Kevin W.


My name is Kevin. I've been incarcerated for about 11 years now. I was actually only out for two weeks prior to that and when I first came in I was young. I was like 25 years old and I was a mess. I was still using drugs and alcohol. I was a gang member and I was doing things that I'm ashamed of today. I put my whole life and focus into what I was doing at the moment and really I was just trying to like people-please other people. The sad reality is I already had a family but I considered these people my family and once I was in the system, nobody actually stopped to like what's going on with you, you know what I mean? How can we stop this? What are you dealing with? I was just kind of thrown in there.

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I deserve to be in prison for what I did. I knew that I had the chance of going home because I’m not doing life. I came in with 10 years, but I was still in that lifestyle because it was my way of coping with what was going on. I was immediately placed on a level 4, 180 yard and all you know about that is just violence and the only way to survive it is with violence. So I perpetuated that and what ultimately led me to the SHU (Secure Housing Unit), I ended up picking up two institutional cases inside and turned 10 years into 17 and I still have a date somehow. I don’t know. It’s not because of me, you know what I mean?

In 2017 I had an eye-opening experience. They actually were shutting down this SHU and sent me to Pelican Bay and I was there for about two weeks and I had just got back from doing court and they put me on another bus back here. So I was sitting here with nothing in my cell, no property, no address book to get to my family, nothing really and there was nobody around. At one point I was in a section by myself where they forgot to feed me and I just got fed up. Everything just hit me at once and I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted, but now I was starting to see it. But still, I couldn’t make that change and I was scared. It was an unknown thing, and especially after putting everything into it for so long.

In 2017 something happened where God intervened on my behalf and I’ve heard this a lot like God does things for us that we can’t do for ourselves. They told me that I would never be able to go onto a regular yard again for some reason and it was either a choice of sitting in a SHU setting for the rest of my time, it’s being by yourself, it’s no human contact and it’s pretty like being in a dungeon almost. It was either that or go SNY and be with my family and have a chance at going home and living for myself really.

It seems so simple, but it’s not. I think it’s a fear of the unknown. People don’t know or people put their own perspective on things and shit. Nobody really cuts through to the bullshit. They just want to tell you how it is and then most of us just, “Oh, all right. All right.” We just go along with it. It’s not too many people thinking for themselves anymore, but that’s what this has allowed us to do. It’s actually started thinking for ourselves and then all kinds of things come out of that too because once you start to change your life, you don’t want nobody else to go through that same bullshit either. So you start to give back and that’s how you say you’re self-accountable and really do it.

So I’m going home soon and it scares the shit out of me. Not like I don’t want to go home, or I’m not deserving of it or I’m not ready. It’s just that I’ve been gone for so long. I’ve never even held one of these phones. Or how long have I been out of the workforce? I don’t want to be a burden on my family or society at all. I want to be a contributing member. I want to be helping out other youth. I want to give back. I’m a really loving person. I’ve always been loving my entire life. I grew up in a house full of women. I got two little sisters, my mom and then everybody from that side of that family is all female as well.

I got two little sisters. The other one I haven’t seen in 10 years. She’s down there, but I look forward to seeing her as well. They’re always there for me, man. I don’t know what else to say about that. They’re amazing and there are so many things that I want to do with them. It’s kind of, you get this sense of wanting to make up for lost time. So I got to remind myself to take it slow because I don’t want to overwhelm myself or them either. But it’s scary dude because I’ve been gone for so long now that you get the sense like you know people in the yard more than you know your own family if that makes sense. Even going to visiting sometimes it’s like awkward because you’ve been disassociated for so long and all you get is a 15-minute phone call and an occasional letter.

Yeah, I don’t know how it’s going to really go. I worry that I’m going to impede on their program or I’m so institutionalized that it’s going to be weird. I tried to talk about going to a transitional housing unit so that I could adjust and still be home, but they want me home now. I mean it’s a great feeling, but it’s scary because you don’t know. Being on parole and all that, you don’t want somebody to kick it in your mom’s house just to do a search or whatever. That’s all traumatic to them too and I think that’s a big part about us is we really don’t think about how it affects other people. Especially our crime or even doing a period of incarceration, the impact it has on our family or our communities and stuff like that. Those are the kinds of things I’ve been exploring lately.

I know looking at me people are going to judge me regardless. If I could take this tattoo off my face right now, I would. I didn’t care when I was younger. It was all about me. I was super self-centered and I was angry and so it didn’t matter to me what somebody else’s opinion was. If you didn’t take the chance to get to know me, then that’s your bad, but now it’s different. I’m just trying to do me, but I want to be left alone too. So in order to be left alone, you got to leave others alone and you got to have empathy and you can’t be offensive and stuff like that.

I justified it by saying it was a cultural symbol and I really didn’t take into account the fact that is offensive to other people or what it means to them. I had no empathy for that. I mean, to me it was something else at that time, right. But I see both sides of the story as well and the moment I did it, I was very impulsive and it was a prison thing. It was something that I didn’t act to get and it was part of the culture that we have and it’s toxic. This does not function in society. I can’t drive down the street with my mom and my sisters or my kids that I have in the future with this on my face and expect just everything is normal and it’s just not worth the risk.