Cycle Breakers: How People, Not Systems, Are Ending the Cycle of Violence in Prison and Society

Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 197 –199
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096727
Cycle Breakers: How People,
Not Systems, Are Ending the
Cycle of Violence in Prison
and Society
Matthew Moeller
I have spent my entire adult life in the American prison system and violence fails to
shock me. The blood-stained floors and pepper spray-tinged air tell the story of a daily
struggle. A struggle of prisoners enacting violence upon other prisoners and tragically
upon themselves. These are the everyday ebbs and flows of incarcerated life.
So we are told.
The media and popular culture do such a good job - if not an overly dramatic job -
of telling these sensationalized stories. They tell you prison is a place where rape is
normalized and vicious assaults are common incidents. Often left untold are the stories
of those living their lives as the antithesis of violence, bettering their own lives along
with those intertwined with them. You will hear the story of the man who murdered his
entire family but nothing of how that same man has done work helping his fellow
prisoners find freedom through forgiveness. You will hear of prison riots and killings,
but little of prisoners pooling money together to help victims of domestic abuse or
collecting socks to donate to the homeless. You will hear of the murders of prison
guards, but little of the warrior mentality among officers, the psychological warfare
they engage in and the assaults they commit.
I have seen a person thrown from two stories high and another hit so hard his eye
came out. However, I have also seen a man sit side by side with countless others help-
ing them write letters of apology to their victims. I have seen a man adopted by the
mother of the person he killed, and survivors of domestic abuse share their stories.
These people are the violence interrupters. Violence is a cycle and will continue to
grow until it is broken. Ironically it is the broken who often break it.
Much is said in our society of the violent offender. I myself have been branded as
such. In prison for 2nd degree intentional murder at the age of 17, I received a 30-year
sentence with the ability to be released after 20 years. As I complete my 18th year in
prison, I can see how far I have come, and know I would not have made it this far
without the guidance and wisdom of healed men and women who have been branded
as violent, along with the victims of violent crimes telling their stories.
1096727CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096727Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeMoeller

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