I call this “Still Hope.”
The common thing in prison is that it’s 90% mental and 10% physical. I’ve heard this a myriad of times, especially during exercise routines. The majority of my time spent incarcerated since age 16 has been done inside of a cell, which has resulted to me utilizing my mental faculties more so than indulging in physical activities or socializing. 11 years of this, now I’m 27, has gave me the understanding that prison is mostly mental and to remain sane is the biggest battle.
I witnessed the mental deterioration of fellow prisoners daily in the form of PTSD, hallucinations, violence, and suicide. On March 14th this year around 10:00 AM, my neighbor Assad was found hanging in the cell adjacent to where I’m currently housed. I viewed his cold corpse. He looked at real pale on a gurney. He seemed very normal the prior night; I still can’t fully process this all. Right before this, at least three correctional officers committed suicide at home; one took his own son’s life before turning the gun on himself. So this prison setting affects these officers also.
2020 has been the toughest year of my whole existence on earth, and I’m quite sure everyone inside prison and outside could agree to this. So me and a fellow prisoner named Cruz has come together to form a group aimed at generating hope during these trivial times. We’re naming his group Still Hope. He’s the artist and me, I’m the writer and poet. As a collective, we will express ourselves through art. All of our work will be donated. We’re aiming to raise funds and to get a sponsor who will represent us and advocate Still Hope.
If anyone listening is interested, contact me at my address through mail at Joadanus Olivas, CDC number AE9727, P.O. Box 409020, Ione, California 95640.
I’ve been asked: how do I continue on despite having a life sentence? Well, honestly, it’s hard to do this time. I have good days and bad days. The hardest part of incarceration for me is the correctional officers. Some of them make time hard for those who share my similar position of incarceration. I feel debilitated whenever I reflect on this reality of incarceration; I can’t do shit literally without them dictating my program.
But one thing that makes my time not so hard is outside support in the ability to communicate with loved ones or just being able to record this essay here. I generate positive energy through studying, exercise, and creative visualization about the future. I’ve never lost my insatiable appetite for all the above. I’ve never accepted defeat either. I always knew deep inside that they couldn’t hold me forever. I was a damn juvenile upon incarceration for non-homicide. Older fellow prisoners I know have done 20-plus years and they carry on, they still hope.
So what me and Cruz is forming is teaching this ability to carry on in Still Hope. Cruz has been away since 16 also, now he’s 41. We both have non-homicide cases and received life. So our redemption and release is inevitable. Hopefully someone is open minded to this all in context. Still Hope: despite the struggles and pain. Joadanus Olivas.
(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.