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Old 04-04-2017, 10:49 AM
Brandon Wright Brandon Wright is offline
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Default From Prison to The University

It began with my sentencing before Judge Sosnick for Armed Robbery. Four years, three months to 20 years. I felt my heart fall into my stomach. I was ushered out of the court room and fitted with a red wrist band, to denote that I was on my way to prison. That night I laid on my bunk facing the wall, so that my fellow inmates couldn’t see my tears.
It took a few weeks for me to be transferred to Jackson, where I was to be held in quarantine for a month until the prison administration classified me as to my security risk. I walked into the huge cell-house and like it had been mentioned that I would do, I craned my head upwards to glance at the towering tiers rising high above me. What had I gotten myself into? This old cell-house was called North Side.
I could feel the history of the old penitentiary, it permeated from the very walls. I was assigned a cell on the third tier, which I dutifully walked up to toting my duffle-bag. I was to stay at that cell for three weeks, watching a bubble underneath the paint slowly travel down to the floor, until one morning I awoke to a puddle of yellow water on my floor (the bubble had finally hit the floor, and burst open). Soon after that I was transferred to another old cell-house, called Seven Block.
Seven Block was set up like a giant bird cage, with two sides of cells facing one another. Painted a sickly yellow, it was a mad house filled with madmen. A gunners port was situated high up in the air, from which I could glance a corrections officer holding a rifle, a shadowy figure only partially seen, through the small rifle-slot. I would wile away the hours watching a crow fly into the opposing cells to snatch a few crumbs. I was held in Seven Block for a week.
I was transferred to a medium security prison called Carson City. It was there that I met a whole slew of predators, gang-bangers, lifers and child molesters. I also met up with a buddy from the world, a suave sociopath we’ll call “Jack”. I had been at a juvenile rehab with Jack years earlier. Jack had a bunky (cell-mate) named Nap. Nap was 31 years into a life sentence for second degree murder, having stabbed a man to death at Jackson State Penitentiary in a fight over a “Boy” Nap had been seeing. Nap was a notorious predator himself.
Jack and I would walk the prison yard for hours, talking about everything under the sun. Jack wanted to return to a life of crime, fantasizing about going on a home invasion spree, 90 houses in 90 days, Jack liked to say. I would nod my head to Jack’s musings, thinking “He’s really crazy enough to do all this.” We would talk about all the friends we had in common out in The World. Little did I know at the time, most of the friends Jack held to be in common with me held him with little regard. I was to find out later, Jack was a consummate liar.
As time went on, I started working out in the weight room, with another convict named Chops, nearly 16 years into a 20 year sentence, and another convict named Chuck doing life for first degree murder. Me and Jack started to grow distant. It was then that I started to see other aspects of Jacks character. A certain possessiveness. He was jealous of the friendship I was developing with Chops.
I was transferred again, to the prison next door. I was filled with sadness. I had made friends and established connections. Now I was to start all over again. The prison I was transferred to was called “OTF”, and man, was it a dingy place. I was only there for three weeks before I was again transferred back to another prison in Jackson, called JCS. It was there that I met up with another friend from The World, John Brannon.
We were both sent up north to the upper peninsula, to a small prison camp called K-Unit. I remember the ride up on the “snow bird”, what we convicts called the prison buses that ferried inmates to the far north wilds of Michigan’s U.P. It was mid-March, and the ride had been one of beauty. As I crossed the Mackinaw Bridge, I remember thinking: “Wow, if I wasn’t chained up I could have been a tourist” as I gazed serenely upon the ice-flows slowly drifting under the bridge.
I had three and a half years left on my minimum. The time I spent at K-Unit was time spent well. I built my body in the weight pit, and my mind perusing every book I could get my hands on. I would go through periods of great sadness, and times of great joy. The three and a half years seemed to drag at times, yet the time kept moving. I mostly kept my nose clean, with a few fights here or there. There were the constant tensions, unpleasant undercurrents running through the camp. The very air was thick with it. Arguments, fights, racial tensions, all became a part of daily life. It was a veritable minefield, and I tread carefully, lest I step on one of them land minds. I was determined to go home on my first parole date.
I finally saw the parole board. Things went well, and I received my first parole. A happiness and relief washed over me, like I had never known before. Was this long journey finally coming to an end? Could it possibly be that this long nightmare was to come to a close? What were my plans? I had talked it over with my mother on one of her long trips up to visit me. I was to go back to school......

After leaving the penitentiary, it took 6 moths before I was able to get enrolled in Oakland Community College. That in of itself was a challenge, as I had never filed with the Selective Service Committee between the ages of 17 to 25 (the modern day draft). This precluded me from federal grants or student loans. The problem was, as a juvenile delinquent, having been expelled from seventh, then eighth grade, and only attending one month of ninth grade, then spending the receding years in and out juvenile detention, jail and finally that prison term when I was Released at the age of 26 (one year past the cut off date), I had no idea that the selective service even existed.
I thought: Was my dream of attending school a pipe dream? Was I to be defeated in my attempt before it was even undertook? A heaviness bespoke my heart. I was denied my Fasfa (application for student aid).
Yet, I persevered. I brought in proofs of incarcerations, I even brought in paperwork showing I had dropped out of ninth grade. I had also brought in my GED results, which I had achieved while for one of my earlier probation's when I was 19 or so.
I was still denied any funding to start school. I familiarized myself with the college's financial aid department, made fast friends and used every ounce of charm to try to cultivate relations within that office. I appealed, and appealed again, explaining that I had been a street guy who had never been privy to a normal childhood or adolescence. I did not live with my mom in between the ages of 17 to 25, to have received the letter requiring me to register with the selective service.
Finally, my persistence paid off. I never gave up, and when it became obviously I had never really attended high school, there was the "compelling and substantial reason for my failure to enroll in the Selective Service. I was miraculously granted my Pell Grant to continue school by the financial office at OCC.
As aforementioned, this process took six months. By the beginning of 2010 I started OCC.
Just coming out of prison, and not having been in a full year of class for 14 years, bereft of any computer, study, or any technical skills, the college was a culture shock. Despite my complete ignorance, I was filled with a drive and motivated to succeed unlike most of the students. In fact there was a marked difference between me and the rest of the younger students.
While they seemed apathetic to be there, I was excited and involved. I might have been rusty at the materials, I did not understand the whole system. Credit hours, a syllabus Microsoft words were all Chinese writing to me, I had no idea what any of it meant. Even though this was exceedingly rough at the beginning, I never lost my determination to succeed at my new lease on life.
I remember my mom helped with with my first paper. Yet, as my homework grew more and more complicated and specialized, I outgrew my mom's help and started working on my papers by myself. I started to master the rudiments of computer technology. I began to write my own papers independent of any help. My confidence slowly started to grow.
I struggled. I chose Exercise Science as my Major. After all, I was a work out junky from all them years in the prison system. But, I couldn't of chose a worse major, because before I knew it, my program was delayed for over a year because a certain class was unavailable until the following school year. And THEN I could start on the rest of my program.
A deep seated frustration reigned deep within myself. "Why is this happening to me?" I asked myself perturbed. I'm trying to do the right thing! Why the continued obstacles? I explored other options, and after an exhaustive search, I settled on another major while I waited for my Exercise Science program to to resume; Massage Therapy.
Little did I know that the Massage Therapy Program entailed being massaged by other men in my class as practice, particularly by this big Russian from Siberia who breathed heavily as he administered his massage. Needless to say, this made me exceedingly uncomfortable. Yet, I stuck with the program for a year (a two year program) until finally I had had enough of the awkward process of being massaged by a big hairy Siberian whose labored breathing made me more and more uncomfortable. I was always getting paired with the big Russian for some reason. It was even worse giving him the return massage, as I had to run my bare hands through his hairy back and over the huge pimples which dotted it.
I quit the massage therapy program with one year to go. Luckily for me, about this time my Exercise Science program had resumed the missing class. I started back at my original goal.
My next year was again prolonged to some bad advising department recommendations as to what classes I need to take. I was still relatively new to this whole school thing, the proverbial babe in the woods, so I didn't have the knowledge base as of yet to fully determine my course-list independently. I would visit the advising department every few weeks to try to stay on course, and was given erroneous information again and again, unbeknownst to me. The credit hours seemed to confuse me, and the other elements particularly. I had very little understanding of Electives, Prerequisites, Generals, Exploritories and the many formats under which to complete my work. Although I was slowly becoming familiar, it was still a struggle. I was an educational illiterate, despite being a highly intelligent, self-taught man.
This was still a whole new world to me. I was advised to take Algebra classes I didn't need, among many other classes. My sojourn at OCC turned from one year, to the second year, to the third year.
Finally, after much inquiry with a specific advisor who helped me navigate the intricacies of the scheduling, I was back on track to finish my Exercise Science program.
I started to move along in my work, becoming more familiar with lab reports, APA cited papers, among other foreign elements previously unbeknownst to my experience. I was an ex-con quickly joining another world, unknown to all but a tiny fraction of my former cohorts. Even my minimal computer skills, non-existent upon my release from prison, had grown to a workable ability.
I was growing as a man and a student. When I completed my two internships for my Exercise Science Program, I graduated from Oakland Community College with three associate degrees. My Exercise Science degree, a Liberal Arts Degree and a General Studies degree. Little did I know at the time, all them extra classes, and the year of the Massage Therapy program I had completed, would more than come in handy later for the next big leg of my journey.
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Old 04-04-2017, 03:28 PM
yourself yourself is offline

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Dude, start a blog on this, really. Then take your best entries and use them as a foundation for writing a book. Watch the use of "them/those", but write. Seriously, you'll help others this way as well as take the time to reflect on where you've been, what you've experienced, and what you've learned. You'll be able to articulate the best principles that have allowed you to turn your life around.

There are paltry few Native Americans who've been able to do this - articulate such a story. You should be one of them as you have a good voice and way with words.

I'd love to see something of your juvenile background - this way you can talk about it well before the whole registration business. I'd also love to see how you triumphed on the outside after your degrees, though I think you got a little tired as you wrote to the end of this particular piece.

Still, write a blog. Use it as a springboard to a book. You've got the chops.
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Old 04-05-2017, 07:12 AM
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Sarianna Sarianna is offline
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Brandon, welcome to Prison Talk on my behalf as well.... Just wanted to concur with what Yourself said above - you should definitely write a blog/book about your experiences

Oh, we have a blogging section in this community as well if you are invested - you are new here so feel free to ask questions if you get lost on this site; it can all be a bit lot to take at first but....we're a great bunch here!

Just in case, HERE is a link to our blogs...

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Old 04-23-2017, 11:07 PM
Silenus Silenus is offline
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Thank you for sharing your story. So many times there was an opportunity to quit while you were trying to start school. Happy to read on that you didn't quit and finally got financial help then completed all 3 degrees. I hope you are very proud of yourself for persevering through everything.
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