Author, Expert & Speaker

I did short time. By the prison calendar, a person serving less than five years is a short timer. My years in prison also put me in the but-for-a-minute (of time) category. “Hey Roseman, man, you’re only here but for a minute.”

Inmates who have done or are doing from six to ten years are in the category of a piece of time. “Spider’s had multiple rodeos; he’s done a piece of time.” Those doing or having done more than ten years on the inside get the chilling label of lifer. “Don’t mess with Alex: he’s a lifer.”

I spent twenty-five months in the California prison system. I experienced every minute of it, and I know how doing the time changed me. I write about my prison transformation in Derailed: How Being a Lawyer Taught Me to Survive in Prison.

As a short timer, I’ve often pondered: What if I had done a piece of time or more? How might the extra time have molded me differently? Would I have written a book calling for prison reform? Would I be writing this blog? Would I be alive?


Meet Timothy J. Muise

Timothy J. Muise is a lifer at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI). He is an inside-the-walls prison rights activist. He advocates through Timothy’s Blog, where the posts include his penetrating poetry. His poem  “Going ‘Home,’” for example, is clean, crisp, and laden with the impact of time. Timothy’s words present a constrained image of reality coupled with a stronger resolve to find a meaning of home. He expresses the hollow feelings resulting from doing time without a compass leading to a productive life. The poem is written in the voice of a man who is about to leave prison after doing significant time there.


Going “Home”

By Timothy J. Muise

They say I am going home,

but I have no home,

anything close to that,

has long disappeared.

After many long years,

it is time to leave,

leave the madness of,

a world you would not believe.

Where do I go?, and how?

What do I do?, and why?

Questions seem to hold,

a horrible unknown.

Time waits for none,

powerful words to me now.

Soft beds and tasty food,

I have not known of late.

Help me if you can,

I fear this unknown.

Guide me if you will,

I am at your mercy.



Here are some of my thoughts and interpretations:

  • The tone of this piece would not feel as lost and hollow had the speaker experienced rehabilitation and been taught reentry skills before going home.
  • Giving reentering people the skills to be productive in society is a huge prison reform issue.
  • Rebuilding self-esteem before reentry is an important element of prison reform.
  • Making this person’s living conditions comfortable and his food more desirable and providing rehabilitation and reentry skills would increase the odds of a successful return to society.

Does this poem enable you to feel the impact of a system designed to suck out one’s humanity, or worse, one’s soul? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.


Iron Slab

“Iron Slab” is Timothy’s brave confrontation of life and a peek into the heart of lifer.

Iron Slab

By Timothy J. Muise

18 years on an iron slab,

dull pain permeates my heart.

18 years seeking any comfort,

my life truly torn apart.

18 years since I was caged,

18 minutes since I last raged.

18 beats of a heart now cold,

18 fears yet to unfold.


Intelligent and observant prison rights activists populate our prisons—Timothy is an example of such a person. Change can come from both inside and outside prison walls: listening and being aware is the first step of the journey.

You can find Timothy’s prison rights advocacy writings on his blog. I encourage you to read it and let him know your reactions to his work.


“Going ‘Home’” and “Iron Slab” published with Timothy J. Muise’s permission

Image courtesy of

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