Armondo, 44

Armondo, 44

Meet Armando…

I was a violent, domestic partner. It took me 15 years of being in prison to accept I was wrong. I led myself to prison. I was selfish and harmful, consumed with negative behavior and gang activity.

Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: California State Prison, Lancaster

Everyone needs someone in their life to keep them going while in prison. The love I receive from my family has gotten me through each day of the last 15 years. And my 17 year old son Angel, who needs his father to come back home. I worry about tomorrow. Not knowing if my son will want anything to do with me or when I will be back home. I have not been there for him since he was two. The worry of coming home with my parents not being there. I lost my mother to cancer and my only sister Lorena passed away. I stress about Vanessa, the mother of my son. If she still has a special place in her heart for me. Does she care for me? I guess what keeps me up at night is my past. Everyone who I left behind before coming to prison. Those I love. I have learned that I’m stronger than I ever knew. I’m able to change the old me and be a better version of myself. I learned to be patient with others. To choose my words before speaking. I learned that I had an addiction. It took control while I was in denial and I blamed others for my actions. I was a violent, domestic partner. It took me 15 years of being in prison to accept I was wrong. I led myself to prison. I was selfish, harmful, consumed with negative behavior and gang activity. My parents gave me and my sister everything we needed. They were great role-models. They loved us and spoiled us. The only thing missing was spending time with us. I have learned it is called being “neglected.” I chose to find comfort in the streets. Those friends caused me to be in prison for a long time. I learned I don’t have to be there to be part of a crime, I was supporting the gang lifestyle. I have a board hearing in 2027. By then I’ll be 21 years in prison and 50 years old. What a life lesson.

Dennis, 39

Dennis, 39

“I learned a different way to communicate and worked on becoming the person others could come to for help. The person I always wished I had in my life when I was a boy. I strive to be better.”

Meet Dennis, 

“The baby isn’t breathing.” The baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its little neck and appears to have drowned in amniotic fluid during a very difficult birthing process. He never reaches his mothers arms, instead he is swept away by frantic doctors in an effort to revive him.

The doctor returns to deliver the news “The baby is alive and breathing.”  A moment of relief. “But he was gone too long and his brain was deprived of oxygen for far too long, I’m afraid he will be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.” Turns out he was wrong. Shortly after, the baby sparked back to life with light in his eyes and developed normally.

He was happy and loved for several years until suddenly the love stopped and he never knew what he did wrong. His father, his superman, began hitting him, administering beatings more and more often. The baby, now a boy, began hating himself as much as he felt everyone else hated him. A cycle of abuse and mischief led him to homelessness in his early teens.

Violence became his language, the way he navigated through life. It became an obsession, then a compulsion, until it progressed to murder at the age of 16 and a life in prison. The boy became a man amidst the prison violence he consumed. Again, violence helped him navigate and even thrive where grown men struggled to survive. He was never lost, because that would imply that he belonged to someone that wanted him back.

The man was sentenced to end his life in solitary confinement. He accepted it for a long time. Eventually, he and many other men in confinement starved themselves in an effort to be released from solitary or die in the process.

With the help of many, he returned to the prison general population, where he sought out every opportunity for education that he was previously denied. Fearful that it would all be taken away again, he learned a different way to communicate and worked on becoming a person others could come to for help: the person he always wished he had in his life when he was a boy.

He strives to be better. I am the baby, the boy and the man and this is my story. 📸Dennis’

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