James H.


Hello, my name is James, James Harding. I was asked to... I'm going to tell my story. Okay, I was brought up in a... I guess, my mom was on welfare Section 8, had three boys. It's pretty much a single parent. We had a stepdad, but he wasn't really involved in any of our lives or really or wanted much of it, but she did an awesome job. She had me in wrestling. Every year baseball from t-ball to high school. I actually played the violin all the way to high school, did swimming lessons. She had all of us three boys in everything, you know... on low-income, bought us skateboards, rollerblades all to play hockey with all that.

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She was a good mom. Everything was going good until I was about 13-ish? My mom met some neighborhood friends who gave her crystal meth. It’s a drug that was widely popular and it’s ruined lots of lives including mine. But, so, she started doing crystal and then when she got really bad into it is when mom was gone. Nobody was there to tell me to do my homework to go to school and stuff like that. Now I can’t blame, blame that on my mom or drugs or being poor because my other two brothers, they’re doing good, one’s a teacher, he teaches building, the other one that owns his own business. So they did good, you know. And it’s just me, the way I was brought up. I was a stubborn, rebellious so I had no structure and not having that structure is what got me going off and doing everything. So right about when I was 15, a little bit after that, is when it all went downhill. I smoked pot, drank, did acid, did crystal, lost my virginity, everything started going downhill right when I was 15 and I experienced everything… and I found myself in juvenile hall for armed robbery.

I wanted a skateboard to get across town, so I robbed somebody with a knife for a skateboard, you know, did time. And I then on and off, I started getting into when I was about 19, heavy, heavy drugs, crystal and that totally ruined my life everything after high school, everything went downhill.

Like I didn’t want to I didn’t want to be I didn’t, you know, clubbed my violin. I mean selling my violin for drugs I. I didn’t want to be in sports. I just all I cared about was getting high and that was it. And that time my mom was struggling on getting back, getting clean. She’s going to recovery and she relapsed going back and forth.

So, you know, so I didn’t really, I didn’t really have that structure. And then when I was about 21, high on crystal, was high and I needed to support my drug habit, so I didn’t need to but to get high I’d have to, I robbed somebody. I pulled a BB gun on somebody and robbed them and then took, you know, and ended doing time for it, doing three years for it. And during that time, that three years, I was introduced into the prison lifestyle, California prison lifestyle, and here it’s really segregated. You got Blacks, Mexicans, Northern Mexicans, Whites, Asians, everybody sticks to their own. Everybody cells up. Cell partners their own, nobody. So and whenever something is going to happen, if a white and another race gets involved, we can’t really put hands on each other because it will cause a huge race riot.

So our own people, say, if I messed up, for example, my own people would jump on me or stab me to discipline me. So there wouldn’t be racial riots. So you’re always having to watch over your back, your own, my own people is going to get me if you’re messing up. But also in doing that, having, having that, you know, that like foundation or them people your people you kind of grow a love for your people because there are all these other races, and your people are protecting you, so that’s when I started looking over and it became popular into a being a skinhead and I got skinhead tattooed on the back of my head, right? And that’s when I got it back then when I was about 21 and I started getting into that. It was cool, popular and I was accepted and I was on a higher class in regular woods, other white dudes, because I was like a soldier, I was raising my hand, putting in work and I wanted to be that guy. This is where I had some kind of validation, some kind of sense of belonging.

You know what I mean that and be able to survive in here. So I did that for a while and I got racial tattoos and swastikas and stuff like that. And it seems kind of crazy to the people out there that are going to hear this or see this or like “wow, what’s this guy’s crazy” but most of the whites in here, in prison, have swazis, swastikas and have become skinheads. It’s become like a fad. It’s become a thing that’s so popular and it’s so accepted that it’s nothing. You know, you see a guy’s swazi, what no big deal but somebody on the outside seeing that and from World War II and just they see all these flags come up like, you know, and it’s scary, you know, I mean, but it’s just normal, It’s so normal in here.

So then, so I got out, I paroled, and that was like about 2007 or 2008 and I was doing good, had a girlfriend lived with her, welded, I had a job and I was learning welding. I was doing really good for about a year and a half and then we broke up and I started hanging around old friends who were using crystal and that just snowballed… so I started hanging out with them, started doing crystal again.

And then I went and go pulled another robbery. That’s my go-to to get drugs. So now I’m back on 14 years for armed robbery again with two strikes. Now in California, in California, if you have three strikes, that’s it. You’re done. You’re doing life in prison. Not other like other countries your I mean, that’s it.

So I have, if I can do a simple fight and it gets and I knocked a guy’s teeth out or if I get anything, any kind of felony, I’ll be locked away for life, you know, and at that moment I realized “oh I’m back. ” And I’ve been arrested, locked up for 10 years now. But in the beginning of this term, I said I can’t do this no more.

You know, I mean, I can’t do this on my own. I have to… so I reached out and I picked up the Bible and I found God and ever and ever since then I’ve been praying, reading the Bible and he’s helped me. He’s brought any kind of peace and the only reason I’m here and I haven’t caught life already is because of him, you know.

You know, he just helped me out so much time, I mean I know it’s so cliche I give it all to God, but he’s made, he’s brought my mom, my mom, my family full circle, my little brother now, he’s a Christian. My mom is, she’s got like over seven years clean, you know, everything’s gotta admit. I have a girl. I just got married Thursday and I’ve been with her ten years. I just got married Thursday. I have a wife. She’s Christian. He’s just brought my whole, it saved my family and me, my life, you know and I’m very grateful that I didn’t even know I was going to come out here today to do this. I heard I was put on some list but this is amazing. You know, and now I’m here doing this.

It’s like, it’s like another sign of you know from God and it’s doing so, this is so beautiful this whole project everything everybody’s doing. I was showed how it works, it’s just beautiful, but my life’s been going a lot good. I took, I chose to take a step back while a while, about like three years ago and become SNY (Sensitive Needs Yards).

And I mean, it’s crazy out there on the active side. They got the Aryan Brothers out and this and that they’re telling you you got to go stab this and they don’t care about you. They’re telling us, if you’re making hustles, if you got canteen coming in $100, they want $25 dollars off of your canteen off the top it’s and I didn’t witness it happen.. that happened right after but I told myself if there’s any chance to where I’m going to catch three strikes in here, where I have to go stab somebody, I’m coming to SNY side and I’m done. You know because of the coming back this term, I was over all the skinhead the, you know, knifing people, the putting in work, and the tax I was over. It was so much. It was BS. So hypocritical all the dudes that were promoting this or are bringing these youngsters up getting them strung out with needles in their arms and sending him on missions to go catch all this time. It was bull it was BS, so I seen it and that’s why I went to the Bible but something happened to where I was in a position or being level IV, it’s your classification, you have to use a knife a weapon if you’re going to fight so I was put in a situation where I would have to, so I checked in I said, I’m good, I stepped back and I became SNY but ever since then being on this side, you have so much more freedom. You could do what you want.

In prison, they set more rules, okay, the guards have rules, you know, walking in this line, chow time at this time, you got to go to work, there’s certain rules, but then us as inmates we implant, we fort the burden is super heavy like you see you had 10 rules, now, you have a hundred rules and you can’t do this and it’s overwhelming and we do it to ourselves. You can’t, you know play basketball with the black dude, you can’t do this and I mean, it’s just overwhelming and I don’t know why we do it to ourselves in here, especially California, but that’s what we do.

So. But I’ve been good. I’ve been going to programs. I got a family, I got God on my side. I’m not embarrassed. I love Jesus, I love what he’s doing. I see it working through other people and do stuff like this, this program.

I seen JR on TV on 60 Minutes and I was like and it was a trip what I was seeing what he was doing and I seen the wall that he was, you know, the border wall, and then over in Israel all of the faces and you know, honestly, I mean I’m going to keep it real. Honestly, when I first seen him on 60 Minutes, I was like how is this art? Like I draw, I could draw pretty good. How is this? He was just taking a picture and painting it! On a wall! But then I seen what was happening and in the magic and how he’s connecting so many lives and they just showed me that on the phone that they showed the paper the mural in San Francisco and they went to this guy over here a local or a bum and they went to this little girl and she said “Hi my name is so and so I like cats” and we all started laughing and you just get to see the humanity of it. And another person, I just got this love for people, you know what I mean? That it’s just it’s just amazing. What so what he’s doing is more than art, it’s beautiful. And now I see his vision, you know.

I just talked to him right now. We go to a cage, we go when you’re a, when you’re in Ad Seg (Administration Segregation) when you get in trouble, you have to be in cuffs everywhere you go and when we go to your yard there is a little cage outside and he just walked this prison and went to go look in there and he said he said something that I thought I thought when I was in those cages and he says, you know, I seen a bird fly in the cage, hang out for a little bit and fly away. It’s funny how that bird can fly into a cage and fly away a free man, but humans are put in that cage and can’t get out and how we do the opposite. We put birds in cages out on the streets. We have them and how we’re caged like a freaking bird, you know, and it just it just clicked. I mean he just sees his vision. He just sees it, man. I thought I had that thought a while ago when I was in that cage. I’ve seen these birds fly up in there. Hello birdie, and then just flying away, free as a bird, you know, but yeah, it’s amazing.

It’s amazing. Life’s life’s, there’s so much more to life. You know, I was talking with a couple of the other guys and what they’re doing how they’re helping like you can go to a job. I see some of these guards they walk around and they got this miserable, they look miserable and they come here every day and they’re making good money, but they’re miserable. And then I see these people that are you guys are in here. You guys are happy. I mean. You guys have found a jewel like you’re working, it’s not even work. You’re doing what you love and that’s a that’s a true blessing. And I think if you find that in life and find what you do and that you love, love to do and you’re getting paid for it. I mean, that’s it. That’s it, you’re a rich man. You’re rich man. But, I feel being a part of it being here to share do my part and hopefully one day I’ll be able to see it. I get out in four years. Hopefully one day I’ll see it, you know, and just seeing all this like it’s you guys have been a jewel to me. I’ve been more than happy to share I know there are many people here that feel the exact same way. But thank you for the opportunity. You know, I love you all, you know, and God bless.