ODYS (Ohio Department of Youth Services) aka juvi sent a couple of people to check out the OASIS program here at Pickaway Correctional to get a general idea of how we operate and if they can incorporate what we do into their program. The program director here picked a few of us to represent the program and answer any questions that they had and anything like that. I’ve been on a few panels like this before for officials from other corrections facilities and I really am glad to be able to offer up anything I can to help others who are struggling. But it’s been extremely difficult lately to go on acting like I am doing well and to act like a ‘role model’ to people like these prison officials and the people who write and support me. The truth is that I am feeling so many negative emotions that I feel as if I’m going to burst at the seams, I’ve felt this way before and the last time I got so drunk and after a night out, drinking and doing stupid things was my way out, I wanted so badly to feel something else. So there it is, no hiding it anymore. I used to be afraid of what people would think of me , but there’s no shortage on things that people can judge me for these days, I know who I am now. What I meant to talk about was how I feel so angry, and with every day in here I get sicker and sicker. With each holiday or birthday that passes, with each person that I lose, it gets harder to be in here, not easier like I had originally thought. It’s like the longer I’m doing positive things and staying sober and trying to be a good person, the more appealing it looks to go back to what I was. I chose to never deal with anything and now I remember why, feelings can be good, but they can hurt too. This little voice is constantly asking me, “why are we suffering unnecessarily, we could be feeling nothing right now, we could be passing these years by without remembering a goddamn thing, this very feeling is why we chose not to participate in this world.” …….But then I remember, and I dig deep, and I clench my teeth, and I keep moving forward, because I promised.- Matthew Cordle
I get asked a lot about my brother. Mostly about how he is doing. And honestly it changes on a daily basis. I go to visit as often as I can, typically every week. I dread going to visit. Even a year later, I am still not used to it. I am also worried for the day that I do become used to it, I hope it never happens. You can tell for some people/families in the waiting area that they are used to it, that this is normal for them, that they’ve been here before. I try not to judge but I always feel out of place. Depending on the day it can be very busy. If so, then you wait until your number is called. I try not to talk to much to anyone because you never know who they are there to see. I was naive about that at first. But what if the person they are there to see doesnt get along with the person you are there to see….or many other things. Every time the same process, you check in with the visitors guard, show them your ID and who you are there to see, they stamp your hand and give you a key for a locker. You can only take in a vending machine card, visiting pass and your ID, everything else goes in a locker. Most of the guards are pretty friendly with me now as they know who I am. I try to be respectful and make it easy for them. You go through a metal detector. I try to look and dress as plain as possible. Trust me I am not trying to impress anyone there! Once through the metal detctor you then go through a set of doors and show your ID to another guard with your stamped hand. They will then open the second set of doors into the visiting area. Once in the visiting area you give your pass to the guard….and honestly Im not really sure where they take it then. But the pass indicates to them which inmate you are there to see. I have my favorite guard, he is an older guy, always gives me crap but in a joking way. He knows my brother, he knows everyone in my families name, he pays attention. Then you sit in an old chair and wait. There is a small plastic patio like table in between you chair and the inmates. I usually wait about 30 minutes. The guards blame my brother for being slow, and my brother blames the guards for not calling him. I can’t help but watch other people around me. It breaks my heart to see kids coming to visit their Dad’s. I always wonder how these guys all ended up here. Then I wonder…..how did I end up here? How am I visiting someone in prison? By the time my mind really starts to wander my brother comes out. We hug tight. I try to keep our visits fun, making jokes, laughing. Its the only time he really gets “away”. I get him food from the vending machine. He usually wants the same thing every time, chicken sandwich, ruffles chips and a coke. Every now and then a coffee. I used to try and stay all day, but its exhausting. So usually I just stay a few hours now. Leaving is the worst. My heart hurts as I walk back through the double doors and he walks back into prison. I almost always tear up as I walk to my car. No matter if we had a great visit or not…..leaving him there is painful.
Today I visited after being gone for 2 weeks. We were both excited to see each other. He was hungry right away. We chatted just about the week. Then we just started arguing about things. You can tell we were both just frustrated. I wasnt telling him what he wanted to hear and in turn he was treating me rudely. We sat in silence for a few minutes and then I said we should change the subject. He said he wasn’t mad at me just this whole situation. I started crying….which since he has been in prison I have never done in front of him. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to sob even harder but just hid my face in my hands. I wanted to run out of that place. But I didn’t. I picked my head up and realized he had tears in his eyes too. As hard as this is for me, it is that much harder on him. He can’t cry in there so I made a stupid joke. We both laughed and the rest of our visit was great. This is reality. This is our reality anyways. There are good days and bad days but the fact is no matter what I will stick by my brother, I will let him vent, I will understand when he is taking it out on me, I will be there to pick up both of our pieces. That is what family is all about. And right now that is all I can offer him.
I’m constantly being tested all of the time. Life has a way of making us prove what we say we are. I’m doing my best to always make sure that my words match my actions because they never did in the past. I fall short a lot of the time and fall back on what I know when I get pressed but I am changing, I feel different. I can keep going when things get tough where in the past I would have cut and run. The difference is that I am finding out who I am and what I stand for. Now that I’m somewhat healthy it’s easy to see that the majority of people are lost like I was, they were just better at hiding it. I can feel Vince all of the time tugging at my heart and my mind when I start to fall, letting me go too far before I have clarity again. So many things we all do are self-destructive and we seek validation because we don’t feel good about ourselves. That emotional shroud can manifest itself into something very real if left unchecked, look at what I did. We live in a society of apathetic, conceited young people who are constantly overcompensating for a void, I am living proof of that. I read a packet called ‘King Baby’ and it was as if someone had written on paper everything that goes on in my head that I would never want anyone to know. More importantly I realized how afraid I really am of….well everything. The reason that I am changing now is because I am more afraid of hurting someone again. I commented before on ‘I’ve been looking my whole life, I just don’t know what the hell for.” What I’ve been searching for is myself, and the certainty of knowing who I am. We all go through that struggle and the key to it is actually facing what’s in front of us. I’ve questioned myself more in the past 18 months than I ever have, doing what I did forced me to, and I almost didn’t survive it but what I found was certainty in who I didn’t want to be, who I want to be, and most importantly who I am. -Matthew Cordle
So my grandmother’s health is steadily declining and my sister explained to me that the doctor had a conversation with her about making some tough decisions. Honestly with such a long sentence I have entertained the possibility of not seeing my grandma again, but accepting something like that is impossible. Words can’t describe how much I love my grandma, she had always been my best friend and having her always think the world of me is what has kept me in this world. She is the most amazing person in the world, she is the kindest woman you will ever meet but she protects the people she loves like a lioness. She has endured more than most people have in ten lifetimes and she has endured it with more grace and love than anyone ever has. She has experienced so many negative things in her life but given out so much more positivity. She is my light and whatever happens that will never extinguish. I will see her again one way or the other, if it can’t be in person then it will be in our dreams. I think about how much she means to me and if I would ever be able to forgive someone if they took her from me in the same manner that I took Vince from the ones who loved him like some of them have forgiven me. That strength is the same strength that my grandma has, the strength of love, the strength of her heart. I love you grandma.– Matt Cordle
Well I’ve got to apologize for not writing in so long, I’ve had a lot of things on my mind and my focus has been out of touch. The honest reason why I didn’t want to write is because I am having relationship troubles and was too embarassed to write about what my focus is on. My girlfriend broke it off with me 3 months ago and it really messed me up to lose someone who was there for me since day one. I wasn’t alright at first, but some good friends in here like my dude Sully really put things in perspective and helped me to understand what our loved one’s on the outside go through. After awhile her and I started talking again but it seems like it isn’t going the way I want it to and I have to accept that, struggling with that is why my focus has been so off. I’ve come to realize that it’s always been easy for me to start things of with women, but keeping them in my life in a healthy relationship is a different story. The counselors here say that I have abandonment issues (sorry for being so cliche) and that I’ve never even put myself out there enough to give them the opportunity to hurt me. When I start to care about someone, I get overly afraid that I am going to lose them so then for some reason I systematically make that happen. I become fixated, overprotective and controlling and that’s not how a man should act so I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve dealt with a lot of my issues over the past year in this oasis program but I have really been avoiding the fact that I hate myself. I doubt there’s many people out there who would describe me as insecure but by taking a look at everything that I’ve done it’s clear to see that I have no regard for myself. In fact, everything I’ve done is to hurt myself and in doing so I hurt people around me in the process. My sister asked me a lot when this whole thing started about how I didn’t get mad at what some of the negative comments were saying, and the truth is that no one has said anything worse than what I say about myself in my head every day so it didn’t effect me, if anything it made me more comfortable. I told you all of that to tell you this, I cannot love anyone else until I can truly say that I love myself. I am finding out who I am and what I stand for and I can say that I like who I am becoming but I am nowhere close to being where I want to be. After I killed Vince, Ive been working on forgiving myself for what I have done I promised him that I would live out both our lives, because I owe a debt greater than I can ever repay. A promise is easier to make than it is to keep and god damnit it’s so hard to stay positive in here but I have no other choice….I’ve made life unbearable for people that I think of everyday, and if they can keep going than so can I. It’s time for me to start acting like the man that I promised I would be, and that starts off with loving myself, not grasping at happiness with someone else. -Matthew Cordle
I’ve been incarcerated for ten months now, I haven’t written in awhile because I have been in a very bad place mentally. Prison itself is not half as bad as you all think, of course it is horrible by any realistic, humane standards but the real punishment is simply a purgatory. That’s what prison is, purgatory, and you have to find a way to live with what you’ve done. I haven’t figured that part out yet but I won’t let this place break me either.
Most of the other inmates in here are just as lost as I am or either they are too ignorant to even acknowledge. I was raised with pretty good values and morals and I am ashamed of myself most days at all of the horrible things that happen to people in here that I have to overlook or ignore, the main priority in here is self-preservation, that’s all. The best way I can describe prison is imagine that you are in a neighborhood that you always avoid or always lock your doors when you drive through it, you know the kind, now imagine being stuck in it. That’s what prison is like, the scum of the earth all gathered into one place and I’m one of them. Enough of that though, I am about four months away from completing the recovery program that I am in, I am nearly a year sober, I am in better shape than I’ve been since the Army, I am working on a lot of issues I have emotionally and I have an amazing support system around me including my family, my beautiful girlfriend, and all of the amazing people that have taken the time to reach out to me and let me know that they are simply thinking of me. I will be starting college at Ohio University very soon and I promise that I will earn my bachelor’s degree no matter what. My sister and I still are trying to get past the prison to be able to be proactive in this movement towards a better society, one where we can all understand that what we do strongly affects everybody around us, something that I learned too late. I’ll talk about that for a second, the truth is that I haven’t even begun to deal with taking Vince’s life, I don’t know how. Every time that I try it feels as if I’m trying to step on a set of train tracks and try to stop the train. It’s overwhelming beyond words and sometimes I feel like I have no right, everything that I do to try and prevent unnecessary deaths in the future will only remind and hurt the Canzani family of what I have robbed them of. Even this very post is doing that. The one year anniversary just recently passed of the crash and I am proud of the things that Alex did over at becauseisaidiwould. I myself faced it like a coward, I did everything I could not to think of what I had done. Breaking down is not a luxury that I have in here, I spent a moment in the shower grieving the loss at my hands but it quickly turned into frustration and anger and I took it out on the brick walls. Sometimes I wish I could just scream at the top of my lungs and tear everything I can get my hands on apart, that’s how tremendous this frustration is, it torments me inside. But doing that wouldn’t solve anything and it wouldn’t bring Vince back. The good thing about purgatory is that it can end, and one day I will be away from this place. I will either find a way or make one.- Matt Cordle
I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. If you follow our organization on facebook hopefully you will see we have been quite busy!!!! We launched the official website with the help of Wild Daughters and are VERY excited and proud of it. Please check out this site and we would love to hear any feedback. Launching a non profit organzation is pretty much like a full time job (that you dont get paid for haha) I have realized. But I do believe this is an important cause and my heart is in the right place to prevent other families from dealing with these tragedies. My hopes is for others to learn from our experiences and to not make the same decisions that won’t only effect you, but your family, your victim and their family.
That being said I do have a full time job, family, try to visit Matt whenever I can, and stay updated on relevant topics and events for Save Your Victim. I hope you can understand the lack of posts from Matt lately but they will be continuting here shortly-the lack hasnt been from Matt, its been because I have fallen off track with getting them up! I have many letters and posts that Matthew has sent me and I know many people are genuinely interested in him and his story. Thank you for your patience and continued support! I am always open to comments, stories, suggestions, any feedback good or bad. Also please SHARE your story with us under the GET INVOLVED page! You never know who may be helped by your expeirence!
I reached out to “Because I said I would” and the founder, Alex Sheen, responded immediately. He expressed his sympathy and wanted to get to know me and more about the situation before moving forward. He became somewhat of a mentor to me and more importantly, a friend that I desperately needed. He challenged me to face my feelings and warned me of possible outcomes from what we were hoping to accomplish, although I don’t think either of us could have seen the impact would be made. We agreed that the best way to reach people was to share my first hand circumstances and what I had done. The video was edited and scored because the senseless loss of life deserves time and effort. The video was released on September 3rd, 2013 and within 48 hours had 2 million views. In the media craze that followed were both were contacted by every major new station, all the way up to the producers from Oprah. We really never imagined this, maybe it would make news in Columbus we had thought. Alex has been in contact with one Vincent Canzani’s daughter throughout all of this. She asked that I not take part in any media interviews through the duration of the legal process and I promised I wouldnt because notoriety was not what it was about. The message of the video is what was and still is important. -Matthew Cordle
I was isolated out in a house my family owns along the river so I had a lot of time to think to myself. When my family and friends would come to check on me I usually would pretend I was preoccupied and pray they would leave quickly. I couldn’t face them. I was taking my prescribed anxiety and pain medication at the time, way over the recommended amount because I didn’t want to face myself. All the while the feeling that I was going down the wrong path was growing in my heart and mind. My own family seemed to be breaking under the pressure of what I had done and I began thinking that if my family feels this way, what kind of hell Vincent’s family and loved ones must be going through. I couldn’t shake that thought and then asked myself, what is more important, how many years I spend in prison or my life and my soul for the rest of my days? The answer was clear to me, forget the legal side of this tragedy and the right thing was simple and always right in front of me. After I told my family about my decision to simply take responsibility and plead guilty, we sought out a lawyer who was a friend of the family and I knew I could trust. They contacted the prosecutor’s office and still weeks went by with no charges. A new emotion began to take hold in me and I was filled with desire to take all of this pain I had caused, and turn it into something that could hopefully open people’s eyes. To see what I didn’t. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and in the weak state I was in I desperately need guidance. -Matthew Cordle
I want to continue now with some of the events that followed the crash and I will try to get back into my mindframe at the time. It may be jumbled so I ask that my sister helps by adding her point of view to explain situations better and even filling in things that I may have forgot. I may be repeating myself but the first thing after waking up I just remember seeing the faces of my family around me and I knew that what had happened was real. I’ll never forget what their faces looked like, a mix of unconditoional concern but more so I could read anger and resentment in their eyes. I had tested them again and again by not being the man I should have been and I felt in that moment that I was forsaken. The emotions are simply impossible to describe but I dont think I was capable of truly grasping how much suffering I had caused and felt numb. I said many times that it felt like I was on a different planet, lost, disconnected. My sister offered to let me recover at her house and my mother had flown in to help take care of me. The first few weeks passed by in a fog. I was unsure why they hadn’t charged me yet and felt despicable walking around, it seemed like people could see right through me. Fear and self-preservation were in my mind and I met with lawyers in hope of escaping prison time. The laywers wanted me in treatment, which I did, and wanted to bring in “experts” to refute the blood tests and say the procedure, testing, etc were faulty. I’m not knocking the lawyers though, it is their job to defend their client and I was the one asking them to get me out of this mess. For some reason, I still wasn’t charged with the crime but I see it as fate, it gave me time to realize what I had to do. When I was in alcohol treatment, the lawyers had asked me not to reveal to much about the crash because there was a chance some of the other patients or even counselors could be subpoened. So I was in treatment to deal with these issues but I couldn’t talk about them, at that point I knew the route I was taking was wrong. -Matthew Cordle
When Matt really woke up for the first time in the hospital and we were all standing around him, there were a lot of emotions. He is right in what he said and must have read it on our faces. We all love him so much it hurts, but at the same time he did something so terrible that none of us condone. My family is extremly close though and we all stick by each other no matter what. That’s what family means. We realized he was going to be (physcially) okay and panic mode set in. Many family meetings happened at the hospital, my house and over the next month as we tried to figure out what to do next. I would be lying if I didn’t encourage Matt to figure out a way out of this, use the law in his favor, get the most expensive lawyer. It was all for selfish reasons. We still don’t know why Matt wasn’t immediately arrested. Honestly after a month had gone by I seriously started to question if maybe they had forgotten? Maybe he wouldn’t be arrested? I would like to think my family is well educated so we knew better…..but had we not known I would have really thought that Matt had “gotten out of this mess”. Staying at my house I could see Matthew going thru many emotions. We all were. I started finding myself wanting to know more about Vincent and his family. Matt went to an outpatient rehab facility, my father drove him everyday. But hes right, it was pointless. He couldn’t talk about anything, which only frustrated and angered him. After spending a few weeks at my house, he moved up to our families river house. Although he was alone….we called him everyday and my grandparents stopped by everyday to check on him. He was just in state of limbo at this point.- Sarah Alasya (sister)