Tom- Serving a Life Sentence without Parole

My name is Tom and I grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. I am just one of the many people in Pennsylvania serving a life sentence without chance for parole.

There are many reasons why there are so many people locked up in this country. Drugs, race, and economics are a few obvious reasons. There are other issues fundamental to Mass Incarceration, but I will leave them for those more knowledgable to talk about. Besides, it’s my fault I came to prison.

I am the one that harmed another person, and also harmed those who still suffer from the loss of a son, a brother, a friend. I am also to blame for the harm done to my own family, and yes, to myself. There is no restitution, no restoration, and no way I can put things back together make things right. It’s my fault I came to prison.

Despite that, I have tried hard to make good the only way I could; myself. In 1995, I sought out some much needed drug treatment, got into recovery and remain clean and sober today. In 2010, after thirteen years of hard work, I was able to achieve my bachelor’s degree from Villanova University. I also have benefitted from my involvement in such programs as Mural Arts, Alternative to Violence, and twelve step meetings here at Graterford. Additionally, I set a good example for other men and have mentored many over the years. I am not afraid to call myself a good man today, because I am. Yet, I know that none of that entitles me to mercy, redemption, or a chance for parole. While I do wish for those very things, it’s my fault I came to prison.

Over the years, I have met, dialogued with and worked side by side with victims of crime and their advocates. While they are not a monolithic block of people, to a person, they all wanted offenders to take responsibility for the harm they had done. That I have done. Of course, some but not all, want offenders to suffer which I surely have done. And while I want understanding and even forgiveness, how can I ask when I have not even been able to forgive myself.

Mercifully, some have shown me understanding and forgiveness. If not for the encouragement, support, and love of many, especially my family, I would not even be alive today. I know that although it is unlikely, if I were released I would do good out there. I have a great support system in place, multiple job prospects and the desire to do right by my friends, family, and myself.

It is not only that I do not want to be in prison, of course I do not, but I cannot see the good of it either. I have taken responsibility for what I have done and I have suffered for it. I have made good the only thing that I could, which is myself. Yes, it is my fault that I came to prison, yet now in my thirty first year in prison, I do not believe it’s my fault that I am still in prison.

Tom- Serving a Life Sentence without Parole

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