Raul R.


So what I wish to say is that I'm an ex-gang member. I grew up in a rough area and I was influenced by everything that was going around me as a kid. So it kind of helped condition, at least my thoughts, on the way I viewed everything around me. By doing that, it made me think that some things that... how can I say this? Well, some of the things that I would see people in my old neighborhood do, I thought it was okay. So it kind of helped mold me into thinking that everything that was going around me was okay to do. I ended up in prison, man, and I got 19 years for my crime, which was assault with a firearm, and I got 25 to life for a gun enhancement.

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What I wish to say here today is that I made a mistake when I was a child, when I was young. I was 21 years old when I committed my crime. I’m 37 years old now, and every day, man, I strive to become a better person. I think people out there have this perception of people in prison, that we’re not able to rehabilitate. People that have been down 10, 15, 20, 25 years, man. It’s a reservoir of people that could contribute. I’m just here on an assault with a firearm. I have victims of my crime, but people here have murdered. I’ve seen people transform their lives here. Remorse, insight into why they committed their crimes, giving back. Even within our own little community, you see people here all the time trying to help other inmates.

We’ve got group facilitators and these people don’t have to do this, but that’s their way of giving back, even though they don’t have a chance to go home. That’s what I mean by change. You see people doing, even when they’re in a hopeless situation, they still try to give back. I don’t know if my message is clear, but, okay, because I get a little nervous. What I’m trying to say is that we have a lot to offer if given the chance. Many of us in here want to be better people. So for me, I do the same thing, man. I’m trying to educate myself. I go to college, I help facilitate groups. I’m a co-chairman in one of the groups. Because of these new laws, I have a chance to go home, but I see many people here that don’t.

I hope these laws continue to change and people, these legislators continue to be inspired by our stories, because you’ve got great people that are part of like, for example, Scott Budnick and his ARC team. A lot of them are ex-lifers, man, and they have a whole lot to give back to society as their way of making amends. I want to be that person to say to the next child or the next teenager, “Hey man, what you’re doing is wrong.” I’ve been in prison for 15 years, so if I could help prevent someone else from experiencing what I’ve experienced, I would be more than happy to help someone.

But it starts with me, myself inside. I had to start from the inside out, and that’s what I’ve done. I had to reflect and change old patterns, man. By doing that, that made me change the way I thought. By me changing the way I thought, it made me change the way I reacted to situations, the way I carried myself, the way I spoke, the way I began to do things, the way I began to mobilize. So change, growth, transformation. It’s possible.