Finding hope as a lifer

A biweekly column in which various contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.


Seeing life in a better light from the vantage point from which I now stand [as an inmate in the Rush City Correctional Facility] hasn’t always been easy, especially when darkness and struggle are found all around to the point that  life feels like its pains are consuming and its challenges are capable of drowning you.

How and when does hope kick in?

For me personally, the process took years for that focus to come to fruition. What I was really looking for to happen couldn’t be given to me out of the hands of somebody else — it could only come from myself.

I had no more time to be a part of the “blind leading the blind” (metaphorically speaking) when I was sentenced to life in prison in March of 2003. Now, unfortunately for me, my whole life, mentality and reality had changed. Nothing that might happen in prison seemed “far-fetched” when my life’s perspective left me looking for or expecting the worst out of every situation.

It took re-educating myself to again become alive with the very notion that despite my prison circumstance, that if I was ever going to experience that hope that seemed to have faded, it was going to be incumbent upon me to turn the soil of the soul and begin to cultivate the culture of the seeds planted in order to make a difference. Then and only then would hope come alive, because it was never about me but changing the culture in which I lived. There lay faith, hope and love!

In the midst of this re-educating and turning of the soul, it became crystal clear that the thought of me one day being all alone on my own, with all of my loved ones who were here for me no longer living because my “sentence” had surpassed their existence, was a vision of reality that vexed my spirit man and troubled my mind.

The gravity of this notion enlightened and awakened in me an awareness that was always present but had remained dormant until my spirit man was ready to receive the plain truth of this reality. I became fully informed just how valuable and precious our time really is. This empathy for life brought into focus my purpose, my vision, my hope, to their full existence.

It dawned on me that I didn’t have the greatness like so many others to change the world, but I possessed the intellect to add to it, thereby giving way to hope to find residence in the hearts of so many that were lost and confused by deception, manipulation and optical illusions. Hope had no choice but to show up, because it was the very key to transcending to the next level in life.

Faith, hope and love: These three had to become alive in me in order to make any transcendence possible.


Brian Clifton is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “Bridging the Gap” partnership. Reader responses are welcome to To learn more about the organization’s work, visit