|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.
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
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