We are making available a number of brief statements written by individuals
serving Life Without Parole sentences in Massachusetts. Here's one story...
My name is Mark. I'm 46 years old. I'm serving life without parole, and I've been incarcerated for 27 years.
In October of 1993, I shot three men during an armed robbery. One of these men died. I had just turned 20 years old.
My first few years in prison were filled with bitterness and anger. I clung to the belief that it was me who had been victimized. First, I'd been abruptly discharged from the Marine Corps for an illness that proved not to be. This left me feeling robbed of my future. Then, just two short years later, I found myself awaiting trial for murder, and any hope of claiming another future for myself was gone.
MCI-Walpole presented a different kind of future and served to reinforce this belief that I was the victim. I was a kid, barely a man, suddenly immersed in a world unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was surrounded by men far tougher and hardened than I ever was. I did not belong there. And yet, it was there, in that environment where I came to know real fear. The bitterness and anger I directed outward began to turn inward. I believe it was also there that the first seeds of remorse began to germinate. At the time, I would have called it regret, but now, looking back, I can clearly recall the shame I felt, as well. The harm I caused my family came to the fore of my thoughts daily. And deep below this, where I feared to peer too closely, another kind of shame hid, waiting for a time to come when I could fully take responsibility for what I'd done.
Three years passed before I felt ready to try this, and by this time I had been transferred to Old Colony in Bridgewater. I remember the moment clearly. The prison chaplain ambushed me in the hallway and invited me to an event. I accepted, reluctantly, and looking back, I think this kind act likely saved my life. The church offered me a sense of welcome and acceptance I'd not felt in a very long time. As a boy, I was raised in the Catholic Church, attending Catholic schools. And so there, at Old Colony, I wasn't so much "saved" as I was welcomed home. The Church was where I began healing, and in turn, where I began to own the truth about what I'd done. Little by little, I found myself waking to the possibilities of change.
I'd like to say, as people often do, that I was reborn. But the truth is, I simply grew up. I was not a new man; I was still that flawed boy who committed a terrible act. But, I was also something more now. I was a man who desired to be better.
In 1998, I applied for a job in the prison print shop. I needed something constructive and purposeful. I was hired at $0.50 an hour as a janitor. When I left that shop last year to come here to Norfolk, I was the architect of the print shop's graphic design department with seven men training under me.
During that 20 year span, I also branched out from the Church to seek answers beyond those provided by my faith. I lived in the library, reading everything I could get my hands on. I joined groups like Alternatives to Violence and Restorative Justice, becoming a facilitator in each to help men cope with the same issues I faced. I attended forgiveness seminars and participated in the Inside Out program sponsored by Bridgewater State College. I found as I healed and grew and matured that I was also able to help men do the same, which in turn helped me. It was a cycle of sorts, giving proof to a fundamental precept of my faith - that it is better to give than receive.
In 2005, my direct appeal was denied, reaffirming, as I knew it would, that I was to spend the rest of my life in prison. That same week, I published my first novel. Life goes on.
By 2009, I had two more novels published and I had also convinced the administration at Old Colony to permit a writers workshop. I recruited outside volunteers from Bridgewater State and together we helped aspiring authors work on their stories and taught about the complex world of publishing.
Last year, I transferred here to Norfolk. I spent 23 years at Old Colony, and while I will never think of it as anything other than a prison, there is a part of me that recognizes it as the place where I learned [how] to be a good man. I grew up at Old Colony, and that fact will always be part of my story.
Here at Norfolk, I've begun a new chapter. Here, it's not the print shop, it's the metal shop, where I work as a welder. It's not a writing class, here, it's Emotional Awareness. It's also groups like the Jericho Circle Project, where I'm a facilitator. And I'm still involved with Alternatives to Violence and Restorative Justice and the Church. I've got a fourth novel ready to go, and I'm loving the new library. In short, I'm still growing and I'm still learning to be a better man.
I would be remiss here if I failed to mention my loving and supportive family, especially my beautiful wife and daughter who constantly remind me that I'm a wonderful man who is nowhere near as clever as I think I am. They long for a day when I might come home and share in the world they've built. I do too.
I stand here before you today a lifer. I am a man who has committed murder. I am a man sentenced to die in prison. This is not something I can change. It is as much a part of me as any other. But equally as much a part of me is my belief that the worst moment of my life does not define my life. Yes, I am a murderer, to my great shame. And yes, I am a lifer, to my deep regret. But, I am also a Christian, a good son, a caring brother, a doting uncle, a loving husband and father, a hard and skilled worker, a successful author, a compassionate and supportive peer, a man deeply flawed but also deeply committed to personal growth, and a man who had every reason to give up, but instead chose to stand here today to share my story with you. I am a man who has changed, and I hope, a man deserving of a second chance.
I thank you all for reading this today and for this opportunity to speak. I wish you all the very best moving forward.
I continue to try to atone for the life that was lost by giving back to the inside (prison) community and outside community. I have spent the last 27 years working with youths in a program called Second Thoughts, counseling at-risk youth regarding life style choices. I stepped down in 2019, to focus on my role as the Restorative Justice (RJ) Internal Coordinator in which I participate in yearly Retreats, as well as RJ Victim Offender Education Groups, Reading Groups, Reentry Groups, and other such RJ programming. Restorative Justice has help me understand the harms that have been caused to the victims of my crime. I also work in the Protestant Community, as a leader, teacher and preacher in the services. I will continue to give back in efforts to try to repair the many harms that I have caused to my victims’ family, my family and to the community.