Portrait

6x8 Portrait is a research project that will explore the impact of mass incarceration on families in the New York City metropolitan area in a way that aims to trigger a national conversation on the topic. 

Coss Marte Part 2: Moving In and Out of the System

Coss Marte Part 2: Moving In and Out of the System

On Moving In and Out of the System and How He Changed His Ways

“I did time when I was 15 to 16, 19 to 20, and then 23 to 27. When I came out when I was 16, I went right back to the streets. Nothing really changed me, and I didn’t really care about anything. Then when I went in from 19 to 20, I wanted to come out and do something, but I got quickly tempted and already had the drug operation running from when I was in prison. I came out, and it was handed back to me. It was my responsibility to take over and continue what I started. And then I got locked up at 23 again.

Change happened [because] when I went in the last time, my son was two years old. And it was just devastating to see him, an innocent child, grow up without his father. I was facing 12 to 24 years because of the crime I had committed, and I got really lucky and got 7. But that really hurt me, and I really wanted to provide for him. But facing 12 to 24 years, you’re like, I can’t do anything. Whatever happens happens, and I’ve just got to deal with it. But I got lucky and had the opportunity to come home early. And I was just really looking forward to doing the right thing and getting out. I got out when he was 6. What really changed me was not only him but a series of events. 

I went into the box. I was sent to solitary confinement toward the end of my incarceration. I got into some trouble with an officer. He basically put me on a wall and started to search me and touch me in inappropriate places. I moved, and he hit me. He hit me so hard that I dropped down to the ground. At the time, I was wearing glasses. I went to pick up the glasses and then I turned around on him. He pulled the pin. The pin is like this walkie talkie. As soon as they press that, you need to brace for impact, because about a dozen officers came to the scene. They beat the crap out of me, and they put me in solitary. I was devastated, because I only had two months to go to go home. My son…he came to visit me the week before, and my family. I told them, ‘I’m coming home’ and this and that. They all prepared for me to leave. And then because of this situation, I was facing three more years in prison. I ended up doing a year. I was supposed to come home in three and did four. I was in this prison cell, and I’m banging my head against the wall going, ‘What the hell?’ What’s gonna happen?’ And I wrote a letter out to my family, letting them know I’m not coming home. I fucked up. I close this letter and then realize I don’t have no stamp to send it out with. 

Not until my sister wrote me back. My sister’s super religious. She writes me and tells me to read Psalm 91 from the Bible. And it’s this Bible she gave me early on in my incarceration when I was at Riker’s Island. And that’s the only item you could get while you were in solitary, your religious item…When I read that, I thought, ‘Fuck no. I don’t give a fuck about the Bible and religion.’ But sitting there for 24-hour lock-down, not having anything to do, I decided to pick it up. And I read Psalm 91. And as soon as I started reading it, a stamp fell out of my Bible. And it was the stamp I needed to send out this letter with, to communicate with my family about the trouble I was in. 

As soon as that happened, I felt like there was a spiritual awakening. I felt chills. I started reading the Bible from front to back and started realizing what I was doing was extremely wrong. I felt so much guilt and started realizing I was not only affecting the people around my circle but the thousands of people I sold drugs to. Their families were being affected, and I was just creating this whole web of destruction. I started praying and asking God, ‘How can I give back?’ And the idea of ConBody came to play there. I was already helping the guys in the yard lose weight and work out, and I was like: This is what I want to do. I started writing out my whole workout routine, and I started working writing what exactly I wanted to do when I came home. I came home about a year later, and I really stuck to it. I stuck to a regimented schedule and was really disciplined. (I was way more disciplined than I am now.) It’s just been crazy. Now I’m at Saks [running a workout studio on the second floor at the Wellery].”

Coss Marte Part 3: Working Out, Developing The Program, and The Prison Theme

Coss Marte Part 3: Working Out, Developing The Program, and The Prison Theme

Coss Marte Part 1: The Lower East Side, The Drug Trade and His Mom

Coss Marte Part 1: The Lower East Side, The Drug Trade and His Mom