Derrick, 45

Meet Derrick..

“I know I can’t do it alone because I’m new to this spiritual journey. But I can visualize myself entering back into society, sharing my testimony in church, standing at the podium on stage in front of a crowd of believers.”

Derrick, 45

Incarcerated: 28 years

Housed: Hughes Unit, Texas

At a young age, around eight years old, I witnessed my mom shoot and kill her boyfriend for being abusive while we struggled with poverty living in the projects. That incident opened up some dark places in my life. I grew up running with a gang committing jackings, drive-bys, shoot-outs, and murder. I was actually in and out of juveniles, state schools, and even foster homes. I was beyond broken. I was deemed the worst of the worst. I knew how it felt when the adults in my neighborhood often told me that I wouldn’t live to see 13 or 14-year-olds, which led up to my incarceration.

I was banging and creating havoc in my own city over a color I didn’t even possess ownership of. When I came to prison back in 1995, I was so naive and lost in the sauce. I wanted to show boys I was good with my hands by fighting and wouldn’t back down from anybody. My mentality caught disciplinary cases repeatedly and was confined in administrative segregation for staff assaults and inmate assaults. I would not listen to the ol’ school convicts telling me I need to sign up for the law library and fight my murder case and try to give my 50-year sentence back. I was numb to the fact that it hadn’t been digested yet. I lost my first child while incarcerated and not being able to attend their funeral because my behavior forbade it; now that torture! That’s when I truly understood the definition of suffering, depression, loneliness, and suicide.

I’ve been in prison for 28 years and have nothing to show for it. I have no G.E.D. No trade. I haven’t attended programs to better my situation even though I haven’t accomplished anything propitious. At least I can say that I’ve surrendered my life to God. I got tired of being the problem. I got tired of being self-destructive. Instead, I chose God to take control of my life. I am tired of all the bitterness and darkness in my heart. I got tired of being labeled as that gang member tatted up. I want to be labeled as a child of God. None of the homies ever took the time to introduce me to Christ. None of them are going to lead me up to heaven, either. I’ve been doing the devil’s work all my life. I think it’s only fair to serve the lord now because I want peace in my heart. I pray that God provides me with a lady friend to come into my life. I promise I will serve him faithfully. I know I can’t do it alone because I’m new to this spiritual journey. But I can visualize myself entering back into society, sharing my testimony in church, standing at the podium on stage in front of a crowd of believers. This is a glimpse of my testimony. I hope you can relate to it. 

Derrick, 46

Derrick, 46

Meet Derrick…

It took 15 years of incarceration and the death of my daughter for me to come to the reality that I was heading down the wrong path.

Derrick, 46
Incarcerated: 31 years
Housed: Hughes Unit, Gatesville, Texas

It took 15 years of incarceration and the death of my daughter for me to come to the reality that I was heading down the wrong path. I was raised by a single mother in a drug-gang infested environment. At 12 I joined a gang, started running the streets and becoming rebellious and selfish. I spent time in and out of juvenile detentions centers, reform schools and finally in prison. Entering prison at 18, all I wanted to do was fight and prove that I could hold my own without the homies. 15 years in- I started to be productive and wrote a book, which I’m trying to get published.

In the midst of me doing 28 years, I’ve lost various family members. It has left me extremely lonely and depressed which drove me to try to commit suicide. Society does not understand prison is a place of loneliness, broken promises and shattered dreams. It’s very depressing when you never receive mail during mail-call. We now have tablets with access to e-messages and a phone, yet what good is that when you have no one to communicate with? Today, I’m praying to the lord that he will provide me with someone. One of the things I regret the most, besides committing murder and breaking my family’s heart, is getting my whole body tatted up. I’m talking Travis Barker and Kevin Gates tatted up. I wish I could get them removed, they attract too much unwanted attention.

Thanks for reading my testimony, but most of all- a special thanks to Humans of San Quentin’s for giving those incarcerated the opportunity to share their stories and perspective. Thanks!

Michael, 43

Michael, 43

Meet Michael…

After turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out.

Michael, 43
Incarcerated: 14 yrs
Housed: Alfred D. Hughes Unit, Gatesville, Texas

Months after turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out. By some miracle, I was barely breathing when they found me. After getting 16 stitches on both sides of my neck, I was sent for a mental evaluation. Back at my unit, I wanted to cry. I’ve never been suicidal! Looking at myself in a mirror, I realized I needed help. I’ve been raised up in the church, and that never got my attention. I’ve had homeboys and money, but still got into trouble. There were girlfriends in my life, but still something wasn’t right. I’ve gangbanged, been to parties and clubs, yet still I’ve had no peace. I’ve talked to doctors and counselors, still nothing good connected. Coming to prison, I’ve tried Islam, and my heart still felt troubled. It’s like I’ve done it all, and yet, nothing helps. In my desperate time of need, I felt hopeless.

Suddenly I felt an urge to pray. I didn’t know why, praying never done anything for me before. However, this urge seemed different. I fell to my knees in the middle of that cell and said, “If there’s really a God of all things, then I ask you Almighty God to help me understand the good and evil I’m going through, and I will give my life to you.” After saying amen, I got up not expecting anything to happen. Looking around my cell for some entertainment, my eyes landed on the Holy Bible and something led me to pick it up. I don’t know why, because I could barely read it. I’ve never understood it before. After picking it up, it fell open and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – there was a small image of a lightning display. It was just hovering between the pages. I assumed I was just hallucinating. So I closed my eyes and reopened them, and sure enough, it was still there. That’s when a notion came over me to attempt to touch it. So I led my left finger towards it in the hopes of feeling it, but to my surprise, it began to fade away. The urge came over me to go to the beginning of the Bible where I was led to read Genesis chapter one, two, and stopped at three. I hadn’t noticed how easy it was for me to read it as I’ve never done before until that moment. It truly scared me wondrously. My body didn’t feel the same. Something was happening.

I began to pray a new prayer. I said, “In Jesus’ name I pray, if you are real, then I’m asking you to help me beat my charges I’m indicted with. If you let me go home, I ask that you give me a son whom I will give to you. If you allow me to have a wife, please allow her to be someone you would come for, don’t let her be someone to impress the world with, and please let her believe in you. Then, give me a sign to know it’s her because I don’t want to be confused! Let our love join us together and take her away from the undeserving pain she’s receiving from perhaps her family, friends, or loved ones. In your mighty name I pray, Amen. I made it home. My brother Eric hooked me up with this Black girl days later. She became pregnant with my child, and we set a day to get married. But she went against the agreement once that day arrived, so I broke off from her, and told her I’d be there for my son when he arrived, but I couldn’t stand her lies. Days later, I met this Mexican chick who just out of nowhere came up to me and said, “I think you’d like my homegirl Scooter.” But she didn’t tell me what she looked like, or give me her number. Then she walked away. I didn’t dwell too much on it at the time. But three days later, I met a girl at my aunt’s place, and that whisper said, “She’s the one.” Me and the girl fell in love, then later I realized her a.k.a. was Scooter. The name was God’s sign to me. Then I found out that she’s not being loved by her family on her mom’s side, because her mom was full Mexican and her dad was a White guy. Scooter was only five years old when somebody in her family pushed her mom in front of a car and killed her because they were mad at her being with a White guy. It was hard for me to believe this at first until I met her family. Before, Scooter had told me how her Mexican grandmother had taken her into custody along with her two sisters and brother. She was not completely loved due to her being mixed. She said her grandmother allowed her mom’s brother to molest her. Then she told me that we had to elope if we wanted to get married. So we did! After getting married and God showed me he was behind our union, and finding out that she believed in Christ, I told her I was gonna take care of her problems, but she didn’t want me to go back to prison.

Now I’m doing 60 years. Sadly, Scooter is no longer with me, she has passed away due to being brokenhearted. My family thinks someone killed her, or perhaps she killed herself. And I’m wondering if I’ll ever know the truth.

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