In my debut Life Inside essay, I wrote that jail has been a blessing in disguise as a result of it interrupted my lifetime of drug dealing, drug utilizing, gun carrying and operating from the police.
Primarily based on among the suggestions I’ve acquired, let me make clear: I’m not advocating for prisons! I consider they do extra hurt than good, and I help abolition. I simply so occurred to land at SCI-Chester, a Pennsylvania state facility that understands the significance of schooling, rehabilitation and self-help.
However the fact is, regardless of how distinctive this place is, all I see are white brick partitions.
I hate these white brick partitions.
They’re a relentless reminder of how a lot I’ve screwed up. I’m 26 years previous, and I have been incarcerated 3 times. Over the previous 9 years, I have never been on the streets for greater than six months at a time. My household has at instances questioned whether or not I prefer it right here. It’s embarrassing.
Have you ever ever seen a canine chase its tail? That was me after I was residence, chasing one thing that could not be caught.
Lecturers at all times informed me that I had such potential as a pupil and author, however faculty wasn’t a precedence. I used to be too busy attempting to outlive.
Seeing so a lot of my pals fall sufferer to gun violence made me chilly. My mindset was, Why plan for the longer term if you in all probability will not reside to see it? That’s why I spent my first couple of years in jail studying learn how to be a greater drug seller.
Ultimately, incarceration compelled me to face nonetheless and have a look at my life extra objectively. I started to see the entice I used to be residing in for many of my life for what it was.
Since then, I’ve spent many nights soul-searching and I’ve developed every day habits that maintain me centered on my finish aim, which is to get out of jail and be an agent for change.
I spend most of my days studying books similar to “A Individuals’s Historical past of America,” by Howard Zinn, “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen and “Self-discipline and Punishment” by Michel Foucault. The locker in my cell has develop into fairly the library.
My observe isn’t restricted to schooling. To enhance my bodily well being, I’ve eliminated sugary soda and juice from my eating regimen. I train six days every week, generally with a good friend, different instances in yoga class.
To take care of my psychological well being, I take part in self-help teams and meet with my psychologist as soon as a month. We focus on my previous traumas, together with the deaths of my mom, father and stepmother by age 17. I’ve by no means been good at being weak, however I’m studying to specific myself with out the concern of judgement.
I feed my spirit by meditating and praying every day. I additionally guard my tongue; I’m a agency believer in manifestation, so I attempt to communicate constructive issues into existence. Earlier than I fall asleep every night time, I consider my day. I take into consideration the issues I may’ve carried out in another way, how I may’ve been extra productive.
My cellie generally jokes about how a lot time I spend studying, writing and taking part in applications. “Verify you out, getting all educated and stuff,” he says. “You went from a gangster to a geek in a single day!”
I giggle as a result of I did actually get up at some point and say to myself, You recognize what? I am carried out with this life; I need higher for myself.
However jail didn’t change me; I remodeled myself, by standing nonetheless, soul-searching, creating more healthy habits and making the most of the applications I’ve entry to. I merely refuse to waste any extra time.
Jy’Aire Smith-Pennick is initially from Wilmington, Delaware. He’s working towards turning into a licensed private coach. In the course of the pandemic, he took a writing course with Widener College and found he had a present. His work has appeared within the Kitty Knight Home in Germany. Comply with him on Instagram at @FREE_JYAIRE_SMITH.