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Remove The Handcuffs



I distinctly remember the first time I was placed in handcuffs (and every subsequent time, sadly) and how helpless I felt. I’d never felt such grave despair as I did in that moment and every instance thereafter. My will was over; the officer’s will was all that mattered and prevailed over mine. The handcuffs were in large part the deciding factor in that happening.

Although I was still in custody when we arrived at the county jail, when those cold, steel handcuffs were removed, my brain immediately calculated a sense of liberation — albeit not in its truest essence. It was certainly still enough to make me appreciate the little bit of “freedom” I had in being able to move my arms and hands as I pleased, even if my entire body was still being held captive. Yet, ironically, I cannot tell you how often I have picked up a set of handcuffs, slapped them on myself, and locked them only to soon find myself complaining about their severe discomfort and remarkable restriction. I’d be glad to explain.

Countless people find themselves continuing to carry shame stemming from their past — a past they rationally know they cannot change. For instance, many who believe in a religion that declares their sins are forgiven if only they confess them through prayer and humbly ask for them to be forgiven will readily admit that although they believe their Higher Power has forgiven them of their sins, they still have a hard time forgiving themselves. They “give it” (the burden from the past) away to their Higher Power, then time after time they snatch it right back. Why? Is it an attempt to retain some control over their transgressions, even though they intuitively and cognitively know that’s impossible? Is it because they feel they are not worthy of being forgiven and living without the burdens of their past? I don’t know. What I do know is holding on to past shame and regrets as though you owe them something is nothing less than staying handcuffed to them. If you allow it, the past has a way of constraining you in every imaginable way: careerwise, relationships, friendships, mental and physical health, and much more.

Similar to not forgiving oneself for past transgressions is harboring resentment toward another. We all know at least one person who can stubbornly hold a grudge for years! Yet, it is not the person (or people) he/she detests that is being harmed, it is the one who has chosen to carry the animosity. In all likelihood the other person has long moved on from the incident and doesn’t even have a clue that a grudge is being held against them, while the other person seethes day after day, month after month, year after year, not allowing themselves to break from the past and freely move into the future. This common occurance is tantamount to waking up every morning, grabbing the handcuffs off the dresser, and locking them onto your wrists as you attempt to get your day started. Can you imagine how limiting this would be if you actually did this with a tangible set of handcuffs? But is there really a practical difference between the limitations one is faced with when confined by physical handcuffs versus the constraints of metaphorical mental and emotional handcuffs? In fact, the argument could be reasonably made that metal cuffs merely limit your physical movement while the other kind impacts your life in every other meaningful way, having far more consequential and debilitating effects.

The past is the past for a reason: we can’t go back and relive it, change it, or erase it. But the present is also the present for a reason: we are meant to live in it, cherish it, and treat it as the gift it is. When we allow (emphasis on ‘allow’) our past to affect our present, which in turn affects our future, we are giving it far more power and influence than it deserves. The handcuffs we willingly wear that keep us bound to the past are only keeping us from the many promises that the present and future have to offer. Remember: forgiveness of others is not for their benefit, but for ours. It only harms me if I carry around the burden of bitterness, so I choose to relieve myself of that insidious grief by forgiving others as I hope they would me. Understanding that reinforces my need to let it go. Doing this ensures those steely cold handcuffs stay right where they are and not locked around my wrists — and my life.

grad-pic-outsideIn 2013 Martin L. Lockett published his memoir, Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose. During his incarceration, he has earned a Certificate of Human Services  from Louisiana State University, AA from Indiana University, BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo, and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He continues to tutor in the GED program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, and co-facilitates an impaired driver victims impact panel. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.


Martin Lockett’s Review of Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian


Initially when I began reading this book, I thought it was going to give me all the reasons why I needed to change my thinking (as an inmate), yet offer not much in the way of breaking down how I could do it — thankfully I was wrong! Houses of Healing is a remarkable guide on how one can truly delve deeply within themselves to peel back the many layers and discover why they are who they are and how they can begin to emerge into the person they know they can become.

This book’s author has created and taught a well-known program within prison walls for over the past two decades. Through this program, countless inmates have come to discover their true selves, inner passions, and potential by first confronting the pain and turmoil they suffered as a child and slowly but surely learning how to work through it. You might be thinking this could only happen with a therapist right there to walk you through such a tumultuous journey — I thought the same. However, Casarjian composed this book to act as a surrogate counselor, walking with you every arduous step of the way, ultimately leading you to a place of healing and self-discovery.

She uses a psychoanalytic approach (focused on tapping into one’s unconscious thoughts and influences that have, unbeknown to them, guided his/her behavior) to bring about this therapeutic breakthrough, whereby the “Inner Child” is the point of reference she asks her readers to get in touch with. The Inner Child, she suggests, resides deeply within all of us and, for prisoners in particular, this Inner Child’s unresolved conflicts that took place decades ago is often at the root of our self-destructive (i.e. substance addiction, violence, criminality, etc.) behavior. We are unable to change such embedded patterns of behavior without first getting in touch with the Inner Child that we’ve “buried” as a means to protect him or her — ourselves.

I read this book with an open mind, allowing the concepts and teachings to sink in. At times I wanted to disregard what she was saying, or dismiss what she was asserting as not applicable to me, but then I realized this was yet again a defense mechanism I was trying to use to protect my Inner Child. When I mentally let my guard down and absorbed what was being said, I noticed how stirred up inside I became and how some discovery and healing was happening as a result. When you read this book and instinctively find yourself shutting down, press on harder. There’s a reason you are having that reaction; chances are it’s because what is being said is exactly what you need to hear and apply to your own life.

Houses of Healing is a highly respected and recommended book, especially by those who have a stake in correctional rehabilitation (i.e. educators, counselors, support group facilitators), namely inmates looking to take their lives in a new direction. This may very well be your guide to truly coming to understand why your life ended up where it did and, more importantly, how you can begin to change both your long-held thoughts and harmful behavioral patterns. If there were one book I could recommend to anyone in prison who is looking to understand why they may have made a series of bad choices (without even thinking about it) that landed them in prison, are tired of living that way and wish to change, this would be that book. Give it a try: you won ‘t be sorry you did.

grad-pic-outsideIn 2013 Martin L. Lockett published his memoir, Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose. During his incarceration, he has earned a Certificate of Human Services  from Louisiana State University, AA from Indiana University, BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo, and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He continues to tutor in the GED program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, and co-facilitates an impaired driver victims impact panel. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.

Martin Lockett’s Review of Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis by Jeff Smith

What a book! This in-depth, candid memoir depicts a prominent man’s epic fall from being a young hot shot politician with a sky’s-the-limit career staring him in the face to a convicted felon serving hard time in a federal prison among some of society’s most degenerate criminals. And yet, this 5′ 2″ suburbanite with a Ph.D was able to not only successfully conform and navigate his new survival-driven surroundings, but also thrive in numerous ways while coming away with a wealth of knowledge that has spurred his efforts to reform the criminal justice system from, once again, a position of prominence and privilege.

It’s not everyday that a politician is convicted of a campaign indiscretion (well, an illegal act in terms of campaign laws) and sent to federal prison, but Smith acknowledges and admits fault for his poor judgement, despite the fact that most who commit such crimes do so routinely and with impunity. He does not dwell on this fact, however, but instead chooses to focus on how he can best utilize his time — and that he does.

In his book, Smith takes his readers through a vivid depiction of prison life by narrating many personal anecdotes of his prison experience, relationships, and the peculiar dynamics that characterize prison life. He provides succinct translations of all institution jargon that he uses throughout the book for his readers’ comprehension, giving the full effect of his experience. We learn about his awkward adjustments to certain situations that could potentially get someone beat up or even killed, his run-ins with Aryan Brotherhood members who detested his association with black inmates, and his resourcefulness in using his superb athletic prowess to make friends while simultaneously building alliances. But this book is so much more than a memoir of intriguing tales of prison exploits and riveting episodes of survival among career criminals — so much more.

Former State Senator Smith was astonished to discover the plethora of untapped human talent locked away in state and federal prisons while he served time for a year. He began to draw the many connections between the prison population and the political world: both require a fierce tenacity in order to gain an advantage over others; both demand assertiveness and attentiveness to details in a world where complacency can be one’s literal or figurative demise. But even more than that, says Smith, there lies a mountain of human potential in the drug dealers who possess inherent, extraordinary entrepreneurial attributes, the embezzler who has superb accountant skills, and the con artist who is charismatic and possesses the gift of gab better than most. The issue, however, is the illegal ways they have used their gifts.

Smith advocates for rehabilitative mechanisms to be implemented in the criminal justice system that would not only educate and transform these men into productive members of society, using their gifts for the benefit of us all, but also demonstrates how investments in such resources would save the American taxpayers billions of dollars over time. He cites many studies that substantiate his claim, bolstering the legitimacy of his proposed solutions and causing the average, rationally-minded reader (regardless of where ones stands ideologically or politically) to think critically about the issue of mass incarceration and our philosophy as a nation on the criminal justice system.

This man’s tumultuous, unlikely journey is a compilation of entertaining stories of how anyone who didn’t grow up in a criminal environment might successfully adjust to the violent, predator-prey, perpetually volatile prison setting they are thrust into. It is also a very insightful, thoughtful manifesto of what is glaringly wrong with our current prison (and political) system and how it can begin to be rectified, benefiting all of America at the same time. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is one of my favorite books this year, and I am confident it will be one of yours. Give it a read — you won’t be sorry you did.


 In 2013 Martin L. Lockett published his memoir, Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose. During his incarceration, he has earned a Certificate of Human Services  from Louisiana State University, AA from Indiana University, BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo, and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He continues to tutor in the GED program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, and co-facilitates an impaired driver victims impact panel. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.

AI Quarterly E-Newsletter: Summer 2016

Hot off the presses, the AI Newsletter Summer 2016.

This publication was created for you – family members, friends, and advocates of prisoners. In each issue you will find useful resources for and from inmates; artwork, stories, and recommendations from both adopters and adoptees; and news from the staff. Don’t forget to print and send a copy to your inmate loved one. We do hope you enjoy it.
See the archive page for previous issues.

Page one is shown below, click the link above for the PDF file with clickable links.

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The Hardest Part of Prison by Martin Lockett

grief clouds

After a while, even the horrid conditions of prison become normal to its occupants. Waking up everyday in a concrete cell, being told when you can shower, use the phone, or even use the bathroom eventually fall into place as routine. No big deal — it just is. I suppose as humans, this is an essential feature and component of our survivability. We must and do adapt to even life’s most trying and tumultuous circumstances. Of course this is usually always preceded by the five phases of grief/loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance) that we undergo; but we do inevitably reach that final phase of acceptance at some point. After which, things settle and become normal again. Yet, the most dreaded, sinking feeling that I experienced for the third time in my incarceration last Thursday is something that I will never adapt to. It counters the most fundamental needs of humanity and leaves a scar that, unlike those made of flesh, don’t fade with time.

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If you love me … by Martin Lockett


I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone while regrettably being forced to listen to another inmate on the phone next to me scold his girlfriend or mother for not doing something he had asked them to do. “Why haven’t you sent the money? . . . you said you’d send it a week ago! You’re worthless!” Or the classic, “If you love me . . . ” only to manipulate the poor soul on the other end of the phone into feeling guilty for not doing something in a “timely” fashion.

Sadly, this mentality is prevalent in prison. It appears that when people come to prison they automatically expect the world to stop, wait for them, and make themselves available on a moment’s notice for whatever they need. They expect people they claim to love to stop what they’re doing anytime they call to do something they ask — right then and there. There’s no consideration or allowance for what their loved one is doing — it’s all about them.

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Martin Lockett’s Review of Lucy’s Legacy by Donald C. Johanson

lucys legacy cover

Fascinating. Riveting. Provocative. The list of superlatives to describe this book could go on for pages. Johanson – the famed archeologist who discovered the 3.2 million-year-old hominid (human ancestry) fossil – has written a book for the ages with this one. This book chronicles his expeditions into the ancient sites of Eastern Africa for the discovery of hominid bones in a vivid and relatable way. He speaks candidly about his discouragement and discontentment with findings (and the lack thereof) and allows his readers to feel as though they are right alongside him as he traverses these historic sites where he luckily “stumbles” across the most important fossils to mankind to date.

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Simply Human by Martin Lockett


easter bunny

This past Friday (also known as Good Friday) I volunteered to work in the visiting room. I’d been asked–along with several others–to man the table set up with freshly brewed coffee, assorted flavors of creamer, sugar, tea, instant cocoa, and all the utensils needed to prepare the drinks. Visitors–along with their inmate loved ones–were able to stop by the table and help themselves to what we had to offer.

Kids giggled as they walked up to the table because sitting behind it they witnessed two muscle-bound inmates ironically wearing harmless yellow bunny ears atop their heads. Yes, I wore the silly ears! But I reasoned that this was the lesser of two evils since another one of us had to dress up in a full white bunny suit–head and all! But he did it and the kids loved it!

The big bunny made his way around the visiting room (led by me because apparently the suit didn’t have eye openings), handing out Easter baskets full of goodies–ranging from chocolate bunnies to marshmallow bunnies to Nestle Crunch eggs–to the many children that were there to visit their father, uncles, and brothers. One little girl, who couldn’t have been more than a year old, clung to her daddy (an inmate) as she couldn’t decide whether to be terrified of the bunny or ecstatic that he was so close to her. She shrilled one second and laughed uncontrollably the next as the bunny entertained her. Indeed, this was the highlight of my time in the visiting room that day. This little girl was simply enjoying her interaction with a giant bunny with human qualities, completely oblivious to the environment she was in or the people it housed. All that mattered to her for those few precious minutes was my friend in his bunny costume. It was refreshing, innocent, and human–things I don’t get the privilege to encounter everyday.

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What Keeps Me Going: by Martin Lockett


What keeps me going is knowing that I’ll be able to talk to my fiancee by phone everyday. Prior to coming to prison, I didn’t value the simple pleasure of communicating with someone about daily routine activities, our thoughts, concerns, and everything in between–until now. I feel complete, appreciated, and important after our conversations because this woman has deemed it important enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer my call and share her life with me.

What keeps me going is knowing I have a strong support system in my family and friends who love me and assist me in things I need. As many of you know, we in prison don’t have access to the Internet or many other technological luxuries, so to know I can count on people in the world to research things, post blogs for me, and navigate cyber space on my behalf is immeasurable. Furthermore, after spending over seventeen years in prison, the technology I will be faced with upon my release will undoubtedly be my biggest obstacle, so knowing I have people who will help me acclimate to this ever-changing world is invaluable.

What keeps me going is receiving letters. Humans have a basic need of connecting with other people and this, I believe, becomes even more intensified–or made obvious–when we come to prison and are isolated from society. A letter–a simple letter–can and does have an enormous impact on one’s psyche, self esteem, and motivation. I cannot explain how much it means to me to know there are people out there who think I am important enough to take time out of their day to write me a letter and show me I matter. Their letters take me from this dreaded place and put me in a whole other world–even if only for a few moments. Among other things, these are what keep me going.


Martin L. Lockett is a GED tutor at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon. While Incarcerated, he has earned a Human Services Certificate from Louisiana State University, an AGS from Indiana University, and a BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.

Martin Lockett’s Review of The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

the other wes moore cover

This book was enjoyable from multiple standpoints. It was engaging and personable. It was compelling and sad. In short, it evoked a range of emotions that made it a memorable read.

The author, Wes Moore, keeps his readers engrossed by juxtaposing his story–beginning in childhood and culminating in his success as a serviceman and politician–alongside his not-so-fortunate counterpart (also named Wes Moore), who ends up in prison for life.

What I found most interesting was how two young men’s lives, who, coincidentally were given the same name at birth, could live mere blocks away from each other and yet end up in polar opposite circumstances in their adult lives. Wes Moore also noted this throughout his book, using it to underscore the importance of community resources, adult intervention, and positive steps that can be taken to change one’s outcome in life.

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