In my journey inside, nothing could really prepare me for what was to come. Everyone's journey is different & I've learned these basic things in my re-entry and transition:Be patient (Especially with yourself), don't compare yourself to others (Your path is yours alone), and continue climbing the mountain (Obstacles will come, just keep climbing). Being in the trenches of re-entry & working with an organization that focuses on re-entry made me realize what my purpose really is-to give back. Surviving Board, paroling, discharging from parole...I've climbed that mountain. My focus today is to make a positive difference to the community I've harmed and the inside community I've left behind.
There were so many things that contributed to me making the poor choice to live a criminal and gang lifestyle. I don’t mention these facts to justify my despicable actions. With the help of good men and women and through education and hard work, I was able to change and transform the person I was into the person I was meant to be.
When I was sentenced to 33 years to life under the third strike law, I thought my life was over and lost hope. 17 years into sentence, I got tired of feeling hopeless and decided to start attending self-help groups. Soon enough, I was the one leading them. After serving 24 years I was resentenced and released under 1170 (d)(1). I am now enjoying my freedom by giving back to my community through the work with ARC and different local organizations. As a life coach, I help ARC Members by lending my lived experiences to help guide and mentor them as they navigate their own reentry journey.
Understanding all that CA offered me a chance to start fresh; however, I soon realized that even though the landscape changed, those old childhood issues still persisted. In 1990 I found myself making impulsive & irrational decisions whenever stressed. That year, I was sentenced to serve an indeterminate term of 15 years-to-Life. I spent more than 28 years of my life in correctional facilities; however, with hard work, persistence, & divine intervention my life was transformed. I spent a considerable amount of time on self-improvement, earning a High School Diploma, various vocational trades, and self-help certifications. Wanting to help make a difference, I became a Peer Literacy Tutor, Recreational Coach, and Youth Mentor, as I continued to seek self-help through self-improvement.
It had been a rocky experience each time that an employer would ask "why are you being tracked like an animal?" Or the confused public eye that would question the same thing. My inability to swim in a pool or beach with family, friends, and loved ones because the monitor would glitch causing for my parole officer to panic that a registered gang member was on the loose. Now that I am completely free to travel and swim, work where I choose, wear shorts in the summer with out feeling judged, I could tell you that today I am as blessed as can be.
I’m doing fire work now because it has given me self confidence and self worth that I feel I used to lack. Nowadays I hold my head up high and take pride in everything I do because what I do has value that I truly appreciate. I’m no longer hurting the community, I’m giving back to it. I’m constantly humbled when I see my friends, family and strangers and they thank me for my service. I get a bit embarrassed by it to be honest.