Jose M.


My name is Jose Mayo, and I'm incarcerated in Tehachapi Prison for second-degree armed robbery, a crime that I committed when I was a kid, 16 years old. I came from Mexico to the United States when I was 16. I crossed with my cousin and uncle, and I stayed in Los Angeles with my family members. I started working so I can start providing for my family, making their life a little easier in Mexico because it's kind of tough back there. I'm the older of three. My sister, Iris Salini, and my brother, David. So I was working, and then I found an easy way to make some money. I went and committed a robbery. I was arrested with five more people. We were six altogether in a group. We got caught right in the factory, inside the factory we were robbing, and I was the only minor at the time when we commited the crime and they decided to try me as an adult.

0:00 / 0:00

So when I went for my sentence, I received 23 years and nine months. As I got back from the court that night, everybody was writing. There’s a writing class in juvenile hall that is called Inside Our Writers class. Scott was there, and as he saw me all the way in the back of the table. He wanted to talk to me. I was the only one in orange. It was around 8 o’clock at night, and I was back there eating. And I wanted to attend his class, but at that time I didn’t know any English. So when he approached me, I didn’t understand a word he was saying. He came back with the translator and that’s how I know that he wanted to talk to me. He wants to know my case. So I told him, “I’m here for robbery.” And he’s like, “Why did do you do that?”

I said, because I was a stupid. He’s like, “No, you’re not stupid. It was that decision, it was that bad choice that you made that was stupid. You are smart, you got potential.” He said that he was going to go to my sentence hearing, and I didn’t believe him at that time because no one showed up for my court, not even one single time. When I got sentenced, the judge asked, “Is anyone in here for Jose Mayo?” So he stands up, and as I looked to my left, he was there, and I was happy to see him in the back of the courtroom. So, from there, he started showing me that there was someone that cares about me, that I matter. So as he became my mentor, he started inviting me into his Inside Writers class. And that’s how I started learning.

He started pushing me to educate myself, which I did. Right away I enrolled in high school in juvenile hall, and I just keep pursuing my education. Scott became my friend in prison. He did write to me, sent me the first postcard, and I was happy. I was happy to receive that postcard, but, at that time there was a language barrier. I did not understand what the postcard was saying, and I was fresh in prison and I didn’t want to show around my papers, so I put them away. I kept them in my property and never read it for two years later. Two years later, that’s when I came to find out what he was saying. And I write some letters to him back in Spanish, and he’ll have some person to translate for him.

And he used to tell me, you got to learn, you got to study. And then I did. 2011 I got my GED, graduated. By that time we were already good friends. He was a mentor, a role model, and a father figure to me. When I graduated, I called him on the phone, “Hey dad, I got my GED.” And he was happy. He’s like, “Oh, seriously?” “Yes, I got my GED. Graduated.” So he’s like, “Okay, are you ready for the next step?” I said, “What’s the next step? I thought this high school was higher-level education in prison.” He’s like, “No, you’re coming to college.” So he sends me everything that I needed to get enrolled in Coastline Community College. And one of the things that stopped me from going; on my midterm exam, they told me I wasn’t part of Coastline because there was a big problem, which is I’m not a citizen. So they reject me. They say, “You can’t be in our school because you’re not a citizen.”

They sent me two letters saying you’re not one of our students. So that kind of got me disappointed and discouraged at the same time. So I called him back, and I give him the news. This is what happened. They did not accept me, and so I cannot continue with my education. And he’s like, “Son, don’t give up”. And I was transferring from Salinas Valley over to CCI Chino for college. And that’s when I got enrolled in Palo Verde Community College. That was 2013, and I’ve been a college student since then. And from level four, I came down to level three, level three to level two. And from VSP (Valley State Prison), I got transferred here to a level one. My points just keep dropping and dropping and dropping. And since I got more progress, my time keep reducing as well. And now, finally, I have the paper from board prison hearings saying that I have a parole board hearing coming up. And I received that one in February of 2019 this year. And by July 25th, 2019, I was in front of two commissioners and my lawyer, and thank God, thanks to Scott, I was found suitable for parole. I was happy, I was excited, I gave him the news, and he was happy to hear that. My family, as well, they’re happy that I’m coming home. So that’s pretty good. Maybe three more weeks and I’ll be released from prison. It’s been 14 years and nine months.

It’s a good feeling. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. I’m happy. I’m happy, and I’m looking forward to keeping proving myself out there, keeping the good work and keep doing good out there. I want to open up a restaurant, or, as you know. I can have my restaurant and name my restaurant. It will be a program where we’ll pick like a day or two during the week and we’ll just go out there and do community service just feed the homeless, feed the people that are hungry, the kids. Just giving back, or just donate my time with kids. I’m writing some letters. The thing that I’m doing right now with the Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos and Fresno Barrios Unidos. I wrote letters to them. I send them to Nane Alejandres, and he forwards those letters to juvenile halls, to foster cares, or kids that are abused, that are at risk. They read my letters, and they kind of see that there is a different way of life. There’s a different route to take rather than harming people, doing drugs, or just self destroy yourself.

You can do good out there.