Michael, 60
Michael, 60

Meet Michael…

I could feel my abuse and helplessness as a child, silenced by the control and power I felt while robbing a bank.

At 14 I was caught getting high at school. Watching the dean hand me my expelled letter, left me terrified. All I could think about was my step dad beating the shit out of me. Fright took over me as I walked home and saw my house. I was tired of being beaten. He had abused me since I was four.

I walked right past my childhood home, realizing there was no love inside. I never returned to that house or anywhere my family lived.

For the next 40 years, I spent 30 in prison and I never experienced love. I was in four different prisons, robbed numerous banks, had three wives and tons of great sex, but I never made love to a women.

Because of my twisted perception of society, I thought I was different and no one would like me, it was easy to steal from the community. I say ‘the’ community because I could not perceive it to be ‘my’ community. I recognized the traumatic effects of robbery and discovered it to be no more about money, than rape is about sex.

I realized that money was not the driving force for my crimes, I was searching for control. If I had a chance of staying out of prison, I knew I needed to go back to school.

It took me nine years to be transferred to San Quentin, the only prison that had a college program. School plugged me into the world around me and transformed my perception of my place in it. I began to identify with my community and recognize my wrong doing.

As part of my self-discovery, I internalized empathy and exorcized apathy. My eyes shifted to the only relative who never left my side, my niece Lacey. She loved me long enough for me to learn to love myself. I can’t change my childhood, but I can change the trajectory of my life and learn how to manage my emotions and behavior.

Today with only two classes remaining to earn a college degree I am thriving socially and do not feel powerless. Education may not be magical, but it transformed me from a dangerous, selfish, and confused member of society into an intelligent, mindful, conscientious, and remorseful member of my community.