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Voices from Inside: "Corresponding for my Life"

This is a reflection submitted by YPEI student Justin.


Corresponding for my life (4682)

To know the world exists and not be able to engage with it, is the most devastating component of prison. Even though I know hugs and kisses involve more than arms and lips it’s nearly impossible to remember emotions are real, that they are not merely scenes on a set.

I look at my mental health as this glass window, to an extent I am able to maintain the impressions that coexist with the ones that have repeatedly been diluted, but at any moment – I can shatter.

To shatter is to track exactly how many days you’ve been incarcerated, (4,682), and misremember how many days until your release, if even intended.

To shatter is to spell ‘hope’ – D.E.S.P.A.I.R.

To shatter is to answer to a number and not a name.

I received a letter today, reiterating that this ceiling is not a ceiling at all, that I can transcend ‘enclosure’, that future does not start with ‘p’ and end with ‘RISON’; no matter what I’ve done, no matter what they’ve said, no matter who I am.

Who I am, is a student of YPEI.

Who I am is – Monday ‘War & Peace’, Tuesday as well; Wednesday ‘Religious Studies’, along with Thursday; Friday ‘Creative Writing’, through Saturday; Sunday ‘Television with the Historians’ – as I have been more than myself all summer. I have been more than a prisoner of a prison since I’ve been a person, to these people.

It’s bad enough my movements resembled that of a pandemic long before an actual pandemic, but to not see the smiles of faces who believe in me has been another fading impression – These correspondence courses are jammed with life and are a reminder of what awaits me; though they are not here, they remain with us.

Though I question the validity of my voice, I am heard.

Your mail has been a refueling of air in an expiring oxygen tank of a submerged being, with your correspondence comes breath.

I may not breathe without them, without you.

I had a nightmare that my cell was raided by the hope police, that they rid me of all the things that aren’t indicative of my number. All my books gone, all my notes, all my letters, my pens, my paper; they tried to erase the memory of all I’ve gained.

A nightmare that YPEI was lost.

And all that remained were the vices they allowed me to avoid...

I count seventeen basketball rims of this premises, and those are only the ones I’ve laid my eyes on over the last thirteen years.

I’ve met one lifeline that has allowed me to shoot for more than what surrounds me.

To shatter is to not know YPEI during these times,

to survive is to correspond.

*Dedicated to those who are dedicated to me –

Sincerely, your student Justin




©2019 BY YALE PRISON EDUCATION INITIATIVE AT DWIGHT HALL AT YALE. PRIVACY POLICY