My Journey Behind Bars (Pt. 4)

Pelipost is launching a new series devoted to the stories of those incarcerated. In honor of that, we are featuring the story of Tyrone Toliver called ‘My Journey Behind Bars.‘ This is the final part of Tyrone’s story…. (get caught up with part onepart two, and part three.)

“Because we are family!”

Written By: Tyrone Toliver

Imagine if I had gotten the baseball scholarship that I was working toward before I began my journey behind bars. What if I went to college? A year or two later, I’m good enough to be drafted by a pro team. I’m worth millions! I tell uncles, aunts, and cousins not to put their time, energy, and life savings in an investment that I know isn’t good. But no one listens to me and as a result, they lose everything.

Am I now obligated to support them? To give them loans? To help them just because I’m family? Why can’t I say, you should have listened to me, so live with your decision. Why can’t I say, you’re on your own, my money is mine? Everyone in my family would expect me to help because I could, even if they didn’t take my advice and avoid trouble. Why? Because we are family! Anybody who is in contact with an incarcerated family member needs to say to themselves, he or she might not have taken my advice, but we are still family.

I was loyal to a fault in the criminal world. I put that loyalty into something positive when Kristy came into my life. The moment Kristy was supporting my goals and proud of my accomplishments, I was receiving all I needed to stay out of trouble. It was tough in the beginning, but I had Kristy as my backbone. There were so many days that I wanted to give up and quit. What helped me get through these difficult times was looking at her photos, reading her letters, calling her, and hearing her say, “I’ll be visiting at X time Saturday and Sunday.” How could I hurt her by giving up?

“The words “I’m proud of you’ motivated me, and her loving support inspired me to change.”

The rehabilitative groups I signed up for were substance abuse, coping skills, life skills, and art appreciation. These groups helped me accept responsibility for my actions and gave me a clear path to successful change. I had to use my time wisely and put in an honest effort. Talking to Kristy about my time in all of these groups was helpful. I would send her my certificates every time I hit a milestone. 

One of Tyrone Toliver's certificates of completion that he has received while incarcerated.

The words “I’m proud of you” motivated me, and her loving support inspired me to change. I become a better person every day. From her compassion, I learned the definition of reliable, respectable, and being resilient. This all came through in her efforts to distract me from prison life and to get me to think about the free world. It’s funny because she had no idea how much of a difference she was making in my life by simply being by my side. We got married on March 21, 2014 and I am so grateful to call her my wife.

My belief system slowly started to change. Kristy’s compassionate support helped me think about what I used to value and what I value today. 

I sit in my cell with eight photo albums of her, working on achieving my limit of ten photo albums. Each album has 100 photos. When I’m stressed, I look at her photos. When I’m depressed, I look at her photos. Bored, anxious, or when I want to fantasize, I look at her photos. 

Tyrone and his wife Kristy who helped him rehabilitate during his journey behind bars.
Tyrone and his wife Kristy

She dedicated the past eight years of her life to giving me companionship, a commitment, dedication, and love. I get the feeling that my biological family gets jealous of Kristy’s understanding of my needs and her compassion for our struggle. 

I believe that incarcerated individuals who are in a rehabilitation program and recovery need someone on the outside to help motivate them and hold them accountable. I went from the SHU to a maximum-security, 180-design (highly secure), level 4 yard; to a medium-security, 270-design (more open), level 4 yard; to this minimum-security, level 3 honor program. I achieved countless certificates, laudatory chronos for jobs I held, conduct credit, and mentoring and group facilitator achievements. And now I’m a college student. None of this would have happened these past eight years if I had never met Kristy and saw that there still was beauty in this world.

Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

4 Replies to “My Journey Behind Bars (Pt. 4)”

  1. I love reading stories like this. It gives people hope and encouragement. I’m happy he met Kristy to support and love him. Bravo!

    1. What an uplifting story. Something ugly and negative has turned into something beautiful and postive. Stay the course Tyrone!

  2. Congratulations on finding someone to love and do the time with you. Faith and Love are very much needed to succeed and to know that someone believes in you.

  3. I love this story. It reminds me of my son to be husband. When we got together that was his story. He only been out a year firm doing 8 yards I believe. He continued his rehabilitation program, I even went to some of his sessions for support. I was able to witness a man everyone have up on and also turned they’re backs on depending on the situation. It was a beautiful to thing to see. But things begin to change when we invited outsiders into our lucre and home. Everything changed dramatically. Even I had changed, our relationship changed. We both lost ourselves. Make a long story short, my fiancé is now incarcerated for something someone else’s crime, and though he will be released. He’s resorted back to who he was mentally. I’m trying to be as supportive as I can be, but it’s hard when I’m dealing with a lot. I’m not the same person neither. But I love him so much. Well, I would like to know how can I support him without upsetting him.? Because when I upsets him he upsets me. And I become very angry and disrespectful to him. Us bad enough I haven’t written him enough nor has he. Finance are not good due to my living situation and to restless to do even the simple things I’m suppose to do as his wife (write letters, send pictures, and not complaint about too tired to go put ninety on his books). He hasn’t called me in almost two weeks because of me telling him I’m tired of him in our last argument. Can you give me some kind of advice in how can support him, and what mental skill techniques can I use for the both of us?

    Thank you for your story
    Mrs. Phillips

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