Regaining My Self Worth

TheLastMilePhoeun You

San Quentin State Prison


I will not preach about why I am in prison or how bad I was before I entered prison. However, I will share with you my experiences about how stressful life is inside prison and how bad it is to be doing time.

Imagine yourself as a lifer from an early age. All your freedom and fun you would’ve experienced is now gone. Just sitting here inside these walls, with only limited things to do. I can’t help but think about the good ol’ days. I try not to, but at times my mind seems to always wonder on its own: thinking about my family and friends, how they are doing, and the pain that I’ve caused them. I can still clearly remember looking back in the courtroom, to see the tears as they rolled down my mother’s and sister’s faces, as they heard  the  verdict-“guilty.”

To this day, I continue to worry from hearing news of my mother having diabetes, and my sister murdered by a jealous boyfriend. My heart aches and misses them dearly. Besides my family, there are also the simple pleasures of life that I miss: beautiful girls, home cooked meals, and the son I still haven’t yet met. I often think of them, and the simple things. I try to picture how my life would have been like if I was a free man.

What will forever haunt me is that I took an innocent person’s life. No matter how bad my life is today, I will always be ashamed and feel emptiness knowing the person’s life I took never had a chance to see tomorrow. I had no right to do what I did. At times I wish I could trade places with him, maybe this would ease my mind. Nevertheless, the choice I made is something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

Through all of this pain, I’ve learned to be patient and keep my anger in check as I deal with other obstacles in prison: the ignorance of the other inmates and the guards who at times test my limits. Not too long ago I was walking the yard enjoying the fresh air, when two guards approached me and one of them said, “Hands on the wall and strip down to your boxers.” “For what,” I asked. The guard said with a smile, “This is prison, I can do that.” I hesitated, but complied. After the guards left, my anger from the humiliation had set in. You don’t know how badly I wanted to jump up and tell him how I felt.

Wearing the badge didn’t give him the right to belittle me.

I tell myself giving up is not an option, but I know that my chances of getting out are slim. In the meantime, I will continue to try to do everything I can to better myself so I won’t slip back to my hard headed ways. Through programs and school, I’ve managed to maintain a sense of hope and keep what’s left of my sanity. Also, now that I finally realize the importance of education, everyday seems to look and feel brighter. Through education I’ve regained my self worth. I believe everyone deserves to have value and meaning in their lives.

If you can take away anything that I’ve said, please know that education is power. (Tweet-worthy!) Giving up on education is like giving up on yourself. So do the right thing, stay in school, keep educating yourself, and never give up. God bless.


All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM

  • jerry

    Phoeun, keep on striving.

    • The Daily Love

      Thanks for the encouragement, Jerry! -TDL Team

  • I know how badly you wanted to jump up and tell him how you felt.

    Have you read the book “Houses of Healing” by Robin Casarjian? Check it our here: The exercises are great!

    Can you try to find within yourself the emotion and the reason this emotion surfaced from the very beginning that caused you to take another person’s life? Who were you really mad at and why? What is the hurt and pain and in which situation? When you can feel that emotion fully, understand, forgive and let go of that originating situation (probably from your childhood), you will set yourself a little more free, at least emotionally.

  • Floyd S Hall

    To my brother Phoeun; You have inspired me yet again this is wonderful insight into your mind a life. THANKS FOR SHARING IT.

    • The Daily Love

      Thanks for reading, Floyd! -TDL Team

  • leslie

    Dear Pheoun,
    Thank you so much for taking the time, and for having
    the courage to share your most authentic innermost thoughts. I am so
    proud of you! While what you did (i.e., taking some one’s life) was not a
    good thing, and while I also know that you do not believe what I
    believe to be true….I do pray that one day you will experience the
    absolute love and the ultimate peace of forgiveness that only Jesus
    can bring. I am so sorry that you are in an environment where you are
    continually forced to experience humiliation and condescension at the
    hands of mean, condescending and ungodly people. I pray that the Lord
    gives you strength to practice humility and patience and to realize that
    it has nothing to do with you or your perceived lack of self worth.
    Remember what M.C.Hammer “hammered” into his presentation at DEMO DAY?
    He admonished and encouraged every man to NOT look back, but to look
    forward. One day, you will know the freedom to no longer hold onto the
    shame and guilt. What’s done is done. You have SO MUCH to offer
    others. With God, everything is possible!
    In the meantime, continue to learn and educate yourself and grow. God bless you!

    PS I printed out your essay to share with other inmates with whom I correspond who really need to hear what you have to say about education! THANK YOU!

  • Jani

    You have obviously learned so much – educationally and emotionally – and no one can take any of that away from you! Good for you for not giving in and allowing the guard’s behavior to (negatively) affect you any more than it has to. You have a great outlook and a way of looking at things that will raise you over obtsacles that others would not be able to hurdle.
    Bless you!

  • Cindy

    This sure tugs at my heartstrings! In the past, I have prayed fro my own son who is in prison. I guess it is just a mother thing, but after having read your essay, I want you to know that now I will pray for all prisoners, that if they don’t know the Lord, that they will. I pray so you can have a better life. I pray for you and your family and that of other inmates. I pray for the victims and their families , as well. God knows each crime, each reason, and each criminal, each victim. Anyway, just wanted you to know that OI am also praying for you now.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Pheoun You!