I became a part of the adult prison system at age 15, after being certified as an adult for capital murder in 1994. I have been incarcerated since. My time in this place I call “concrete hell” has been a struggle. Every day it has been a struggle to maintain the willpower towards achieving my freedom. I know though, that without a struggle there can be no progress. What has kept me alive and going is surely not me, but the desire to help youth and adults realize we have a problem in America that we can only change together.

I can recall a time, a few years ago, when the thought of death was the only thing that gave me comfort. I thought that here in prison, pleasure could never be a reality. Pleasure is a strong motive here in prison that gives us the ability to stay alive. Unlike many who could see light down the road with a release date that seemed realistic, I knew I had to do 40 years flat time on my life sentence to see a release date. Due to the constant pain of prison life, that date did not look too close.

I only had two things going for me that I could benefit from, my young age and a class here in prison called Cognitive Intervention. I was on the Allred unit when I took this class. My teacher, who saved my life was named Mr. Desautels. Mr. D. is one of the smartest men that I have ever had the opportunity to learn from. I remember walking into his class as he played Kenny G on his c.d. player. I just pulled up a chair and asked him “if you had a life sentence with no idea when you would be going home, what would you do?” he looked at me and said “Hicks, if I was in your shoes, I would do one of two things, I would either kill myself or find something meaningful to do here… find something meaningful, Hicks”

Those words saved my life. Coming from a man with so much discipline, patience and a way of thinking that at times made him Godly, I had to look deep into his answer. One thing, for sure, me and him was on the same page about death. I wanted to break down and tell him how I really felt, but the male ego that controlled my emotions told me not to push it. I just thought to myself, “What could be meaningful here in prison???” two years later, I figured it out