Amira- Artist/Returning Citizen (cont’d)

“Some days you just feel like a number. When you go to prison you are completely stripped of your identity down to this frame. You have to find a way to still have a life and an identity and not just become institutionalized because it’s very easy to become institutionalized. I made sure that I surrounded myself with people who were intelligent and had goals outside of prison and I established an identity for myself. I was 18 when I went in, I barely knew myself. If this was going to be my life for the rest of my life, what is it going to be like? I can sit in a cell and rot or I can find something that makes my life semi fulfilling. I started drawing. I started learning how to read Arabic and write books. If I’m going to be here for the rest of my life I wanted something to reach the outside world. I didn’t want to just be stuck in a cage. “

The most frustrating thing about is, making those friends up there that you have to leave and them telling you that you can’t talk to them anymore. I relate to being in the armed forces. You went to war with these people. They’re your fellow soldiers. You go through this horrible experience but you feel a brotherhood or a sisterhood base on what you’ve been through and mutual understanding. Then when you were to come back stateside being told that you can’t talk to any of them anymore. It really makes a person feel alone. Now I have to reform relationships and meet new people who may not understand me because they haven’t been through what I’ve been through so you’re left feeling like the odd man out. “

Amira- Artist/Returning Citizen

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