Willing It Into Existence: This Will Be My Last Year in Prison

More Than Our Crimes
4 min readJan 19, 2022


I’ve lost so many years, but I am determined to focus on a future with a purpose

Currently held in the U.S. penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, Rob has been on lockdown almost continuously since the beginning of the year, first due to a fight that erupted over who could use the few phones available to call home, then due to COVID. Thus, his new year’s post was late in arriving.

By Rob Barton

Damn…It’s 2022…! My 27th consecutive new year spent in prison.

As I lie on my bunk, thinking, in the pitch black, snippets of memories from all of the “lost” years flash before my mind’s eye:

Me on my mattress, lying on the floor by the bars of my cell door, with a long wick burning (we used to chain-smoke Newports, before smoking was banned in 2005), putting in an all-nighter reminiscing about the streets with my brothers on the [prison] tier. I was so innocent…I never pictured still being here 27 years later.

Me lying on a concrete-slab bunk in Marion (Illinois) doing a 23/1 lockdown (one hour out a day), with a 12-inch black-and-white TV as my only connection to the outside world.

Me in jubilation after hitting the winning free throw [in a prison league game], clinching he championship at USP Canaan (Pennsylvania). It’s one of the good memories, an accomplishment I could brag about.

The time just kept going by, and now it’s 2022.

In May 2021, in front of a photo provided by the prison as a “hopeful” background

Where did all those years go? How did I make it through? It seems like only yesterday that I was a scared little boy, walking into the sally port (a series of doors through which you have to pass to enter a prison), weighing about 125 pounds soaking wet, attempting to mask his fear with a false sense of bravado.

I remember my lawyer telling me way back in 1995, when I was first arrested, that it might be a good idea to take the 10-year plea agreement the prosecutor was offering. I thought then, “Is he crazy!” Damn…I would have been home 17 years ago if I’d taken it. But at that time, I was 16 years old and I thought I’d have to snitch on someone else to get the deal. I had no idea the risk I was taking by going for a trial. To me, 10 years seemed like an eternity. I just couldn’t see that far ahead. I couldn’t see this day. When I was sentenced to 30 years to life in 1997, I remember thinking, “Damn … I won’t be eligible for parole until 2024! I ain’t never going home.” And now, it’s only two years away. It’s 2022.

I “lost” my best years: most of my teens; high school prom; graduation; getting a driver’s license; my 20s, when I was supposed to be in college and exploring life; all of my 30s, when I should have been buying my first home and establishing a career. Now, I’m working on my 40s and I’m still here. I actually did become a father before I came in (that’s street life), but I missed out on my son’s entire life: his first step, first words, learning how to shoot a jump shot and treat a woman. I should have been there.

I lost loved ones — my grandparents, great-grandmother, two aunts and countless friends.

Still. Through this struggle, I made lifelong friends (most who are now out doing the work I hope to do in the world) and have developed into someone today who can influence people through my words despite the fact that I’m locked up. Thankfully, this is my last year in prison; I have the whole second half of my life ahead of me. And it is going to be epic!!

I grew up in here and became a man! Not the pseudo excuse for a man that other guys in here become, respected only because he will do violence. Instead, I’m using my time wisely now. I’ve become the type of man who takes care of his responsibilities and has his priorities in order. I’ve gained wisdom. I’ve gained foresight. I’ve gained perspective and patience. And most of all, I know compassion. I finally understand who I am, and now I have a second family — all of you. By reading my words and helping me build the fan base More Than Our Crimes now has, I have gained what is most important, my passion and life’s work. Thank you.

As the sounds of guys screaming, shouting and kicking on the doors seep into my room with the new year, I know I got this. I can deal with one more year. I can own this last year. With all of you helping and cheering me on, I will continue the righteous fight and attempt to change the narrative about incarcerated people, securing second chances for everyone still here. My body may still be here, but my spirit is out there in the world working!!!

Damn yes, it’s 2022. But 2023 is right around the corner and it’s going to be epic!!!

Note: Rob will be given another chance for release in early 2023, when he will have a second hearing in front of a judge due to D.C.’s Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act.

I will hopefully join my friends in 2023



More Than Our Crimes

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 26 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at MoreThanOurCrimes.org