Biography of the Author
My name is Sabrena Morgan. I am 44 and I am currently on home confinement after serving 4 years of my 9 year sentence. I am a first time, nonviolent offender, and I served my sentence at a low security federal prison satellite camp in Pekin, Illinois.
I come from an extremely loving, caring, wonderful family that has never stopped cheering for me or believing in me even through my crazy journey. I love my family with all my heart. I have always been a little different and although I am by far the black sheep, I have never been treated that way. My loved ones have always blessed me with opportunity, endless support and encouragement, and unconditional love.
Throughout most of my life I have battled depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and some traumatic head injuries as a cherry on top. My life has been a roller coaster, and at times, it has been intense. It took me coming to prison and really working on myself to straighten up and fly right.
I could not ask for a better childhood. I was extremely curious and not really afraid, which turned out to be a scary combination later in my life. All I wanted and could think about was horses, and when I was 10, I got my very own horse. I was in heaven and a little obsessed.
I spent more time with my horses than I did with humans throughout my teenage years. While other kids were going to high school parties, I was busy traveling and showing horses. Home was wherever my horses were. I was able to pull myself away from the barn long enough to run cross country, play volleyball, be involved in multiple clubs and student council, and I managed to letter in academics through my high school years.
I accomplished all of this while quietly suffering through my mental issues that had already begun about the time I hit high school when I suffered my first head trauma from a horse wreck. My anxiety, depression, and eating disorders began to take on a life of their own and I found myself dipping my toe into the drug world to seek distraction and some relief. I began self-medicating. Before I knew it, I was secretly exploring the depths of the drug world, something that was unacceptable in my family and shameful to me, but I was intrigued and was not ready to give it up. I learned to keep that part of my life separate and very secret, and began living a double life.
After high school, I continued living my double life and getting a little deeper into drugs. I went on to receive my degree in liberal arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I had always loved school and learning, but I loved drugs too. I was accepted to law school and completed my first year, but I was not ready, and by that time the lines between normal life and that of my double life had begun to blur. I could not take any of it anymore. I do not know how I pulled it off, but somehow, I decided to quit everything. School and the drugs had become too much and miraculously I walked away from it all.
I was sober and had spent my life planning on being a lawyer and now I had to figure out something new. I did some odd jobs and then one morning I woke up and went into my parents living room and my mom asked what I was going to do that day. I told her I was going to real estate school and I was going to be a realtor. She told me I was going to be the best realtor ever, and off I went to make it happen. I always loved looking at houses, real estate just made sense and I loved it. As my career was taking off, I met my soon to be husband, got married, and a year and half later had the love of my life, my perfect baby girl. Life was good, for a while.
Those trips to the dark side all those years ago had left some deep scars. Leading a double life and spending years suppressing a tremendous amount of trauma, not telling anyone anything, and never even trying to deal with the pain from my past, my emotional issues began to surface once again. After 7 years of being clean and doing well, things took a turn for the worst and I began to spiral. My marriage failed, followed by my career. Life, as I knew it, turned into a landslide that swallowed me whole. All the demons from the past were present once again: I found myself on an old familiar stage, and once again, I proceeded to play the role.
As my house of cards came crumbling down, I jumped off in the drug world at the deepest point I could possibly find. That curiosity and lack of fear took me to much darker places this time and I just kept pulling on that thread until it all unraveled.
2014 was the year that changed my life. In February I was shot in the back of the head by the cops as a passenger in a vehicle. I had a 40-caliber lodged in the back of my head and only the grace of God kept it from killing me. No one was armed in the vehicle and no one was in harm’s way, so there was no reason for the police to focus on killing me as the passenger. To this day, the actions of the police that night do not make sense and have left me with a lot of questions.
While that traumatic night is not something I am ready to write about in detail just yet, I will say it was insanely damaging emotionally, and physically it was a nightmare. It affected my balance, sight, speech, and memory. It was a long battle that took years to overcome. Even after having a bullet in my head, I could not completely quit the drug world, I was stuck, and I continued to self-medicate.
Then in June, the federal government indicted me. Honestly, I was exhausted, and it was a relief. Looking back, I realize it was my one and only viable life preserver to truly break free from the mess I had created. I would never have been able to extract myself and just walk away this time around. I had to be catapulted from the depths of hell I had dug myself into.
After spending 3 years walking the line and diligently making some personal changes in pretrial, it was time to turn myself in. I came to prison, gave my life to Christ and learned all about forgiveness, I mended relationships and became closer to my loved ones than ever before, and transformed into someone I am actually happy to be. I do not think I have ever been this comfortable in my own skin. It turns out there is a human in this being, and I love her. Coming to that realization has been a huge blessing.
It has been a long crazy journey with plenty of stories to tell. I feel that if I am generous with my stories and experiences, I might just make a difference in someone else’s life. Before, I lived my life full of shame and guilt, terrified people would discover my scars and discrepancies. Now I know that as humans we are all fallible creatures that make mistakes and those mistakes lead to scars that can be quite beautiful. I hope to help other people find their voice and I aspire to inspire others to live a life of being transparent and shameless. I will not live with secrets anymore. This journey has taught me who I am, and I am grateful for it and I hope to help others find their way.
I believe everything that happens in your life is actually an opportunity. I refused to wish away the commodity of time just because I was in prison. So, I filled my schedule as full as I could. I worked, taught, trained myself and others, and I wrote. I wrote every single day. I was never a writer before, but I am now, and I love it. I am so blessed to find my passion that became my freedom during my incarceration. Writing made my tiny world so much larger.
When I first started I was afraid I would run out of things to say and then I realized I really couldn’t keep up with all the things that came to mind. I focused on staying in the present no matter how painful it was. I studied prison and inmates while I was incarcerated and learned more than I ever imagined. I tended to my habits like a garden that I adore. I paid attention to weed out the bad ones and tend to the good ones. I realize now it is a full-time, never ending job.
I always try to find a takeaway in everything I am involved in and I cherish everything I learn. I write about my stories and my experiences along with the stories people around me have and shared. I open my eyes and pay attention to things I would have never noticed before. I ask God to guide my mind, my heart, and my pen and allow me to convey messages that people need to hear. I found my voice through my writing and I learned to be curious in a healthy manner.
I write to bridge the gap between inmates and their loved ones by sharing stories and truths about prison life and life after incarceration. I am grateful for my experience and how far I have come, and I am excited about my life and my freedom. While I have improved my life by leaps and bounds, I know it is not always going to be rainbows and butterflies. I cannot forget what I have encountered along my journey or the beautiful souls I have left behind. I refuse to shut my eyes or look away from injustices. Unless you or your loved one has ever been incarcerated, you do not have any reason to think about prison life or be aware of the desperate need for reform. Prisons and prisoners are out of sight and out of mind which has a powerful effect when it comes to reform, and that allows the institutions to operate behind a veil of secrecy and hardly be questioned. This camp I was in was full of nonviolent people with unfair, lengthy, often decade long sentences that just don’t make sense.
The war on drugs looks a lot more like a war on mental disorders when you get to see the inside of it all. Addiction is a medical condition and should be treated as such. Simply locking someone away is not going to address the medical concerns and traumas that drove their behavior. I believe fear and misconceptions hold society back from the prison reform that is truly needed.
My vision is to create a movement of acceptance for prisoners and ex-prisoners. Before I came to prison, I saw inmates as scary creatures from watching too much TV and movies which only portray the worst of the worst, which only makes up a small percentage. When I got here, I was shocked at the amazing people that surrounded me and made up the camp. So many people have blessed me with their stories of their lives and journeys and shared their pain.
In the real world I am happy to see more and more people come forward and share their battles with mental issues that were once taboo. Only awareness will shed a light and take away the darkness where the demons lurk. I think we need to connect the dots between mental illness and incarceration. I believe it is important to uncover the unseen and learn to understand who really makes up the prison population.
It is refreshing to know that prison reform is on the political agenda these days. However, I think too many people saw the first step act and breathed a sigh of relief and never looked back, thinking prison reform had just happened. As an inmate, it almost felt like a slight of hand, but, like its name says, it’s only the first step, and a tiny one at that. We have a long way to go to really get some movement. More and more new offenders are showing up to prison with even larger sentences because their judge took into consideration, they would get time off for the first step act and padded their time to accommodate. I do not believe that was what was intended, but it is happening. Society must be on board with awareness and acceptance to make a difference. I believe it is the only way to truly bring change and it will continue to be an uphill battle that must stay center stage.
There are so many things people in the real world do not know about that should be brought to light. One of the biggest problems drug offenders face is ghost dope. Most of the population doesn’t know anything about this, and it is an infringement of our rights. The federal government does not need actual drugs to convict someone. All they need is stories and statements by people that are already in trouble and digging themselves out. They take that story and come up with a number of drugs involved and that is all that is needed. They collect these stories and add it all up and that is the way the federal government piles up large amount of weight on drug defendants. You cannot fight a ghost. The same concept is used for ghost money and ghost guns. With little evidence needed, it is too easy to feed the beast and fill the prisons to the brim. These are so many things that must be talked about to shed light and bring awareness.
In conclusion, it is easy to live in your world and become complacent. It is even easier to only see your surroundings and become blind to the rest of the world. My crazy journey led me to prison for a reason. I set my intentions on making huge changes with myself and delivering awareness to people while I was in prison and now that I am out the possibilities are endless. I will continue to keep my blinders off, and I will roll up my sleeves, help others, and be a voice for those who do not have one. We need to learn to love and care for the downtrodden. I will never have the luxury of not knowing for the rest of my life how many people are wasting decades of their life in prison for nonviolent crimes and I will continue to work for change.