During my 24 years of incarceration I always felt that I had no voice. I felt that I could not speak out against the injustices that I experienced and witnessed. I believed that if I spoke out it would cost me the freedom I dreamed of and wished for. During quiet moments of contemplation in the cage I was assigned to, I recognized the power of both the spoken word and the written word. I pledged to myself that once I was free I would speak out and represent those that remained in the belly of the best…. The Prison Industrial Complex. Since I’ve been home I have struggled with speaking out, and truly allowing my voice to be heard for a number of reasons. First, because so many feel the need to speak for me, or those like me the “formerly incarcerated.” It seems as though in many instances our lived experience, our trauma, our stories are not being presented by us, or are co-opted by some that are considered experts in the field of criminal justice reform. Who can best explain to me and those like me what I can expect to experience once I’m released? How to best overcome the barriers that I’ll face once I’m free?
I truly appreciate the passion and belief in this just cause. It is also my belief that the leaders of this cause, ending mass incarceration and reforming the criminal just system should be those that have been impacted the most by it. I admire the dedication, and commitment, I see, but I don’t need anyone to speak for me. I need for my voice to be heard, so please make space for me. From the deepest depths of my heart I am eternally grateful for the space that you have created. I ask you now to allow me and those like me, the “formerly incarcerated” to speak our truths, our realities, our lived experience in this space. Support us and allow us to lead this crusade against the injustices in our criminal just system.
It is a fact that those that are closet to the problem are closet to the solution, and yet furthest from the resources needed to address the problem.
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles during the height of the gang and crack crisis. At that time, Los Angeles was called "The gang capital of the nation", and I was then a part of the problem. I was a gang member and a crack dealer. By the time I was 17 I had been shot twice, stabbed once, and my mothers house had been shot up by rival gang members. By the age of 18 I was in state prison sentenced to life. On July 12, 2012, after 24 years of incarceration and a court ruling in my favor, I was granted parole.