After a seventeen and one-half hour bus drive from Chino, California to Represa California, the-Grey-goose-a term that convicts dubbed for the transportation when traveling from the reception center to your final destination. Suddenly there was a grave-yard at the foot of this winding road leading to the infamous Old Folsom one of the deadliest prisons in California. As we sputtered up this road a big structure loomed ahead of us. Picture in your mind a twenty-four year old inexperienced young guy playing like there’s nothing to worry about. know, I was scared to death! Mind you, I’m innocent! Anyway, the gigantic thirty foot doors slowly crept open. I’d heard many things about Folsom but to actually be there and spend a lot of time there until I capture my freedom was not in my plans. The Grey-goose slowly entered the pale structure. As I looked at this monstrosity it looked as if someone took some dynamite and blasted a deep pit and stared building. We sat their [sic] waiting to be received. Freddie Jackson’s Rock With Me Tonight was playing, but no one was rockin.
Finally, we were taken to this area over-looking the yard people were milling about. Suddenly, the yard when down everyone sat down. I strained to see what was going on my heart was pounding my neck was on a swivel and then I saw correctional officers running with a gurney and as I strained to see the person on the gurney was laying side-ways with what appeared to be a pole thrust through his body. That scared me terribly! I didn’t know what to think. I sat down looking at nothing seeing nothing. Just as quickly a loud speaker announced-resume program-. Now I know what those words meant, but they had to be a mistake. Being placed about the track I yelled down at someone asking them what those words meant. At that moment people were walking around like nothing happened. I’d just seen a pole rammed through this persons body and the administration just announced, resume program.
I got there on a Wednesday and all through the week people were getting stuck with knives. The following Wednesday another person was killed. From the very first day I knew I was going to keep my nose reeled to my face!
Prison life, then, was a treacherous and violent to the point were eventually a person becomes complacent in that environment. There’s been many wars fought along racial lines. Mexicans and Blacks Whites and Blacks. The cycle of violence never ended.
This is just a taste of what I went through. Until next time
In the struggle
When I look in the Mirror, What Do I See?
When I look in the mirror, I see an honest, respectful, helpful and caring person. I am happy with the person I am becoming. If you were to ask this question six or seven years ago, you would get a very different answer. I used to be a very angry young man, and I took out my anger on everyone around me.
I got into fights, took things from people for no other reason than I wanted them, and picked on people because I knew they were weaker than me. I pretty much did whatever I wanted to, and did not care for anyone or anything beyond myself. I was just angry at the world, angry and hostile, and it was all I ever felt.
When I look in the mirror, today, I see the truth. I see someone whose anger masked his wounds. Anger was like a deep well that I could retreat to and in which I could protect myself from ever being hurt or abandoned by others. I wasn’t aware of all that when I was angry, but today I know that my anger was a result of my hurt. When I began to address one, the other resolved itself.
Today in the mirror, I see a man who has come far from that hurt and wounded kid. I am a better friend to others, and I have friends who truly value me and I would not trade their friendship for anything. I have learned to risk letting someone in, and I learned the power of trust and loyalty and fidelity. They have the power to transform a person. They transformed me.
In addition to being a better friend, I have become a better person because I see my true self mirrored in the positive regard of my friends for me and mine for them. When I look in the mirror today, I see a man who has learned that the bad things he has done, and could do, have a profound effect on the people around me. It was only when I began to see my world and myself through the eyes of others that change in my core took place. And it was only in learning to trust that I could put my hurt child aside and become a man.
This growth is not only my own doing. I have had a lot of help along the way. I have taken many self-help classes and programs to learn to be a better person. I became aware of the person I was slowly becoming in prison, and discovered that I did not want to be that person. I do not want to be a product of this environment, and I am grateful to people who showed me a better way.
One of them introduced me to Viktor Frankl and his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. I learned from him that I have the freedom to choose the person I am going to be in any set of circumstances, and I choose this person I am becoming now. I want to make something of my life. I want to contribute something to the world and not just take from it. I want to be a productive member of society, and I want the people I love and care for to be proud of what I have become in the end.
Most of all, I want to be able to look at myself in that mirror and feel that the people in my life are better for having me there, and are not just people I take from. I
have learned that I am a person of deep feelings, and I have come to trust others despite having my trust broken in the past and those feelings hurt. In prison, hope and trust are just about everything. Everything!