Luis Cristobal Vega Sr
All letters have been transcribed to be read with a screen reader. For instance, ampersands have been replaced with "and." Unique grammar and spelling have been preserved whenever possible. Personal information, such as inmate numbers, has been removed to protect the privacy of the authors.
Let us work toward healing and break the cycle of being "Broken Together."
This last year has truly been a testament to who I am. Throughout (the last several months) I faced my most fierce battles emotionally. I was denied work release, betrayed by someone I truly loved, experienced nearly losing my son to gun violence and denied my appeal for clemency. For a while I lost hope and by the grace of god and the advice of Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Winters sought the help of mental health. When explained how I'd (sit) out the bench and stare off into the parking lot for hours on end, I was told I went through a dissociative state. To be honest I was broken. I tried to figure out why no matter how hard I tried to do the right thing, life kept beating me down. I contemplated going back to my old ways gang banging and manipulating the pain I felt on to others, but realized I was incapable of doing that because that man no longer existed. I was lost or so I'd thought, until reality set in. I had no recollection of who I was or how to be that person, because it was never [page 2] truly me. Instead I went full speed ahead and dove deeper into the man I'd become refusing to allow my pain to guide me (further) into muddy terrain. Broken together saved my life, and once again it was the advice of the most influential person I've ever had in my life Mrs. --- Johnson. When I wanted to give up, she encouraged me to go on. When I cried she listened, (even cried with me but) continued to utter the words “I believe in you!” In recent weeks I've faced ridicule by staff which influenced some if not most of my peers to condemn my commitment toward change an advocating change to others. I've been labeled a sell out, (the police), a coward, a bitch and any other inappropriate adjective you can think of, but as 2Pac would say "Still I rise.” I've had the luxury of seeing people and their many different faces both in my personal life and prison life. I've seen people attempt to both stunt [page 3] my growth and nurture it. There is much work to be done to bring what some of us envision for Stateville MSU to life, but the right pieces are beginning to appear. Outside of our counselors here, the officer (Mrs. ---- Ross) assigned to programming has contributed (so much positivity) both to the atmosphere and (emotional) welfare emotional of (so) many of us here. I say all that to say Broken Together consist of more than the beautiful, brave, and bold men in the class. Broken Together has very much become a part of Stateville MSU. I guess what I asked for in my initial. Essay about this becoming infectious (has now become) true. Change is a commitment and overcoming pain is a choice, but I've learned if I commit to pain life will always hurt. On the flip side change is filled with surprises, but I know I can expect something new each day. And that is a life worth living. I guess I'd like to end with how persevering pays off. On March 31st, 2023 I was granted the opportunity to leave [page 4] for work release. As I fought to stay committed to this path in life, unbeknownst to me, others fought to get me another chance. This is my final class as the facilitator of Broken Together but as Mrs. Johnson taught us I'm a perennial and the seeds have been sowed for the next season of Broken Together. Mrs. Winters you were right a delay doesn't mean a denial. To my brothers my thoughts, prayers. And hopes reside with you always, let us work toward healing and break the cycle of being "Broken Together."
Dr. Anne Knafl I am forever indebted to you!!