Image: Unsplash

Prison Journalism: Timeless Regrets

Jeffrey Shockley is a writer serving a life sentence in the State Correctional Institution-Fayette in Pennsylvania. Read Jeffrey’s story Timeless Regrets


Image: Unsplash

December 20, 2022 

Good morning, it is 2:37am. 

Again, I find myself unable to sleep. Awakened out of a restless slumber with my mind racing like an inexperienced driver new to the Daytona 500. Navigating through reflections of my past which remain ever present in the [prison] time I am doing today. 

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: Forgotten Youth

My timeless regrets

Prison at this hour is when one may find some solace, peace even, because the normal boisterousness of life within is quietest. No inmates about in the dayroom sitting around the stainless steel tables with matching seats welded to the table base. 

Adult men, mostly seniors now, with a few younger prisoners mixed in giving instruction on how to pass the time without losing your mind by playing cards, chess or dominoes. Carrying on about among other things, the recent increase in commissary prices called SHRINKFLATION. 

The product sizes have gotten smaller but the prices go up. 

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: The feelings I hold for Nelson Mandela

Some vibrant laughter from a few guys sitting on steel stools bolted to the floor in front of each of the nine numbered telephones hanging on the wall, talking to a loved one while blocking out the anchor person from one of the local news and sports stations bellowing from the 27″ wall mounted televisions no one is watching. 

Tossing and turning I lay awake holding back tears from pains caused. A life suffered through as the hour draws near for when the machine of correction and rehabilitation begins to rise again, listening as the population begins to stir and awaken once more again, like Groundhog Day. 

In this here will I find myself distracted from own personal thoughts; determined to be strong as if this does not impact my heart while I try to remain ready to help anyone who may ask. Is it not my duty is to give back? Not wanting to have my personal chaos detract from anothers experience or hope. 

Am I the only one who over time has longed for or wished for a different childhood? Fought through things done, or not done? Aspiring for different life outcomes that could have changed the trajectory and not ended up where I am. 

ALSO READ: Prison Journalism: Life in Pollsmoor prison for the first time

Holding no one but myself accountable for the chioces and decisions made along this journey. However if… sometimes, like now I wonder what if. 

Hope ever erased by timeless regrets. 

Life happenings still too ashamed of or embarrassed to mention. Being older I quetion the questions of why things happened in my life. My mother giving me to my grandmother at so young an age, someone I called uncle abnormally familiar for lack of better terms. 

I travelled from pillar to post like a ghost in the lives of those I claimed to love, but was not present in the times it mattered the most. The develomental years and adult lives of my children, Net sharing in my siblings lives because the five us were raised seperately. 

On weekends I would go to Philadelphia to visit or they would come to grandmom’s house in the suburbs for a visit. More often because the adults had been violently fighting, again. 

ALSO READ: Prison Journalism: Black and Gay in prison

The many good things that have been done with my life, in my life, how could it be that here I now reside? Afraid of a future that is still uncertain, haunted by a past that is no more. I write to stay alive which gives a new fear of rejection. What if they don’t like me? 

Wanting to escape into sleep, I lay here in this makeshift coffin called my bed in the wee hours wrestling with timeless regrets. 

Who am I to feel this way? My daughter, I love you. 

The article was facilitated by Erin Parish from the Human Kindness Foundation (HKF).

The Human Kindness Foundation’s mission is to encourage more kindness in the world beginning with people in our prisons and jails.

HKF has published several books including: We’re All Doing Time, Lineage and Other Stories, Deep and Simple, and Just Another Spiritual Book and provide these books for free to people currently serving time in prisons or jails.

Do you have any question you would like to ask our prison journalists, WhatsApp us on 060 011 0211

Do you have contact with a prison inmate who would like to write for The South African website?

If so, send an email to or a WhatsApp to 060 011 0211

You can also follow @TheSAnews on Twitter and The South African on Facebook to get the latest prisoner journalism articles.