In honor of Father’s Day, the CAN-DO Foundation has collected a series of quotes, reflections, stories and insights from numerous men inside prison who will not participate in the normal festivities that most of us will enjoy on Sunday, June 18th. Many men have watched their own children grow into adults while they linger and suffer because of a non-violent drug charge that mandated a sentence of no less than 10 years. The majority of these men are serving a life sentence due to drug conspiracy charges.
Craig Cesal, (serving 13th year on life sentence for pot): wrote the following about his daughter, Lauren: "Fourteen years before my arrest, I realized an instinct I never considered when I looked into the eyes of a seven pound newborn, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. She reached out to me for everything, and it was my honor to deliver. Following my arrest, I failed to show for the graduation ceremony, the Father/Daughter Dance, and to mean-mug the first date. The best Father's Day gift is to see that Champ still grew up to be a star.”
Anthony Underwood is the son of William Underwood (serving 29th year of a life sentence). He wrote the following: “29 yrs of concrete, steel, and barbwire has never kept you from being a wonderful Dad. That love is what gives us the will to fight for your freedom and the faith that we will prevail.”
Michael Pelletier (a paraplegic serving his 10th year of a life sentence for pot): “I was so certain that I was going to receive clemency that I gave away all my art supplies and brushes. My father was very ill with pancreatic cancer but he too was certain I was going to come home and was hanging on to see me. As we got closer to the end of President Obama’s presidency, my father began to fade and give up hope. Receiving the news that he had passed is something I’m still struggling with. It’s hard to believe I will never have a chance to look into his eyes and tell him ‘I love you.”
Anrica Caldwell is an advocate and longtime friend of David Barren who had his sentence commuted from “LIFE” to 30 years by President Obama. This means David will spend another 17 years in prison and has little hope to see his 82-year old father alive outside of prison unless additional relief is forthcoming. Anrica is a full time school teacher and Vice President of CAN-DO. She works tirelessly to help bring Dave home so they can start a life together.
Anrica Caldwell: “As an educator and an advocate, I have witnessed the impact of a father and their child when he is absent from the lives of their seed. From the tears of a child when a father couldn’t attend a school function to the cries of a child when a father had to depart a visiting room. This is the result of draconian sentences that undermine the growth of communities and suffocate the evolution of families. As we reflect on Father’s Day, we must remind ourselves, these men are fathers and/or have fathers who have the ability to foster healthy and fruitful relationships within their families and communities; especially if we continue to pride ourselves as a ‘nation of second chances.’”
David Barren (serving his 10th year of a 30 year sentence): “I’ll never stop being a father to my children and a son to my 82-year old father despite the 30 year sentence I continue to serve.”
Aaron Sandusky (serving his 5th year on 10 year sentence for medical marijuana) “These are the years I was hoping my wife, Darlene and I, would be having children together. I may never experience what it’s like to be a father. Cancer took my father and the Feds seized my dreams of becoming one.”
Robert Shipp (serving 23rd year of a 30 year sentence): "Father's Day is a rough one for me, being that my dad is no longer here. Losing him during this incarceration was and still is, by far, the hardest ordeal I’ve had to deal with and endure. When I think of Father's Day, I think of that one person who defines the difference between a boy and a man. My dad taught me to accept responsibility, to not make excuses but to make things happen. He taught me to always strive to be the best at what I seek to achieve. He taught me that any boy can make a child but it takes a man to raise a child and to provide for his family. Many times "Dads" are overlooked, but no family is complete without the love, guidance and protection of a loving father. So in honor of my Dad, I wish all the fathers out there a truly blessed and happy Father's Day..for, we are relevant and we need to do a better job of fulfilling our role in the family, in our communities and in this world.”
Luke Scarmazzo: "To be able to return to my daughter, Jasmine, as a free man, is the sole focus and purpose of my life; this is why I continue to plan and work everyday to achieve this goal."
John Knock (serving life for pot): has a son who wrote the following: “Twenty years have passed, of mostly laughter and joy, as I grew into adulthood and discovered who I am. But there was sorrow and heartbreak, bad breakups, lost friends, missed opportunities. He heard about all of it, a watcher on the sidelines, there for advice and always supporting, but not really a part. I can hardly imagine the ache as he watched his son grow up without him. But I know how I felt as appeal after appeal was denied. Twenty years of hockey games and swim meets, new houses, new schools, new friends, new jobs, new presidents; life moves on, and the world keeps changing, but some things stay the same. Decades have gone by, trillions of dollars have been spent, and millions of lives have been affected, and the War on Drugs is still going strong. But from my perspective for no good reason - I lost my dad to the war, as many families have.”
Manuel Carlos Soto-Herrera (served 22 years on life sentence reduced to 30 years): “I would like to send my blessing on Father’s day to all behind bars. Although separated by many miles and restrictive barriers, a Father's love knows no boundaries and continues to flourish in the Hearts and Spirits of those who are most dear to him. Seeds of love and devotion that are sown and cultivated with compassion, unconditional understanding, and unwavering support, will continue to blossom and bear productive fruit season after season... despite the physical absence. Although his presence in the flesh may be lacking, the force of his Spirit and the conviction of his love is a constant companion and source of resounding strength to not only survive, but to flourish and thrive. And the positive results produced by those his love has encouraged and sustained, provides wonderful sustenance for him also. So a Father's View from prison is not a distant view at all - It is a view from ‘inside’ the Hearts and Spirits of those he dearly Loves - and who dearly Love him...God bless everyone.”
Jimmy Romans (served 7 years on life sentence for pot): “When it comes to being a Father I guess I thought I was doing a good job, but I didn't put my family first and it came back to bite me. I do have to say that I NEVER, realized I could get a LIFE sentence for marijuana. During my incarceration I have had limited time with my oldest daughter, Alicia. I have not had any contact with my 2 youngest children Hailey and James Jr. I know it all falls on my back, but I do not go one single day without thinking about and missing my children with all my heart! I always tell myself...a LIFE sentence for Marijuana! After 7 years I still cannot believe it. I always remember that the last time I got to talk to, or see my youngest children, Hailey and James Jr., was on Father's Day, June 20, 2010. I never thought in a million years that when they left I wouldn't see them again, but it is 7 years later and I miss all of my children and my grandson so very much. I am just praying for a miracle to bring me back to them. As for my own Father, I wish I could've been even half the man that he has been for me. He is such a blessing and I thank the Lord for him everyday. I want to get home and make some great memories together. To my Dad, Mom, all of my children and everyone else that is in my life...Thank you for everything and I love you all. Always remember to not take for granted the time you have with your loved ones because we never know what tomorrow may bring and if tomorrow will even come.”
Corvain Cooper (served 3 years of life sentence for pot): “Even though we’re not together on this special day, you will always be with me each and every minute in my heart. I kiss your photos before I go to bed every night and pray for your safety and well being. Eat something delicious and think of me and I bet I will be able to taste it! I love you, Cleer, Cooper and Scotyln, so very much!”
Tim Tyler (Clemency recipient, served 24 years on a life sentence): “I lost my Dad in 2001 and I have a son that lives in Connecticut that I have never met. My father let me learn things the hard way. I wanted a certain car when I was young. I was 16 and had saved some money. We were riding by this used car dealership and stopped in. My dad was friends with the guy that owned it. I liked this older car; a 1970 Thunderbird with a 429 engine. It was more money than I had so we left but I kept thinking about the car. We drive by there again and the car was reduced by half. The owner of the lot told me and my dad that I should not buy the car. It had electric windows that didn’t work well. No air conditioner and we lived in Florida. I didn’t listen and bought it and my Dad let me. I poured all my money and then some and the car only lasted three months. It seems I learn lessons the hard way. After being in RDAP for the past 8 months I see that choices have consequences. From now on I am going to think of all of the consequences that could result from my choices which is what I should have been doing since I was a child. Well I can not say Happy Father's Day to my dad but if you or someone that you know can, then I plead with you to take advantage of the opportunity and truly express how you feel. Hug him. If you have any ill feeling towards him then this year and day is the time to make amends.”
Chad Marks (served 14 years on 40 year sentence): “American prisons are filled with men that realize that they made selfish decisions that hurt not only themselves, but also their children. Many of these men long for a second chance to be real men, real leaders, real fathers. Many will never get that chance as they are serving grotesque life sentences for non-violent drug crimes. We live in a nation that incarcerates more fathers than any other industrialized nation in the world. No one that has never been in prison not judges, lawyers, senators, or congressman can ever fully understand what it is like for an incarcerated father. They will never know what it is like for a father to know that he will never again tuck his child into bed at night, that he will never have a chance to be his little girls hero, or be able to throw a baseball or football to his son, or to simply tell his children that he is there to love them and protect them.”
Pedro Moreno (serving 20th year on life sentence for pot): “Last year on Father’s Day was the first Father’s Day in over 20 years that I spent it with my children and got to hold my grandson for the first time. I have missed many of their milestones; birthdays, weddings, graduations, birth of my grandchildren, and other celebrations. I pray that I will one day be able to live the rest of my life surrounded by my growing family. That’s all I want.”
Charles Scott (served 19 years on 51 year sentence): “I want to encourage all incarcerated fathers to keep fighting the good fight. Know that it is never too late to be what you could have been. Even in being absence physically we can hold hands with our loved ones mentally, physically and spiritually, through our words, insight and encouragement. I want to send a special message to my daughter, Charlesia LaShay and let her know you are not only my pride and joy but also my best friend. I love you beyond words Cha and there’s nothing I wouldn't go through or do to make sure you are okay. We've been away from each other physically for 19 years but we haven't missed a beat mentally, or spiritually. I never let God's unlimited power be measured by my limited expectations and that's something I instill in you daily. We have a hope and a future in Christ, and our faith will allow us to see miracles beyond our wildest imaginations if we never stop believing. I love you and miss you, and always will. Kiss my grand-baby for me too!”
Steven Speal ( Clemency recipient serving his 20th year of a life sentence with new outdate of 12/19/2018) “The first person I must acknowledge on Father’s day is President Obama because he has literally risen me from the dead. I owe him so much for this second chance and I will never disappoint him. Next, thank you Dad for always being there. You are truly loved and missed. It would mean the world to spend one day with you . It has been so hard to spend so much time away from all my family - it truly seems like a lifetime, but the end of this chapter is near and a new one will begin soon. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has been there for me.”
Ricardo Riojas (serving 21st year of a life sentence for pot): “I don’t want to die in here. I need to visit my daughters grave and spend my last days with my grandkids. Please have mercy on me and my family.”
Ricardo’s daughter wrote: “Having my father on Father’s day would be better than winning the lottery. It would feel as if I hit the jackpot because it would be a dream come true. I constantly think about and pray for his safety. My dad is an amazing person with a huge heart. It’s been 21 years of seeing him in a visiting room and now his heart is failing. He has suffered two heart attacks with the past 12 months, has difficulty swallowing and is in a wheelchair. He could not harm a soul even if he wanted to, so it’s difficult for me to understand the purpose his continued incarceration serves. There is no victim other than our family. No one has ever died due to marijuana so why must his life be taken from us? If he were home, I would cook him all his favorite foods.”
Darryl Hope (serving 26th year on a life sentence): I'm very happy to be a father and a grandfather, just not from this perspective; but I've always told myself and other guys that its OUR responsibility to keep in touch with OUR children, its not their responsibility. I love my children and will continue to be the best Father I can be, even from behind these wall. There is nothing like having a Father-child relationship. There is nothing like family. They are our examples and we get an opportunity to teach them about right and wrong through our mistakes and accomplishments. I never had this opportunity because my own father passed away when I was a child. I may be in prison, but I'm not dead so I will continue to encourage my children and grandchildren to reach your goals in life. I will never doubt that I will get out of this place and I will walk out of here 10 feet tall with my head up as a FATHER! So to you FATHERS out there and in prison keep your heads up and don’t let haters be your motivators!!! #KEEPHOPEALIVE..."