Chris S.


I went through Tehachapi Prison in 1998. I was 28 with a life sentence, 15 years to life, got sentenced in 1989. At that time, we didn't see really a way out. I got there, and within three months, I already was in administrative segregation in the hole. The hole is that ad seg, administrative segregation, and that's a nice, you're isolated from the rest of the general population. You're there to serve a punishment for committing an act on the mainline, in the general population. So, if you get in trouble, if you get caught with contraband, you also go to like a court process where you get assessed a SHU (Security Housing Units) term where you go and spend time from six months to a year to an indefinite SHU term.

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I was in segregation for 36 months, 18 of those, single-cell by myself. You don’t go out anywhere. You go out in the concrete yard. All you can do is lookup. It’s all walls around you with barbwire, and this is the most morbid and ugly thing that you can go through, and you have to try to figure these things out as a human being as your mind is adapting to all of this. How do you keep yourself busy when you’re just in segregation like that? There’s no appliances. There are just books. You can write, exercising a lot. So, yeah, coming to terms and understanding where you’re at that moment and just your human instincts to survive and just go through it psychologically because it’s very detrimental. It sucks the life out of you, and it’s just a very, very sad place.

So, going through there at 28, it was a horrible place, and I really suffered there for being in the hole. It’s just a horrible place, and there was nothing really constructive there, but I’m out here now. I made it, and thank God, I served almost 28 years, and here I am. I’m embracing life. I’m blessed. It’s beautiful. It’s not easy coming out as a lifer. I was institutionalized long, so a lot of emotional things that I’m discovering about here, making amends, repairing lost relationships with mother and father because love dies when you’re separated for so long. They can only visit you so much.

So, all this stuff that you have to come back out here and reintegrate with society and figure they throw you out here, and it’s like you’ve got to figure everything out, all the technology, how to buy a car, how to have your medical, how to have all these things that you need to have set up for your foundation to be a law-abiding citizen. Discovering all that on my third year out here still is going, and it’s an ongoing process. Every day, that’s where I’m at now. I’m succeeding as a next lifer. I got my place. I got my truck. I’m paying my bills, and I want to be the best man I can out here. So, here I am, and I’m discovering it, but even my worst day out here is better than my best day in there.