I write this piece today, Christmas morning, while thoughts of family, freedom and hope are hitting me harder than usual. I told myself that I wouldn’t ever write anything personal on life here, but I’ve been motivated to put pride to the side and share some of what I’ve been going through while incarcerated. I write this to you with a cyst that’s been growing on my brain. - in the same area where a tumor was just removed on my brain stem two years ago. I think that anything growing on our brain is cause for worry and anxiety. The type of strength it takes to move day to day, knowing that something can seriously go wrong is hard to even describe. Worry and anxiety are inadequate in describing what I am feelling, but I use these words to try and convey some of what I am going through.
I’ve been in prison since 2001 and the journey of surviving behind these walls has been far from an easy one. Nothing about this has been easy by any stretch of imagination. Today on Christmas, I think about everything that could be, that would be, and that should be. This will be my seventeenth Christmas away from family and loved ones, away from my freedom, away from my right to do everything that I’d like to do - the things that we take for granted in the free world. I was sentenced to 36 years for a gang-related murder. Had I been convicted of the same crime just a few years earlier and received the same thirty-six year sentence, I would have been going home right about now. Instead I fall under the “Truth-in-Sentencing” Law and must serve the entire 36 years. Putting me out in 2037...if I even make it to that date.
Going through this constant medical issue for the last two years (and the years prior before I knew what was going on with me) makes me wonder about so many things. How the tumor should have been properly diagnosed when I first started showing symptoms. A simple trip to the doctor, a MRI or CAT Scan would’ve done the job. Instead, I was misdiagnosed and mislead and told it was nothing. An X-ray was the best that Stateville Prison would do for me. It was only at another prison (Pontiac Correctional Center) experiencing some symptoms and passing out, that I was actually sent out in an ambulance and to a real hospital, where I was given those CAT Scans and MRIs and the tumor was discovered there on my brainstem. After numerous surgeries and radiation on my brain, I sit here back in Stateville with a cyst that’s now growing in the exact same spot where the tumor was removed. The cyst was discovered eleven months ago and continues to grow bigger. Worry and anxiety are absolutely inadequate.
What’s constant are the why me’s, the why now’s, the why this. And what won’t escape my mind is whether or not I deserve to be going through all of this. How much longer am I going to have to endure this type of treatment? The medical neglect? The possibility that I won’t survive long enough to regain my freedom?
The lifestyle I was living while I was young is by no means to be excused or ignored, but from punishing a youngster to punishing a forty year old, you have to ask how much “punishment” is enough? Ten years? Twenty years? Thrity years? Forty years? LIFE in prison? I’ve tried hard to rehabilitate myself & change in my own ways and on my own dime, since the Illinois Prison System doesn’t intend to help me in changing to be someone different than the person I was when I first came into the system. I’ve had to do it all on my own.
I’m pushing this pen and exposing some of my story because if it is up to the System they’d let me die in prison. From the shoddy medical care to the indifference towards how one does one’s time, to the inhumane treatment we have to endure behind these walls; they all add layers of stress to our daily lives.
This struggle has been so hard and so long, that you forget that we don’t even have a Parole System here in Illinois. A Parole System. Remember those? Where you can go in front of a panel and show what you’ve been doing while in prison, show the rehabilitative steps that you’ve made during your years of incarceration? The system that gave us hope. The hope that we’d be free from all of this if we just changed our ways and did right? Those of us with extreme sentences deserve that hope. We’re still human, we’re still people, we have family and loved ones and even kids. We don’t deserve to be incarcerated for decades to LIFE in prison. People can and do change. Ask yourself - are you the same person you were twnety years ago? I’m sure you are not.
A Parole system in Illinois would mean that I have an actual reason to wake up every morning with a brand new hope. The possibility of being free again. The possibility of being with family and loved ones again and not being told for graduations, birthdays, holiday’s or even special events….”I wish that you could be here”. A Parole System would put a new responsibility on my shoulders, the responsibility of “doing right” with my time behind these walls. Going from a mentality of “I have nothing to lose” to “I have everything to gain back”. It would also mean the possibility of finally obtaining some adequate medical care. Where I can simply drive myself to the hospital wherever symptomes come along and strike me again instead of being looked at as a liar, who just wants to go out and take a ride to the hospital. We’re talking about the difference between life and death.
Today I’m putting myself out there with the hope, that support can and will come. That people out there will see that even the incarcerated deserve a change to grow, to change, to be heard and to be seen. If you’re willing to join this fight with me - whether you're from Illinois or from another state - There’s a real push going on right now to bring back parole in the state of Illinois. With the simplest form of support, you can “LIKE” the Parole Illinois Facebook page or simply sign the petition in support of Parole Illinois proposed legislation.
To “LIKE” the Parole Illinois Facebook page, go to: https://www.facebook.com/paroleillinois/
To sign the petition in support of Parole Illinois’ proposed legislation for Parole go to: https://paroleillinois.org/support-us/
With gratitude and always in strength - Miguel
|Miguel Morales K-61352|
Stateville Correctional Center
P.O. Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434
Post comments. Make suggestions. Or even write to me directly. In prison for almost sixteen years now, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share my work with the world and have this avenue open to anyone interested in actually reaching out and communicating. Enjoy what you see. I’ve been oil painting since 2014 and discovered a talent I didn’t even know I had. Now I push the limits to see what I can/can’t do. Hopefully I’ll be posting more of my work soon. And maybe hopefully hearing from you too.
To view Miguel's artwork, click here