Essay by anaraboHigh School, 12th gradeA+, November 2008

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Freedom has become my enemy. These celled walls have become my home. The structure, the familiarity, it’s all I’ve known for the past thirty years of my life. I am a prisoner, and I belong here in this forsaken cage. This is what they’ve taught us since the day we stepped inside. We are dangerous. We know no good. We deserve to be here. This is what they’ve imprinted in our minds, and we started to believe them. We gave up yelling and protesting and got used to the idea that this place was home.

The letter I got today told me I had to leave. A new government policy was trying to combat overcrowded prisons by letting those who had low-risk behaviour go back to society. I was given the chance to walk away free and go back to the life I only dreamed of returning to. I had always hoped that this day would come, but when it did, I wasn’t greeted by the life I remember.

Months had gone by and I had seen how judgemental the world could be. They label you a criminal because you’ve gone to jail. They run away because they think you are a bad person for doing time. But they don’t know me. They don’t know who I am, or what kind of person I can be. I never knew it would be this hard. Everywhere I turn, I would be followed by looks of disgust and stealthy murmurs. I don’t know what’s worse: good people thinking bad thoughts about you, or bad people trying to physically hurt you.

I sit in my dingy apartment, staring into the old dilapidated fan. Its slow whirring blades trigger a rush of thoughts and memories. I remember the night that changed my life. We...