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Illustration by Sarah Rogers

In October 2020, students at Miami Youth Academy and men at San Quentin State Prison in California started a letter exchange facilitated by Global Forum Online and Exchange for Change, a Miami-based non-profit group that supports writing programs in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. The Miami Youth Academy houses up to 28 boys from 14 to 18 years old, who are sent there by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. These letters were first published in Titan Tribune, their school newspaper. The students are identified by their initials to protect their identities.

What is a routine day like here and how do I deal with it?

For many years I was running from reality. I acted out and ended up in the holes and nothing good ever came out of it. I didn’t know how to read or write. So I used to get bored and angry at myself. I felt stupid and I didn’t want my fellow prisoners to know about my academic deficiency. So I acted out and no one questioned me.

So as you can imagine, I was not surviving. I was actually killing myself little by little without knowing it. I wasted decades here. I could have started earlier by picking up a book and escaping from prison and going to different places in my mind.

Now I am proud to share with you that I no longer get into trouble because I have discovered my freedom based on my daily routine of reading, writing and praying to God.

My daily routine consists of me getting up and drinking a nice cup of coffee mixed with milk and sugar, and of course by taking my vitamins. I am a big believer in the importance of maintaining a healthy body and spirit. Usually, I will wait for the noise to die down and I will read my bible, because I need to stay connected to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. After I am done with my collect calls to heaven, I ask myself what can I do on this day that will have a positive impact in my life and the lives of those who I consider my friends and brothers?

I used to play a game with my cellies for push ups. We’d look up words and whoever got the definition wrong would have to do push ups. I hated to lose, so I got better and this is how I learned to read and write.

I have been blessed and mainly I have received the support of many good people who now believe in my change. I write to you, I write for the San Quentin Newspaper and I also write for some other nonprofit organizations. In here, due to COVID-19, I volunteer as a porter to feed the entire fifth tier. I keep my mind busy and positive by doing positive things, being of service to others. Before you know it, the day is over. That is my routine day in prison.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Edwin E. Chavez is a writer incarcerated in California.