Category Archives: News from Prison

Mental Health Awareness by F. Jacobs

After spending 35 years on this earth, with 17 of these current years incarcerated, I’ve discovered that my mental and emotional heath are just as important as my physical health. Being that October is Mental Health Awareness Month, I will raise the awareness of the importance of mental and emotional health/wellness, to the best of my ability and knowledge and to as many readers as possible.

I strive to present positive, productive, and progressive coping methods for the various forms of mental and behavioral disorders. This is my caveat, for I am neither expert, nor have I been formerly educated on this subject. However, the time to take action is overdue in the quest of being more proactive in our communities, families and work places. Step one is to identify the problem while Step two is to discover the solution. Collectively we can make steps one and tow much easier.

Things to Consider: Emotions and Our Mental States

People with good emotional health can still be plagued with emotional problems or

Mental Health and Awareness by Floyd Jacobs
Photo by Pixabay on

mental illness. Often, mental illness has a physical cause. There could be a chemical imbalance in the brain. Problems with family, stress, work, or school can trigger mental illness or make it worse. If you know someone who may need help coping with a mental illness and may not even know they are mentally ill or if you, yourself, is struggling with emotional and mental issues then consider these things and please be proactive (and not reactive) in your treatment.

Our emotions are the direct product of our mental state. Paying close attention to our health and treating threats to our physical well being is no different from when we sustain psychological injuries. If you are more proactive with protecting your physical well-being and neglect your psychological well-being you might probably experience a gradual decline in your mental and emotional health.

Talking about the upkeep of ones mental health may sound like a foreign language; however, the professional experts say that maintaining ones mental well-being is rather simple and easy; just choose to do it! The choice is yours to make a difference in a positive way.

written by:
F. Jacobs AKA Bumani SankofAllah, The Prudent Pauper

Next Part (2) Mental Health and Awareness: Seven Dimensions of Wellness

adult alone backlit dark
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Prisoners Favorite Books and Authors

by Norris J. Brown
copyright 2016

Being an aspiring writer/poet, I was asked by my mentor to conduct a survey on avid book readers (in this prison, where I’m currently incarcerated) to get an idea of what readers here generally gravitate towards when picking books.

From the information compiled from nearly 100 inmates out of a total population of nearly 500, I concluded that even in a prison with a small population, there is a wide variety of books that inmates prefer reading.

I would like to disclose that this survey was conducted in a male prison; so women please understand that these statistics reflect views and opinions of your not-so-better halves. This survey can give a general idea of what men in prison like to read and look for in books.

Please, be informed and enjoy.

I remain
Mr. Norris J Brown
AKA Blakk Dynamite





Favorite Authors
Eric Jerome Dickey    
Stuart Woods          
Sister Soulja 

Favorite Books
Midnight by Sister Soulja
Standing At The Scratch Line by Guy Johnson
Alex Cross Series by James Patterson

Favorite Genres
Hood/Street Lit/Urban

Reasons We Like These Genres:
Most inmates choose books that they can relate to.
The second most popular reason for choosing a book was the level of action.


photo credit: bonzoycv N06/31005452894″>Libros via photopin (license)




Finding Islam While Incarcerated

Finding Salvation Through Islam While Incarcerated
by Mecca (Jesse McCarthan)


In the beginning of my interest in Islam, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how it would affect me in my personal life, or what would be some of the gains and losses closely related to that type of life. I only knew that it was interesting. And so I decided to research further.  What I concluded as a result of constant study and observation was that the religion contained significant principles and points of relevancy, such as accepting ownership of your own errors and sins, and worshiping One God without any association to him.

I also observed the benefits of the religion through the lives of others…like how it magnified and totally rectified their being. I observed the justice, compassion and mercy in Islam.  To put it bluntly, my intense observation of this religion eventually lead to an overwhelming feeling of serenity that propelled me to want more of it.

In fact, I didn’t completely know it then, but my desire to know more about Islam had actually set Islam upon a course of wanting to know more about me. So I gravitated unto it, embracing its beauty and its strength.  Finally, we became one. Islam and I had embraced one another throughout my trials, tribulations, pain and sufferings. I didn’t know it in the beginning but now I can say with complete affirmation that Islam has affected me positively.
Thank you Islam.

Jesse McCarthan #08448028
PO Box 725
Edgefield, SC

Challenges of Incarcerated Men of Afrikan Descent

 Challenges Faced by Incarcerated Men of Afrikan Descent
by Jesse M. McCarthan (a.k.a Mecca)

My name is Jesse McCarthan, but those who either know me, or are familiar with me, call me Mecca. I am a newbie to the blogging world as I’ve been detached from societal life, via incarceration, for a period of a decade now. Many of you, I am certain are unaware of some of the challenges Afrikan men face as fathers and husbands while incarcerated. My aim is to enlighten you of a few of those challenges in hope that you gain something from it. I want to share with you guys my experience being an incarcerated father, husband, Afrikan man in America’s prison system.

First and foremost, it is important to note that men of hue* make up the largest percentage of incarcerated fathers and husbands in America’s penal system. Secondly, and this is a fact, men of hue are as equally discriminated against in here on the inside as they are on the outside.

One challenge in particular relates to prison employment. Men of hue are faced with extreme inequality when it involves receiving gainful prison employment in contrast to those men who are nonhue-men.

Another challenge relates to inadequate medical and dental treatment. Some of us wrestle with the dental department for basic dental needs such as cleanings, check-ups, fillings, etc. Others suffer from more severe medical conditions like hernias, heart disease and bone injuries which can take weeks to be checked. Sometimes, injuries go totally unchecked.

Yet another challenge that Afrikan Men face – and this is probably the most detrimental of the challenges I’ve mentioned thus far- is the fact we to often lose significant constituents** in our lives due to incarceration. These losses often take shape via divorce, death, separation, and purposeful disconnect. Now this is not to say that- as men- we’re not responsible for the consequences based on our own decisions. Indeed we are. But it is to state that it’s painful and very challenging to lose or be without some you love dearly. Oftentimes, I see fathers and husbands who never receive letters, photos or visits from those they love. It’s like we’re dead back here world. And it’s more painful than you could imagine.

But as men, as husband, fathers, etc., we must and will move on with tenacity in spite of it all. We are strong men moving diligently through the annals of these man-made HELLS. And we will never give up hope and faith that one day you all (wives, daughters, and mothers) will reach back to us and help us overcome these challenges. You are our light in the presence of darkness. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Peace World,
Jesse M. McCarthan
a.k.a Mecca

* of Afrikan descent
**supporter; important person or persons

Instructing Yoga While Incarcerated by John Gianoli

Instructing Yoga While Incarcerated
by John Gianoli
copyright 2016

I enjoy yoga; and since being incarcerated, I do it every day in one form or another. Fortunately for me, I also teach the yoga class Monday through Friday. In teaching the yoga class in prison, I am afforded the unique opportunity to touch the lives of fellow inmates. Whenever they tell me of the benefits that they get from yoga class, I just light up inside.

Some of my students have shared the following:
“I was a very angry man when I came to prison. John’s yoga class is the high point of my day. When I twist and breathe under his direction, I let go of tension that I did not realize was even there. After yoga, I have the ability to get along with others when I might otherwise snap.”

“My knees were shot before yoga. Since I have strengthened the muscles around my knee-joint and made them more limber, I can now walk distances that I could never do before.”

I used to get injured every time I played racquetball. I had to quit. Since taking yoga, I can now play and not worry about backaches.”

“Before doing yoga class, I could never get to sleep on the hard mattress in my cell. Now with my body more limber, I sleeps most nights with no problem.”

“In yoga class with John, I enter a zone like no other in this prison. He plays music and dims the lights. We focus on our breath and our bodies become an instrument of meditation. I cease to be in prison and my spirit is free; that escape is priceless.”

“Mentally, I am much sharper after yoga. I count my breaths and watch my balance. I am now aware of how I treat my body.”

Comments like these keep me teaching the class! When I can to prison, I started to run. If I ran three miles or more, I was devastated with knee and ankle pain. After doing yoga for a year, I started running again, at the age 56. I am now running more than 20 miles every Saturday morning, with no soreness. I have no doubt that I can run this far now because of my yoga practice. The yoga class has been a blessing for me and I hope that it continues to bless those that I can touch with this wonderful discipline.


Supporting loved ones who are incarcerated…..

Ways to Support Loved Ones In Prison
SupportBy Drako Sullivan

Doing time is not an easy task for anyone or their family. There is no fixed method or manual for being incarcerated. Learning comes from experience, like on the job training. Being locked up is a very stressful situation and a strain on a person’s marriage and relationships with friends and family. For many, incarceration is the number one reason that led to their broken home. Doing time is very hard but it doesn’t have to be “hard time”. Here are some tips to help you be supportive of a loved one who is incarcerated, and some more you can share with them so that they can be supportive to you.

Tips for supporting the incarcerated.
1. Send Pictures:
Pictures of family, pets, or special occasions always brighten
up a day. It is a perfect way to help someone that is locked
down feel connected.

Tips for the loved one incarcerated.
Send pictures so your friends and family can see that you are
doing alright. It may not be a happy moment but do your best
to smile.

Tips for supporting the incarcerated.
2. Greeting Cards:
When nothing else can, a card always put a smile on an inmate’s
face. It may be an economical way to show you care and that
your loved one has not been forgotten.

Tips for the loved one incarcerated.
It is always good to get a card right? So reciprocate; send your
family and friends cards to show that you are thinking of them.
You have to send before you can expect to receive.

Tips for supporting the incarcerated.
3. Visitation:
There are no better days in prison than visitation days. It
provides a chance to escape and feel connected to the out-
side world. So try to visit as much as you can.
Be sure to know all the rules and regulations before visiting.

Tips for the loved one incarcerated.
Be understanding and patient with your family when it comes
to visits. Trips can be costly and time consuming so help them
plan ahead and try to find other inmates from your area so your
families can travel together to help with cost.(car pooling)

Tips for supporting the incarcerated.
4. Sending Money:
If you are able, try to send money to those doing time. It
is a good feeling to have some type of financial independence
in prison. There are a few methods of send money. Money
orders, Western Union and Money Gram. Check with your loved
one for the type that is best for their institution.

Tips for the loved one incarcerated.
Be mindful of how you spend the money that is sent to you.
SPEND IT WISELY! Don’t abuse it and budget to make the
most of it. Your family work for hard-earn cash.

Creative Writing Class – Incarcerated Pens

Creative Writing

Creative Writing Class for Prisoners
By Kaya Omodele @theabeng for Beneath The Surface Publishing

Writing is cathartic; it is a cleanser of the conscience, it is sanative to the soul. For many incarcerated men and women, writing provides a mental sanctuary, creative outlet and voice- everyone has a story, almost everyone wants to be heard. Choosing words and arranging them on paper, forming ideas and themes on the page is like painting your soul on a mural.

When we began our first creative writing class last March, seven inmates enrolled but by the final exam in June, we were down to three students. That’s a drop rate over 50 percent; but, the students that lasted were passionate and dedicated- they put in work. In reality the workload was a stack of bricks. Students were introduced to literature-poetry and fiction; they wrote journals, drafts and revisions; studied word choice and diction, alliteration and allusion; read and analyzed literature by celebrated writers and poets such as Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, Bessie Head, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston and Jamaica Kincaid.

The Fall semester Creative Writing II began in September and ended on December 14th. This semester 15 signed up initially but by the final class our numbers whittled down to seven. Our focus this fall was on fiction writing. Whereas the first creative writing class covered the fundamentals of writing and reading both poetry and fiction, in Creative Writing II we studied the elements of fiction more in depth, and focused on short stories. The syllabus touched on scene structure, narration, showing vs telling, plot, structure, figures of speech, characterization, details and setting. The final paper was a short story with a 7,000 word count.

Our writing classes consisted of people from different backyards, from politician to a self-published author of an urban story (Drako Sullivan); financiers and farmers to medical doctors and dope boys; black, white, an Asian and a Hispanic; the educated and the under-educated, from all walks of life- our prison writing classes are truly a microcosm of American society.

Oh, and we did have the classic a dog-ate-my-homework excuse in the form of “I think I lost my assignment during my move from Unit D-2 to D-1.” This from a politician. Right! Nice try, Mr. Perry.

Literature Textbooks we used:
Writing Fiction- A Guide to Narrative Craft, Seventh Edition 2007 by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French
The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, Seven Edition 2005 by R.V. Cassill
The Creative Writing Guide by Candace Schaefer and Rick Diamond
The Compact Bedford Introduction To Literature, Fifth Edition by Micheal Meyer

Poems and Short Stories We Studied:
The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses by Bessie Head
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
A Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway
The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
She Being Brand by E.E. Cummings
Africa by Maya Angelou
Un-American Investigators by Langston Hughes
Dream Boogie by Langston Hughes
Harlem by Langston Hughes
The Conscience of The Court by Zora Neale Hurston
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer Day? by William Shakespeare
My Mistresses Eyes by William Shakespeare
The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
(An excerpt from) Hardtimes by Charles Dickens

Read Poetry by:
T. Raines:

Anthony Choe:
Edgefield Zoo A Haiku-
For Richer or For Poorer(1997) A Sonnet-

Drako Sullivan:
Soul Mate A Sonnet-

Kaya Omodele @theabeng contributes to Beneath The Surface Publishing
Read more about my experiences teaching prison creative writing classes

Beneath The Surface Publishing:
Twitter: BTS_Publishing

Drako Sullivan’s At All Cost: Writing and Publishing While Incarcerated


At All Cost flyerDrako Sullivan’s At All Cost: Writing and Publishing While Incarcerated
By: Kaya Omodele @TheAbeng

Mass incarceration has stripped our communities of some of our talented sons and daughters. This claim is made apparent by imprisoned authors like Drako Sullivan, from Greenville, SC, who utilized his time well learning “the significance of words.” Mr. Sullivan wrote At All Cost and through sheer determination grounded with support from friends and loved ones, he published his urban novel through Trafford Publishing. Later, the incarcerated author took ACE* creative writing courses, further honing his craft.

Three decades of tough, Draconian drug laws designed to stifle the so-called crack epidemic resulted in stiff sentences for many low and mid-level drug dealers in federal prisons. Presently there are 2.2 million men and women in American prisons and many more lives have been altered and derailed, directly and indirectly, by lengthy sentences that don’t match the severity of the crimes. In the 90’s, legislation was enacted eliminating the Pell Grant, making it virtually impossible for an inmate to take college-level courses. Drako Sullivan completed those ACE writing classes, studied books and magazines such as Writer’s Digest and through perseverance in an environment more suited to mete out punishment than rehabilitation, turned his negative into a positive by writing about the world he knows.

At All Cost is Mr Sullivan’s debut novel. Three years of plotting, writing drafts and revisions has produced an urban story about a blazing desire to become successful in a treacherous game very few understand. “I hope that my readers realize I am not glorifying the criminal lifestyle. What I am saying is that this game is stacked and rules demand we play at costs that are detrimental to our own humanity, whether we realize it or not,” says Mr. Sullivan. “This lifestyle isn’t glamorous; it is an extremely costly option with many losses and dire consequences.”

*Adult Continuing Educational (ACE), not college accredited

At All Cost can be ordered from:
Soft Cover-
Hard Cover-