie on April 4, 2021 at 8:46 PM

    This poem was very deep and very well written. Thank you for sharing and I really liked the story behind this

  37. Ava on April 6, 2021 at 2:59 PM

    your poem is a work of art. I love all of the intricacies of the rhythm that you placed throughout the piece, the compelling word choices, the boldness to be personal and not back away from the hard truths that you have learned. you have a beautiful story to tell and I am grateful that I came across your piece!

  38. Soy on April 7, 2021 at 10:53 AM

    MV, I can’t thank you enough for sharing so much of yourself and your experiences in this poem. I know you’ve dealt with people making assumptions and judging you for so long, so thank you for being vulnerable here. While I may also never know the real you, I think I’m getting insight into who you are on the inside from this poem; you can see your passion, pain, and determination through these lines. You’re so strong! You’ve been through so much and you can only get stronger from here. Thank you again. Your poem and your story will stick with me.

  39. Nicole Burkoski on April 9, 2021 at 8:48 AM

    Judged Cover by MV- This one of the most moving poems I have ever read and it gave me only a glimpse into a life that I have not lived but moved me like I knew this person. When he goes into detail about the loss of his innocence the poem shifts to a tone of sadness more than regret. He has not only owned his mistakes but his poem shows how he has analyzed those mistakes. This poem shows not what he was thinking throughout those mistakes but how he felt and what those actions symbolized. The way he describes taking a life in order to value his own is extremely impactful as the poet realizes the value of time. Absolutely amazing!

  40. Lauren G on April 12, 2021 at 4:58 PM

    This poem is very meaningful. I really like the use of your title here which provides a great context about the poem. It really reminds you that you have no idea what else is going on in someone’s life under the surface. I also like the point of how a lot of aspects of our lives can be taken for granted such as time and dreams. I really enjoyed this poem.

  41. Callie Cloran on April 13, 2021 at 11:15 AM

    Wow thank you for sharing your words. They are powerful and I believe that the real you is worthy of being known. I can’t imagine the hurt you have endured. You are a gifted writer good job!

  42. E on April 13, 2021 at 9:06 PM

    Your experience and words hold such power. You let us as the readers in, allowing us to know your true feelings and emotions during this time in your life. You being able to acknowledge and even write about it is a big step most are afraid to take. Though you feel as though it was time lost, it was time gained to recreate yourself and begin again. Thank you for sharing a part of you with me. You are a brave person!

  43. Anna on April 14, 2021 at 7:51 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. This poem truly dove deep and showed us the real story of what made you you. People are so quick to judge what they see on the outside but rarely take a chance to see what is truly happening in their life. At the end of the day everyones perceptions of you are just that, a perception. They will never know your pain or your life experiences. You are so strong. Keep writing!!!

  44. D on April 19, 2021 at 2:08 PM

    Absolutely beautiful. I really felt this poem in my heart. Not just because it was so well written from a poetic perspective. I feel the pain here. Abuse can really send us in directions that we don’t necessarily want to go in. This poet is incredibly intelligent and introspective. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, MV. Best wishes to you, you have such great potential.

  45. Alexa on April 19, 2021 at 9:27 PM

    Your poem is incredibly powerful, I am thankful that you were able to be so vulnerable and honest in your writing. Your very obvious emotion is that makes this poem so strong. You are not labelled by your past, and it is important to keep moving forward as best as you can.

  46. Miriam on April 20, 2021 at 8:18 PM

    Hi MV,
    Thank you for sharing your story and your personal reflections. We have circumstances and environments that shape the decisions we make at certain points in our lives and they lead us down path we wished we hadn’t taken in. But those decisions don’t mean we can’t change as people. We can look inside and choose to be better than those circumstances, better than those environments, better than the person you once were. You can’t change the past but you’ve chosen to be a better version of yourself. Your poem was beautiful and I hope more people will look beyond your cover story and see the real you.

  47. Nicole Nowicki on April 23, 2021 at 4:19 PM

    MV, thank you so much for shedding light on the journey many people are forced into that causes people to be incarcerated. As you detailed in your poem, its so easy for people to judge people based on one mistake, rather than attempt to understand all of the forces that set them up for that. Thank you for sharing your story with us on such an intimate level. Your poetry really helped me see the real you, and understand your frustrations with the misconceptions people have about you. You are so much more than the one mistake you made, you are human. This poetry conveyed your humanity so well, especially with discussing your interests and the reasoning behind why you did the things you did. This poem is very vulnerable, and I admire you for being able to show a part of yourself to us. Have a lovely day.

  48. Emma on April 27, 2021 at 4:49 PM

    MV, Your words hold such a power. You let me, as the reader, in even if it was just a little bit to understand your feelings and emotions during this time of your life. You being able to acknowledge and even write about it is a big step most are afraid to take. Though you feel as if it was time lost, I can also see it as time gained to recreate and begin again. Thank you for sharing a part of you with me. You are a brave person!

  49. Jay on April 29, 2021 at 12:05 PM

    Thank you for sharing your poem here. It’s clear to see that you have done a lot of reflecting on who you were in the past. It’s also evident that you have experienced growth, because you’re able to write how you feel about the situations you were in and where you are now. The lines flow and read like a story, making it easy to understand what you’re saying and visualize the details as the poem goes on. Never lose sight of the real you and keep up the great writing.

  50. Edmon on April 29, 2021 at 3:36 PM

    Hi I’m Edmon and i’m in a class that aims to engage with the community beyond the university and corporations. I really liked the deeper meaning behind your poem and how you made each topic its own stanza. I wonder the story behind each line. It seems like you have endured a lot of hurt and this is how you release that stress in a positive way. It reminds me that you can’t judge someone based on the surface. Good job and Good luck in the future.

  51. Rebekah Ralston on April 29, 2021 at 9:12 PM

    Thank you for sharing this poem. I felt that the title really gave me insight to what you were feeling about the things you were saying. I like how you recognized your mistakes and the things that have helped you.

  52. Anne Kilburg on May 1, 2021 at 7:01 PM

    Hi MV, I really enjoyed your writing, it contains so much emotion and self reflection that was easily conveyed to the reader, even through a screen. Your storytelling is really impressive and impactful, I can tell that you have worked really hard to connect with yourself and I can also tell how you are frustrated that no one sees who you really are. You are more than a number and more than your past actions. Keep up the great work, you are really talented.

  53. Aracelli on May 2, 2021 at 11:15 PM

    Hi MV. This held so much emotion, it was one of the first that I’ve read that nearly brought me to tears. You really expressed the pain you’ve experienced so well within these words. What a beautifully written poem, and I wish you peace and healing from the hurt in your life.

  54. M on May 3, 2021 at 10:43 PM

    Dear MV,
    Thank you for sharing your poem with us. I know it must have taking a lot to share and I hope that you keep writing and telling your story. It was beautiful and heartfelt poem.

  55. Al on October 17, 2021 at 5:26 PM

    Dear MV,

    Thank you for sharing your poem. It is so beautifully expressed and detailed. Your poem is so well written and relatable as well. The portrayal of emotions and thoughts is so vulnerably exposed through the words of your poem and it is so genuine.

  56. ZP on October 17, 2021 at 7:22 PM

    Thank you for sharing your poem, it was truly beautiful, I hope you know your past does not define you and that you matter. Your poem really teaches us all a lesson about the hardships and dark pasts everyone carries. I hope you continue to write!

  57. Nina Austria on November 9, 2021 at 9:13 PM

    MV, Thank you for sharing your story. This was beautifully written and makes me think a lot about how our lives are shaped by many factors that are oftentimes beyond our control. I hope you know that these lines are powerful!

  58. Andrew on December 6, 2021 at 4:50 PM

    Your poem is a reminder of an important truth, that everyone has a name, a childhood, aspirations, and a story.
    It’s a shame that can be forgotten so easily, and some are reduced to a number and to being known as an occupier of a cell.

  59. Bella Pereira on December 13, 2021 at 2:55 PM

    Dear MV,
    I think that your poem Judged Cover is one of the most moving poems I’ve read and it really stood out to me. Your poem stood out to me so much because I felt really connected to it emotionally right away. I’m amazed by your ability to be so honest and vulnerable about your life because I know it can be hard to open up like that. I have always believed that you should never judge people by just what you see because you don’t know what they’ve been through in their life or what they’re currently going through, and your poem did a great job of taking my feelings towards that idea even deeper. The way that the rhythm builds up throughout the whole poem gives the poem a strong direction and adds to the meaning. You can really hear the emotion change in your voice throughout the whole thing, which I believe is very important when writing poetry. The way that you described how you were once an innocent kid then tied it to how you were hurt and damaged was really deep and touching. You revealed a lot of self-reflection and self-growth in this poem which is very important. I love the way that you used repetition at the end of the poem, it really showed realization and comparison between your new self and your old self. This poem really shows anyone who reads it that people are more than the mistakes that they’ve made and you should never judge someone no matter what. This poem was beautiful and you are a very talented poet.

  60. avi on December 13, 2021 at 2:56 PM

    Dear MV, I don’t know you and you dont know me but one thing’s for certain I fully recognize your story and support your perspectives in your poem Judged Cover. I had read through hundreds of poems and yours stood out the most to me. Not only was I appealed by the amount of emotion you emitted in your poem but the two topics you pointed out about abuse and judgement were both things I heavily agree with. After re reading your poem outloud to myself I discovered hidden rhymes and different techniques that I wasn’t able to hear when I didn’t read outloud. The poem’s structure and dynamic was another thing I noticed. It seemed that in the beginning of the poem you told us your story and about your childhood then and at the end of your poem you told us about your regrets and showed self reflection on your past actions by questioning yourself towards the end. You showed strength and perseverance. I thought it was very well done and it all flowed together. One thing that I loved about your poem was your willingness to describe your childhood and the abuse that went on when you were young. You showed in your poem that you overcame the taruma and it has made you who you are now. Throughout your poem you also talked about the struggle of being judged because people only see you through one lense. You address this in a very emotional way and it really helped me to gain an understanding of your story and what you have to go through. All of the aspects and stories you incorporated into your poem most definitely were clear and helped to inform your audience on life through the perspective of an inmate and your life before and after being incarcerated.

  61. Megan McTaggart on February 17, 2022 at 1:46 PM

    You might be known as a number or last name where you are, but now you are known as a story. You are a poet and dreamer. MV, keep on writing. I really loved this poem.

  62. Lydia Cole on April 28, 2022 at 3:16 PM

    Dear MV,
    You have truly presented a beautifully honest poem. I was able to feel every word that you said. It is a captivating take on how being called on by a number and last name basis can change one’s view on life. You displayed what being judged felt like along the process of life throughout this poem and it is remarkable how other people’s judging actions can affect everyone. I agree that people in society jump to conclusions too quickly without digging deeper. This was very well put in the last lines, “All you have to do is look on your screen For you to make judgements about me But that will never tell you About the real me.” I have felt judged for most of my life. Although revolving around different circumstances, it has made me feel strongly about how misconceptions are so easily formed. I am extremely thankful having come across this and thank you for being vulnerable in your writing!
    LC, Minnesota

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The poets featured here are currently incarcerated, and many of them are in federal prisons far from home. Your feedback is a valuable source of motivation and connection to the outside community. Post your comments, feedback, and encouragement in the space below the poem. Messages will be passed on directly to the author. Comments may not appear immediately on the site, as our team processes them to mail to the poets.