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Letters of warning
and advice
from inmates reaching out
to young people
To obtain copies of this book email
Table of Consequences
Assault and Battery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 months in prison
Credit Card Fraud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 months in prison
Gang Member Recruitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 months in prison
Trespassing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 months in prison
Breaking and Entering a Dwelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 years in prison
Destroying Another Persons Property . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 years in prison
Forgery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 years in prison
Bribery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 years in prison
Manslaughter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 years in prison
Grand Larceny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 years in prison
Malicious Wounding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 years in prison
Burglary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 years in prison
Dealing Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Up to 40 years in prison
Rape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Life in prison
Robbery with Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Life in prison
First Degree Murder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Life in prison
Breaking and Entering with a Weapon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Life in prison
Capital Murder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Death or life in prison
Proactive Prison Prevention
This book has been put together by a group of people who care. These
people did not get paid to work on this project. Believe it or not, these
people worked to put this book together because they care about
you. They care about young lives taking horrible turns because of bad
decisions. They care about lives cut short by violent or angry acts. They
care about wasted years and wasted lives. They care about the inno-
cent people, including family members, friends, and even total strang-
ers who are hurt by these decisions. This book is meant to reach out
to those of you who may be walking that thin line between freedom
and incarceration. This book is reaching out to those of you who at any
moment could make a decision that could dramatically change your
life, cause you to end up behind bars, or even end your life.
It is our hope that the words these inmates share will make you think
about the direction you are traveling. We would love to think that we
could reach everyone who reads these letters but we know that wont
be the case. Some of you will ght the reality of these words and you
will be the ones who will ll our prisons. Even if this book helps just
one young person realize that it is time to pick a better path, it will all
have been worth the effort.
So we ask you to open your ears, your mind, and your heart as you
read the words of the prisoners who have been where you are and
know where it leads. Many of the authors of these letters bypassed
their educational opportunities so the grammar and spelling may not
be the best. However, the messages in these letters are from the heart
and could be some of the most important lessons you will ever learn.
And please remember what a very wise man once said, Where you are
today has nothing to do with where you will be in the future. It is just a
starting point.
I remember the rst time a young man stood before me with tears
cascading down his cheeks as he uttered the words, I made a mistake,
man. Indeed he did his mistake was to take a loaded gun from his
parents home and ride around being a tough guy trying to impress
girls and brandishing it several times at groups of other seventeen and
eighteen year olds who were hanging out and just chilling.
The young man had not set out to murder anyone but that is what he
did. The witnesses testied how the eighteen year old victim fell to the
pavement with blood gushing from a single bullet wound to his chest
as the car sped off with three shocked and frightened young men
inside one of them now a murderer.
I asked him what he was thinking when he pointed the loaded gun out
the window and shot the teenager he had been jawing at. His answer
was simple: I made a mistake, man. Yet this mistake or error
in judgment or teenage frivolity cost one young man his life and cost
another twenty-ve years of his own life.
Yes he made a mistake, man!!!!!!
What follows is a series of letters from individuals who candidly tell
you about the mistakes that led to their removal from society and
incarceration for many years. These letters provide a chilling but true
insight into their irresponsible and criminal mistakes for which they
are now paying a heavy price. Each of them made a decision which
had far reaching and unforeseen consequences not only for them but
for their families, their friends, their loved ones and their victims. Over
the years I sent literally hundreds of young men and women from the
courtroom, in chains, to the penitentiary for that one moment of mis-
taken conduct. It only takes one eeting moment to alter the course
of your existence and assure that you are going to pay a heavy price for
your mistake, man.
Think about saying goodbye to your parents, your girlfriend, your boy-
friend, your brothers and sisters, your friends or your children for many
years perhaps for your lifetime. When young people go to college
they have some choice of who their roommate will be, but not so if
you make a big enough mistake, man. In jail, your roomie might be
a sexual pervert, a child molester, a murderer, or someone like you who
just made a mistake, man!
Carefully read the letters from these folks who are living out the night-
mare of their mistake, man as these individuals are speaking from
the heart. Their only reward will be to persuade you to use good judg-
ment, be respectful, stay in school and not yield to the allure of drugs
or quick money or conduct that led them to their fate. Note how their
friends on the outside quickly disappeared or abandoned them once
they become incarcerated.
Sam Johnston
Retired Circuit Court Judge
In 2009 I was challenged by my brother and friend, Mr. Paul Fitzgerald,
to collect letters from my fellow inmates that would be put into a book.
These letters are rst hand experiences of what life in prison is like after
making poor choices.
For almost twenty years I walked the prison yards of some of the
toughest prisons in Virginia. When I told these men about this project,
I asked each of them to share their experiences through writing to our
nations youth. To a man, they were just as excited as I was to be doing
something that could possibly keep young men and women from end-
ing up behind bars.
Those who have written these letters all want you to know that life in
prison is awful. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. If any
one of us could go back in time and do things different, believe me we
would. First, we would listen to our parents. Secondly, we would stay
in school and work extra hard to get the best education possible. Third,
we would take that education on to get our bachelors degree and
masters. Most important of all, we would not join any gangs because
we all now know that the only people sticking by us in prison are our
real families and friends.
If you take the time to read this, I want you to know that you can be a
winner and champion. You talented, smart young men and women are
winners and champions because of your choice to start making positive
changes in your lives.
A wise person once said, in order to change the world, you must rst
change yourself! Young brothers and sisters, you have the power and
ability to make those positive choices and decisions that can change your
life. You have people who love you. You have people who are rooting
for you. You have people who believe in you. You have people who are
praying for you. Most importantly you have people who are going to
help and support you. Why? Because you are a winner and a champion.
As I bring this to a close I want to leave you with this. My name is
Ronald BB Shavers. On July 30, 2011, I started my 19
consecutive year
in prison. I made some bad decisions and I have spent just about all my
20s and all of my 30s in prison. Neither I, nor the men and women who
reached out to you in this book, want that to happen to you. We want
you to be the best. We want you to be the best student, best son, best
daughter, and most importantly the very best friend to yourself.
BB Shavers
They still tell me what to do
They still tell me what to do. That was always my big thing. I couldnt
stand it, especially from those alleged authority gures. They were,
I was convinced, a bunch of idiots. Not to mention they had no idea
what I was going through. They hadnt walked in my shoes. They
werent my mothers daughter and they didnt live in my house.
We think this medication will help with your anxiety and depression,
theyd say. Or, Just try talking to the therapist. Youll feel a lot better
if you talk about it. Always with what they thought and what they
thought was best, but what about me? I was empty and dead. What
did they expect me to talk about?
The pills were worse. The wanted me to swallow them. I couldnt sleep.
Id take them; little capsules, butter powder that would sometimes ex-
plode in the back of my throat. But the ones that knocked me out and
had me drooling on the couch in group therapy, those I couldnt mess
with. They wrestled me to the ground. I didnt take them, they took
me. They put me down
I put myself down enough, behind the show I put on for everyone else.
Like I was hard. Like I couldnt care less. Underneath my skin I was
scared. Inside I hated myself. My situation was hard, not me. Me, I was
13 and small, a little girl.
Who am I? I dont know myself. Two more years go by and I keep
ghting. I ght everyone. I ght myself. I get committed. I go to juvie.
I cut myself, I drink, I smoke, I take pills, I starve myself I pick up a
gun and I shoot it. I shoot someone in the face. My world shatters. I
hurt everyone.
Im now 15 and Im still small. Now Im a little girl with an even harder
situation. Now Im surrounded by authority. Theyre everywhere and all
in my face. They want answers. They want to know why.
But heres the thing: I still want to know why. They give me years and
the years go by and I keep wondering why. Im watching my youth
desert me like a long bus ride in the dead of night; the kind that lulls
you to sleep when you wake up not knowing where you are. It takes
years to change. I turn 18 and 21 in prison. I still hate myself.
Finally the old clich happens to me: I get tired. Im sick of ghting
because Im not winning. Its time to do what they said to do all those
years ago. I take a look at myself. Instead of accepting what I dont like
about myself or my situation, I change. I transform myself. I cant be-
lieve I didnt try this before. It seems like common sense and Ive always
been pretty smart, so
Never mind that. Ive always been intelligent. Now Im smart. And yeah,
now I know that I was a little hard. In my situation I had to be but now
Im STRONG. And that feels a lot better. I dont know if it comes with
age or struggle, but I know I took the longest route. I wish someone
wouldve shown me a freakin short cut
Like I said, they still tell me what to do, but its tolerable because I have
control of myself. Ill turn 26 this year. That makes 11 years of this. Im
what I thought was old then. And Im one of the lucky ones, with a
release date. Im winning now because my strategy is more efcient.
I dont need pills to sleep. The only thing that keeps me up anymore is
the thought that I wasnt the only one. Theres someone out there right
now, 13 or 15, with a situation and they cant see a way out. Thats
what keeps me up at night. I cant tell them before they come here and
I meet them. Theyre coming with 30, 40, 50 years now. Theyre com-
ing with life and thats an even bigger situation when you wake
up on that bus and you dont know where you are, you just know that
you dont want to lose anymore.
Q U E S T I O N S :
1. What is the writers crime? Count how many times the writer uses
the word they on the rst page. What ideas does she emphasize?
Who are they?
2. What kinds of self-destructive behaviors does this writer struggle
3. What is the difference between being hard and being strong?
Be careful who you ride with
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 16 running the streets selling
drugs, drinking, and everything else. Then one night I got into a car
with two dudes that I ran with to get a ride to a girl house. While on
the way the guys started talking some crazy stuff about killing some-
body, beating somebody up. I was in the back seat like whats going
on? Then that when my life went farther down that it already was. I
found out the car that I was riding in was stolen. Doesnt sound bad
do it being in a stolen car? It wasnt that bad until I found out that the
owner was in the trunk. I tried to nd out what had jumped off. But
they told me to chill, that I didnt have anything to do with it. I was
like let the man go, park the car and run. Not on the scared side but
more like trying to be the voice of reason. One thing lead to another
and they drove down a back road and beat the man up and throw him
in the river. Then they took me where I was going and they rolled out.
Less than a week later we were all picked up and charged with capital
murder during commission of robbery, capital murder during commis-
sion of abduction and robbery by presenting a rearm. What that boils
down to is I was facing the death penalty. One of my codefendants
copped out to two life sentences with parole and told the people that
I had something to do with it. I fought with a jury and two lawyers to
clean my name. I was found guilty of 1
degree murder solely because
I was there. Wrong place wrong time. The Judge gave me life with
parole. What day that parole will come I dont know. Here it is 15 years
later and Im still locked up. I can still hear my mother and great grand-
ma saying when I was younger Boy, trouble easy to get into, but hard
to get out of. Man how true that is. Be careful who you ride with.
Q U E S T I O N S :
1. What three crimes was this writer charged with?
2. Did he actively participate in any of these crimes?
3. He ends his letter with the warning Be careful who you ride with.
Why is this good advice?