REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI
My name is Israel. I'm 47. I was incarcerated in 1992, November 15, for aiding and abetting second-degree murder. I started a fight and one of my homeboys got his gun taken away. He got shot with it and he got the gun back and shot Brian Madrone. Because I started a fight, I was guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, the way the California law was written, and received 16 years to life in prison. At the beginning of my incarceration, I was incarcerated to Hatch B, and I was on the yard for maybe about three hours until my mate falsely accused me of conspiring to doing something to one of the correctional officers at the time. And then they locked me up in a cell, got beat up by correctional officers and that's when reality hit me where, "Okay, I'm about to start my life sentence and things are just going worse."
It wasn’t until about 20 years later that I would come in contact with somebody I consider my friend now, by the name of Scott, and he talked with me and he knew about my story and I got introduced to him by a friend of mine named, Tyrone. Even then though, I had some hope, so I would stay away from the people that were negative on the yard. I lived my life in prison, at first as being hopeless, but then little by little, think I started at the age of 25 because I considered ending my life at 25, I didn’t see any future back then. Just everything I’ve been through, growing up in the city of Los Angeles, gave me a bad perspective in life and gave me that mentality, “I just don’t care about my life.”
At the time, I guess, the way the world was with all the initiatives going by and all life sentences passing on and just the way the street was. How I started seeing gangs started forming and more gangs started being created in the City of Los Angeles. It was like a culture. Being in the middle of this boiling pot of just violence, I had a learning behavior that I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal. My learning behavior was violence. It went from something as simple as fighting with my fist to learning how to pick up a knife to learning how to pick up a weapon. I didn’t know it at the time, that it wasn’t normal, but the culture I was living in, it was normal.
Then I started reflecting when I was in that cell, for 22 years, and just thinking about, my mom doesn’t do this, my dad doesn’t live in a society like this, so why did I come out with this mentality and perspective and so negative. I was so pessimistic at the time. But once I hit that year 25 and realized I wasn’t dead yet, that’s when something in my brain switched. I started learning how to love myself and started reading books and started educating myself. I was already learning about the law, but then I wanted to read about what was called western philosophy and psychology.
I started studying that and started watching shows of Dr. Phil and I started having a different perspective on society because I noticed the way I grew up, society was so dark. I noticed schools were just passing me by. I wasn’t doing good in school, but I was still passing from third grade to fourth grade and fourth grade to fifth grade. And once I hit high school, I wasn’t educated. I couldn’t understand the curriculum that they had in school, so I was just failing everywhere.
That’s what also started my hopelessness because I didn’t see no future for my life. All I was doing was stealing cars, stealing bikes, stealing whatever I can to make money. That was my way of living. Although my family had businesses, I didn’t want to be dependent on my family business, so I tried to look for my own. When I was in prison I started thinking, “Okay, if one day I end up getting out,” and that was that hope. But even as a lifer, you don’t think like that. People don’t tend to want to think like that. You can’t voice those things in prison, in a cell, to other lifers, that maybe, I’ll get out. That’s just blasphemy. It’s worse than blasphemy, that’s the type of hope you don’t want to have. When you have that type of hope, they look at you negatively. That’s the philosophy in there. They don’t applaud somebody for having hope like that. It’s just not something you do.
I just started studying and focusing on, just in case I were to get out. It wasn’t until 22 and a half years later, that those doors actually opened and I was out and I got found suitable through the Board of Parole terms. I came out to a world where I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t worried, I believed in a higher power; I was hopeful. And since I’ve been out, I got into a construction union, I’ve been making good money, I have a family now. I have a seven-month-old son who’s just been nothing but a blessing to me.
Although, I left twin daughters due to my incarceration, for 22 and a half years, they’re 29 now, it was more of a bittersweet moment with them. Because although I thought it would be a memory and they would have the same love I had for them, they looked at me like a stranger. There was the heartache there and that became negative too because although I wanted to be a father to them, they were just telling me, “It’s best just to get on because we don’t see you as a father.” Something that I was part of or something that I did 22 and a half years prior to getting out, I mean, I was still getting that negative reaction from. I had to just deal with that reality and just continue to stay positive. Hoping one day they’ll come back into my life.
When my son was born, he actually met one of his sisters and she’s seeing me as having my fatherhood now. Hopefully through the light of my son being born, that she’ll be able to recognize the parent I am, the person I am and not what their mom told them who I was back then, which I was. Back then with the messed up head and perspective, I can understand how bad of a person I was. I wasn’t this good kid, doing good things, I was creating victims in the street, terrorizing the neighborhoods. I was in a gang and I didn’t have any hope towards my future.
My incarceration for me, I look at it as being like in Joseph’s story. The quiet storm where, although he was falsely accused and everything he went through in his incarceration, he learned to forgive his brothers because he realized that God put them in through this trail to see that he needed to go through everything to save the people of Israel. Now that I learned from the bad way I was thinking back then, being out here for four and a half years in Los Angeles and talking to these individuals who I still see have this hopelessness, I’ve been able to communicate with them and share the story of my incarceration, how I got incarcerated. Giving my testimony to them and helping them realize that you can change that. You don’t need to get incarcerated for 22 and a half years. You can change your thought process. You can choose the right friends. Give them the understanding, the definition of what a friend is and what a friend isn’t. I’m being that motivating factor for them, the inspiration for them.
Everybody that I’ve been coming in contact with and hearing my story, it’s been pretty nice to see these kids coming out from the juvenile hall and me mentoring them and then seeing them getting into the union that I got into. Seeing them do positive things, supporting their families now with a good career, and watching them grow and becoming better men.
Even though I did not physically commit a murder, and all those years I had a lot of anger about, that I was falsely accused. My role in those actions that happened that day and I understand I had to do my time in prison. I’m grateful, I’m blessed that I had to go through something like that to really take all those years to change my way of thinking, to come out here and contribute to the community now and been able to help out others and parents who lost their child to murder, or have a son that’s incarcerated, or have a son that’s still in a gang. And me being that person in their life now to help them get out of prison or help them to get out of the gang, help them to get a job in the union. It’s been good and I understand now why my life had to take that turn.