This series features writing from inmates at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. The articles stem from weekly programming facilitated by the Colorado College Prison Project. Through contact between the CC community and Colorado Springs, this series aims to simultaneously broaden CC perception of incarceration issues and provide a platform for incarcerated writers. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office requires approval of written material prior to publication and the removal of authors’ last names. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the EPCSO or the Prison Project.
You probably won’t read this, and I don’t blame you for that. To society, I am just inmate number 14***9. The noise when you are incarcerated is deafening, yet to the world our voices are barely a whisper. Even though we are screaming to be heard, to be helped, to not be forgotten, out of sight, out of mind is a phrase us forgotten use behind the walls. To us, this term explains our shared pain — if we are not seen, we do not exist. But we do exist. Dom exists. Dorien exists.
Dom’s father left before he inhaled his first breath, leaving his mother to face motherhood alone. Life has its own burdens — to then be left to raise three kids? Dom’s mother gave all she had of herself. In the end, life, finances, and her broken heart didn’t just overwhelm her, they broke her. She self-medicated to numb the pain … the pain won. At nine years old, Dom and his siblings were given to the state. At 16, Dom was officially adopted, sealing the fate that Dom would never again return to his mom. A culmination of anger, substance abuse, abandonment issues, and hanging with the wrong people led Dom down a dark path. It was apparent that Dom, like his mother, had lost his way. Dom never got the chance to reunite with his mom; she went missing in 2017. Dom exists.
Dorien’s birth certificate was the only thing his father left him on the way out the door, leaving his mom to raise three boys. Every day presented a new burden. If bills did not weigh Dorien’s mother down, his stepdad did. Dorien’s stepfather did not talk with his words, he talked with his hands. Lack of money and severe physical and mental abuse slowly broke her. Dorien had to watch his mother’s mental state deteriorate. Dorien was seven years old when his mother suffered a mental breakdown so severe that she forgot how to walk and who her children were. The state gave custody of Dorien and his siblings to his grandmother. If there is a silver lining in everything in life, there wasn’t one in this situation.
Dorien’s grandmother did not want them. She got in touch with his father and pawned off Dorien and his siblings. Dorien’s father had already started another family. Dorien’s father did the unthinkable — instead of welcoming his sons with open arms, he forced them to live in an abandoned house on the opposite side of town. The abandoned house had no running water and no electricity. He and his brothers were left to fend for themselves in unlivable conditions for three years. Anger filled Dorien’s heart after he was rejected by three people who were supposed to love him, people who were supposed to care. Dorien and his brothers turned to the streets to survive. Dorien exists.
I wish I could say that I made these two stories up. I wish I could say that I haven’t heard countless stories just like these. I wish I could say my story isn’t similar. But I can’t. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “Don’t worry about the problems of tomorrow, for today has its own.” We can’t control who our parents are and we can’t control our pasts, but we can control our choices. We may come from our parents, but we are not their choices. If we focused half as hard on staying free as we do on getting free, we’d be better off. Dom exists, Dorien exists, I exist, and we are more than what society deems us.