Amir, 72

Amir, 72

Meet Amir…

I stayed out of prison for five years and came back with a life sentence for attempted murder. For the first time I looked at who I really was.

Amir, 72
Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA

I am a career criminal, my history started in 1967. I was not raised to be a drug addict-alcoholic and a career criminal. My mother and father were hard working people. They provided for me, my sister and brother and we never went hungry. At a very young age I started to rebel at home, in school, and my environment. Stealing, gambling, ditching school, and at 14, I started smoking pot and drinking. As I got older all these behaviors escalated. At 16, my parents sent me to see a psychiatrist. This did not last long. After eight sessions I told my parents I was through with the psychiatrist, and they could give me that money. At 17, I went to a juvenile camp in the Malibu mountains for six months. Upon release I went right back into my dysfunctional household and environment. Within eight months I was in the Los Angeles county jail, for multiple robbery charges. My first county jail experience was fun-games-and insanity. By the time I went to youth authority I was a better crook and gambler. After 22 months at youth training school, I paroled in 1971. I learned a good trade, sheet metal. I was in between an apprentice and journeyman. I went to the local union for a job interview. I was denied based on my skin color, I knew more about sheet metal than the interviewer. One of my original pains was not getting that job, I still live with that pain today. I met a beautiful girl, got married and had two wonderful kids. I enrolled in college and was still drinking and using. My habits shifted to using heroin. I got hooked and dropped out of college. At 25, I went to prison for the first time. Prison a horrible scene in 1977, prison was what you made it. The adventure got better as years went by. I paroled in 1982. I did not try to find work of any kind. I started hustling and hanging out with the wrong crowd. My mantra. “Everything came out of the street, if I didn’t win I didn’t eat.” I went back to prison in 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1995. I stayed out of prison for five years and came back with a life sentence for attempted murder. For the first time I looked at who I really was. Full of a bunch of mental, emotional and spiritual garbage. I finally found out I know nothing. Fighting back I had to examine every aspect of my life. After twenty years of incarceration I’m still soul searching. I no longer have all the answers. I have turned all of my problems over to God. God is in charge and not me.

Victor, 54

Victor, 54

Meet Victor…

I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness.

Victor, 54
Incarcerated: 27 years
Housed: Correctional Training Facility, Soledad, CA

Prison is a very dangerous place, especially in the crowded dayroom where we have to wait until the guards unlock our cell doors. So when my five foot, one inch, hundred and ten pound buddy, Cuba suddenly stopped talking and his sight appeared to see through me, I got a bit nervous. We had been talking for about five minutes and everything was fine. He was telling me about a funny incident that had happened at his job in the kitchen, and we were both laughing. I call him Mr. Magoo, he is a naturally funny guy. His strong Cuban accent and bubbly personality made his conversations extremely funny. That day, he made me laugh so hard I impulsively gave him a slight hug for a second or two, before backing up to continue laughing. That’s when I noticed something odd, “What’s wrong, is there a fight behind me?” I asked him. I quickly turned and scanned the people behind me. Everything seemed normal. The place was packed with inmates waiting for the cell to unlock but no fight or signs of any unusual tension. Cuba simply answered, “Nothing.” I still had some laughter to unleash. However, my little friend was still frozen and staring through me. I looked back again. This time searching more intensely just in case the possible danger was aimed at me. I scanned the dayroom, paying particular attention to people’s hands, looking for weapons, and to eyes and faces to see attitudes and signs of nervousness. Still, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, “What’s wrong Cuba?” I asked again. “You’re making me nervous.” “Nothing” he answered, but he would not look at me. He was still staring straight toward the wall. I moved to his left side trying to see what he was seeing. He was in his 60’s, so I wondered if maybe he was having a stroke. I’ve seen people having strokes, and they just freeze and stay silent. So, I asked him, “Are you okay Cuba? Do you feel okay?” He nodded yes, but remained a statue. “Cuba, please! I’m concerned. You’re getting me nervous. Please tell me what’s wrong?” After a few seconds, he looked at me, and in a very soft and broken tone of voice, he said: “Biktor, I’ve been locked-up for over 23 years and this is the first time someone has ever hugged me.” This time, I was the one frozen and speechless. From that day, and until the day he went home a year later, I hugged him every time I saw him.

Jose, 36

Jose, 36

Meet Jose…

Since the beginning of my existence, I was cloaked in darkness, confined to small spaces. As cramped as I was, comfort and peace was gained by familiarity to my surroundings.

Jose, 36
Incarcerated: 5 years
Housed: Susanville, California

Since the beginning of my existence, I was cloaked in darkness, confined to small spaces. As cramped as I was, comfort and peace was gained by familiarity to my surroundings. Like a seedling buried deep within earth, I too burst forth clawing for survival into a world unknown. My comfort & peace seemed to fade away. As I grew up, I pushed past resistance, elbowed my way through uncertainties in order to stand firm in a space I call my own. Becoming attached to things, to people, only to have them ripped away from my clutches caused a pain to stay. Disappointment, shame, sorrow was masked layer upon layer with rage, hate, and a heart that’s hollow. Resulting in my inner light to fade away. I sought friends from the free world whom might help me escape a dream twirl. Little did I know about the path laid down before me would illuminate the love that stood upon it. A love so majestic that it would revive my inner light which I believed to be non-existent. I held her picture in my hands and couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

I read and reread her letter until I felt my soul awakened. I couldn’t wait any longer. I made my fateful call to her. Like a bolt of lightning ZAP! Her voice struck a chord within my soul and I heard a melody so sweet, I dare call it divine. All I wanted, all I needed, all I had hoped and prayed for I found in her. A woman who looked at my tears of pain, fear, shame, anger, rage, and wiped them away. She listens, she knows, she feels all that I’ve fought, all that I’ve faced, sees in me a man of greatness, a man of perpetual elevation. My inner light was diminished because I had lost my vision. She clears away the fog, she finetunes my perspective, she stands next to me, forever, because she’s here to stay

 

(We were married March 18, 2023).

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