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'Every day is the same to me now'

July 29, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

After giving up on a chance to get a high school diploma while serving his first prison term, one inmate at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown said he finally has learned the lessons he will need for "a start-over."

Donald Keating, 36, said he hopes to teach younger men the secrets that eluded him: "To trust in theirself, to trust that you don't have to break the law to be successful. It might be a slower process, but it's the best."

Keating smiled as he talked about finding religion behind bars.

A member of the Moorish Science Temple, whose Web site professes the motto, "Uplifting fallen humanity by learning to love instead of hate," Keating said he is in the midst of a 10-year sentence for first-degree assault.

Becoming a better person meant first learning to love himself, he said.

Keating equivocated when asked what a good day behind bars is like.

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"Every day is the same to me now," said Keating, the father of a little girl he said he sees about once a year.

During his first prison sentence, when he was only half the age he is now, Keating said he progressed from a first-grade reading level to an eighth-grade reading level. Then, he gave up.

Prison at that time didn't impress him much, said Keating, who observed that younger inmates now seem more hardened than they were during his first incarceration.

"They're a lot smarter, and about the wrong things, though," said Keating, who expressed hope he would be able to work with young people when he gets out.

Keating said he would like to return to Baltimore and give back.

The hardest aspect of prison?

"Knowing that you can't go home," Keating said.

Although he said he scoffed at the lessons of his first prison sentence, Keating said he's learned not to take some things for granted.

"I want to be successful," Keating said. "I don't want to keep coming back and forth in here and doing nothing. I have a daughter that I have to be there for."

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