“What I have learned about myself in prison is I should have stayed true to myself because under the mask I was gentle, smart and caring.”
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: California Health Care Facility, Stockton
In 2009, I committed a home invasion robbery expecting to find large sums of money, but instead, I almost lost my life. I was sentenced to over 30 years. Prior to coming to prison at 21, I was in and out of juvenile hall. My teen years were riddled with bad decisions and hopelessness. I was born in Oakland, California, to a single mother hooked on drugs and living in one of the most dangerous cities in the USA. Unfortunately, I went from juvenile detention to prison and never really understood or realized the harm I was causing myself, my community, and my family. I left for the streets very early in my life, searching for what I didn’t get in my household: acceptance and love. I found acceptance and love but from distorted and manipulative people. People say you are what you eat and who you hang around, which is very true. Let me be clear, prison can be dangerous, especially on high levels, but once I got down to lower levels, I started to benefit from many of the programs that were offered. What I have learned about myself in prison, I should have stayed true to myself because, under the mask, I was gentle, smart, and caring. I have learned that I don’t need to do stuff to impress other people. One of the most influential groups I attended in prison was empathy and manhood. I had never heard of the word empathy and had no idea of what productive manhood looked like; this group was life-changing, to say the least. While being in prison has been challenging. I will admit there are good things we can do to prepare ourselves to be successful once we’re released. Once, I got serious about my life, it was like my world lit up, and I started to discover new things. For example, who would’ve thought I would have found my passion here in prison? Masonry class was foreign to me, but I really got into it and ended up becoming certified, and now I love it. Peace can be the hardest thing to attain, especially in prison, but it’s mind over matter, right? Or is it mind vs. matter?