First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the picture I am about to share with you because of what it has done to me, and what it will likely do to you. I searched through my stack of pictures carefully to find one that would vividly illustrate to you the loss that violence brings, but there were no pictures to convey the gravity of what I’d like to share. I have chosen to paint a picture with words. Long before I stepped inside of a prison cell, I knew first hand just what violence could take away. Most of you think you know too but I want you to take another look. I want you to be as intimate with the loss that comes from violence as I am. Violence is my sister saying, “Are you going to prison? What did you do?” Violence is my little nephew telling his nana that if he eats all of his vegetables, his muscles will turn to rocks because all that he remembers of his uncle is squeezing his arms in a prison visiting room. Violence is my youngest sister who received the brunt of my teasing and taunting crying as she blew out the candles on her birthday cake because all she wished for was for her big brother to come home. Violence is taking a person’s life, and a death certificate that says, “Parents too distraught to sign. ” Violence is an empty place at the table, a missing face in family photos. Violence is the emptiness that is left behind. Violence is the guttural sound that escaped my mothers lips when the judge sentenced me to life. Violence is the consolement that I tried to offer her when I said, “Momma I’m okay and everything is going to be alright.”  Violence is the 23 years that I’ve spent trying to atone for something for which there is no atonement. Violence is the tears that streamed down my face as I share my regret with you now. I will spend the rest of my entire life in deep regret for the violence within me, and more importantly the painful loss to the family of the victim as well as the victim. Violence is the picture of regret that I have painted of the despair that I will never be able to erase. I only hope you never ever have to paint such a picture yourselves. It was really taxing to put this on paper but I want to tell my story and stand in my truth so that it may help those out in the free world to think before they act, so they don’t have to go through what I am going through for life.