San Quentin State Prison
My favorite parable is from The Bible and is found in the Book of Luke 15:11-24. It’s the story of the prodigal son who leaves his family’s home and squanders away his fortunes on ‘riotous living’. Only when all of his money is gone and his friends have all left him does he realize how morally and spiritually bankrupt he has become. Filled with a tremendous amount of guilt and shame, he finally decides to turn around and make his journey home. He plans to ask for his father’s forgiveness with the hopes of receiving a scrap of food and a place to lay his head. However, when the father sees his son returning on the road, he becomes so overjoyed that he prepares a feast in his son’s honor and gives him his ring to signify his rightful place in the family.
The Bible may be thousands of years old, but this story parallels my life in so many ways. I am the prodigal son. After high school, I found myself drawn into a party world of all sorts of ‘riotous living’. When it came to the use of alcohol and drugs, I had no fear and was the type of person where a little bit was never enough. The crazy part about it was that despite all the chaos, I actually thought I was having a good time. It didn’t matter that I dropped out of college due to hangovers. So what if I got kicked out of the Air Force for too many alcohol-related incidents. My substance abuse was alienating me from friends, family, employers, and, most of all, myself. Eventually, I decided to try selling pot to support my addictive lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
As it turns out, I wasn’t very good at that either, not to mention incredibly naive, because one morning a couple of my so-called ‘friends/associates’ ripped off a six pound suitcase of weed from my apartment that I was storing for my dealer. One of them high-tailed it with the suitcase, while the other one stuck around pretending to try and help me find him. I felt so frustrated, angry, and betrayed that time ceased to exist and everything became a blur. There didn’t seem to be any way to slow my thoughts and emotions down. In my efforts to retrieve the weed, every move I made was wrong and brought me closer and closer to the edge. In the end, I made the tragic decision to take a man’s life. I wish I could have that moment back again, but it was too late. I never want my actions to seem justified. Whether he was in on the theft or not, he didn’t deserve to die. No one has the right to take another man’s life. I may not have planned the murder, but all of the reckless and irresponsible choices I had made over the years had led me to the point where I was capable of it, and that is where my true accountability lies.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I was the type of man who would murder someone, or that my way of living would earn me a life sentence. However, I’ve used this shocking realization to be the turning point in my life. From the time that I was young, the culmination of my best efforts and intentions had brought me to prison. I was outcast from society and knew that I would need to follow a new path if I was ever to have a chance at freedom again. Immediately I gave up the use of alcohol and drugs, because I never wanted to be that far out of control again. I also began reading The Bible and connecting with a spirituality that I had gone far too long without. I was raised by a single mom who did everything in her power to raise me to the best of her ability, but there were so many times when I wished I’d had a dad in my life.
Today, I have a heavenly father in God who guides my footsteps. Doing time in prison is extremely lonely, frustrating, and painful, but I strive daily to make the best of a bad situation. I never want the taking of a man’s life to be in vain. I feel I owe it to him and his family to become a more thoughtful, caring, and feeling man. I think it’s extremely important that I learn and grow from my mistakes and try to be “the change” that I hope to see in the world. I look forward to the day when I can leave prison and walk peacefully in the sand beside the ocean’s roar. Every morning as I rise to face the chaos of the day, I remind myself to keep believing that despite my circumstances, the Uni-verse continues to conspire in my favor.
All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM