REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI
Okay, well, my name is Nicholas. I'm 40 years old. I've been in the penitentiary for... coming up on 22 years. I'm a lifer. I was convicted of second-degree murder when I was 18 and a half, 19 at the time, so I was a kid and I received a life sentence. It was only 16 years, but I've served 22 years of that. Unlike a lot of us here, I had a mom, I had a dad. They were always there. To me, I had everything that a kid could want. I had everything and I was going to school. I have an older brother, and I have a younger sister. I used to play sports. But growing up I went through a lot of changes and I went through a lot of things, you know what I mean? Just like most, I suffered through abuse, physical abuse from my father, who's no longer living, but rest in peace. He's already gone to the spirit world. My father worked every day of his life. Every day of his life, he was always working, so did my grandfather, his dad. And I always kind of tried to have those same kinds of ambitions. But growing up, and going through that kind of physical abuse; I grew up in a violent upbringing, you know what I mean? My dad, he used to hit my mom, and he did the same thing to my brother, and he did the same thing to me when I was a kid.
As I grew up, it kind of showed me, it taught me, but not in the right way. It taught me that violence was the only thing, you know what I mean? That was the only response, that was a natural response. I had people trying to guide my path, and trying to show me the right way, and trying to teach it. But as I grew older, I became stubborn. I grew up – some of my family members were addicts and alcoholics and I wasn’t but – shortly, probably around my junior high years, sometime between junior high I started drinking, smoking cigarettes, smoking pot and doing drugs: cocaine, speed, heroin. I started doing all of that stuff. I didn’t realize until, well, thanks be to God now, that I was just trying to get away from myself. I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like the man that I was becoming and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
Through drinking and alcohol, I kind of stuffed those feelings, stuffed those emotions like most of us tend to do. But I did it through addiction, you know what I mean? A lot of the things that I had aspired to be… I used to play sports, I wanted to be a baseball player. My stepfather… my mother married after she divorced my father, she wound up remarried and he was a great man. He is a great man and he was a musician. He taught me and my brother how to play music and man, I know to this day I got a guitar in my cell that I practice now. And the point of that is I had all these opportunities. I wanted to pursue becoming a musician. I wanted to pursue becoming an athlete. I wanted to do all these things, but I guess in that turmoil of all my emotions, and feelings, and not being able to deal with reality… I started getting high, I started getting loaded. And all those dreams, all those things that I wanted to pursue just faded away.
All the way up till I was 18. I did a year in a county jail for stealing cars. My addiction had gotten that bad. I had a home to go to, but I didn’t, I was stubborn. I wanted to be away. I got mixed up with different types of women and… It got to the point where I was drinking a fifth every day, trying to find and just getting loaded as often and as much as I could.
I got out, I was out two months and then I was convicted and found guilty of second-degree murder. And that’s what I’m in here for now. Then I was 19 years old at a level 4-180. That’s the most maximum security, other than the SHU (Secure Housing Unit), that you can be in. And hey, I was scared. Now, as a 40-year-old man, I’m not afraid to admit that, because I was. So I had to adapt.
I am a Native American, so I’m from the Seminole tribe. My band is Miccosukee, that is the people of my grandmother. I kind of surrounded myself around the Native American circle. But even then, I still found myself going to the SHU. I want to stipulate it was because back then a life sentence was a life sentence, you know what I mean? I didn’t care. I didn’t have a chance. To me, a life sentence, that was it. I was going to do life. And unfortunately, I tried to kind of meet my maker, kind of tried to end my sentence earlier than what it was through drugs or doing something dangerous. The towers and the officers here, they have mini-14s in those towers so if an incident happens, or you’re attacking someone, or someone’s attacking you, or something’s going down, there’s a riot or fighting, they’ll shoot that gun. And I didn’t care about anybody except myself.
Even then I didn’t even reflect on the victims. His name is Joe. I didn’t even reflect on the man’s life that I took. I didn’t think about his family. I played the blame game, like a lot of people do. I blamed God. I blamed the drugs or I blamed my family and now I know that to this day it wasn’t their fault. Do you know what I mean? It was my own.
Thanks to God today brother, I have two and a half years, no drugs, not one drink of alcohol, no pot, no pills, nothing. I’ve taken these classes. I even facilitate an AA group that’s held on Saturdays here in Tehachapi. From being an alcoholic and drinking all of my days, I’ve come full circle brother, full circle. I take responsibility today for the crime that I committed. He died, this man died and it was my fault. You know what I mean? And believe it or not, I am sorry and remorseful that he’ll never have the opportunity to dream, or to go out, or to see his family, or to see his relatives. And why? Because it was my fault. It was me… I did that.
Even if I spend the rest of my life in prison, I don’t know if that’ll suffice for the family. But what I can do today, brother is stay sober, try to give back to the community, try to live, not for myself but for the people who cared and who supported me through these years. My mom and my brother and my grandparents. And I ask God for forgiveness. I ask God that maybe he can touch the hearts of the victim’s family that I affected, that they can forgive me one day. But even if they don’t, it’s okay because I understand, I empathize, I sympathize and I’m sorry once again for what I have done.
I’m up for parole soon and now I’m just trying to be as positive and kind of even have an impact on some of the inmates here who are going home. And I try to tell them and try to let them know that hey, there is a chance. You don’t have to be filled with so much hate. You can let all that go and you can grow as a human being. Now, lifers, we have an opportunity to go home to get out.
To be completely honest, I was in a level IV in GP over there (-), and I got a letter and it said, “Mr. Novello, you fall under SB 261 and you have a chance to go home.” Now I had hope. Now I have the chance to receive that freedom, to be with my family, to make up for the wrongs that I do, even if I have to pay for it for the rest of my life. Because believe me, it’s a weight that I bear. It’s a burden that I bear in my heart and in my spirit every day, brother. I got tired of being this drug-addicted, drunk, alcoholic, hateful, just negative poison because that’s what I was.
And believe it or not, it was my faith, my faith in God. I can tell you more than once, more than a few times, more than I can count, I got down on my knees and just prayed to creator, to my creator, to Tunkashila, Grandfather, to help me, help me become sober, help me help other people, help me reach out to my family, help me… that I can provide something better for the community, even in prison so I can help people, instead of hurting people.
It took me a long time like it takes everyone. And sometimes a few kicks in the butt will get somebody started, but it takes a minute. But I finally saw that light. I finally came to that realization. I came to that change and I thank God for that every day of my life brother.