|Once again it’s been few months. I guess I’m afraid to write on here a lot because I don’t want what’s in my head to spill over onto here. Like somehow if I don’t say it or write these things out loud then they don’t exist. I got to thinking though, that type of disconnect is the exact environment needed to let negativity grow and fester. The only place that depressive thoughts and feelings can persist is in our heads. That is why it is so frustrating, because it makes no sense in our external lives. As soon as we verbalize things out loud and express them, they become much easier to manage and deal with because we realize just how irrational they are. Yet for some reason the usual response is the opposite. Why? For me it’s partly because I don’t want people to worry about me, also because I don’t feel like I should be complaining after the things I have done. Another part of me is so comfortable with the depressive thoughts, that dark feelings and moods are almost second nature and very easy to wrap myself in. And yet another part of me feels something else that I’m not quite comfortable sharing, but I am aware of it.
Anyway, a lot has been going on….and a whole lot of nothing. I had the opportunity to apply for early release in August that would have allowed me to be released as early as November 19th of this year. Unfortunately I was denied early release and will be here for the duration of my sentence, which is just 16 more months. I was very upset and angry, old feelings of arrogance and selfishness came into play, but I stopped feeling sorry for myself relatively quickly and remembered that I am where I need to be for what I did. I also recently celebrated 5 years on sobriety on October 23rd. It doesn’t feel like anything special, but I am proud of it. The last time I drank was some hooch the night I got sentenced. I understand that drinking after doing what I did to Vince under the influence of alcohol was horrendous, but all I can think to say is that I am glad I have matured into someone who does not make the same irrational choices that I have always made in the past.
I hope to start writing more as my release gets closer about the transition process. I think it’s an important thing to document, and not something we hear about too much in detail but is especially important in the day and age of the opioid epidemic. Thanks for reading.
Five years ago today I senselessly took the life of a man named Vince Canzani. The pain that I have caused everyone who cared about Vince is immeasurable. Not a moment goes by when I don’t remember that pain and temper all of my actions against it.
I am blessed enough to have a support system that enabled me to further my education while in prison, and I have now earned my degree. Education, and the discipline it requires, has given me a purpose and helped me to become a better person overall. I now realize that education and learning is a strong deterrent to destructive decisions, like the one I made. The function of SYV is to prevent destructive decisions that result in the harm of those around us, and I believe education is a practical application to achieve that goal.
While all of you got a sneak peak, I am thrilled to announce that this news was officially shared with De’Ante Winfrey today. He has been awarded the first installment of the SYV Atonement Scholarship, so that he may pursue his education while incarcerated. He knew this was something we were trying to get together, but now that all has been confirmed we will be providing regular updates when he receives his books and materials, and also his journey through his education. I know he will appreciate all of the support from you all and will use this opportunity to better himself and those he meets in the future. We are excited to invest in those who are making positive changes in their lives in hope of creating a better tomorrow for all.
I want to thank everyone for your continued support and I look forward to continuing our mission. Please comment with well wishes we can pass along to De’Ante and ideas for the future.
Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and well wishes for me and my family. We’ve also gotten some good feedback on creating the educational scholarship I mentioned previously. We’re working through the logistics of enabling donations through Facebook, but fortunately have been able raised enough funds outside of Facebook to kick things off. In this post, I would like to tell you about why I want to create this opportunity, and ask that you considering supporting this effort once we’re able to open that up to you all.
When I first began my prison sentence, I was racked with grief over what I had done, and the difficult situation I now found myself in. While I was beginning on the right path, there was still turmoil in my mind and my actions. I felt somewhat like I was on an emotional rollercoaster as I went through the throes of change.
I joined a therapeutic community called OASIS*, and I attribute the man I am today to the guidance I received there. There were both counselors and graduates of the program who I aspired to be more like. The first individual who will be receiving the Atonement Scholarship will be one of these people. In this person, I saw such strength, determination, focus, and grace unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I also saw true remorse and an extreme pain with which he measured every future action he took, something I recognize within myself. I learned that this man had taken a life when he was 16 years old, the rest of his story I will leave to him to tell (which he willingly and openly will do). I did not know him before he decided to change himself, but through the values and character he instilled in himself during his incarceration, I believe he is genuine and sincere in his remorse.
This man’s name is De’Ante Winfrey. He has provided guidance to me throughout my time in the program, and beyond as my friend and someone I respect. Winfrey takes every opportunity he can to better himself, and has gotten involved in every educational program he can. He recently completed his paralegal degree through the prison, just to name one. In watching him continue to be positive, help those around him, and learn everything he can, a thought kept occurring in my mind. “He should have the opportunity to further his education, I want to help get him into college.” This is the thought that continually ran through my mind and inspired me to create this scholarship.
If I’ve learned anything through achieving my own education in here, it’s that guidance and having a purpose are necessary to succeed in life. Those are two factors that are hard to come by in prison, and increasingly hard to come by out there in society as well. This is why I wanted to create the Atonement Scholarship, to give an opportunity for purpose and guidance to an offender, and to the victim, the person the offender has affected through destructive actions. My hope is that providing this opportunity will give the offender the growth needed to never harm anyone again, and that those affected by the crime will have an opportunity to pursue their passion through education. The program for the offender will be through Ohio University’s Correctional Education program (the same one I am in), and the other party receiving the scholarship will be able to apply the funds to any educational institution of their choosing.
I know the idea of investing in an individual who has caused immeasurable harm comes with controversy, but I also know that the love and support I have received after causing a tragedy has helped me to grow and be shaped into a man who will never cause harm again. I’m asking for the same generosity I was given to be extended in hopes of bettering the lives of others, and ultimately society as a whole.
Thank you for reading and for your continued support in so many ways. We’ll keep you up to date on De’Ante’s journey, and will hopefully have donation capabilities up and running soon! With your support, we hope to enhance the lives of victims and offenders continually across time.
*The Oasis Therapeutic Community (TC) is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Pickaway Correctional Institution servicing male offenders with substance abuse problems. OASIS stands for “Our Awareness of Self Increases Success” and the name was created by its first residents. TC focuses the residents on right living in a pro-social community and recovery through a shared therapeutic structure that includes communal meetings, encounter groups, education, organized recreation, and the like. There are 2 paths in OASIS: one is an Intensive Program Prison model that runs 4 months at PCI and 3 months in the community. The other is a long term program running 9-12 months in the institution. Residents are held to a high degree of accountability. Staff are there to help guide and assist, but the residents are the primary role models holding each other to a high standard. TC has proven very effective in helping offenders “go home to stay”.
I don’t want to forget that I also have good news to share. Several months ago now, my sister Grace surprised me at a visit (right in the middle of a picture) and told me that she was pregnant. I want to share that photo….my face says it all. I can’t wait to be an uncle and feel so happy for my sister and her husband. I’m excited to see her be a great mom.
My dad has also received some good news. After a long battle with some health issues, he is finally healthy and is on his way to feeling better. I can’t even begin to describe what a great feeling that is for our entire family.
Life is just a series of events, the way we look at it gives it meaning. I choose to look at the positive things now. It would be easy to get wrapped up in the negativity of this place, but how selfish would that be when all of these wonderful things are happening in my family?
I want to apologize again for the lack of activity on here recently. It is important to me that we keep trying to do positive things to help people. That brings me to our next project. As well as raising awareness and organizing safe-ride events, I would like to add a third part to our mission. That third part will be in the form of education. Now that I have dove into my education, I realize that it is the greatest opportunity you can give to someone else. It has provided me with guidance and a purpose while in this place. My hope is that we can provide a scholarship fund to both the victim and the offender of a destructive decision such as my own. That way, we provide an opportunity to the victim, or the family member of a victim, to open doors and pursue his or her passion. To the offender, this would help to ensure that he or she better him or herself so that they do not follow the same path as before. I am open to ideas on this and would like to hear from you on this topic. Thank you in advance for your feedback.
I will leave it at that for now. Time to hit the books and study.
I know it has been some time since I last wrote, and I apologize. I can’t begin to say how vital your support has been in the forms of letters and well-wishes, so I do want to make sure that I continue to share back. I guess I should start by explaining why I felt I needed to take a break. I had read the things I had been writing and I didn’t quite like the voice that I had at the time. It became clear to me that I still had things I needed to experience and grow from in order to find my true voice. I realized I needed to just put my head down, grit my teeth and persevere on my own path before really being able to embody the person I want to be. Retreating and withdrawing from things had always been my MO in the past when things felt tough, but it was not that- this was about growth.
This past year has been a time of deep sadness but also immeasurable joy, like I have never felt before. My grandfather passed away on October 11th, 2016 and my grandmother followed him on February 13th, 2017. I was able to attend a viewing for each of them, which I was extremely grateful for. I remember standing in front of my grandfather’s body while in chains and thinking that I was so ashamed, that I had let him down. It was in the months following his passing that I feared I had not really changed. I felt myself wanting so badly to let myself be destroyed by the pain I was feeling, which is how I “dealt” with things before. My grandmother was also very ill in those months after, and we knew that she would follow my grandfather before long. She suffered from dementia, so phone calls from me more often confused her than not. However, the weekend before she passed we had a conversation where she was almost entirely lucid. I will forever be grateful for that conversation. When she passed and I had the opportunity to say goodbye in person, I no longer felt shame but instead felt an overwhelming feeling of warmth throughout my body. It was then that I realized that taking time to really reflect on and face my own issues had helped me to become a different man. I would not selfishly give in to my own hurt because I was able to see that doing so takes me away from the people that I love and causes them grief. The pain of losing my grandparents further reinforced the fact that I never want to inflict those feelings of loss on anyone else ever again.
So I’ve been staying positive and continue to work on myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. I keep taking classes and pursuing my degree like my grandfather always wanted for me. I’m proud to say that I earned my Associates Degree in Social Sciences from Ohio University towards the end of 2017. This is not the end of my educational path, but it is a step to get to where I want to be in the Psychology field. It has not been easy, but not a moment goes by where I don’t cherish every breath that I am blessed to take. The night that I took away Vince’s life nearly four and a half years ago I forfeited my life along with his. It was only by an unfair chance that I received mine back while stealing his. In every moment I remember that, while my chest rises and falls, and my heart beats, his does not. His family and friends feel that every day. So in every struggle I have, I realize that it is a privilege to struggle, and I had damn well better endure it. I will end for now with this. We are all facing our own battles every single day, and in those battles you will struggle and there will be times when you feel like giving up. Those times are the most important moments to discover who you truly are. During those times, hold on dearly to the reason why you keep on going. That next second that you keep on going when you don’t want to is all the proof you need to know that you can overcome it…because you just did a moment ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year hasn’t been all struggles. My family has also had plenty of highs that I’m excited to share with you in my next post. I’ll also be sharing an exciting idea I have around helping others reap the benefits that I now know working towards a degree can bring. I realize that the gift of education is the greatest opportunity that can be given to someone and I want to pass on that opportunity to both offenders and victims of destructive decisions to enhance their lives and give them the chance to establish a productive path forward. I’ll need help with ideas on how to accomplish this goal and I’m excited to work together on it!- Matthew
I don’t know when the last time I wrote was, but it could easily be close to a year. I’ve been incarcerated for over two years now. That’s something that I never thought would be a part of my life but this life is like clockwork to me now. I am now a progam aide for the rehab/recovery program here at PCI, and I keep moving forward by helping others move forward too. I am in college both here at the prison through Sinclair CC and through correspondence courses at Ohio U. I have completed about 25 hours so far an am working on another 21 this semester, so I’ve been staying busy. I play music in my free time, and I also follow a strict workout plan everyday. I have never been so disciplined in my entire life.
After awhile in here I started to notice that I began feeling numb a lot. I really am making the best of everything but doing 6 1/2 years in this place requires more than just strength. Some of the smallest things are really what gets to me. It is hard to let people care about me when I know that there is still so much time left before I get out and they will just leave before then anyway. There are people who consistently try to reach out to me but I know that once I engage them, the clock starts ticking on when they will not care anymore. It’s just the way it is in here.
I think about Vince a lot, and I’ve figured out that I will never forgive myself for what I did to him. I am still grappling with it, but it is like trying to hold onto lightning. I can’t rationalize the thought of doing what I did and still being able to be a good person. I can’t seem to make those feelings mesh together so I avoid that too and keep it in the back of my thoughts. I know I am going to have to confront it all at some point, but whenever I try I am already broken before I get anywhere. I don’t know what the next step is but I do know that I will be able to handle it when I need to. That’s one thing that prison had taught me, I am much stronger than I thought I was and I can handle anything that is put in front of me. I still have work to do but I am proud of myself. After I get my degree I will focus on dealing with these emotional and abandonment issues that I have, as well as figuring out how to deal with guilt. That’s my plan for now at least, continue to build myself.
Hey everybody, we’re gearing up to do another safe-ride event and I am very happy that we are able to do positive things like this and that it has been so effective so far. My hope is that one day we are available to be out there every weekend, if you give someone the ability to do the right thing then they will usually live up to that and getting home safe is certainly something worth fighting for. I just wanted to thank everyone who has given their support to Save Your Victim and what we are trying to do. With your support my wonderful family can keep doing what they are doing.
Night is when they come for me/ When I close my eyes and my body is still/ My mind is weak/ The dark shades the shadow as they come for me/ They wait for the night/ I don’t notice/ They wait for the absence of light/ I want to forget/ They tell me this hurts too much/ I can feel myself slipping/ They tell me that I don’t have to fight anymore/ I can feel myself sinking/ They tell me I’ll never be good again/ I can feel myself drowning/ They choke me from the inside/ But I thought I had beaten this feeling/ They tell me I know nothing/ I can feel myself losing/ They call me murderer/ I can feel myself turning/ They tell me I belong with them/ An impact/ A whirlwind/ What’s that smell/ Everything’s upside down/ I’m choking/ It hurts/ What’s that smell/ My eyes don’t work/ Someone else/ Does he hurt like me/ I don’t want to know/ His life is gone/ I stole it/ For what/ There was no reason/ What a waste/ Forgive me/ You know you haven’t dealt with this/ Because it hurts too much/ Because you’re a coward/ Forgive me/ Everything they say is true/ I want to forget/ You’ll never forget/ This hurts too much/ You’ll never forget/ They come for me in the night– Matthew Cordle
I’m having an emotional night. And what better time to write then huh? Tonight I finished up some filming for a driver education program I have been helping with. The filming is being done at PNN which is Prison News Network at Marion prison. It is run by inmates. Most of them have very long, if not life sentences. Most have also already served quite a bit of time. From the moment I did my first filming session I felt very comfortable working with the inmates. They were all very respectful and professional. I treated them just like any other person and you could tell they immediately appreciated that. You can also tell this group of guys are extremly close and dedicated to their work. They tend to stay away from the rest of the prison and spend as many hours working as they can. They all have different jobs, most of them have learned or taught themselves a skill….such as editing, graphics, voiceovers etc. I was very impressed by the whole system. I had no idea anything like this even existed within a prison. Before my brother went to prison, in all honesty I didn’t think twice about prisons or the people in it. I didn’t care and just assumed most belonged there. My eyes have obviously been forced open. The more I see and get to know, the more shocked I am at how naive I was. Tonight, I was actually sad leaving this group of guys that I have worked with the past few months. I will miss talking with them, getting to know them. The real truth is, I will probably never see any of them again. But one sticks out. He has done bad things. He has a life sentence. When I first met him I didn’t know that so I never judged him. He is now in his sixties and been in prison over half his life. He is also sick. Very sick and will most likely die in prison. Over this time I have come to know him and genuinely like him. We joke and give each other “crap”. We surprisngly have similar sarcastic personalities but live in two completely different worlds. Tonight when I saw him I knew he wasn’t doing very well. Later I heard he probably doesn’t have long left. As I was leaving he said goodbye and thanked me for being his friend. I don’t know what he “deserves” in this life, I don’t know what is fair “punishment” for his crimes and I am glad I don’t have to be the judge of that. I am thankful I met him as he changed my mind. I struggle with the things he has done many years ago, but my sister commented that it’s okay to focus on the good parts of people. I do believe in second chances, I believe people change. If we don’t believe than what is the point? What is the point of prisons, rehabs, programs, etc. No matter how long he has been in prison and what he has done to better himself, most likely he will be remembered for the crimes he committed. I worry about that fate for my brother as well. We have to give those who have done wrong a second chance. We have to forgive the past and allow them to become a new person, a better person.
New Year’s – For obvious reasons this year has been an extremely difficult time in my life, I’ve spent the whole year incarcerated and have missed out on the things that makes life so precious. I’ve lost people close to me and will continue to lose more as the years go on. I don’t think of holidays at all, because it is painful both knowing that I took away someone’s holdays with their family forever and I’ve taken myself away from my loved ones for a long time. The New Year is especially important to me though, it signifies me closer to getting out of this place, which becomes every prisoner’s ultimate goal, but it also makes me think of the promises I have made and if I am working towards being better as I leave here. My resolution for 2015 is to simply be better, to be more. I was a horrible son to my parents, a horrible sibling to my sisters, a horrible friend to my friends, and I was a horrible man to my girlfriend who I lost and miss more than anything which really caused me to reflect a lot. I’m not hard on myself for this because I have needed to adjust and adapt to this tough situation that I put myself in and I’ve been working out the bumps along the way and the people that really want to be in my life and love me have understood that and stood by my side unfailingly. This year I want to be better for them, I want to be there in whatever way I can as far as loving, supporting, and caring for them since I cannot be there physically for them. I want to be a constant in their lives where they know they can talk to me and not be judged but always find love and caring there, because that’s when I’m at my best. I want to continue to increase and better myself so I can be the best man I can be for the one’s I love and bring them as much happiness as they have given me. That’s my resolution for 2015. As always, everyone remember to celebrate the New Year in a safe way with the people that really matter.