Shaking Hands With Murderers
Start writing a post

Shaking Hands With Murderers

When standing an arms length apart from five convicts, I felt a sense of empathy for their stories; I wanted to be friends with them.

Shaking Hands With Murderers

Never did I think I'd be sitting in a room staring eye to eye with five murderers, let alone leave a prison feeling a sense of sympathy for them. However, that's exactly what happened. I shook hands with murderers and felt a sense of understanding for a group of men I previously looked at as less than human, incapable of remorse, guilt, or forgiveness.

The morning of the visit to the Shirley prison was a cold one. 6:30am wake up call certainly wasn't easy, but it felt worth it for an opportunity like this. My roommate, a future lawyer, invited me to spend the morning talking to inmates and hearing their stories at the local jail with her class seemed pretty convincing to me.

Upon entering the building, which was ironically surrounded by open land and farm animals, was everything I've ever pictured a prison to be. The barbed wire, thick-barred windows, ancient smelling; it had all the ingredients for your local lockup. We sat in the holding area for a while waiting for our ID's to be processed. From there, in groups of five we were escorted into the visiting area of the prison. Instantly we were greeted by a man named Josh, delightfully dressed in a button down shirt accompanied by freshly gelled hair. He gave us a brief tour of the visiting area, highlighting the importance of staying behind the yellow lines that surrounded the visiting area as well as the necessity of picking up your shoe and gracefully handing it to the guard when he asks you to strip.

We all took our seats and awaited as five men walked through the barred doors. I peered around the room and noticed the guards quietly talking in the distance. A children's play area, which consisted of a couple books and a toy or two, stood still as the room filled with silence. Like I said, I was interestingly surprised when I didn't see the typical orange jumpsuit but rather jeans, button up shirts, even styled hair. The men looked put together, professional almost. I felt intimidated as I looked up and constantly made eye contact with each of them.

One of the men, probably around forty-five, a heavier set, stood up and introduced himself as Mike. His voice echoed through our seats. I could easily have mistaken him for an actor of some sort. His voice and body language gave off this unexpected confidence, like a teacher getting ready to teach a lesson. He cleared his throat and instantly began talking about his childhood. He talked about what it was like to be five years old and his dad telling him he was going to be a big brother and the importance of protecting him. "Family comes first" fell from his mouth over and over as he paced back and forth across the room. His story quickly began to escalate as his mother soon developed multiple sclerosis and his father, a raging and abusive alcoholic, took all of his problems out on his twelve year old son. By eighteen he was a football superstar. However, with a full ride to his school of choice, Mike decided to drop out of college and take care of his dying mother. Quickly after, his father's health rapidly declined putting both of his parents in wheelchairs. He never asked for help. He was dirt poor, worked side jobs for a while but couldn't afford either of his parents medical bills as he spent any of his time doing the cooking, cleaning, and constant protection of his little brother. One of Mike's coworkers mentioned a gambling bid he had been running and asked if Mike wanted to join. Hesitant at first but in need of the money, Mike decided to throw some money in and actually ended up making a steady profit. The problem with gambling, as he stated, was you eventually lose and at that point, Mike lost a lot. So much that his coworker was calling him every day. He began calling his house, his parents, and soon started to threaten them. When Mike told him he didn't have it, his co worker pulled a gun into the picture. For a young senseless kid like Mike, that meant he needed to get one too to protect himself. The story of two hot headed men pointing guns at each other never ends well. In Mike's case, he walked away from the scene alive, but the other man did not. Mike was then charged with 1st degree murder.

This was just one of many similar stories the men told us that day. This one really resonated with me as it felt relatable to many of us in the room. The struggle of asking for help when times get rough. Mike emphasized the importance of asking for help and not allowing the feelings of embarrassment or worthiness get in the way of asking for it. More specifically for him, sacrificing his masculinity by asking for help wasn't worth it. He regrets this every single day. At this point, I was asking myself... "Am I really getting advice from a convict right now?" In reality, his lesson was just as important as my professors was later that day. How could this be? How did I feel relatable to a man who's been in jail for 33+ years for 1st degree murder?

The simple answer is you really don't know anyone. I walked in that room judging every single one of them for the decisions they made as many of us do everyday to people simply walking in our direction. Truthfully, I walked into the building that day as a potential advocate for the death penalty. In my mind, if you murdered someone, you don't deserve anything involving life itself. I left that day feeling the exact opposite. I walked out of the room that day wanting to go back and just chat about our days over a cup of coffee. The experience itself was truly amazing. Unfortunately, they did exaggerate the fact that the majority of the men in the prison are not like them, certainly expected.

Regardless, having this idea that there is potential for change in murderers is something I have not fully grasped yet. If all is true and these men are sincerely out here to tell their stories in hopes for change in the institutions themselves, I believe it's our own duty to share their stories with the people they can't reach as a hope for a chain reaction in educating people not only on the consequences of decisions, but the impact they have on the rest of your life.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

CBD Lip Balm Is The Calming Presence You Need In Your Life, Trust Me

I tried lip balm, sleep gummies, and an oil dropper from CBDistillery. Here's the final verdict.


CBD has been on making waves within the wellness space for the last few years. Generally related to the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, it's growing easier to find small CBD companies who are making products specifically designed to fit your needs. As FDA rules for CBD production can be a little hazy, it's true that not all CBD products are created equally. That's why it's important to look into the manufacturing of whatever you're deciding to try, especially if you're new to taking CBD.

As someone who has tried a variety of CBD products — some victories, some failures — I was thrilled when CBDistillery sent me a package of their favorites. They included a Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture, their Nighttime Gummies, and a CBD Lip Balm.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Kamala Harris Is The Biggest Hypocrite Of The #MeToo Movement

A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris — and no one wants a hypocrite for a vice president.

Joe Biden just chose Kamala Harris to be his running mate against Donald Trump and Mike Pence in 2020. Now, for many reasons, this is hilarious as I think Biden just solidified his fate and gave the election to President Trump, but that's for another time.

Keep Reading... Show less

Now, this is a story all about how, "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is getting a reboot, and every '90s kid is currently screaming. (Yes, you heard me correctly.)

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Risen Wang on Unsplash

Maybe it was the quarantine months that sent you on a quest to finally find a workout routine that works for you, or maybe it was the lack of routine in the world that inspired you to change your habits or -for some- keep them and make an effort to maintain your health. If gyms were not already evolving with the new needs of the 21st-century gymgoer, they are undoubtedly evolving now with the lifestyle mindset that Covid-19 has left many of us with — a desire for a plan for a positive change seeing that tomorrow is not guaranteed.

The experience that an individual gets out of going to the gym should feel worth their time, energy, and should meet their specific fitness journey goals. If you do not already have a reason to go to the gym, here are ten genius effective implementations that will inspire even the couch-iest potato.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there. You see that super cute guy on your dating app of choice, his bio is funny, and then, the gut-wrenching feeling hits when you see their political views don't exactly line up with yours. He loves Trump, you can't stand him, or vice versa.

A lot of people will say you can get over politics, but I know from personal experience, as well as this survey, that politics play a huge role in whether a relationship will work or if we're even willing to swipe right on that profile.

Keep Reading... Show less

With no sign of the pandemic going anywhere, brides and grooms who planned to be married in 2020 are forced to opt for plan B — if not plan C or D. While some are downsizing their in-person weddings to meet coronavirus guidelines and state restrictions, others are choosing to cancel theirs until further notice and some, well, they're embracing the virtual "I do."

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Zoom wedding for my friend and fellow editor and writer, Kristin Magaldi, and the short-but-sweet ceremony left me in happy tears (surprise surprise). In order to get the scoop on what exactly went into planning a virtual wedding, I asked Kristin to share her best tips so other couples know exactly how to have a Zoom wedding in case they're looking to lean into the video chat vows, too.

Keep Reading... Show less

Luxury Fashion Buys Your Bank Account Couldn’t Justify Till This Year’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

In case you needed another reason to get the Prada sunnies you've been eyeing all year.

Since I can remember first flipping through my older cousin's fashion magazines as an 8-year-old, I've always had several luxury items on my wish list of items I knew I'd never have, but loved to fantasize about.

As I grew into financial independence later in life, the list grew longer, but the ways in which I could toy with my grocery or travel budget for a month to make room for something I really wanted made the items on it more attainable. Even then, I will (virtually) visit an item online several times in the span of a year to test if I still like it months after eyeing it, and to see if by any chance it may have gone on sale.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Curvy Women Of Color On Instagram Who Inspired Us All To Take More Confident Lingerie Selfies

Learn to embrace your body and stop comparing yourself to the "beauty" standard with the help of these beautiful models and bloggers.

It's not every day that you scroll on your timeline and see a body that resembles your own. With a beauty standard that has conditioned the minds of society to exclaim confidence!

When a fuller figure posts on social media — as if it's an extreme act of bravery to show yourself off if you're not under a size 6 — it's about time we take back our power and learn that we are enough just the way we are.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Characters From Your Childhood That Combated The Mental Health Stigma

We deserve to see people like us on the big screen just as much as you do.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Growing up with a neurodevelopment disorder and mental illness, it's easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. It is not common to look around and see someone that experiences situations similar to the ones you endure. Even if you do come across a person that is also perceived to be "different" in the eyes of society, the negative connotations instilled in everyday life are quick to silence your voice and knock you down before you have a chance to realize that who you are is more than okay--it's normal. This is a big reason why anything that brings understanding and shines a light on what people with neurodevelopment disorders and mental illness go through on a regular basis comes around a sense of relief and happiness fills the body.

In light of this, I went on a hunt to find characters in television and cinema that accurately portray the complexities of developmental disorders and mental health.

Keep Reading... Show less

First and foremost, shame on you for encouraging the patriarchy and sexism as you police a female's clothing choices. You cannot control our bodies, but what you can advocate for is public health and safety. This includes demoralizing rape, slut-shaming, and protecting society from illness.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments