Shared by Sandra

God tells us that He will put us through no more than we can bear!! Well with that being said, I must be a very very strong woman! And thats only by the Grace of God! My son was wrongfully convicted of a crime and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. My son has no prior record. Always worked, or went to school. He is not and has never been a violent person. He was actually getting ready to go back to college. You see he was accepted into Penn State University when he graduated from high school, but decided to stay home so he could watch over and be there for me. I have been sick for a number of years. I’ve had a number of surgeries, which included brain surgery for an aneurysm. And I’ve been in the hospital more than I would care to mention. So instead of leaving me,he went to Philadelphia Community College instead of Penn State. My youngest daughter was away at college, and my oldest daughter was serving in the military, and was stationed out of town. He was about to go back to Commmunity College when this happened.

Andy(my son) is the sweetest person you would ever want to meet.He never hurt a sole! He was very naive and gullible. And would help anyone! He was not a candidate for sainthood! But he has the biggest, and kindest heart! He is the one serving the time in prison, but he always seems to encourage me and his family with his words, in his letters and in the cards that he sends us! But by the time the criminal justice system got through with him he was labeled as a murderer!! This whole event has made us all lose our trust in people, the police, and the criminal justice system! I’m not gonna go into his case, but there was a lot of crazy things that occurred before, during and after his trial was over. His case is now in the appeals stage. I love my son very very much, and I pray that the appeals board can see through all of the lies and deceit that was put on my son, just so they could get a conviction!! No matter what, we are still going to fight for him to get out of this prison system that he does not belong in!!

Everyday I wake up hoping that this is a dream, and I’ll get up and see my son downstairs sitting at the table eating his big bowl of cereal. I’ll come down the stairs and he’ll look up at me and say,”Hey mom.” But when I come downstairs he’s not there and I realize it’s not a dream it’s reality. HE IS NOT HOME WITH ME ANYMORE!! That hurts!! My heart aches everyday! I keep picturing everything that happened at court. I keep picturing my son’s face. I keep hearing all the words that were said about my son and to us(his family). I go over it all the time!! THEY TOOK MY SON FROM ME! WHY? ALL THE FACTS WERE NOT PUT OUT THERE IN HIS TRIAL! THE JURY DIDN’T HEAR THE WHOLE STORY! THATS WHY HE GOT CONVICTED!It feels like a death in the family and Me and the rest of his family is mourning for him everyday! We share our feelings with each other all the time! I have called many organizations to ask for help and I got none! I wrote many letters and no one was willing to help! We even went to Washington to see if we would run into someone that we could share Andy’s story with to try and get help for him. No luck with that!

Everyday I feel this sense of guilt! I feel like I didn’t protect my son! I didn’t say what I wanted and needed to say on the stand at the trial, so the jury could hear the whole story! I COULDN’T PROTECT MY SON LIKE I DID WHEN HE WAS MY LITTLE BABY!! That hurts me so bad! His brother’s and sister’s hurt so bad! No one wants to get involved unless it happens to them! People need to see how the families of these inmates are hurting! They need to know what we go through! They need to know the hurt we feel! So they can look not at just getting a conviction, or a promotion. Or another notch on their belt. We are talking about people’s lives here! They need to make sure they have the right person who did the crime, and stop giving excessive sentences to minorities and the poor! Compared to the wealthy or people that can afford a good attorney, minorities and the poor get higher sentences and are more likely to get convicted because they can’t afford the proper defense. Thats what happened to my son! And I am here to say that we all matter! Those that are convicted do have people that care, and love them! They do matter! And they are no less human than those that have not been convicted!

The criminal justice system needs to change! And so do the people that are a part of it! The people that are working in the prison’s need to change! And so do the prison’s themselves! The families of inmates are treated like prisoner’s! It’s like they try to deter us from coming to see our loved ones! They humiliate us and degrade us in many different ways! But nothing is going to stop me and my family from seeing my son! Only God can do that!!

Last but not least, the prison that my son is in, is a very well run and clean place. The people that work there are very cordial and pleasant! They never made us feel like we were anything than what we are. And that’s a Human Being! That includes how they treat the inmates!

About Eric Okdeh

Eric Okdeh is a Philadelphia based muralist, who has been creating public art since 1998. After receiving his BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, Eric chose to focus on mural work exclusively. Since 2002, in addition to his commissioned work, Eric has taught mural making classes to children and teens throughout the city as well as inmates at SCI Graterford Prison. The classes exist as leadership, teamwork, and skill building exercises which culminate in major mural projects. In an attempt to capture these significant community collaborations and interactions, Eric has developed this website and mural blog. The projects are journalized and documented in photographs and video clips to lend outside observers insight into the processes by which his murals come about. Eric has over 65 commissions throughout the city of Philadelphia and one in Seville, Spain. He has participated in mural projects in Tucson, Arizona and Los Angeles. His work is featured in four books about public and Mural art.
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