Written by: Peter Shelton
Edited by: Latif Torres-Robinson
This is prison life through my eyes. First, let me introduce myself and give you a quick summary of who I am. My name is Peter Obryan Shelton. I was born on February 25, 1982, and I’m the oldest of 8 siblings – 3 brothers and 4 beautiful sisters. My father’s name is Peter, too; however, I am not a Junior because we don’t share last names. My pop’s last name is Oxendine, but my mother, Miranda Shelton, gave me her family’s last name.
My mom was a strong single parent, raising four of us on her own. She never showed any signs of giving up. My father – who is also my twin – didn’t live in the same household, but he was there for me. He is my hero because even while fighting his own demons (drug addiction), he always came through for me.
I begin running the streets early, and when I say anything came with the streets, I literately mean I either seen it or done it. My life began taking a left turn when I was introduced to drugs. I started smoking weed in the 5th grade. My childhood best friend, Kelly “Smurf” Brown, used to steal his older brother’s blunt (marijuana) roaches and then him and I would smoke them. My drug addiction progressed fast. I went from smoking weed to doing cocaine to snorting heroin. I got exposed to coke (cocaine) and dope (heroin) by my closest kin. I will admit, however, that heroin was forced on me. A relative, who I looked up to put a gun to my head and I snorted it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the things that followed behind getting high.
I don’t feel any type of animosity towards my relatives because they were young, too, and didn’t really understand the serious nature of addiction. They are truly forgiven and loved.
Fast forward, my drug addiction has landed me in prison three times. I have given the state 20 of my last 22 years. I’ve lost all of my childhood friends and a lot of my relatives have given up on me and disappeared. I am, however, blessed to have the ones who are still in my corner and I will hold on to them with everything I got.
I have seen a lot behind these walls, but I will only speak on the mentality of the men I am around. It used to be geographical – Richmond area versus Tidewater, for example. But now it’s gangland. What I’ve noticed is how Black men in prison act toward each other; for example, when a White man comes in the block other White men will approach him and they’ll make him feel comfortable, even will give him something to eat, hygiene, or whatever. The same applies to the Spanish guys – they all eat as a community. Black men, however, are the complete opposite. When a new Black man enters the block, the other Blacks look at him crazy and will dislike him without getting to know him. I, too, am guilty of these socially inept acts.
Everyday I wake-up and work on myself. I try to do something productive and be a better man. I have a daughter, and as a man and first time father, it would break my heart and I would probably die if my daughter felt a piece of this daily pain I feel. I tell myself that I have to change, so I can break this curse that continues to destroy my family. I know I have to start somewhere. I feel like in order to understand why my mentality is the way it is, I have to know who I am, and in order to know who I am I have to know where I came from.
In prison everything could be magnified times ten, making the smallest situations the biggest problems. Some men will sell you a dream and they’ll have you believing in something that would never happen, which would have you running the people that you love out of your life because you’re losing your mind without realizing it. And if you’ve never been here, you’ll never know you’re going crazy and you won’t recognize how dangerous it is because here you are needing help with your mental health, but you don’t seek the help because you don’t realize you need it.
Eventually you’re released back into society and life is overwhelming. You end up where you left off because you go to what’s less complicated – in other words, what you know best. You numb yourself with over-the-counter medications and/or drugs because you don’t know how to handle everything that’s thrown at you. Next thing you know, your probation officer is violating you for a dirty urine and/or you return to a life of crime. A lot could have been avoided only if you had talked to someone to understand why you think the way you do, changing your street mentality. The prison mentality can be dangerous because taking this way of thinking into the real world (society) will bring you back to prison every time.
“Most individuals live life with the tools they were given and they don’t bother to add new equipment to their tool box;. However this wounded man, Peter Shelton, understands he was given the wrong tools. Though still in pain and growing, he’s acquiring new tools and trying to fix his life with them. The only thing worse than a failure is a person who doesn’t try to succeed. As for Mr. Peter, he’s definitely a work in progress.” – Latif Torres-Robinson