From hopeless position to higher purpose;
step inside the Matthew Maher story.

PRISON TALK: What's Prison Like?

What's prison like? People who write me often want to know and prior to January 7, 2010, my first day here, I wondered the same thing. Well, let's see if I can describe it, at least the physical aspects of my environment. I will save the emotional aspects for another day. One thing is for sure, words cannot accurately paint a picture of prison, this place I now call home.


Jan. 7, 2010. That particular date my sentencing day will always elicit a floodgate of emotions. It is the day I received my five-and-a-half-year sentence, along with the unexpected blessing of a release date, a gift I could never deserve in a million years. One million words cannot properly describe this one date, one I will always remember, not for one million tears, but for one freeing hug. I slept well on the eve of my sentencing, something that can only be attributed to the prayers of family, friends and countless others. I knew I was going to prison, something I still couldn't wrap my mind around. I used to watch the TV series Prison Break from the safety and comfort of my living room, never once imagining myself walking prison halls, or living a prison reality.


Are we there yet? Are we there yet? You don't have to be the cartoon parents, Marge and Homer Simpson, to be familiar with that pesky phrase, which erupts like Old Faithful from the mouth of every restless kid on a family road trip. When my boys were little, those four words were repeated in round-robin fashion the minute the engine sounded. Lately, I have noticed an even greater attention deficit as I chauffeur the next generation of children.


A day in confinement can be viewed differently through the eyes of faith. What I have come to experience on a daily basis, despite much chaos and tension, is a peace that starts inwardly and hopefully is visible outwardly. In prison, the structure is so rigid, the routine so predictable, that you can easily become complacent. When I first arrived here, I had this eerie feeling that I was stuck in a never-ending "Ground Hog's Day." I'll try to give you a snapshot of a day, as this is my "true view" from here... 5:35 a.m. Only two other inmates are awake on the tier besides me. One is in the bathroom shaving and the other is drawing.


It's December and this month is always especially difficult for my family. My oldest brother, John, was taken from us on Dec. 15, 2005. It was something we never expected, nor could have prepared for in a million years. Alivia, now six, was four months old when her Daddy went to Heaven. I remember answering the phone that day as I walked back to my dorm at Temple University after taking a final exam. My mother's words, "Your brother John died," ripped me to the core of my gut. My eyes filled up with tears, but I didn't say anything; I continued walking to my dorm, quietly packed up, and drove home to my family.