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!

Tony, 32

Tony, 32

Meet Tony…

To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt.

Tony, 32
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: California State Prison, Corcoran, California

Fresh out of high school, a couple community college classes, and a sudden sharp turn to facing the Death Penalty. I came into the system at 18. I use the word system because each step of the way works in chaotic unison. Before my crime occurred, I had been in only one fight in my entire upbringing. A fourth grade brawl over a girl behind some classrooms. That was my share of violence. Before the System. Yet, if there was one thing I did do compulsively, it was lying. Lie to my parents about my herb habit, lie to girls about my faithfulness and lie to myself about who I really was. Today, I’ve tried to correct my actions. I’ve come to accept that I was a coward and I don’t have to continue being that person. The more I understand the extent and damage of my actions and inactions, the heavier the weight is. I see so many people ignore the reality of why we are in this system. We block out what we did and do so many different things except what we’re supposed to – accept responsibility and change. It’s understanding how a mother will never see their child how a person lives in fear in their own home; how pain and its scars never heal; how no matter how hard you try to make amends; you know it will never be enough.Trying to share these things with others here is like trying to communicate with someone who speaks a foreign language.

Nine out of ten people give up and the tenth one is fifty-fifty. The road is mine to take though. I made it after all. And after fourteen years, I’ve refused to give up. I’ve refused to accept this is all there is or will be. When I was found guilty, I didn’t give up. When my appeal was denied, I didn’t give up. When my countless self-written petitions were filed and denied, I didn’t give up. I feel like giving up is an easy way out. The craziest thing, though, is that I’m up for a possible re-sentence. A second look. A second opportunity. And I’ve struggled to keep my head up. I’ve fought myself to stay positive. I’m facing a fear I can’t control, a future I can’t predict. To put it simply, I am scared. But more than scared I feel guilt. A guilt because me wanting a chance is unfair to those I’ve hurt. I know most people don’t see it this way, they don’t even stop to think about their victims. I hear it all the time. It sounds like eating foil wrap. However, in the same way that one can find excuses for any given situation, you can also find solutions. Today, I am sentenced to life without parole. Knowing that my change can be the change that pushes me to make a positive impact. Hopefully along the way I can help others also.

Whitney, 33

Whitney, 33

Meet Whitney…

I was on drugs and alcohol which led me to a fatal mistake. I started hearing voices and seeing things that weren’t there.

Whitney, 33
Incarcerated: 3 years
Housed: McPherson Unit, Newport, Arkansas

I was on drugs and alcohol which led me to a fatal mistake. I started hearing voices and seeing things that weren’t there. Some things seemed real, like the TV began to talk. I was going back and forth between men. All of my relationships were raunchy. I was so lost and caught up in sex and drugs, that I couldn’t see what was happening. I was so ashamed and hurt by my actions that I tried to commit suicide. One day my old case worker asked if I would like to try and talk to my kids. I said no, I was sure they didn’t want to speak to me. I have four kids and one is deceased. My oldest was upset with me for a while. The other two were not upset as much. I look back with regret everyday on the choices I made. I’m still talking to my kids. It’s been rough for all of us. I can’t sleep at night sometimes because I question myself. The guilt consumes me. After I came to prison I got my GED. I didn’t think I could do it. That’s the way I’ve felt all my life,  like I couldn’t accomplish anything. I love to write poetry about how I feel. God has changed my life and is still working on me. I look at these prison walls and think this is what I left my kids for. I miss being around them so much. They are so smart and funny.

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