Travis, 33

Travis, 33

Meet Travis and Wendel..

“It is softening my heart in a hard place.”

Travis “Milkbone”, 33

Incarcerated: 11 years

I’ve been at San Quentin for three years, and since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the dog program. My dog, Wendel, is one of the first to arrive here. Although I haven’t been training him since he first came here, I definitely care about him and his future as a service dog. Many inmates in this program have their reasons for wanting to be a part of this program. As for me, I have a nephew who is mentally disabled and in foster care because of his parent’s battle with addiction. Since I’m a replacement trainer, it’s more like Wendel is teaching me. I usually just reinforce what he already knows and bond with him. It is softening my heart in a hard place. He graduates on April 5th and then goes on to professional training. It’ll be sad, but I know he is going to help a person like my nephew, and I helped play a part in that. Thank you to Canine Companions for bringing their program here.

 

Roger, 45

Roger, 45

Meet Roger..

“My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth.”

Roger, 45

Incarcerated: 30 years

Housed: California Medical Facility, Stockton 

On the brink of a new year, I was introduced to the two latest members of my family, my nieces. They have further fueled my drive for freedom and continue to be a shining example of progress through and despite duress. I’ve been incarcerated since I was a teenager, and at that time, my youngest brother and sister were the same ages as their children; my nieces are now. I walked into prison with an immature and biased belief system fueled by what I was taught by the males in my life and neighborhood. This ultimately led to my association and inevitable incarceration. Resulting in an innocent woman losing her life. To this day, I regret the choices of my youth and am genuinely sorry for the hurt I caused. My two nieces and the unwavering love of my mother and other women have opened my eyes to the importance of supporting our better halves with our strength, drive, power, and ability. Because without them, there would be no us! My goal once home is to rebuild community trust and dependability by being a voice and advocate for struggling and troubled youth. Having been one of these youths myself and recognizing the lack of positive male role models and activity groups for the youth still within the community, I believe that it is time for someone who personally knows the importance of teaching and raising our youth, the futures of our communities and the world in a way that promotes peace and progress. I write this hoping to find new friends from all walks of life who might share my aspirations. I go before the Parole Board in July and expect to be found suitable. Hopefully, these goals and endeavors can and will manifest sooner than expected. I hope to hear from anyone striving for change.

 

Gunner, 32

Meet Gunner..

“To anyone I have hurt carelessly or under addiction, I pray you heal and learn to forgive. I never forgave those who hurt me, and it turned into poison. An apology is made through my life actions. NO ONE is truly free who cannot control themselves.”

Gunner ‘GT’, 32

Incarcerated: 7 years

Housed: Valley State Prison Chowchilla, California

Imagine if everything you have ever experienced was abnormal and nothing was normal by society’s standards. You just stepped into my shoes. From the age of one to the age of four, I lived with my poor drug-addict mother who loved men and needles more than me, leaving me alone to starve and get molested. Cops showed up and stripped my little fingers from the only thing that made me feel safe. I was taken from her like a state of emergency. I was taken to a place where I was held down, given shots, and told it was okay. Then, I was given to a stranger called father, and people I didn’t know who said “I love you” but yelled when I did anything. My father was a broken man. He had a wife and two sons, but she ran away to protect herself and the boys. I was this fix, but I had my trauma already. I was young, angry, and exposed to too much. My father inconsistently lost jobs by dropping liquor down his throat and meth through each nostril. How would anyone expect shit to go down?

One day in the winter of 96, I was in New Mexico, staying with my dad’s buddy and his two kids. One day while my dad was at work, we broke a window playing ball. His buddy duct-taped our hands and feet behind our backs and put us in the corners of separate rooms. Eight hours later, my dad came in from work: I’d pissed my pants, and my hands were numb. My dad beat the dude up and asked if I wanted to live with people I’d never met; I said yes. It was the only time my dad did right by me. Aunt Brenda and Uncle Ronny were bikers. I had my room, bed, and a home for two years. I went to school, and I had friends. It was my best life, regardless of whether it was still wrong. While I was living with them. I was almost killed four times by a dog attack; involved in a drive-by shooting, I was kidnapped and raped and nearly thrown off a building.

In the summer of 1998, my dad took me back, he wanted me, but he had nothing to offer but some bullshit. I fought at school every day. He would beat me; I would lie to authority about my black eyes. My family covered for him. One day, my dad came home, blacked out from drinking too much, and beat me to the point where I ran to 7-11 and called the cops.

From 12 to 18, I was forced to pretend to be perfect when I was broken. Years passed in that brokenness, and I lost the feeling of happiness and comfort. If things weren’t wrong, I felt something was wrong. I got kicked out and moved around to 17 foster homes. I needed help, not abandonment. At 18, I was indeed full of hate, looking for expressions to participate. I got arrested selling drugs and got lucky. It was the only time my skin got me out of an adverse fate. I used sex, alcohol, and drugs to silence the insecurities I called demons. I literally avoided my past, which caused a destructive present. I had no men who would teach me how to be a man, so I watched TV and made my own James Bond plans.

I did what I wanted, right or wrong. I was a raw street boy trying to be a man on my own two feet. Failures showed me how much I hated myself, so I gave up caring. When things went wrong, I shrugged, not giving a fuck, because I self-sabotaged, not trying pathetically in every way. Sad, angry, and fueled through aggression.

From 18 to 25, I was having fun doing what I wanted because of my youth’s lack of exposure and trying to make up for lost time. I was stunted in maturity. If I’d had direction, I would have been working in a union job, but I never knew what people called obvious. I never saw a way out to be successful. I tried two times to be a good guy. The first time she dumped me was when I was in the US Army. The second time, I blacked out and hurt a girl; it was 100% my fault. I take 100% responsibility for the harm I caused. I blame no one, factor traumas. I should have stopped out of fear and faced the pain. I spiraled in 2016 after my girlfriend moved out; I wrecked my truck, lost my job, lost the apartment, and was homeless, fueling my addictions. I was arrested for blacking out and hurting an innocent soul who didn’t deserve my stupidity of actions.

In county jail, I was given a razor blade and a bible, and for 28 days in isolation, I faced a crossroads: end myself or change. I prayed to God to change all of me and give me strength. On the wall was Romans 8:28. I have been sober since. I went to college and graduated with a 3.0 GPA, not bad for a high school dropout. I took every class to parent myself for everything I lacked or never knew. I seek to be loved and accepted; I desire to be the gap for the lost, outcast, rejected, and those who have made choices from factors related to unhealed trauma. To anyone I have hurt carelessly or under addiction, I pray you heal and learn to forgive. I never forgave those who hurt me, and it turned into poison. An apology is made through my life actions. NO ONE is truly free who cannot control themselves.

 

Shea, 36

Meet Shea..

“I don’t know if there is any direction or positive behaviour going forward that could help to atone for my actions that day, but I think it would be foolish to not explore anything that might rebalance the scales towards righteousness.”

Shea, 36

Incarcerated: 4 years

Housed: St. Albans, Victoria, Australia

I am currently four and a half years into a 22 year sentence for murder. Sadly, this lone fact has come to represent my identity to society at large and a stigma I shall likely wear until my own demise. As much as I would like to avoid that being my legacy, it is a reality. I took an innocent life and severely ruined the lives of those intertwined with them. The guilt will forever haunt my soul, and a portion of my heart is now irrevocably broken.

My story is not unique; it is possibly even a standard tale of loss, in all the forms it can manifest as within these walls. Loss of freedom, loss of comfort, loss of luxury, loss of love. At times it feels like all I have left to live is the final few chapters of a book that no one has bothered to continue reading. Ironically, as you feature in each and every national newspaper, and your name and face are plastered over each TV news bulletin, your personality and any opportunity for public expression are being stripped from you. Strangers begin writing the only real remaining narrative of your existence. The only word I ever uttered in court has come to define me. “Guilty.” In a world of black and white, wrong and right, I have become tarnished. A bad egg. I don’t know if there is any direction or positive behaviour going forward that could help to atone for my actions that day, but I think it would be foolish to not explore anything that might rebalance the scales towards righteousness. The anonymity of incarceration feels at times like a cloak of invisibility has been thrown over you. I am thankful for the efforts of those like yourselves and the newsletter, Paper Chained, who seek to give us a voice that can escape through the cracks in the walls and past the razor wire. Without the possibility of redemption; with no capacity for change, comes the allure of nihilism and defeatism. If our flaws and mistakes forever define our role in society, how are we to even consider reintegration? We are human, as capable of error as any other given the circumstances. As with anyone, we have needs and desires; though we are now often denied both. Should I ever walk free, the level of appreciation I have for the basics of life itself will surely be immeasurable. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” All I hope for in the future is relative stability and a personal support network of friends in place of a defined biological family. There is still love and care in my heart for others, and I hope that I can find some in kind. Thanks for reading, and giving other prisoners an outlet.

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