Sep 28 2010

More From Until I Am Free: Voices of Youth Sentenced to Life Without Parole

I’ve received a couple of e-mails from people who have expressed how moved they have been by the words from Until I Am Free. So here is the 4th edition of the terrific poetry from people sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

The Real Me
John Horton

The real me is a lost little boy
who hurts like everyone else hurts
who cries like everyone cries
but only on the inside.
The real me is irrelevant.
I don’t matter to most
have been forgotten by all
as I do time for a crime I didn’t commit
behind this prison wall. The real me
hardly ever receives any mail, hasn’t seen a birthday
card in years. Holidays seem to evade me as well
father’s day cards don’t make it either.
You have never seen, nor have I ever been
the person GOD gave life to, the man
my mother raised me to be, the one
that wrote this poem.

John Horton grew up in Rockford, Illinois and was 17 years old at the time of offense for which he received life without parole. John is now 34 years old and continues to maintain his innocence. He earned his GED while incarcerated, and has worked steady jobs. He misses his daughters the most.

The Joint Pt. 1
Scott Chambers

There’s a place where some men must live
behind bars made of steel.
Beyond those bars, lays a wall
that’s deep, thick, wide and very tall.
For some men time is short, for others long.
There are few that will never go home.
There are sleepless nights and hopeless dreams
visions of freedom never seen.
It’s like searching for something that can’t be found.
It’s like lovely music without the sound.
It’s a rat race, a dogfight both combined
struggling for life in the midst of doing time.
It’s a world filled with men that jumped out of trees.
Cold blooded rapist, killers and thieves.
In the joint there are drugs of all kind
yet the drug for all is the dope of doing time.
This is the place where some men must live
behind the bars that are made of nothing but steel.

Scott Chambers was 17 years old when he received life without parole. Prior to his incarceration, Scott lost his mother, never met his father, and became addicted to drugs starting at age 10. He is now 33 years old and has taught himself how to read and write well in prison.

A Poem for the Board
Jackie Montanez

I was beaten from the age of five.
From then on forced to survive.
Physically abused since I was small.
It’s a wonder I survived at all.
I loved my mother
But she was sick.
My life played on painful tricks.
I grew up wrong.
I grew up sad.
For me, childhood wasn’t meant to last,
Lots of stitches in my jaw
A few of the first things I saw.
Abuse was always swept under a rug
With a quick sorry and meaningless hug.
At the age of 12, I ran from home.
My stepfather had his way with me
And that’s the reason I couldn’t stay.
On the streets cold and alone
I learned to survive on my own.
The choices I made were never the best.
I started drugs to kill the pain.
It’s a wonder I’m not insane.
In ’92 I got locked up
At 17 sentenced to life.
I lost my heart. I lost my soul.
The drugs and gangs have taken their toll.
After some years at Dwight
I pick myself up and continued to fight.
I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused.
Please send me home to that I may experience life
And maybe one day be someone’s wife.

Jackie Montanez grew up in Humboldt Park and was 16 years old when she committed the crime for which she is serving life without parole. Today she is 33 years old, and has earned her GED, continues to take college coursework, and has graduated from a dog-training program. She loves to write poetry, and dreams of working to reform the criminal justice system one day.

Unnamed Title
Joseph Rodriguez

There are souls residing in this place, their faces
their minds completely out in space; Alone
in thoughts, trying to be strong. I knew my crime
was wrong. As days get longer, nights get colder
you are faced with reality as your time gets older
you begin to feel all the pain. Your mind begins
to spin as if you’re going insane; Some hide it
well through the window of their eyes. A fistfight
a knife fight may break out all around. When it’s over…
everyone’s on a Major One Lock-Down!

Joseph Rodriguez was sentenced to life without parole for a crime he committed when he was 16. He is 44 years old today, and believes he has changed enormously since his youth.

Behind These Walls
Albert X. Kirkman

Behind these walls
Men come to realization
When lawyers fail getting them out
Their families no longer behind them
And they don’t have a friend in the World.

Behind these walls
Men enter with hearts as cold as ice
Desensitized, numb and dead
But isolated from this world
The same heart begins life again.
I swear you never thought
You’d see these men cry

Behind these walls
It’s the survival of the fittest.
If the officers don’t kill you
You worry about the next man that will.
If you get sick you might not make the next night
If you die, you’re lucky if your body doesn’t become a mystery.

Behind these walls
It can get lonely as hell.
Some come ignorant and leave the same.
Some come ignorant and leave as scholars.

Behind these walls
Young men come with baby faces
And leave with gray beards
Behind these walls!

Albert was 17 years old at the time of offense for which he received life without parole. He is now 35 years old and continues to fight to prove his innocence. Albert earned his GED in prison, studies and practices his faith, and was employed as a teacher’s aide for a prison course.

James Walker

I was born April 10, 1966.
I was born March 13, 1984.
My mother’s name is Barneta.
My mother’s name is I.D.O.C.
This mother I love dearly.
This mother I love to hate dearly.
This mother showed me how to love.
This mother showed me how not to.
This mother nurtured me.
This mother neglected me.
This mother’s love made me strong.
I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters.
I have hundreds of brothers and sisters.
This mother cut the cord.
This mother will have to. One day
With this mother
I was born.

James Walker received life without parole for a murder he committed when he was 17 years old. He is 44 years old today and has completed his GED and several correspondence courses in religion. He hopes one day to work in mechanics with his brother and take care of his mother.