If I Weren’t a Prisoner

By · Thursday, March 19th, 2009

The Washington Post published a story about Ricky Bryant, a federal prisoner who has been locked in prison for 30 years. As I read through the story, I thought about what Mr. Bryant’s life may have been like had he not committed a crime that necessitated so many decades in prison.

That wasn’t a subject I usually thought about. I am now in my 22nd year of continuous confinement, and I rarely meet a prisoner who has served more time than me. I received a question from John, however, and he asked whether I thought about what my life would be like if I had not been convicted. When I read John’s question, rather than thinking about my own predicament, I thought about the lives of the millions of Americans who languish inside of prisons.

The Pew Report suggests that our country relies on imprisonment far too much. In my own case, I serve a lengthy sentence on account of my convictions for having distributed cocaine. I do not have a history of violence or previous imprisonment, but I was guilty of the crimes for which I was charged.

I read a recent blog suggesting that Governor Patterson, of New York, intends to lead legislation that will abandon the lengthy sentences imposed under the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws. Perhaps we will see similar reforms in the federal system. If not, I expect to serve between three and four more years.

In my case, I cannot imagine a life outside of prison. To do so would be akin to imagining my life if I were a woman, or if I were reared in Australia, or some other unknown concept. I’ve been a prisoner all my adult┬álife. Sometimes I feel as if I’ll always be a prisoner of some sort. I look forward to release, but for now, I feel as if I’m where God intends me to be.

John asked other questions about my marriage to Carole. I responded to those in a separate post, under Maintaining a Thriving Marriage from Prison.

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