I am just past my twenty fourth year in prison and I could not be more excited.

If someone would have told me that math would change my life I probably would have never spoken to them again for fear that whatever delusion they had may be contagious.

Yet math has altered my reality in a most unexpected and awesome way.

Let me create a little perspective for you.

I was state raised in California. I was an angry destructive child who did terrible in school and math was the absolute worst thing in the world to me. Math made me feel stupid and hate myself. Perhaps the mind numbing doses of medications I was forced to take played a part in my struggles with school. But to a kid whose world was pain and sadness and loneliness math was the last thing I wanted to have to do.

That insecurity stayed with me throughout my life. I was just not smart enough to succeed in math and that was that. I would add it to a long list of impossibilities that include never having a family or seeing the outside of prison.

I began my prison life as a juvenile at the age of seventeen for murder. A life on the streets, homeless, led to drug use and crime and excitement and terror and eventually prison. When the Judge sentenced me to forty years in prison I felt like I was going home. Growing up in the group home system in California had prepared me for entrance into prison. I was returning home.

Next came years in solitary. Assaults, New crimes, riots. I considered myself to be dead and the world beyond prison was not a real thing. So what I did could not possibly matter.

Eventually I grew up and out of past ways of thinking and began looking for other things to do and other people to surround myself with. It is hard to find good people among those trapped in prisons culture of self destruction. But I did. My humanme family and my fiancee are foremost among those who have helped me change my world.

For about eleven years or so there has been a battle in the courts in regards to juvenile sentences. Long story short, I am among a large number of individuals serving time they were sentenced to as minors. Recently our cases were taken off stay and we were all looking at resentencing and those of us who had served twenty years or more were looking at possible release. Imagine our excitement. 
King and Pierce county decided to appeal the recent Washington state supreme court decisions to the United States Supreme court so back on stay we go. In the past this turn of events would have been an end of the world event.

To my surprise, when I received this news my first thoughts were ‘ Yes! I can complete math 87 and 100 before I get out and enroll in college!.’ Then I thought of my fiancee and my humanme family and how they would take the bad news and that was when I became a bit despondent.

So, math changed my life to the point that even news of possibly serving more years in prison after already serving twenty four, and thus being able to study mathematics was a cause for excitement. What the ??!

The Prison Mathematics Project and the Social Mathematics Experiment gives me that inner freedom.

by James Cody Goodwin 764730