Still Breathing

By Terah Lawyer, SAGE
The California Prison System never ceases to amaze me in the amount of disappointments that I have witnessed thus far. I?ve been incarcerated since I was 18 years of age and due to my lack of cooperation with officials, I?m serving 16 years to Life. I?ve never been married, have no children, never voted, barely traveled, hardly lived a life. I made small mistakes that had catastrophic results and I made wrong decisions that resulted in life-altering consequences.
Yet, I am blessed with the gift of still breathing. However, in this prison environment, my entire being is in a state of starvation?lack- ing the essential elements that crosses over a teenage girl into her womanhood. Today at 25 years of age, I?m hungry?craving the proper nourishments emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I?m a full-time college student, a vocation graduate, a member of the youth ministry, and I?ve taken every single self-help class the prison has offered, yet I?m still longing, searching, and wishing for something more. Although I?ve learned from my past mistakes, the prison system does not provide an opportunity for young Lifers to redeem themselves or make amends to those we may have harmed directly or indirectly.
In turn, it seems as though we are fighting to save our own lives or prove to the system that we are merely ?worthy? of living, although the system believes we are already dead.
Even though I?m still breathing, the system secretly wishes for me to take my last breath. For many young Lifers maturing, growing, and living in this prison environment with a culture designed to destroy, hope is scarce. How can the will to live thrive in a hope-deprived atmosphere such as prison?