the Concrete Grave
Members and Readers,
like to start off by thanking all who have made it possible for
me to express myself through Prisonersolidarity. Im sure that
this interaction will educate and inform people on a productive
scale and Im elated to play a part.
name is Melvin Robertson. Im 33 years old and have been incarcerated
for 15 years. As a man I admit my wrongs, but will opt here to discuss
something other than the details pertaining to my case. In short,
my case is no different than that of any other prisoner in the world.
Weve all had life lessons that resulted in such consequences.
I want to tell you briefly about my journey, and about an end result
that speaks of success.
the Judge banged that gavel after handing down my sentence I was
in shock. I got back to the holding cell and cried. I shed enough
tears for a hundred people in that first half hour. However, before
I left that holding cell I told myself that I would NEVER shed another
tear as a result of being incarcerated. Those words were a turning
point for me. I didnt know then that, with them, Id
called the mental and emotional strength into existence that would
carry me through the pitfalls a prisoner encounters within this
concrete grave. It was the strength that would enable me to rise
above this place of dehumanization and misdirection.
wasnt easy. Being 18 years old, coming straight out of the
ghettos of Cleveland, Ohio, I had no instruction to guide me. Just
as I had done in the free world, in prison I conducted myself in
response to what I saw in this new society. My acts were the result
of desperation. For I knew, right off, that the strong survived
and the weak perished in this world of souls filled with lost hope.
I would do whatever it took to survive, and I refused to be a victim.
I spent my first few years just going with the flow. I was constantly
in trouble. At the time, I didnt think it was trouble, though.
You put a teenage boy in a world with the worst criminals in our
state and introduce him indirectly to every personality imaginable
to man, and you top that off with mistrust, theft, stabbings, rape,
and near death experiences of his own, and you sit back and watch
him adopt an I dont care type of attitude. You
forget what you once knew. The prisons 20 minute alternatives
to violence program doesnt mean much when you are in
a 23 hour and 40 minute program that shows you nothing but violence.
My point is this: If we were better listeners half of the people
that walk into this concrete grave would never have done so. Just
as society didnt do enough for them before, the judicial system
doesnt either. Im not making excuses for myself, or
anyone, but if we are bred out of society and are viewed as monsters,
then what does that make society as a whole? Our problems start
long before prison, but that doesnt mean that one should give
up on me because I encountered a life lesson.
took a while for my family, girlfriend and friends to catch a bad
case of out of sight, out of mind, but when it happened
doing time became that much harder. It occurred at a time when I
was really trying to turn my life around. It was about the same
time that they discontinued the college Pell Grant and I was kicked
out of college. People in the free world were actually arguing that
a convict should not be able to go to college for free since their
own children and loved ones had to pay tuition. Dont they
understand why the repeat offender rate is so high in our state?
I dont know about you, but Id rather see an ex-convict
as a doctor, lawyer or teacher after leaving prison, rather than
a murderer, rapist or thief. Even most of our families dont
realize the significance of a letter that takes five minutes to
write, twice a month, or a visit every three months or so. Such
acts of love, which are null and void inside these walls, would
create an epidemic of positive change. Everyone has flaws in their
walk, but to make it harder for those that cant quite get
it right makes US just as wrong as them, no matter what the crime.
I can get extremely profound with this message, but I wont
deter from my initial point.
doesnt matter that you fall. Its how you land. Keep
your head up so that you can see how to stand up again. Life is
meant to live. In order to live you must survive. To survive, you
must learn, and it doesnt hurt to learn from others as well.
Reaching beyond this concrete grave is highly attainable. I learned
this when my transition from boy to man took flight while serving
2 years in solitary confinement (a place I like to refer to as a
Chinese puzzle box). It took years to really see what I was up against,
and I desperately needed a better path. I started reading everything.
Inspiration and motivation to live a better life erupted from those
mediums. I began writing songs, raps, novels and movie scripts to
escape reality, because I was really on the verge of losing my sanity.
In the process of becoming a better person, who sought a better
life, I met someone who sprinkled me with love. I started loving
myself because I knew that this is what it took to love them back.
Love is something I never really knew up until that point, and it
was the mystical emotion that influenced an even greater change.
I started submitting my writing to publishing houses and recording
studios. It seemed like everyone told me No, primarily
because I was a prisoner. Then, one day, I knocked on the door of
a publishing house and they answered the door with praise for my
works. I didnt get a literary agent or intellectual properties
attorney to assist me. I didnt want to risk being rejected
or taken advantage of, so I studied the business and negotiated
my own contract. Im not the kind of person who deals with
something that I dont understand. I write about entertainment
but there is a positive message in all that I write. My first book
release is entitled Double
Dose and can be purchased at any book store come March
13, 2006. There is even talk about a film deal and an HBO exclusive.
I even have people interested in building a recording studio for
me, after hearing a few music tracks I created while in prison.
In the next year or so youll be able to read many of my novels.
been a long journey but, as a man, no one can tell me Im just
a number and will never amount to anything. No one can tell me that
Im already dead and just havent lain down yet. Im
due to be released shortly. Finally, after all this time. 15 years.
Its a thin line between sanity and insanity when the odds
are stacked against anyone in life. You can still make it though.
You just have to fight a little harder. My testimony is proof that
there is a better life after such a harsh lesson. From the depths
of this concrete grave I reached out in search of a better life
and grabbed hold of something far greater than I ever imagined.
You can too, no matter what the trial or tribulation. Today, I no
longer view myself as Melvin Robertson, the inmate. Today, Im
Melvin Robertson, a successful published author and aspiring businessman.
Today, Im Melvin Robertson with a testimony that ANYTHING
youd like to correspond with me about more on my journey,
thank you for taking the time and consideration to read this. If
my testimony alters one persons road in life, I would be extremely
happy. Take care of yourself and never give up!
You may contact Melvin Robertson directly by writing to him at the address
listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:
FRESH OFF THE PRESS
Dose ( Melvin Robertson: Teri Woods Publishing, 2006)