‘Back to being Paul’
The smiling faces of family and friends surround Paul Sopsher, along with inspirational quotes and Scripture.
Those pictures and posts remind Sopsher of his past and motivate him to hope for a better future.
“It keeps me reminded, if I have a bad day or something,” he said.
Above Sopsher’s bunk in Harp’s mental health unit is a picture that does not feature a smiling face. It is Sopsher in a police mug shot, after he was arrested for killing a man.
“It’s hard for me to believe that sometimes,” he said, staring at the gaunt face. “What was I thinking?”
Sopsher was arrested on Christmas Day 2010 for beating a man to death with a pipe. Sopsher said he caught the man with his girlfriend.
“When I saw him laying there, he was asleep,” Sopsher said. “I lost my head.”
Sopsher, 46, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2013 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Addicted to crack cocaine, Sopsher had been in and out of the state’s prison system. When he was sent to Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, his mental health problems, whether brought on by drug use or occurring naturally, got him sent to the Harp facility.
When he arrived, he was in bad shape. His behavior was erratic, paranoid and uncontrollable, he said.
“There was a period that I looked at myself and really thought I was dead,” Sopsher said. “I didn’t even know I was at Joseph Harp for awhile.”
Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Sopsher was given medication and the prison staff worked with him until he eventually regained control.
“From what he was to what he is now is like a 180-degree change,” said Diana Givens, a clinician at Harp who worked with Sopsher.
“This staff — I call them angels — they helped get me back to being Paul,” Sopsher said. “They brought me back.”
Sopsher said he works with other inmates who have mental illnesses.
“Some of them are really bad off. They have conversations with themselves. I’m not criticizing, but that’s what goes on,” he said. “I try to help them out. I talk to the younger guys who are having a hard time.”