The Marshall Project

My Cellie Was the Father I Never Had

“Prison was where I grew to love one of the finest human beings I have ever known.”

Editor’s note: This week, we’re running a special Life Inside series about fathers and incarceration. Read the previous essays about next-cell neighbors, dancing in the prison gym and a surprise meeting.

I was born in 1964 on the South Side of Chicago. I grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes, where poverty, crime, gangs and drugs shaped my perception of life. At the tender age of 11, I began smoking weed, drinking wine and hanging out with the street toughs in my neighborhood. I joined the notorious Black Gangster Disciples, a large and violent gang in my neighborhood.

Life Inside Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system. Related Stories

Looking back, I believe I was trying to fill the void that. The leaders in the gang were our uncles; some even treated us like their sons. Decades later I would realize that what I mistook for love and acceptance was really just manipulation and exploitation.

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