Keeping going in prison

People often ask me what it’s like being in prison, and how I have managed to maintain, physically and mentally, over 20 plus years.

Sometimes I have to ask myself the same question.

I guess it comes down to a number of things. I guess, for me, it started with not accepting that this is it. It’s all about waking up with a purpose. I’m sure that we can all say that. I try not to overthink it – it could be something as simple as filling out a card, or sending a short note to bring a bit of joy to someone else’s day. My main motivator is the drive to be better. I’m far from perfect, and have enough flaws, so I have something I can improve upon every single day.

Having people that care about you also makes a big difference, and is very important. I have some amazing people in my life that I am very thankful for, and I wouldn’t care what the future holds if it wasn’t for them. Of course, no-one knows what the future holds, but seeing their future unfold is enough for me to get excited about the future, and I want to be around for the ups and downs.

Even though I’m in solitary confinement, I try to stay as active as possible in my tiny space. The least I do on a daily basis is pace back and forth in my cell for an hour. (To give you an idea, I can only take 4 steps before I am at the back of my cell and have to turn round). I can also attest that working out is one of the best stress relievers.

I’ve had to adjust to going without visits since covid and, in the process, I’ve realised how much of a difference having a visit to look forward to made. Having something to look forward to makes a huge difference. I still have letters, emails and cards to let me know that I’m not forgotten, so I’m managing without the visits.

I guess that it was expected of me to go to prison, because as a child I was given advice as to how to survive in prison. Now that I think about that, it was messed up and far from normal. It didn’t make sense to me back then, but it does now. The advice was to mind my business, avoid gambling, and avoid homosexual activities. Follow these rules and you stand a better chance of surviving in prison.

Everybody’s experience is different but, for me, it’s about trying to stay in a good space and make the best of today.

Keep in mind, a lot of people didn’t wake up this morning, so it would be wrong of me to take it for granted.

One love

David

When did I first realise I was black?

I recently heard a question that has stuck with me, and had me wondering if every black person has experienced that moment. The question is, do I remember the exact moment when I realised I was black?

Growing up black in the Caribbean, like I did, is much different from growing up black in the USA, and it didn’t take long for me to notice that difference. Thankfully, I came up in a pro-black environment, so I’ve always been conscious of the beauty behind my skin tone. Unlike in the US, it was black everything. Black family. Black friends. Black teachers. Black people holding political office. That was my norm, so when I heard about racism growing up, it was via history books, not as a personal experience of mine. Of course, Caribbean history, like that of every other country, is far from perfect, including the Christopher Columbus sham, but I did learn of some great men and women throughout Caribbean history, and it wasn’t one designated month of the year.

I’m dark skinned, which I quickly learnt in this society isn’t always as welcoming as the lighter shade of black. You learn that your first day at school. Children are the most honest people in the world, and the most curious as well. What do you say when you’re asked why your skin is so dark? Not in a malicious way, but complete curiosity. You also have to put up with the jokes from the children that’s trying to fit in.

Thanks to my family, my confidence was never shaken. I was constantly reminded how beautiful my dark skin is. Looking back at it, they were preparing me for the road ahead.

That confidence was at an all time high when girls started saying That my dark skin was one of the first things about me that they were attracted to. Life in the Caribbean was good. I’ve always realised that I mattered.

In the US, dark skin is not always as welcoming, at least from my experience in the Southern part of the country. Sad to say, but even some African Americans aren’t as welcoming. I was speechless when a woman that I was interested in, a Black woman, told me that I would look better if I wasn’t as dark. The confidence took a hit for a second, but that feeling was quickly replaced by disappointment.

I didn’t think that it could get any worse than that, but this is the experience that made me wonder if there’s levels to blackness. When another Black person told me I should go back to Africa, that did it. No way was I going to be speechless. In reality, this person and I could easily be related. The only difference is that my ancestors were unloaded in the Caribbean, while his were probably unloaded in the state of South Carolina. I probably didn’t say it in such a calm tone, but that was the gist of my response.

So, even though I always realised that I am black, I’m often reminded. Similar to when white people would lock their doors when I walked past their car in parking lots, cross the road to avoid walking next to me, or clutch their purses tighter if they couldn’t aoid walking next to me. Little things like that, they somehow think that we don’t notice.

In the US, I find myself making a mental checklist to not be a stereotype, and still be the confident Black man that I know I am.

One love.

David

I’d like to hear from you

If someone has a comment, wants to start a conversation, or just wants to get to know me, feel free to get in touch. The best way is by email. You need to go to jpay.com and set up an account and then contact me (David Frances x33939 in Florida)

I welcome different opinions but would appreciate if you’re respectful about expressing them.

Thank you.

Is love in prison any different…?

Is finding love in prison any different to finding love in the free world?

Love is one of the best things we can experience in this lifetime, and everyone deserves to be in love. I admit to being a romantic at heart, but even I struggle with the idea of someone wanting to have a relationship with a prisoner. Not saying that it’s not possible, because there’s some amazing people who find a way to make it work, and I’m not talking about the groupies who jump from prisoner to prisoner. Yes, that happens, so you have to be careful who you fall for.

To get a better understanding as to why it’s possible: you’re actually getting to know each other, minus the physical. You also have to make the best of each letter – the letters are the memorable moments you would usually be creating through normal conversations in “normal” relationships.

I’ve never experienced it myself, but through conversations with fellow prisoners, and the women who fall for them, they said it’s like falling in love on a different level.

It usually starts as a friendship, and grows from that.

It’s not always about weird, mentally unstable women reaching out to guys in prison, like they want you to believe. The connection can be very different, but ends up being more meaningful than any connection you’ve had in the past, because you’re really having to get over the perceptions, and really get to know each other.

In the end, prisoners are still humans, and humans feel most alive when they’re in love.

How is it fair?

Four years ago my sentence was overturned and I was granted the relief based on an unconstitutional law that was in place over 40 years.

It took them 40 years to correct that wrong. Think about that for a second: 40 years.

You would think that life would be a little less stressful after relief was granted in my case, but it has been the total opposite. If anything, it has gotten more stressful. It has also proven how unfair things really are. The state has been trying everything to stop this re-sentencing from happening.

First it started with a State Attorney being removed from my case after she spoke out. Apparently, she had a change of heart, and no longer believed in the Death Penalty. That led to the Governor intervening, removing her from over 20 death penalty eligible cases, and hand-picking her replacement (google Aramis Ayala). Of course the replacement was one of the top States attorneys when it comes to seeking the Death Penalty.

Then it really got back when the Florida Supreme Court had to replace 3 judges, which led to it being a pro-conservative panel of judges. This was like the green light for State Attorneys throughout the state to try anything and everything. Push the envelope to see what they can get away with. It’s very troubling because the now pro-conservative courts have already reversed some Death Penalty laws that that have been in place over 40 years, in favor of the State. In light of these decisions, the State is back at it again, trying to argue that the decision in my case shouldn’t be upheld, and my death sentence should be reinstated, with no re-sentencing hearing. They’ve been at it for 4 years now.

If it as the other way round, there’s no way I would’ve been able to challenge a court’s decision for 4 years. How is that fair?

Post 13: The passage of time

The older we get, the more valuable our time should be, because it seems like, at some point in your life, the time decides to speed up. We go from feeling like we can live forever, to one day looking at the image in the mirror and wondering what happened.

When I first got to the row and was meeting guys that’s been incarcerated for 15, 20, 25 years and more (I also met a few guys that’s been here over 40 years), longer than I was alive, I couldn’t believe it. That sounded like forever, and I wondered if it felt like it’s been forever for them. Now I am in that position, quickly approaching my 20th year. I really can’t tell you what it feels like. Some days it feels like it has been forever, and some days it doesn’t feel like it’s been anywhere close to being that long.

I want to say that I’ve made the best of my time, but I do have those days when it feels like the day was a total loss. You do have to make a conscious effort to not let that one day turn into days, or weeks, and so on. That’s the challenge. You never want to feel like you haven’t made the best use of your time. Being here, one don’t get many opportunities to create memorable moments, so whenever the opportunity presents itself, you have to take full advantage of it. I now have a better understanding of the saying “you always make time for the things that are important to you”. It’s a sad feeling when you think about not being able to spend time with the ones that are important to you.

Time is one thing that we can never get back, and it’s very easy to lose track of time. Hopefully, when that day comes, I can look back and not feel like I’ve wasted my time.

One Love

D

Post 12: Mass shootings and the Death Penalty

A post from David…

With the recent increase in mass shootings in this country, which I hope isn’t the “new normal “, I’m not surprised to hear that there’s been talk of making it mandatory to seek the death penalty for people convicted of mass shootings, especially when it’s of the hate crime variety.

It’s all a part of the “tough on crime “ rhetoric. If you’re on the fence as to whether there should be the death penalty , these are the cases that can flip you to being pro death penalty.

“Aren’t these the type of crimes that the death penalty should be reserved for?” “How can you defend cases like these?” These are the obvious questions. It is sad to see, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for people who have lost loved ones to such senseless violence. I imagine that revenge is one of the many emotions that they experience. It’d be hard to convince me otherwise.

The whole “tough on crime “ mantra, and threats of the death penalty for offenders, is the easiest way to stir things up, but that won’t change anything. We’re just ignoring the actual issue. Like, how are people with obvious mental health issues, and questionable backgrounds, able to legally obtain high powered weapons? I’m not anti-gun, but someone with an AK-41 with a 100-round drum usually doesn’t have good intentions. They have more than hunting animals on their mind.

Sorry to say, but until we address the real issue here – gun control – we’ll be having another conversation about this in the near future. Expanding the death penalty to include hate crimes, won’t change anything.

One Love
David

Post 11: Thoughts about freedom

By David

Is freedom a state of mind? It’s not an easy question to answer from this side of the fence, so I’m going to need your help with this!

Some days I think that it is, depending on my mood and my headspace.

The reason that I’m saying this, is that I often hear people saying “you’ll have more freedom if you get resentenced to life.” It is true that I’ll no longer be in solitary confinement, and I won’t have a death sentence over my head, but I’ll still be a far way from freedom, or my understanding of what freedom is.

Of course, I’m still limited in many ways but I still have control of my thoughts, so in that sense I do have freedom, but when you’re looking at the years fly by through a fence, freedom isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

One love,

David

Post 10: A Thank You

From David

It’s on me to share my experience on Death Row, and to give people a better understanding of life on The Row.

I’m very thankful for the people that have shown interest in the Death Penalty, who aren’t directly affected by it. It’s easy to focus on the things that directly affect us- as we should of course. Sometimes we have a hard time even doing that.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years, including the people that made this blog possible.

This is just a quick thank you, for caring.

One love

David