Q&A with Rickey
Engaging with the outside world helps to keep Rickey going. Below Rickey answers questions you have asked about his life and experiences. Got a question for Rickey? Submit your questions using the form below.
The best way I can describe living under these inhumane conditions is to liken it to a dog kennel that was designed to house humans instead. The attitude/personality of those who are ‘in charge’ as well as those who populate these walls differ by the day. I’m confined to a cage for 22 hrs a day, 5 days a week, well actually it’s more than that, being that this place is grossly understaffed. I’m forced to eat, sleep and use the toilet in the same small space, and the only time I am able to leave this cage is AFTER I endure a degrading strip search and I’m placed into hand restraints so the guards can escort me from point A to B. My life is spent in complete isolation, void of human contact, other than that of the guards, or access to TVs, regular phone calls or any other amenities we’ve grown accustomed to as humans.
It depends. Because I have no control over when I’m able to leave this cage. I tend to base my day around the recreation schedule, assuming we’re able to have recreation. I’ve been nocturnal since I was a kid, so normally, unless I’m scheduled to go to recreation between 6am-10am, I’m usually asleep from 6am-2pm. (I’m intentional about getting 8 hrs of sleep.) When I awake, I begin my day with 15-30 minutes of meditation, then I’ll workout. After that, it depends on what I have going on or need to do. I’ll spend time catching up on mail, if needed, reading, listening to programs on NPR (one of my favorite radio stations) or, if I’m feeling inspired and have the materials, I’ll create some art. From 10pm-5am I’m usually writing while listening to music. Trust me, my days ARE as boring as they sound, but I do my best to make the most out of each one, to be as productive as I can and to find reasons to laugh daily, which isn’t that hard because I’m low-key goofy as hell. I end each day with 15-30 minutes of meditation, to process my day mentally, spiritually and emotionally, as well as to clear my mind before I go to sleep.
With the exception of the whole degrading aspect that comes with being here, I’ve experienced some highs and lows. These walls have the ability to bring out the best or worst in a person, that’s with ‘inmates’ and guards alike, so at times it’s like navigating a mine field. For the most part, my experiences, with people, haven’t been bad. I’ve had to establish ‘checks and balances’ with a few people, but in general, I’m given the respect that’s due, and I’ve managed to avoid the drama that comes with prison life. I’d like to say that that’s due to the way I carry myself and handle others. Being here can be a challenge, especially when I KNOW that ALL the evidence used against me during my trial was either blatantly false or twisted out of context.
My biggest challenge has been not being there for my loved ones, being that I’ve always been family oriented, and watching those I’ve built relationships with be walked off the unit to be executed. There’s also the emotional roller coaster that comes with dealing with the appeal courts that I and my loved ones have to endure. Things haven’t been ALL bad, though. If there’s a ‘silver lining’ to my being unjustly & wrongfully convicted and sentenced to be murdered by the state, it’s the fact that since being here, I have “shed my old skin’ and evolved into the man I am today. I’m more attune with self – mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally, and I’ve built some solid, genuine friendships over the years. I’ve become an overall better person, and know that once I’ve returned to where I am supposed to be (on your side of these walls) my contributions to society will be great because of this experience.
I have to give credence to multiple people and things for that. For starters, there’s my faith and mental fortitude that has given me the strength needed to withstand the pressure of these omnipresent 4 walls, and to hold onto to my belief that this place will not be my final destination in life. Then, just as important is the unwavering support that I have received from my Queen (mother), brothers, and a few very close friends and family members who’ve helped me immensely over the years. Having that solid foundation to stand on has given me the strength needed to press forward, especially during the hard times. I also HAVE to give credit to the people who have sent their letters of support, offering friendship and an escape from these walls. I can’t begin to express how much those letters have helped me over the years. Other than that, there’s books, music and meditation, which are also vehicles used to ‘escape’ these walls.
Outside of the personal things I have planned, i.e., spending time with family, building with my son and just living and enjoying life with the mind-set of the man I am today, my ultimate goal is to go back to school so I can become a youth counselor. I plan to use my life story/experiences as a deterrent of sorts by going into inner cities, youth jails and schools and building with kids that society has deemed at risk. Not just that, I also want to start a mentor program, because I do not feel that ‘talking’ is enough. We need men and women that our youth can identify with and who they respect to SHOW them a different way of being/living, and to help them navigate any obstacles life will throw their way. I truly feel like this is my life calling. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had to play the role of an ‘overseer’ of kids or the mediator in my family; and I’ve always had leadership abilities, though back then, unfortunately, I didn’t always use those abilities for the best of reasons. As the saying goes, though: when you know better, you do better.
I think we as adults tend to make the mistake of thinking that there’s some universal, one size fits all, message that can be given to all children. There isn’t. What I’d do is share my story with them so they’ll know that I come from the same place as them, and have been through some of the same things they have, then I’ll sit down and talk WITH them. Depending on what they share, I will give them whatever counsel I feel they could use. We have to be willing to be quiet and REALLY listen to what the youth have to say in order to give them the help they need. We also have to provide the safe space for them to step into. So, ONE thing I would let ALL children/teens know is the same thing I tell everyone I build with, and that’s with and IN me they have a ‘safe space’ they can turn to, and speak as openly & honestly as they want without fear of being judged and ridiculed. And that I’ll always have their best interest at heart.
No person in this world is perfect, but every person has the ability to evolve into the best version of themselves if the proper tools, time and space are provided, and they are willing to put in the work themselves. I admit that I didn’t live the best of lifestyles, but over the years I have put in the work needed to evolve from the person I was; so when you see me, SEE ME as I AM, not as who I once was.
Because you could be me, well, you could easily be in my position. Have you ever had a rumor spread in your neighborhood or school growing up? Or been accused and punished for something you did not do? What if that rumor led to your arrest and you were sentenced to death, and you were trapped in a cage, despite having EVIDENCE to PROVE that the “evidence/testimony” used against you was false? Now, ask yourself this: what would I want someone on the outside to do for me? It’s my belief that we should always be the type of person we would want others to be for/towards us.
To learn more about how you can join this fight with me, visit ‘Stand with Rickey’.