Hector M.

REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI

Okay, well, I've been incarcerated 20 years now, since the age of 18 for the crime of murder. And it was a crime I committed when I didn't have a complete understanding of who I was. I realize now through a lot of reflecting on my life all these years, and I realize that my crime had to do with the emotional turmoil that I was going through at the time. My crime was gang-related, and that was the story that was told to the public.

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But really what it was, my motive had nothing to do with a gang retaliation or anything like that. It had to do with a situation I was going through at home with the mother of my daughter. And to this day, my daughter has no idea about this. I’ve never told her about this, but it has to do with my doubt of her being my daughter. And at the time it wasn’t an insecurity thing with her mother. She actually told me she believed it was somebody else’s at first, and then changed her mind and said, “No, I think it’s yours.” And there were some things or reasons for me to believe that maybe it is. But the doubt was planted already in my mind. And I didn’t want to be a deadbeat dad if she was my daughter. I wanted her to be there every step of the way. And so I made a decision to stay with her in a relationship, and we moved in together during that time, waiting for her to give birth. My plan was to take a paternity test and find out if it really was mine.

But those months of waiting were very stressful for me, because of this doubt, it was eating me up inside. I remember laying in bed with her, and she would ask me to rub her stomach or feel the baby kicking. And I didn’t want to do that, because I felt that I would get attached to this baby, and then what if I found out she wasn’t mine, and now I’m attached? I was afraid of that. And so this was eating me up inside it all these months. And a situation came up with a rival gang member, and I made that my excuse to vent out this anger and this frustration I was feeling inside. I made that my excuse, that he’s a rival, but really it had nothing to do with that. I didn’t even know this person.

So I came to prison, never got to take the paternity test, because I got incarcerated nine days before my daughter was born. My family accepted her as soon as she was born, they accepted her as mine. And months pass, years pass, and it came to a point where it just didn’t even matter to me anymore, whether she was mine or not. I was sentenced to life in prison. And that was another reason why it didn’t matter. I figured, “You know what? What does it matter now? I’m going to spend the rest of my life in here anyways.” And then more years passed, and then that changed. Then it was, “You know what, she is my daughter, and it should matter.” And I wanted to change. Change didn’t begin when I made the decision to come on this side, which is SNY (Sensitive Needs Yard) side, the change didn’t begin there when I made that decision.

It had started before that, but the idea of making that decision was so scary to me, because I worried about what people were going to judge me, what they would say about me. In a way, I could say that I created the force of circumstances to come over here. And it started off with getting the news that my sister passed away from a car accident. That was the hardest thing I’ve been through in prison. And I began using drugs. After all these years I had not used drugs in prison, and I began using drugs because I didn’t know another way to express this pain I was feeling, I didn’t have someone I could talk to about my sister’s passing.

And so even though I knew the drugs would not help me, I knew the drugs would not make this pain go away, but I knew it was hurting me. And I guess by hurting myself, it was showing to other people how I was hurting, really. So I became dependent on it, no longer to make the pain go away, but so I wouldn’t get sick. You know, heroin addiction, even though I wasn’t addicted, but I had to use so much that now if I stop using, it would make me sick. And so I became dependent in that sense. Like I said, I had to create the force of circumstance, in a way subconsciously, to make me make this decision for myself. And the day came when I got caught with drugs, and I went to administrative segregation, I had to go through the withdrawals.

It was horrible, but while I was there, my mind cleared up, it was no longer foggy like before. I started gaining all my senses back, and I started thinking deeply, like, “This is it. This is a moment. Either you go back to where you came from or you take this step right here and direct your life, be the creative force in your life. You decide what you want.” And I did it. I made that decision. And man, now that I’m here, I tell myself, “Why didn’t you do this sooner?” But I couldn’t have done it sooner because I didn’t have the mindset that I have now. So it was impossible. And I’m no longer concerned about people’s opinions about me. Now when I interact with other inmates, other races, you know I’ll hug them.

Where I was at before there were rules, there were certain things you didn’t do. I couldn’t go and, say, hug a black inmate because then I might be looked at like, “What are you doing? You’re getting too comfortable, keep your distance.” And over here I can go and hug them and it’s just this recognition that he’s human just like me. And there’s no more division, there’s no more, “Oh, I can’t talk to you because of your colored skin,” or any of that. Everything’s changed for me. Relationships with family, I talk to them and they always tell me, “You teach us so much. You always have a unique perspective on things.” They’ll talk to me about family problems, and what I tell them always surprises them, and they always give me compliments, like, “Man, you never try to create a division amongst us,” even though family, they might temporarily hate each other for a moment. But I always talk to them about a way to make up, and they’re always surprised. And I always tell them, “I’m never going to take sides between you guys. You’re my family.” That kind of confuses them a little. Like, “Wait a minute, you don’t think that was wrong?” Yeah, it might have been wrong, but still, I’m not going to choose you over that person.

Now it’s just so many possibilities that I see now. I don’t see nothing that’s impossible anymore. Really, I have no excuses for anything anymore. Once I realized that I’m a product of choices, that’s it. Even if I wanted to forget that, I can’t. I just know that I can’t blame nothing on nobody no more, I can’t make excuses for nothing no more, because I know that I’m a product of choices. And so knowing that, I view every day as an opportunity to learn something different or to improve in some way. And there’s just so many possibilities now for me.