My name is Tony. I spent over twenty years in a cage. I am out now. I’ve been out almost ten years.
My question to you while you do your time is, “What are you going to do now?”
Let me explain why I ask.
When I first went to prison I was smoking hot angry, scared and didn’t quite grasp the insanity of where I landed. When the cell doors opened it was chaos. As I slowly figured out my environment I got caught up in the madness, playing cards, watching sports in the tv room and running amok with my homies. I went to the hole many times for fighting, drinking and many other stupid things I thought was cool to be involved in. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel and could not grasp that one day the end of my sentence would come.
One time I went to the hole and landed in a cell this Aztec artist had drawn this panoramic Aztec scene that went all around the cell. He drew this all in pencil. Even the guards were so impressed with this artwork they didn’t paint over it! As I lay on the bunk day after day I followed the drawings and came to a little section that he had written: “And this too shall pass”
Well it took me a few more days in that cell to grasp what that statement really meant to me. One day my sentence was going to be over. I was all alone in the cell and had nothing but my own thoughts in my head to entertain me. One day my sentence will be over. Even if I could not see that far ahead…one day my sentence will be over and I will get out. What am I going to do?
When I got out of the hole I wrote in every cell I was in “And this too shall pass” I looked to see what kind of education classes were available for me. If “they” were going to pay to incarcerate me then I figured “they” can pay to educate me. I wanted something valuable for keeping me in a cage. I wanted something they could not ever take away from me. I wanted an education and made “them” give it to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong—it was a two way street. I had to study and learn. When my homies wanted me to play cards and talk smack I had to tell them—“I’m studying.” I did too. While in prison I received a college education and degree. A straight A student. No one can ever take that away from me.
Henceforth with every prison lockdown I went in I came out of the two week ordeal by accomplishing something. One lockdown I taught myself how to juggle. I started with two oranges and an apple. I tossed one of the oranges out of my third tier cell and had to wait till the next day to get another bag lunch with an apple in it. Other lockdowns I made exercising top priority. Something! Anything! Get something for where you are at. It is up to you.
So back to my question to you, “What are you going to do now?” Maybe college is not for you but something—a course, training, a prison job for experience–is there for you to take advantage. Do it. Do something…anything that will help you when you get out. Why? First off, for yourself. Second, how about the people that love you, care about you and are waiting for you. Do you think you being incarcerated doesn’t hurt them? It does! Someday you will get out. I did. You will too. Don’t lose sight of that buried in the cement walls, steel fences and madness. Do your time and don’t let it do you.
It did pass. My date came and I said goodbye to my homies. When I left prison the guard at the release called me a maggot and told me I would be back. I smiled as I took my release stuff and walked out the gate. I haven’t been back.
One out of two go back…
“What are you going to do now?”
Tony Gutberlet, Author
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