Updated: Apr 2
Written by: Power Of Our Voices, LLC
*. Michael "Mika'eel" Freeman
*. Sheppard Thomas
* Tracy Smith
*. Lores Clay
Hello my name is Sheppard Thomas,lll. I am 42 yrs of age from Richmond, VA. I am the only child by my parents who are now (deceased) and the youngest of all my siblings. I am currently serving 25yrs for a carjacking (resulting in death). This is my 13th yr of being incarcerated. I was raised by a single father. I sometimes relate my life to the movie "Boyz n Da Hood". I was the character Tre played by Cuban Gooding Jr. I am a high school graduated with hopes of one day playing in the NFL. That dream didn't last, as a result, I started roaming the streets trying to fit in or as I now see it being too LOYAL. I had a good life doing everything right but couldn't shake the temptation of the streets. Again, going back to the character Tre when he was just trying to hang out with his friends w/out judging the lifestyle they lived. Fast forward to when things got too much to bare. I had a drinking problem and it seemed that every time I was tipsy, its when my so call friends wanted me around when it was time to do dirt or as we say (put in work). Well as you see that didn't pan out for me because I'm sitting here writing my story to the world today. I look back to Tre when he was in that car with his friends looking to seek revenge for his best friends death. I can only imagine what thoughts was going on in his head. His father voice over and over telling him to be smart and stand as a man and make his own decisions, so as he thought long and hard about the CONSEQUENCES he, with a sober mind, decided to "get out the car". Doe boy understood why he did it and didn't judge him. A REAL FRIEND, well for me, I was under the influence with the same thoughts of what my father would say, unfortunately, the alcohol got the best of me and I stayed in that car per say. See I was around fake friends who knew I had everything going for me but like crabs in a bucket, wanted to see me fall with them. I hold myself accountable for my actions and have grown so much as a man that this actually saved my life. This is just the surface of my story. Stay tuned there will be more to come about my life and what led me here. Thank you
The things that we go through while incarcerated is hard to explain. Only those who have experienced knows. Its like a woman who has given birth to a child , a man just cannot understand no matter how hard he tries. The trauma that we go through. (INCOMPLETE) What trauma explain! We are pushed out into this world ,where we want to be ,but question is,do we know how? We say that we do. When the time comesthe truthwill reveal itself. I cannot blame those who struggle,because the system is designed for us to fail./ Let me tell you my story, of when i was released afrter serving almost 10 years in prison. It has been almost a decade ,and when i arrived back home everything was different . My family has moved away ,buikldings are no longer there that once were there,and new buildings have been built . So its like moving to a new city that you have never seen before.The little money i made from prison jobs. i could not save any because i still had to survive . So i entered a society again with nothing but the clothes on my back . I look around i smell the air. It was a relief,but i feel th anxiety building up within me quickly..Why? It is the unknown ,yes,that is what we fear the most,isnt it? The things we cannot control , we do not know,and that we just dont understand. My sister dropped me off at the halfway house. Its just another form of imprisonment. They tell you were you will sleep on the bunk beds ,tell you when you can leave , and you wuill be written shots (incident reports) and returned to a more secured facility (I.E.,prison),If you escape or walk away you can be charged with escape. So in truth is is no diferent ,except you get the benefit of not having a fence and guards around you.but have many eyes on you . If this was movie ,the creepy sound would always be playing. I was released just before Memorial day,the parole officer placed me on house arrest for the long weekend . I had no clothes ,toothpaste,deodorant,nor anything. I explained in a polite fashion ,but it fell on death ears,because he did not care . Frustrated i called a friend and told him what was going on. He told me that hre wo]uld take care of it . I sat in the house all day having freedom,but none at all . I could not have anyone over ,nor could i go anywhere . At least in prison i had freedom. I could wash myself,change clothes,brush my teeth,have visits,or visit other people who were also incarcerated ,and go outside . I think this can be worse than prison. Isnt it suppose to get better? We had to attend AA and NA meetings the next morning, i went across the street to the other halfway house Where the AA and NA meetings were held. On my way back i observed individuals from the halfway house, they were huddled over something on the porch. They turned and looked at me " How did you get a package and you just got here? I did not respond. I walked over and saw a large box and took it to my room . My cellie was in the room , like most white people nosy as hell. By the way i am white too,and i know its other races that are nosy too,as you see this is the script of my life. I opened up the box and inside was 2 pairs of jeans,shirts,2 packages of underwear and socks,2deodorants,2packages of soap,a cellphone( already set up) ,a wallet , and a note. I opened the wallet and there was 2 fresh crisp hundred dollar bills in it. I then read the note ,and it told me to call him. I picked up the cell phone and the number was already programmed in it. I called he explained" that in order for people to succeed after incarceration , you need a place to go,and resources,which includes money. He said the system is designed for us to fail,butwhen you have support, you have a chance to succed. Its on you with what you do with it. I will give you 200 a week for 3 months . By then you must be able to fend for yourself or at least make suffcient progress". People were enevious of me ,because they destroyed their briges . Misery loves comnpany right? So here i am with me new freedom,or so that is what they call it. I contunied through the weekend ordering from Happy's Pizza. Then made the guys even more envious except for one guy who had his own money . We began to talk more and more,and we started ordering out to eat and hanging out when he was off work. To be honest some of the other guys at the halfway house were a little weired. If you read my article called misunderstood"then you know that i view the word as weired"as being misunderstood and different.The truth is everyone does not get along in life,but that does not mean that we cannot be cordial to one another. The holiday weekend is over,and its time to get things accomplished . I head to town to get my state id and other paperwork. Hmmm. This is a new building,where is it at? Okay i finally figured that out,because another felon at the halfway house told me. I get there the building is massive and i get lost , and i ask for help. The anxiety picked up. I am not sure ,i can find my way back to the halfway house.,but really its all in my mind. The problem is i have been programmed to depend on the goverment for everything. I am still reeking on the ninjas poison. They did nothing to prepare me for all of this. I was locked up since i was a minor and now im 27 years old. Each day is something similar to this, where i have to live in a house full of felons, ride a bus with them. Yet i have a condition of parole that says i am not allowed to be around anyone known to be a felon. Hmm.. How is this suppose to work . It did not take long for the parole officer to call me back into his office and admonish me for being around felons. I had enough at this point, i stood up and put my hands together and pushed them out towards him. He asked me what i was doing . I told him i am ready to go back to prison that i was done. He said " What are you talking about"?
This is too much, you just want to violate me anyway, so just do it and let me go back. I have more rights in prison. "He answered ",I am not trying to send you back ". I am still standing there,unmoving,except i put my hands downto my side, and said" You have your foot so far down your throat, i cannot even breathe. When my dad came to visit me, i had permisson too Fine..You said i had to pick one spot and stay there., and i had seven more hours to visit. I cannot stay at a restraunt for seven hours, I'LL be arrested. If i go somewhere else,because he had to travel 9 hours to see me.However, we couln't eat , so how is this fair? Either let up,because i am trying ,or send me back. I dont care which it is, i rebutted. He looked at me for awhile and said okay. I left his office and contunied on. Each day was a day i questioned my purpose,also a day where i told myself that i didnt ask to be brought into this world. I had many people who loved me, or so they said,only my dad really showed it. Your either with me or against me,Sometimes i feel like the whole wworld is fake.'! I even felt like i was fake most days,because i didnt know who i was. I grew up in prison ,i learned almost everything from prison,this is where i learned what to do and not to do. Thats when i grew up to become a man.I was surrounded by lifters ,and the constant opression of the goverment in a prison setting. Each day i wanted to give up,and i was diagnosed aass having depressionfor over 2 years. It was a struggle to convince myself there was a reason, i just did not know what it was. So here i am,trying to make it in a society that i dont even know or understand. After 6 monthsi moved from Michigan to Tenneseee to finish my parolle with my dad and aunt who were both elderly. The change was even more different. The way people talk,act , and move is different in the north compared to the south. It was a culture shock,and so this added to the anxiety i was under. I was seeing many doctors and psychiatrists.Like Halsey said in her song, everywhere i go i had a million people people dying to meet me,but i am still alone,and when you meet me you wish you never had. Although i am not faamous like herand i dont have a millon people dying to meet me , i still felt like i was alone. I had to properly express myself . I was still tainted by the ninja called instituionalization even after a couple of years. I was doing eeverything i could do to do the right thing. I was following all the rules according to what i was told,but one day i went in the paarole office to sign my paper work to be removed from parole. Instead the parole officer had me arrested on my very last day.! WTH ! I was put into the county jail and went through extradition hearing. The judge orderd my release if they didnt pick me up within 30 days. The 30 days came and passed and they locked me away to where i could not reach out to anyone. Noone would help me. That Ninja found me again. He knew that i was not down yet, i was tsill up for another round. So he took another series of attacks against me. His goal was to make me submit. Why do i have to submit when i am already doing everything that i am told i supposed to do. Doesnt he know that the price of conformity can be very high? What is his goal? Why does he keep attacking me? Why me? Yes,these are the things that went through my mind everyday,but i kept standing up for another round,even if i was dazed. There was a sense of wanting to be accepted ,doesnt everyone? At least these were my thoughts ,,but at times we try to justify our own thinking patterns. Sometimes what we think is logical and sometimes it is not. Then we have to ask ourselves,what and who defines what is logical? No wonder why we as people are so confused. There is no wonder why we converse with someone else it generally ends up so hectic.How many times i have heard individuals say" I have to get them before they get me" . This statement is used more than one aspect,but its importance is something we must not overlook . Just like i spoke about in "Misunderstood" we have our own personal language,and we often get caught up in this language barrier. This is no different when it comes from men and women. I haave found that people do not generally like someone else being able to predict them ,but when people cant feel that they are wrong. We have a habit with sabatoging ourselves and then we wallow in ddespair asking "why me" ? Here i am with me new found freedom not knowing how to do much of anything. I was arrested shortly after i turned 18 for a crime i commited as a juvie. I seved almost 10 years and came out knowing nothing about life. I was given no tools to succeed., and did not know how to succeed. My socila skills were severly damaged to a point that learning from this age is difficult,but not impossible. No wonder why so many people just want to say forget it" and give up,but we do not fail untill we have given up. The question has arisen lately among states about aabolishing or amending the 13th amendment which allows involuntaary servitude A.K.A imprisonment legal slaavery. Some states are taking to step to say that prisoner must be paaid minimum wage and they have to pay bills for houssing ,lights,etc. The reasoninhg behind this is to help teach those incarcerated responsibilites because so many do not know when they will be releaased , especially when our goverment hands out time like canddy. I moved to TENNESSEE to live with my dad and aunt . ,my dads hope was that living in a new area,and with different culture would do some good . The change was definitly different. I noticed that down south the people are more friendly, and people was looking at me as i pass by. My first instimct was "why are you plotting on me.". The sad thing is that wasnt even the case . Yet the poison from the Ninja called institunilization still runs rampant through my veins.
Chapter 2: I'm A Statistic
Here i am in this new state trying to get adjusted to their culture. However it took me a couple of years , to do so while on parole,but i did it. I was doing good on parole. The parole officer , i had was named , Tammy. She was fair buut not restrictive,yet she did her job. Tammy ended up leaving to another county and i was assigned to another parole officer. That parole officer had a plan for me , that was to fail. I say that cause with Ms. Tammy , i had no problems,untill now. Every move i make here on out has to be deceptive. Because im trying to do everything that is asked of me. Why? So i could get off parole,live my life. This parole officer doesnt want that to happen. We hear often about the statistics from prisoners that are incarcerated. The chances of them going back to prison is between 70% to 80%. Speaking from a scholary"s viewpoibt that had experience. This is a fact, but the numbers are always changing. These numbers are put into 3 main categories, on how crimmnals are viewed.Those who arrested without a conviction,Arrested and sent back to the county with no new conviction,those that received a new conviction. The highest category is the first one. All the other ones are less. This is a fact ,means its proven.A person that is arrested for a new conviction and found guilty,is actually around less than 1% to as 15%.However,that depends on the crime least likely they will commit the same one. There is a thing called technical violation" where we are arrested but not for a new crime,but some technical reason that is a violation of our probation,parole,or supervised release ". These things can be something like refusing to take a polygraph,being late for curfew,not being able to find a job in what they consider a timely fashion manner,not reporting all of our income,not reorting that we sold or bought a vehicle,and so many other reasons. We are re-arrested and sent back to prison up to 2 years on the federal level,and possibly more on a state level,not because we commited the crime,but because the goverment feels like thats where we belong.There are people that say prisoners should not receive any relief and that we belong here. Yes when we violate the law,we should pay for our crimes,but when it is excessive.?Why is it different when it only touches home?We as people have so many hypocritical ways and double standards. It is my last day as i mentioned earlier in part 2 ,i was arrested. I was extradited back to Michigan through a third -party service that the goverment uses.There were 8 of us in the back of the van,there are two bench seats.Each seat was against the side of the van facing inwards. The space was so restricted with each man varying sizes, had no choice to put their legs between the man"s legs across from him.Each man being in 5 star restraints. This means that we were shackled, a chain around our waist,handcuffed,and our handcuffs were bound to a chain around our waist.Ao we had a little movement.We had to travel approximatley 9 hours,but this extradiction took almost 23 hours to make. We had to eat and use the bathroom and these five star restraints. Sometimes they will release one wrist , if you had to sit on the toilet,but that dependson who the transport officer is. I had some that wont do that though,which makes wiping impossible..That had my body about to lock up. It was difficult for me to sleep ,caus eyou cant let your head fall to the side without touching the man next to you. That can create a new set of problems for someone. I think its different with women,but with men that is not a good idea. Each and every one of these acts is a form of oppression and torture that causes mental trauma. Sometimes people overlook it if you dont actually experience it. Now just imagine these states whre we allow our children as young as 6 years old to be hancuffed and arrested,flordia for example. If this causes us men and women trauma, What do you think it will do to our children? Eventually i made it back to Tennessee and it took me a few days just to recuperate from that experience. Now i am sitting in a state prison without a hearing on my paroleviolation. I am now a statistic. I am one of those 70% to 80% people who were arrested and did not commit a new crime. By law i have a right to a hearing,but i was not given or allowed one. They kept me in a state prison for about 2 weeks in jackson ,Michigan. Then they transferred me to a county jail to attend there program. This program consisted of me sitting in a county jail for 30 daysand being released. Now i amback in another van,but this time its a lot more comfortable. I am not in hancuffs and restraints,but i am being transported to Bellaire Michighan to a half-way house. It is known to be called, 3/4 house. This place was nice,much better than the one i was in being released in Flint,Michigan. I have noticed that everything is nicer in the surburbs compared to the hoods. This house we had our own rooms,but in Flint we had roomates,but like i said before i dont really see this as any different than a cell mate". So i asked to go back to Tennessee , the parole officer told me i could go,but i had to pay my own way. I said no, the state is going to pay for it. He said no we are not. So i poilitly explained to him under the Michigan law .I am entitled to 6 months in a halfway house that the state pays for, which cost apporoximatly $ 600 per month,so that is 3,600. I explained about the food vouchers ,clothes vouchers,bus vouchers,and things that the state will also have to pay for . So i explained the state can either pay for my less than $200 bus ticket, so i can stay for 6 months or i will stay here and they can pay close to 4000. It makes no difference . However he did, a couple days later he asked when i wanted to leave.So i took the greyhound back to Tennessee . However the crazy part is how i caught up in the first place of being a statistic . In more ways than one.. Let me tell you.
I started as a statistic when i was born,because we were all born into a dysfunctional family and lives unfortunatly. The everything about us is a statistic i have learned. By the time i was 14 years old, i repeatly begin attempting suicide. I started off my self mutilation,this was my silent cries for help. I eould show off my scars ,but no one seems to notice or care,so i contunied but they increased in severity. This time i didnt talk about it or show anyone.Perhaps the build up came from a life growing up in verbal,emotion,some physical and sexual abuse. All of which offers turned a blind eyetoo. So i learned from an early age that no one was interested in what i had to say. I then began to keep everything to myself. I begin to isolate mysel,which only compounded my problems,but i did not see it or understand it. It didnt take long for me to get caught up in the judicial system. I thought maybe this would give me some attention that i craved, longed for. At this point i was willing to accept negative attention to have attention. I later learned this was not a good idea either , it scared me for life. The stigma of incarceration never leave syou,and once you have been caught up in the system , it is impossibble to leave its graps. I am forever a statistic. I am a statistic because i am a product of a dysfunctional family ,my parents divorced when i was about 2 years old.I am a statistic because i practiced self-mutilation after abuse. I am statistic because i have suffered emotional ,verbal,physical and sexual abuse. I am a statistic because i am a product of incarceration. I am a statistic because society treats me as a moral leper. Not much different then 99%of the rest of the world.Do you know why im a statistic?That ninja called instituionalization has touched me, and it touched me thousands of years before i was even thought about or came into existence.