David H. Jr. – Sample Story


My name's David. I'm 40 years old. I got busted when I was 19, in 1998 for - for murder, and have life without parole. I come from a good family. I don't come from a family of you know, gang members and stuff.  My Dad tried hard to raise me and my brothers, my sisters, and- I don't know. I have older brothers that went down a bad path and I followed them to gangs. I don't, I didn't think I was trying to be a bad kid, but I started going to Juvenile Hall about 14 years old or so. I think I got arrested for a residential burglary the first time and from there just kind of progressed and then when I was 19, I got arrested for murder and they gave me life without parole and... I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who I was back then. Still now, I look back, man, what was I doing? Where was I? Who was I?

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And I remember this — my dad came to visit me in county jail. I was 19. Four years before that my brother got a life sentence, my older brother.  And My dad cried. My dad was a man’s man never really seen him cry, you know? He’s visiting me in county jail and crying and says “Who are you? Who are you boys? I didn’t raise you to be like this” and I didn’t know how to answer that. He didn’t raise us to be like that. I don’t know where I got that from.

I came to prison, I was, I got worse, I turned, I became — I was angry inside, I don’t know if I became rotten, but I felt I became worse. Was doing a lot violence things like that and ended up at Pelican Bay SHU (Secure Housing Unit). (-) . I got validated for being involved in all the prison gangs. And was about 25, 26, I was up there reading a lot of books. Well, I’ve been reading books since I came to prison, you know, and things I was learning in books was not matching the way I was living.

When I first came to prison I had older celly. I was reading — I was reading Anne Rice Interview with the Vampire and I kept telling this guy,  this guy wasn’t nineteen-twenty, he’s in his forties. I kept telling him. “That is a good book. This is a good book.” He said it’s all right after a while he got mad he says stop telling me “that’s a good book”, it’s not a good book.  I was like “nah it is”. He’s like do you want a good book?  Boom. He gave me War and Peace by Tolstoy. So, I read it. And I saw. He told me that’s literature and then he gave me a book by Carl Sagan.I forget the name Candle in the Dark or something like that. And then he tried to give me a book by Newton. I couldn’t understand it, right? I tried to read a Nietzsche book like his first one,  can’t remember the name of that either. I couldn’t understand it. Some of the books I couldn’t understand but I fell in love with the Russian literature. Then I read Dostoyevski like Idiot. I started getting novels. When I got to the Bay, I started reading philosophers.  I read… Those guys were always my favorites like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky because like I don’t know — even Anna Karenina. I could relate to those characters. I could feel that stuff. That was helpful. That’s part of the change helped me to understand like my thoughts and my feelings. I could identify with those people — the villains. I don’t want to be that villain. So then I started reading the philosophy books. I read um. What’s the guy said I think therefore — Descartes I read his books. I think I read Schopenhauer — some guys I don’t remember the stuff they said but I  just remember it was  making my brain grow big making me think man, there’s more than just this what I’m living. I started be like history books how the world came to be the way it is.

I read the Bible a lot. Started to read books like that. History books about where wars about came from. All these history books. Why are things the way they are now?

There was two different worlds going on. I’m learning these things from books how its expanding my mind and in but the way I lived it was like backwards from all the things I’m learning. So about 25 or 26, I looked at myself, man, what am I doing? And I remember my dad telling you “who are you?  I didn’t raise you to be this way” and and I asked myself, “Who am I? What is this?, What am I doing?”

Take everything I took on to myself. That’s not the way I was raised. So I wasn’t angry evil person. So I decided to put the gangster behind me. It was hard. That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. That was… I literally cried and I was taking my whole identity and was like ripping myself out of myself and I let go of my gang name and my gang ties. I started going by David  — just my name,  and I started trying to be a good person try to be kind and after a while I thought “Man, this is who my dad raised me to be.” My dad raised me to be a normal person, you know David, my dad didn’t raise Shotgun, my dad raised David.

So that was a long time ago, when I went through that initial changes it was hard to learn a lot of things, you know, I started I grew up. I guess I started growing up. But like I said, I still have life without parole (LWOP) sentence. So it’s not like I did the change because I want to get out of prison. Well of course I want to get out of prison, there is no getting out of prison for me, I got LWOP. So…

I messed up since then, you know?, kind of some trouble but it’s like that old me is gone. The violent part angry part is not there anymore.

So I think about her [his girlfriend] and the kids and. What I want to tell that kid. Yes, I try to get them to think about other people how his actions affect other people. All I could think about was myself when I was a kid. I was so selfish. I didn’t think about my victim or his family. I didn’t think of my own family. All I thought about was me, how things were affecting me. When that change happened about 25 or so. I realized what I did to somebody’s family. I realized.. That makes me cry. I realize what I did. Somebody was raised without a father because of me. A wife lost her husband because of me.  That settled in.

So now.  I have this giant weight.  It still hangs there. To do that somebody… So no matter what I do, you know, I could do college and stuff, but I still look like I did when I was a kid. I ruined some other family… So I try to tell my girls kid about…  Consider the people.  You might be looking at it one way. Try to see it from their point of view. So. I guess I try to do that now — see things from other people’s point of view.

Lately, I’ve been seeing all these prisoner reform stuff going on. So I’ve been studying books for the last 20-21 years now studying, trying to get smart learning this because I like to learn so I started doing College when I was prison reform started when I started seeing guys get parole dates. I’m thinking man, you know what eventually they might change that these laws are going to affect me because I was young I got busted so. I started doing college. And man, I fell in love. I wish I started that when I was 19, I fell in love with college. I’m 3 credits away. I’m a math class away from my first AA. College is my favorite so I love that. With the college my favorite I fell in love with psychology and trauma and the way our brains are formed. Right now, I’m writing a paper on the endocrine system and the nervous system right, so I’m thinking how does,  and I look back on my childhood the stuff I went through you know the broken home and the influences, how did that develop me? Maybe there was trauma that happened. that I didn’t understand that let me act out in certain ways. So I think about that now with the kids. I hope they won’t just lock kids up. now and throw away the key.  Hope they realize there’s more going on around them.