Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Contributor Saeed Muhammad #01217-707
On August 22,2008 I was sentenced to life in prison for the federal crime of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams crack cocaine. A second charge on the indictment possession with intent to distribute 50 grams of cocaine hydro-chloride, commonly know as"powder cocaine" I was sent to begin serving my LIFE sentence at United States penitentiary Canaan
in Waymart, Pennsylvania a small town about 40 minutes down the hill from the ski resort Poconos. At the time of my arrival at Canaan the institution was on course to being one of the most violent penitentiaries in the United States.
Through out my 10 year tenure I've seen an extreme amount of violence from murders, stabbings and beatings. I've experienced racism from staff so intense that it would remind you of Mississippi in the 1960. Were staff would call you nigger and blackie on the sly. As a member of the institutions hazardous waste team aka blood spill I've seen the after
math of these viscous attacks and sometimes mutilations that inmates exacted against one another and sometimes the correctional officers in the name of prison politics. From 2008 to 1013 there were about 14 murders at Canaan. One was a CO named Erick Williams who was a rookie at the time. Perhaps the reason I can remember his name so vividly is the
manner in which he was killed. A better word to describe his murder would be to say that he was slaughtered. His murder was also pivotal in the climate at Canaan in the way of staff and inmate relations. As a result they became ultra aggressive to us and more violence and murders happened which led to an alleged investigation by the federal bureau of Investigation for violence perpetrated against inmates on the pound and in the hole in particular.
I remember the first night at cannan laying back on my bunk. I felt numb but I had a constant thought that kept running across my mind. How did I let this happen. How did I allow selling drugs take me away from my family and end my life?
At the time that was my dilemma it seemed to well up in like a fountain waiting to burst. I've always been a curious person. I've always wanted to know why to things so I guess it was natural for me to inquire of myself.How could I allow this to happen? Everything that I had accomplished up to that point,everything that I built up to that point, and the family I so loved
and cherished were stripped away from me by my actions and the bang of the gavel. What had allowed to have power over me that I would risk it all. So being naturally curious about things about began to poke and prod around in my own mind.
I began to ask myself questions. Why did I react that way to that person? Why was I so sensitive. Why was. I so aggressive? Why did I feel like I was alone? It wasn't ong after that I would find the door way to all of my answers. Some one gave me a copy of a magazine that featured and article by a black man by the name micheal williams aka Omar. Everyone knew who omar was he was the stick up kid that terrorized the streets of baltimore on the critically
acclaimed crime series the wire. Omar or shall I say Micheal told the interviewer his story that was all to familiar to me. Micheal to the story of an inner city youth who was raised in a violet environment, and abuse. He told a story of a young man who hated the way that he looked because he was dark skin and was teased. As the interviewer went on to question
mike told the story of how he was in his last episode of the wire and at the time he was smoking crack cocaine. He was at his low, homeless and destitute. He happen to be at a club one night in New jersey were a quy pulled up on him. And called him omar and like the profound actor that he was in went into character.The two hit off and Micheal began to tell the other man about his current plight. The man infactuated with omar not micheal offered to help him and gave him a place to stay.
Soon micheal was back homeless but he realized that he liked being Omar. Why he asked himself and at the same time I became nauseated and anxious because as the time I realized that like micheal liked being Omar I liked being the drug dealer and I then I had to ask myself why did I like being the drug dealer. And there was one word that popped into my mind
POWER. So I reasoned the opposite if that is powerless.Why did I feel that way I asked!
Reflecting back on my life I realized that a lot of my life I've felt powerless. I think I began to feel that way when I had to come to grips as a young child with the fact that I had been abused sexually and physically by people that I loved and I trusted. And that I had know one to share these things with because I didn't trust anyone. I was afraid that I was going to be punished for some reason. When I became a teenager this was around the beginning of the crack error. I saw the older guys in the community driving there fancy cars,wearing nice clothes and jewelry.The also seemed to have all of the women I didn't know it but my feelings of powerlessness attracted me to these people and there life style because inside I was conflicted with myself. I didn't feel like a man nor did I feel feminine. I felt sort of like I was stuck in the middle. I felt was not worth to be called a man I believe that men didn't experience any of these things. So admiring drug dealers appealed to me because they seem to have the power. What I know now is that what I was seeing was not power but a false image. Back then I felt head long into that image and I liked it because it validated me as a man it made me feel masculine. People liked me the women loved me I thought but know I understand that these people never knew me they only knew the image. As a matter of fact I didn't even know myself. It wasn't until 5 years ago that I had a chance to experience me as and individual and to reintroduce myself to the world. I just think its a shame that I had to receive a life sentence to discover who I really was. But this whole experience has been a big blessing in disguise and on January 17th 2019 I received an executive clemency from President Barak Obama and I will be going home very soon. But wonder how may Omars are out there who are hiding behind a false of image of themselves. I wonder how many will die not experiencing who they truly are. Omar Micheal Williams died from a drug overdoes this Year. I was sad to hear that. I felt a connection to the brother because of his experience and his plight and thank him for sharing his experience that led to my liberation.