Aug 10, 2010

Letters from Coxsackie ("the easiest place to get into, the hardest to get out of"): Part II

This is the second installment in "Letters from Coxsackie," a series of letters I received from inmates at Coxsackie Correctional Facility in upstate New York containing their thoughts about their past mistakes, their psychological and spiritual journeys toward redemption, and their warnings to youth who are on the same path that led the inmates to prison.  This man asked me to post his letter because "I believe we go about turning the youth away from prison and a life of crime the wrong way.  Scaring them will only make them want to be tougher, and it will lead them to gangs and other things to make them feel safe.  But giving them a real look at what they got to lose compared to what they got to gain is another story.  Cause nobody comes to prison thinking when they get out they won't have their grandparents, sisters, or brothers there to welcome them home. They don't know that they will be killing the same people they say they love."


Dear Ms Boar,

I am prisoner in an upstate correctional facility and I've been here for the last 25 years.  I'm 42 years old. I came here when I was 17 years old, just a kid. I was convicted of felony murder. That is when someone dies in the course of committing another felony.  In my case, it was a robbery. Me and a few friends tried to rob a man, but when my friend pulled out the gun (which he had never used before) he ended up pulling the trigger and ending a man's life.  But, at that same moment he ended his life without knowing it and I ended mine. And we both destroyed our families lives, you see.  That man had a wife, two kids and parents who loved him, and we took him away from them, and we had no right.

We were sentenced to 18  years to life. That was 25 years ago.  I assure you that this place is the easiest to get into and the hardest to get out of.

We didn't think about the pain we caused our love ones by being in here. I learned the hard way. It took me to lose both my grandmothers, both my grandfathers, my uncle, my god father, one sister, and then my mother.  I never thought at 17 years old that I would never have my mother waking me up, or my father yelling at me to take out the trash, or my grandparents telling me that they loved me, or my sister telling me to leave her alone, but it's a reality. I lost almost everybody that I loved and all because I made a mistake when I was a kid. Even though I was poor, my family was still the best and they did the best they could.  I would give anything to have them back but I know that I'll never see them again.

 I am not looking for anyone  to feel sorry for me. I'm just hoping that maybe one kid will  read this and think "Is it worth it?"  I took the chance and look what I lost, More than dust-my freedom.  No child wants to send their parents to an early grave because they worry themselves to death. I regret putting my whole family through all the stuff I put them through and they stood by me all the way. But it doesn't change the fact that when they do decide to let me go, none of them will be there to welcome me home. I will never be able to hear their voices again.

 I never thought that this was part of the risk. We think we can go to jail and come home and tell Mom and Dad that we are sorry.  It doesn't happen like that. I know, I learned the hard way, and I wouldn't want anybody to go through what I have been going through for the past 25 years. I did my time and I'm still here. Once they get you they hold on until they are ready to let go. So I beg you. Please don't be me. All it takes is one mistake. Thanks for reading this and remember true friends don't let you throw your life away.