Francisco O.


My name is Francisco Olivares. I'm currently serving 32 years to life for attempted murder as an aider and abettor. I was with the individual that was shot. He's home, he went home in 2009, and yet I'm sitting here with a life sentence.Before I even go there I would like, you to know, where I came from. I'm one of three kids. My dad was a heroin addict and my mom ended up doing heroin as well. I would go with him to steal and to support their habits. And that's the only way I would eat. So, that was my substance, you know, I would go out there, if I didn't go out with him, I wouldn't eat, so that's how I grew up as a kid.

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My sister, my brother disassociated themselves from us. I was with my mom, my dad, but my sister and my brother grew up in different households. My sister became a successful individual and so did my brother. I followed the path of my mom and my dad. When I was 13, my dad died and… my mom continued using drugs, so I was raised in the neighborhood in East LA, eastern Los Angeles.

So I gravitated to seeing my older friends or homies and… I longed for their… for their kind of like, appreciation for what I was doing. So whenever I committed a crime or whatever they would give me a clap in the back or you know, and that’s what made me who I was. I end up going to a YA (California Youth Authority) when I was 13 years old.

I learned to survive in jail. I got out when I was 18. Ended up having a child. You know, and I said to myself I would never put him through the situations I did, you know. So at that time I end up with his mom and we ended up buying a home, but at the same time, I couldn’t control my impulsive behavior like… if you were to tell me right now “hey let’s go over here and kick this guy’s ass”, I still had it like a sense of loyalty to a, to something that I held in high regard and I didn’t think about the consequences, my family and my son. So what I did is, you know, I reverted it back to going back with my homies, even though I had a job. I had a house. I was doing plumbing, electrical. I had just purchased a home. I was working 50, 60 hours, but yet when they would call me, here I go, you know and so I made that mistake and I ended up… this was a five-second decision, cost me my life. I’ve been in prison since I was 24 years old, I’m 44 right now.

Luckily, thank God for my son still, I was able to guide him as much as I could since I’ve been in prison. He graduated from college. He has a AA, he hates gang members, which I encourage, he hates prison, you know, he does… never been in trouble with the law. He’s a real bright individual. He comes to see me here and I don’t sugarcoat it, I tell him all the struggles. I tell him I don’t glorify prison, you know, because I never want him to step inside or never be in my position. So that’s even though I… It’s a learning curve, you know, like now that I am taking all these classes, I’m going to college, you know, he sees me and says “damn dad you’re trying.”

I’m not perfect. I still make mistakes, but I’m telling them I’m trying. Every day’s a struggle. It’s a struggle as far as making the right decisions, you know. You’re expected to do certain things and you know what’s right and what’s wrong, and you balance out the consequences, but sometimes, you make the wrong decision still. But as far as like, when I came to prison, I was 24 years old, I started off in Pelican Bay. In Pelican Bay, I was not only impulsive but I was violent, you know, I used, if anybody needed to be stabbed, oh, I’ll do it. With no regard to my consequences, and I didn’t have hope I thought “oh, well, nobody’s being paroled, nobody with a life sentence is being paroled.” So I continued that path, until one day I find out that my son was being bullied at school, and there’s nothing I could do about it. I was so far away, I was 14 hours away and somebody told me why don’t you just go SNY, you know, they’ll transfer you down south so you can see your son.

And I thought about it and it took a lot for me to actually say, “you know, what? I’ll do that.” So I did, I ended up going to SNY, I came down to Lancaster, I was able to connect with my son and be able to get to know him. I was in Pelican Bay for 10 years. And in those 10 years, it was from the time he was 6 years old to 16. I was able to sit down and have a meal with him and find out what’s important to him. I knew nothing about him. All I knew about him was his paper, you know, paper and pen and… yeah, that right there made a big impact in my life to choose to start striving to change my life.

Since I came to this site, I haven’t had any violence. I haven’t had to hurt anybody or of course, I get upset with people, but I learned how to cope with it, you know, make the decision where I’m not going to hurt anybody. And till this day, I have a good relationship with him. He comes to see me, you know. Yeah, that’s who I am.

Getting old in here. I turn 44 on the 25th of this month. Sometimes a five-second decision doesn’t actually dictate what a person is trying to do or wanting to do. In my situation, I was with somebody, you know what I mean? It doesn’t take, I’m not saying that my understanding was he was going to beat somebody up that threw a bottle at his sister, and the situation didn’t turn on like that. I used my own truck. It’s kind of… people would say like “wow, why would you use your own truck when you were going to go do something?” It was because that was not the intention. It was a split-second decision. Five seconds could change somebody’s life, and I understand the impact on my victims. But now I see also how, the change in laws, how it’s giving people hope to try to rebuild, rehabilitate themselves. These college programs, you’ve never seen them before in prison and in the 21 years I’ve been in prison, I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never seen all these AA, NA, anger management nothing… till now recently the last five years, seven years. So my message would be, is: “we’re all human. Thank you for listening.”

This is the first interview I’ve ever done, ever.