My wife and kids are my motivation to continue to move forward in a positive and healthy manner. Even in prison I want to be a positive role model and have a positive impact in their lives. I don’t want them to follow in my footsteps.
Incarcerated: 13 years
Interview by Edwin our inside Spanish Director
Who are you?
A man who has come a long way from where I started. I want to continue to head on the right path. I feel that it is never too late to continue learning and growing.
How old were you when you came to prison?
I was 19. Now I am 32.
Can you tell us about your journey inside prison?
I started off at a level four prison at a young age. It was the worst, with violence, gangs, politics and the Correctional Officers were mostly racists, others were abusive. It made me feel like prison was a war zone. I didn’t know that I had a choice on how I could act.
Why is that?
At such a young age I felt that I needed to prove myself to my older homies in the gang. At the time, that was what I believed in. I used it as a survival tool, in such a hostile environment.
What was your belief system?
Being part of the Southerners gang, I held up to their code of conduct. Even if it meant to put myself or others in harm ways to benefit the gang I was willing to do so.
How do you deal with this now?
By focusing my time and energy on positive and healthy things. This has helped me to adopt new belief systems by being around positive people. Now I understand why I felt the need to prove myself to everybody else as to how hard core of a gangster I was. I had low self-esteem, the need to be accepted by the negative peers around me. This made me feel some type of love from those around me.
How is San Quentin different in comparison to other prisons that you have been to?
The atmosphere and the culture here is based on how the majority of people are on the same page working towards rehabilitation. To better themselves in general. The places I’ve been through, people laugh at you, for attending groups or trying to do the right thing. Here they encourage you to take positive steps towards rehabilitation.
What motivates you to wake up in the mornings?
A few things actually. Really my kids and my wife. I feel like just trying to be the best version of myself for my kids and wife. Even though I am in prison I want to be a positive role model and have a positive impact in their lives. So that they won’t follow the same footsteps that I did along with the majority of people here.
How difficult has it been for you to adapt to prison life after 13 years of being incarcerated?
At first I never thought about it, maybe because I was afraid of facing the reality of how much time I have to do. I was sentenced to 25 with no life. Plus, as a result of my criminal past, later I was given an additional four year sentence. So I used to focus on negative things, and drown myself in drugs; blocking out my reality. Now that time has passed, I find myself trying to heal from my childhood traumas, for all the gang culture mentality. Which is what got me here in the first place. Unfortunately, I have to grow up here in the prison system. Now I can tell you that I feel like I have figured it out how I need to do the remainder of my time. I make sure to dig into my arsenal of coping mechanisms or tools for success; in order to be able to thrive in a positive and healthy manner.
How has the mental health program been helping you to deal with your stress, anxiety, and other issues?
Well I recently just went through a righteous mental breakdown. To the point where I didn’t care about anything.
I just came off two crisis bed, after my suicide observation for 24 days back to back in 30 days. Along the way I met some good psychiatrists, clinicians and even other prisoners. That really helped me get back on my feet.
What will you tell someone going through mental health issues or are on the verge of giving up?
From personal experiences, don’t be scared or too prideful to ask for help. You don’t have to take medications in order to receive help. Also, know yourself and your signs as far as doing things out of the ordinary that can lead to either harming yourself or others. Don’t give up. You have to find the positive in a negative situation. To me my wife and kids are my motivation to continue to move forward in a positive and healthy manner.
You are about to be transferred out of San Quentin. What are you taking from this experience of being in this prison?
When I get to my next prison I will surround myself with positive people only. To me rehabilitation through sports is a real thing. Most importantly to follow the rules and stay out of trouble so that I can go home to my wife and kids.