I let my hair and beard grow for one year after I was given two life sentences plus forty years without parole. Then I drew this picture of me in my cell with Scott, my cellie. He became a close friend. He hated the six (then seven) inch beard hairs that would show up in random places. Sorry buddy… I was going through a phase. I drew us so those on the outside could get a sense of what “life in a box” looks like. Out of view is the small toilet and sink and the door to the cell. Scott said it looks too nice. I didn’t capture the grunge.
Try, if you can, to imagine being in this 65-square-foot cell, just you, your cellie and a pet mouse. Mail comes in and out. You get the occasion visit or phone call, but otherwise this and the prison is your universe. Now imagine living here day after day. You lay down in the bunk at night and wake up in it every morning. You eat here. Some days you weep here. Year after year, this is it. No breaks, no weekend off, and you are told you will never be let out, ever.
What can one live for under these conditions?
Surprisingly, there is much. At the very least, I know that rarefied states of mind, states of pure bliss that dedicated monks experience after many years of devotion, are available to me if I live a spiritual life in here. I know also that all the world’s knowledge is still available to me between the covers of books (some I was reading at the time I drew “Life in a Box” can be seen stacked on my bunk). I can still connect with other human beings, whether they be my fellow prisoners, the guards or my loved ones on the outside. This is not lost, and somewhere in that connection is an unnamable beauty that is worth living for. Above all, I live on hope, hope that someday this nightmare will end and I’ll emerge blinking into the bright light of freedom.
My problems won’t end there. There are plenty of problems in the free world too. That’s what I look forward to. I want to solve problems, like how to be a good husband and father; how to repay those I have hurt and those who have stood by me; how to make a difference for those still in here; how to move our world in a more humane direction, toward a future where perhaps we don’t need cages like this at all.
Every day I am here in here, my faith grows stronger that a positive outcome to all of this is on the horizon. You can help me get there. If you haven’t yet, please sign the petition to the president to release me at the link below. If you have signed it, please share the link and my call for help with as many as you can. Thank you.