My name is Brian F. Hall. In 1993 at the age of 17 I was arrested for 2 counts of 1st Degree Murder. I was involved in a verbal altercation and mistook a beer bottle for a gun. This resulted in the death of two young men, an act that I regret deeply. I was waived as a juvenile into the adult system and later found guilty of 1 count of 1st degree murder and 1 count of 2nd degree murder. I was sentenced to 99 years on the 1st degree murder, and 60 years on the 2nd degree murder. My time was to run consecutive, so I have a total of 159 years. I would be eligible for parole in the year 2046 at the age of 71. I’ll have served 53 years at that point and there is no guarantee I will receive parole at that time.
Going into the prison system at 17 brought feelings of uncertainty, hopelessness, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness and the inability to express or talk about any of these emotions that I was experiencing. I covered up these emotions with drugs and projected a false image of myself to others. My anger was the only emotion that I let come out. I wore a mask to hide and lost touch with humanity. At that time, I only cared about myself. I developed a very selfish mindset.
I remember the day that I was sentenced to 159 years. My mother wanted to come and visit me, but I was scared that I would break down if I saw her. I didn’t want her to see me in that way, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so instead I turned to drugs and hid behind my mask. Yet here I am today as a 44-year-old man tearing up just remembering that moment.
As a juvenile in prison, I wanted people to see me as a person not to mess with so in my immature thinking that meant having to fight with inmates and staff at the drop of a hat. I spent a lot of time in segregation where I was housed by myself because I was classified as too violent to be around anyone else. If I wasn’t getting into trouble, I was getting high or drunk. My drug of choice was weed, but I was looking for something harder to numb the pain and to escape from my reality.
At the age of 20, I was sent to prison to start doing my life sentence. All the feelings that I had 3 years prior began all over again. I always heard the stories of prison life and what to expect, but nothing could prepare you for the moment you step off the bus and take it all in for the first time. I continued to put up my walls and embrace the lifestyle of prison. Being detached from my feelings was a normal way of life now.
I was moved out of state due to overcrowding and faced another obstacle, that of being away from my family. Being out of state meant visits every other year and less phone calls because of the high costs, but at least I still had family in my life. Many others were not so fortunate. I found myself falling deeper into hopelessness and didn’t care about anything.
I was soon introduced to heroin and learned very quickly that it was an escape from my darkest times. I started to shoot heroin in my mid 20’s and it became my new drug of choice. Thankfully, I was able to stop using heroin, but continued to smoke weed, pop pills and drink. I spent many years living this way of life. After all, I didn’t feel like my life had any worth. I always hoped for a change, but never really believed it would come.
A pivotal point in my life that brought about the change I was seeking came after another mistake I made which gained me disciplinary action. I had to spend a year in the hole as a result. I was 27 years old and I finally hit my rock bottom. I was tired of not feeling anything but hate and anger. Living in that state for so long always had me on edge and stressed out. More importantly, I was never able to connect with myself or anyone else for that matter.
I started to program from inside the hole. I studied for my GED and took whatever classes they had to offer. I also began to pray, meditate, do yoga, and teach myself another language. I spent months writing down my earliest thoughts and memories and reflected on how I ended up in prison. Every day I started to feel new emotions. Love, hope, pity, compassion, forgiveness, trust, and all the hate and anger started to leave me. After 13 months I got out of the hole feeling like a new man. I continued my programming, getting my GED, going to AA, NA, Drumming, Talking Circle, Sweat Lodge and placing myself around positive people. I built a better relationship with my parents, and the people around me saw the change in me.
It was then that I was given the chance to be a part of a Dog Program, and I fell in love with it. Training dogs felt so rewarding. It felt like I was giving something back to the community. The people that volunteered with the Dog Program treated me like they would any other human being, and not as a criminal, and that helped me change the way I viewed myself over time. People trusted me to train their dogs, and I was pretty good at it. I even took a college course to become a Certified Dog Obedience Trainer and Instructor to expand my training even further.
I also got involved in another very rewarding program that allowed me to talk to at risk youth [C.O.Y.A.] and share my story with them in the hopes that it might deter them from following the same path I did in life. I felt the participants could relate to what we were sharing with them and am hopeful it made a positive impact on their lives.
My life finally started to have some meaning. In a place where the men walk around feeling hopeless, I felt alive and healthy. I feel like I’ve become the man that I was meant to be. Becoming a better person has allowed me to share myself with the love of my life, my wife whom I have been married to for almost 8 years now. She has truly shown me unconditional love. She has encouraged me throughout the years to continue to grow as a human being, and not as an inmate. I owe her and my parents so much for believing in me.
Now here I sit, 27 years into my prison sentence. I’m 44 years old. I’m a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, a father and more recently a grandpa. I just want to prove to the world that people can and do change, and I want to help others who might have gone down the wrong path or from making some bad choices in life.