Rafael C.


As a kid, I grew up in the system since I was 13, 14 years old. I was just on a spiral of self-destruction. Doing drugs, getting involved in gangs. I finally went to prison, committed crimes to end up in prison. Robberies, then a murder, all behind drugs. I was struggling. As I was getting involved in gangs as a kid, I knew this life wasn't the life. As a kid, I learned real early that this life wasn't nothing. But at 18, I was already strung out on heroin. I was real strung out and so I went to prison. So I was drowning myself. I knew this life sucked, but I had that addiction of heroin. So that kept bringing him back to prison and committing crimes. In and out over 35 years, in and out and I haven't been out for one year straight.

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So every time I’ve gotten out, I don’t last long out there in the street. One time I got out for two weeks and I picked up a murder, 187. I ended up getting 15 years without a life sentence. I was looking at a couple of life sentences but I just took 15 years flat. Finally, at 30 I stopped using drugs. I went to the SHU for a lot of years behind gang validation in here in prison. I spent over like over 10, 12 years in the hole, which is called the security housing unit. I spent a lot of years there. I reflected on a lot of things and finally, when I did get out of the hole and paroled, I was clean for six years. I didn’t do drugs or nothing for a year, but I still had that criminal mentality as I went home and I came right back for using drugs.

I just finished doing 15 years on the murder and I came back nine months later after I got out and I ended up getting another case for drug possession. For less than an ounce and they gave me 18 years, four months, but I’ve been clean during those years and I’ve been reflecting on the… I see that they have all these groups now, the groups that they didn’t have. They’re helping all kinds of people and it’s there for you to grab it, that’s if you want. It’s up to you now. I get it now. It took me a long time to see that because I used to push it away. I’m not used to this but I finally get it and I’ve learned to accept my responsibilities for what I have done in the past.

I have changed. I’ve changed my ways from the person that I used to be at one time. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to be hated or be feared. I didn’t care for all that. I didn’t like that person and at one time that’s the way I used to be. Now I just want to be a normal person, try to be as normal as I can and function like everybody else is out there in the streets. I’ve been in here longer than I have been in the streets, since growing up in here and it’s like, it’s hard. I already have two kids and my daughter knows me a little bit and my son barely knows me, so it’s like, you know. But I can’t change that. I can only change myself. I can’t change the fact that I spent all these years in prison. I can only better myself. I can’t change the past.

If I could change the past, fine. That would be one of the things I could change. Not getting involved in drugs or gangs, I would change that. I want my kids to understand that hopefully one day that they change with me, go forward instead of having animosity or bitterness towards me or anything. Because I’m not trying to live in the past no more. I’ve been moving forward. I learned to accept my responsibilities for my actions that I’ve done. I don’t blame nobody. I don’t blame my parents. I don’t blame nobody. I blame myself for the things that I have done. I made the bad choices. This is where I’ve been bettering myself and I see all these programs, these programs have been helping me. These NA’s and all this stuff.

So I’ve learned a lot of things that to accept responsibility for all your stuff that you have done and what I want to try to be, hopefully when I get out when I do come home is try to become a drug counselor. Help kids because when I was a kid, I had nothing but enablers around me all my life growing up. Instead of people trying to help me, I just had enablers. I had adults enabling me to do this or get high and all that instead of trying to help you. They’re steadily just steering me in the wrong direction. So I learned that, so I wouldn’t mind helping kids when I get out and try to steer them in the right way because this ain’t the life. There’s nothing in here.

I’m grateful I still have my parents. They’re both in their eighties still and I still have both of my parents. So I’m grateful for that and I have my kids. I have a grandson now and a granddaughter. I want to meet them. I don’t want to be right here. I don’t want to get to know them over a letter or visiting. I want to be able to be out there with them and spend time, watch them grow.

This thing that’s going on right now, this movement, by rehabilitating people, they didn’t have that back then. So when I got out, it was still like attitudes. You’re just another inmate, you’re going to come right back and that’s the attitude I had too. So nobody’s going to give me a job. Nobody’s going to give me this and that’s exactly what happened. I came right back nine months later. So basically I was only out for nine months out of the 15 years.

Every time I’ve gone home, I’ve gone home to family members or whatever. I want to go to a home this time, a reentry point. I don’t have to, but I want to. I don’t have a life sentence. I fought a couple of life sentences already, and I’ve been fortunate not to get a life sentence. Maybe I should have had a couple of life sentences already a long time ago. But yes, I do want to go to a reentry program and I think that’ll work well for me because nothing else has worked.

Going home, being bored and going right back to the same thing. So there’s got to be something better than just being bored. So I want to go to a reentry program and get stability for myself. Try to be a better person and I don’t want to come back. I want to spend time with my kids and I’m getting too old for this too. It’s not the place. I gave the system many years already and there’s nothing in here. There’s nothing in here but the chaos. What I’ve seen through the years for myself.

It’s getting better for people that want to help themselves. It’s getting better because before, like I said, you didn’t have those types of programs. It wasn’t heard of like 25 years ago. You’re only going to get like maybe one or two people that are paroling. Now you hear it’s like, oh yeah, about 20 guys have gotten out, lifers. That was unheard of before. So now I see that you’re helping people and I tell people the same thing too. And I try to help people with their drug habits and stuff like that because hey man, let it go. All you’re going to do is run yourself in circles. There’s no future in it. I’ve been there, done that and for me it’s like I feel good. I’m in a good place right now that I’m drug-free. I’m in the best place I could be at, because it just takes me to a terrible place. It’s ugly. I become an ugly person and that’s one thing I don’t want to be. I tell people, and I try to tell people how it feels 20 years, and if you want to live a long, good life, healthy life, stay off drugs. That’s the only thing I could tell them because dying of that disease, of liver disease, is not a good death. I’ve seen a lot of people dying of that death. So it’s not good.