Life as a Convicted Killer within the Department of Corrections
I have had an opportunity to get to know a "convicted murderer" that is serving a life sentence without the possibility parole. I have seen documentaries on television about "life" inside and have never had question to doubt what I have see until I got to know this young man, and to find out what put him there, and what life is like there. He's been inside for 15 years.
I have written about my own personal experiences of PTSD, and the effects on my life, the depression, the feeling of never fitting in. I grew up dysfunctional because of my father's time on the Korean Conflict, but I have never really heard about other's dysfunctional lives until now.
This young man grew up in a home where drugs and crime were an everyday occurrence. His mother had him by her first husband, divorced and had two other children by her second husband, then divorced again,,,,,this time remaining single. She used drugs everyday, leaving them lying around, setting an example that it was acceptable. He never knew any different.
When this young man was 19, still living with his mother, he met a girl, and naturally the girl ended up pregnant. In January of 1999 they had a baby boy. By this time, the young man had found out that the life that he grew up with could be different, and he and the girl decided that they would get jobs and make a real family for themselves. Break the chain of drugs and illegal activity. He got a job, his first job, working at a fast food place. He quickly got a better job at another fast food place, and ended up becoming a waiter at a Denny's, all within six months. The girl got a job working different hours than his at McDonald's so one of them was always with the baby, and both working and making a go at it....or so they thought.
On the fateful morning in June of that year, Father's Day, the young man woke to the screams of the girl......the baby was dead. They called 911, they did all they could to revive the baby boy, the cherished HOPE of the young man, but SIDS takes, and there is no reviving that.
The pain was unbearable, the grief overwhelming. His mother told him "use some heroin, it will relieve the pain"..... his biological father told him "man-up, it's over so move on and forget about the baby". The girl blamed herself, that she wasn't able to produce a proper offspring but wanted to hang on to him so bad that she convinced him to "try again" that a second baby would replace the first. So they did, but they drifted apart so quickly that he never knew that she got pregnant again. He had taken the advice given to him, he started using heroin to relieve the pain, to forget the screams that haunted his dreams. But most of all, he used to forget that there was no support in his time of grief from his own family. As anyone who knows anything about drugs, they cost money. A job at barely above minimum wage does not by the dope that is needed to recover from a baby's death, so he started robbing people, stores, businesses, whatever he could do to get money for the drugs. He had a gun, and he had a couple of partners that participated with him in the crimes that were committed, and yes, the time came and they got caught.
The trial. There was one for him and both of the co-defendants. The first co-defendant revealed all that he knew and got a very short sentence, since it was his first crime. Remember, all three of these young men are around 20. That left just the two of them to stand trial, and the other defendant testified against this young man, and he received a medium sentence. With all of the testimony against this young man, the judge threw the book at him, and the sentence for his first crimes, since there was violence and weapons involved, got him a 17 year sentence. Very severe.
So, to prison he went. There was no family support for him inside. There were very few visits from anyone that he knew. There was no one, for years, on the outside to send him letters or any money for his books to buy any extras that are available to inmates with financial support from the outside. What was available to him, you might wonder? Gangs. And he got involved with one, then moved to another where he felt what his blood family never provided for him, security. But he didn't look to the future, that he had a date in 2017 to be released, he only saw that they were there now, and that they had opened their arms to him and welcomed him into the circle.
The young man became active in the gang activity that goes on within the prison walls, or within the 'razor wire" as they call it. There were drugs being sold, he sold them, there were gambling activities going on, he was running some of them, and other things that I don't know about. There were gifts being bestowed upon him, money being put on his books, profits being shared from the illegal activities. He is a good sized man, he did some physical damage to those that owed the gang money, and he grew to be very respected by his peers. He rose in the ranks of the gang, he was given duties to take care of, and he was offered higher positions for what he was willing to do, and for things that he had done. He is an extremely intelligent person, he does not make quick or rash decisions, and his wisdom was noticed by his superiors. He quit using drugs inside, hasn't for years now, and he states that his mind has to be clear to do what he does, and dope is for those that are weak. The fateful day in his life came in September of 2008. He was given an order that another inmate had to be taken out, and this was done. There were four inmates that approached the victim, there was a fight and a stabbing, and a mutilation of the victim., The case was well publicized, the papers state that there were four, but only this young man was charged with the murder. The others were never mentioned by name. For two years plea bargaining was done. His mother was there for him almost every week, they were trying to give her oldest son the death penalty so she was there trying to stop that. Are you wondering where she was when the grief was overwhelming? I still am. Anyway, at the end of two years his attorney settled on a life sentence without parole. They agreed, he didn't, but that was has it ended. Do you wonder why he didn't agree? As things happen within gangs, the knife stab that was fatal on the victim was inflicted by one of the unnamed associates. He has not told me this fact, it was told to me by one of the Department of Corrections Officers that was on site at the crime scene. Yes, he did mutilate the body. And for that he deserved to be punished. I wonder if during the two years of negotiations if he was waiting for the one that did the fatal blow to come forward. The one was a member of the same gang, and he was already doing life for murder, so what was one more?
What I have met is a young man that draws, that works out, that reads and studies. He draws, he reaches out to people to try to sell and/or market his artwork. He writes poetry. I found his daughter, we cyber watch her on FaceBook, we follow her life, but he is not ready to approach her yet. She will be 15 this year. He has started a book for her, so she will have a chance to know him, to know why he did the things that he has done, and a chance to get to know him on a personal basis rather than what can be found out about him on the internet.
In 2014 he stepped down as being one of the leaders, on the inside, of one of the most violent gangs within the prison system. The ones he left behind no longer have any respect for him, but the ones that turned their backs on the gang life are at the prison yard where he lives now. They know who he is, what he has done, the decisions that he made, and they have the respect for him that only those that chose to leave the gang life behind can have. His life now is working out, going outside (after being confined to solitary confinement for 7 years) and enjoying the sunshine. He draws, he writes, and he dreams of a life that he never had, and never will. His world, with another inmate, consists of a 10 foot by 12 foot cell.
Cherish your freedom. Live life to the fullest, and be thankful for what you have, it has got to be so much more than these have.