Despite the bleakness of incarceration, many inmates hope that they can lead better lives in the new year.
A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
On the outside, New Year’s Day feels like a fresh start. I see it as a chance to turn the page and start a journey to different and exciting new paths. But when I was in prison, it was not like that for me. During my 21 years of incarceration, I never even made a resolution. I always thought that was something reserved for those on the outside, who had more control over their lives. New Year's Day was like any other day marked off the calendar as I eagerly waited for my freedom.
But I don't want to give the impression that all prisoners lack hope. There are a lot of convicts who celebrate a new 365. They just do it in a different way. There are no all-night boozers or crazy parties in the clink-clink. And for resolutions, prisoners often have something bigger on on their mind than swearing off eating sugar or drinking less coffee. They're thinking about finally getting out or developing new ways to better survive life on the inside.
Even though I've been free for three years, I've kept in touch with a lot of my homies in prison who think a lot about the promise of a new year. I reached out to them recently to see what kinds of resolutions they are crafting for 2018. One who is on the verge of being released told me about his desire to bring his family back together. Another former gangster told me all about how he is trying to get to know himself better so that he can make better decisions. The commitment that these men have to their future says a lot about the perseverance of human spirit in the face of adversity.
Here's what they had to say.
Serving 23 years for a drug conspiracy at FCI Danbury in Connecticut
My News Year's resolution is to hit the ground running when I get home on January 9. I have two small business plans written out that I want to put into action within days of my release. Sleep is not an option for me. I know things will be tough, but I have to be relentless to get my business off the ground. I am 48 years old and I will be finishing a 23-year sentence. That’s more than 20 years of my life that have been lost that I can't get back. I have to make the most of my time to bring stability to my life and help bring my family back together so I can enjoy my grandchildren and give them some security.
I am looking forward to getting the hell out of prison. Shit will be tough in Puerto Rico, where I’m being released, but I’ll take that over jail. For many years, December 31 has just been another day. But this time I am looking forward to to getting my family back together, to spending time with them, and doing the things we once did. These hopes have helped me overcome some of the darkest days of my incarceration.
Serving a life-sentence for LSD at FCI Jessup in Georgia (pardoned by Obama)
My New Year's resolution will be to eat only health food. It seems that if I sway from eating proper, my sister matches me in the free world. When I eat right, then she eats right. So I plan to eat healthy just to promote her health. Since I am going home next year, I want to be as healthy as possible and have her healthy too so we can live a decent, longer life.
On the low end, I would like to see my sister recover from depression. We have always been close and she has been severely depressed since I have been in prison the last 25 years. Just seeing her living without depression would be great for me. She’s my best friend and what makes her happy makes me happy.
On another level, when I get out, I would love to have the job of consecrating the people entering the stadium shows of the Grateful Dead in 2018. I could make it a sacred ritual that would raise the consciousness of those attending. Considering I've missed seeing the Dead for more than 25 years, this is something Bob Weir might want to grant me.
Serving life for a drug conspiracy at FCI Coleman in Florida
My New Year's resolution is to work very hard on my case so that I can win my freedom by 2019 and be free of the madness of prison. I also plan to help those who cannot help themselves in the law library by assisting them in their quest for freedom with what we call The Firm: a group of jailhouse lawyers who help other prisoners who've been shafted by their lawyers and the system.
Reg # 05546-010
Serving life for a drug conspiracy at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana.
I've thought long and hard about a New Year's resolution. This year, I've come up with some that I am going to stick with. I plan to watch less news and focus more of my time and energy on getting my writing projects done. For example, for the past ten years, beginning at 6 AM, I watch two hours worth of morning news. In the evening, my news time starts at 5 PM, followed by Inside Edition at 5:30 PM, TMZ at 6, then the World News after that. That's four wasted hours. So, beginning on January 1, 2018, I will reduce this to no more than a half-hour in the morning and a half-hour at night.
This will give me more time to complete some of my writing projects. I started a book that I am just now finishing up and my goal is to get it published this year and start on the sequel. Also, less news will allow me to edit and put into book format a collection of stories that I have been wanting to publish. Also, I want to stay positive for my family. This time of the year can be especially tough for my parents.
Serving Life for Three Strikes Law at FCI Otisville in New York
My New Year's resolution is to know myself better than anyone else. That way, I will be able to tap into my true potential. For years, I did things that I truly didn't want to do, nor did I understand the reason why I did them. I thought that being a criminal was tantamount to being a hero. But as time went by, I came to the realization that the majority of my criminal exploits were out of greed, having an insatiable desire to satisfy myself without consideration for anyone else.
A hero is one who commits acts of selflessness. They place their own lives in danger so that others will be able to live their lives. I now realize that I was born into this world for a purpose, and I almost threw my life away by choosing the wrong people, places, and things. I now know that I can do some really powerful things with my life that help other people find themselves and live out their dreams. I have to make sure that every act committed by me in 2018 is an act that I would be proud to pass down to my grandson.
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