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Paul Bocanegra, Sentenced to Life in Prison at 17-Years-Old. Reform Advocate; Restorative Practitioner
Episode 422nd February 2022 • The Narrativ • Geoff Galat
00:00:00 01:02:11

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This episode is very different from any I’ve done to-date. We’ve met and talked to people who are great storytellers and who have remarkable personal backstories that have framed their strengths in storytelling. For this episode, we are meeting someone who has a very powerful, and at times difficult story.

Paul Bocanegra was condemned to Life Without Parole at the age of 17. Paul served twenty-five and a half years, more than twelve of those in solitary confinement, before being paroled under Senate Bill 9 which gave youth with Life Without Parole sentences an opportunity to petition the court for a second sentencing hearing. Paul transitioned back into the community in September 2017 and discharged parole in 2021 obtaining agency in his life for the first time.

Today, Paul is living his life to the fullest, advocating for more reforms that would ensure that the criminal justice system never deprives another youth of a fair and meaningful opportunity to work toward restoration.

Paul is a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Commissioner for San Mateo County, a personal mentor for transitioning community members, and an expert witness in criminal justice cases involving youth.

Paul has testified at the California State Capitol and helped to defeat legislation that threatened current reforms, has co-authored legislation in his county, and is a member of the Latin X Advisory Committee to Sen. Josh Becker.

Paul co-founded ReEvolution to use his lens of lived experience to help ReEvolution provide meaningful support in prevention efforts, with an emphasis on youth, and person-centered reentry programs for all the transitioning community. 

Paul is a motivator and educator and seeks to bring out the full potential in each life he touches.

He is ReEvolutionizing transitional thinking and providing safe spaces for those thoughts to congregate and grow as a community within a community.

Transcripts

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Hey, Paul. Good morning. Thank you for joining

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me this morning for the narrative podcast. I really

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appreciate you being on with me.

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Yes, good morning to you too. And happy holidays.

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Thank you so much. I want to circle back to you in

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particular. But I'd like for you to share what you're doing and

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the amazing work that you're doing in the community. I came

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across you from following somebody else on LinkedIn. And

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they were they commented or did something on your and what your

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objective is, then we'll circle back to your your background.

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So yeah, my name is Paul Bocanegra. And some of the work

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that I'm doing is geared toward juvenile criminal justice

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reform, as well as the criminal justice system overall, but

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primarily here in my direct community, I am trying to create

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a different perspective of youth and their ability to really

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mature I think that majority of the community has lost contact

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with the maturation process in youth, as well as the behaviors

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and thinking that comes with that immaturity. And we've moved

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to a pretty aggressive punishment model where a youth

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is no longer allowed to make mistakes, regardless of his

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upbringing, his trauma, his experiences, his mental illness,

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the community has moved to be able to really condemn a youth

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upon making maybe one of the worst decisions that they'll

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make in their life, with no redemption from that. So my work

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in the community is geared toward creating an understanding

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of what youth is primarily youth of under of underserved

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communities, what they experience, what their life is,

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like, under the conditions that they may live in their

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environments, they may live in, what their education is, like,

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maybe what their biological makeup is, like meaning mental

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illness, and take these things into consideration when they

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finally arrive. At finally, unfortunately, but when they do

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arrive to our juvenile criminal justice system, many of these

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kids are already extremely traumatized, hurt, undiagnosed,

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and we should not be condemning them for these decisions that

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they make, and we should be looking to kind of help them

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remould their thinking and really connect them with the

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services that they need to be able to really enter that

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adulthood with a different form of thinking as well as the

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treatment that they'll need maybe a diagnosis, maybe

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medication, maybe therapy, anything alongside anything as

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an alternative to the current situation that they find

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themselves in which are adult like cages that we have invested

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millions and millions of dollars in, that we hold these kids,

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regardless of their crime, murder, or shoplifting. They all

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see the same adult like cage in juvenile halls and as well as

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foster kids. Many juvenile foster kids in their teens are

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extremely hard to adopt, to have adopted in the community because

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of the because of the stigma that comes with the terrible

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teens. And so foster kids also find themselves trapped in these

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adult like cages, either through transition, or lack of housing,

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they call it secured detention. And so when we can move to

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incarcerate a kid, for no reason, it just really leaves me

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in a hopeless feeling that our juvenile criminal justice system

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has really

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evolved into not believing that youth can mature, grow and

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change. And so my work is geared toward humanizing youth, first

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and foremost, and then trying to get the community to understand

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what these youth go through, not only in their communities, in

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their homes, in their schools, in their churches, but what they

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go through once they fall into our care what the system is

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like, what they can expect. And so yeah, that that is some of

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the work that I am doing. And I am a volunteer for the juvenile

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criminal justice system here in San Mateo County, where we are

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the richest county in the state. And if you were to take a look

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at our adult life cages, we have brought Pelican Bay shoe sales

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right here to our juvenile hall, and we are labeling that as

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treatment. And 100% of our youth currently are suffering mental

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illness and experienced mental lapses. And rather than charging

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them with extra felonies, I'm trying to help them understand

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that these are things that we have to expect when you

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incarcerate a maturing mentally ill mind and giving them an

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extra felony for acting out is not treatment, putting them in

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an adult like cage that we have that Charles Manson died in, is

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not treatment. And so that's some of the work that I am I am

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doing here in the community alongside of a few other things.

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I've co founded my reentry program that helps me community

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build, as well as help the community understand, again,

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that same youth that was condemned, but that has

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transitioned back into the community under the guise of a

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second chance, and also connect people who are obtaining agency

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adulthood for the first time after being condemned, coming

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into the community, connecting them with the community. So both

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have an understanding that we're a village that we are a

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community that we're there to help, not there to continue to

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persecute these these returning youth. And so the work that I'm

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doing here with the youth is I'm preparing them for what to

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expect in the future, as well as preparing the community, what to

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expect in the future, once we condemn these youth in their

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cages, and sentenced them to 25 to live in these adult prisons

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as his pattern for the last 2030 years.

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So unlike a lot of people I don't know about I shouldn't say

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unlike a lot of people, I'm assuming unlike a lot of people

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who've fallen into our and are chosen this path is a career

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path or as a way to help people. This is really personal to you.

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This is this this you were one of these views. Can you tell my

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listeners give them your background to get a sense of

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what drives you to be this passionate about this?

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Sure, absolutely. So like you said, I, I still am one of these

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youth, right, I'm experiencing the simulation and the

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transition process. I am as I'm experiencing the barriers, the

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attitudes, the stigmas that come with transitioning from cage to

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community. And so it's a it's been very heart breaking, to be

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so excited that the community has created these reforms that

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allow kids now to come home after serving 2530 years of

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incarceration. And then when we get home, we're still these 17

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year old 16 year olds and in our heads, and then we encounter

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barriers that are just a we are not prepared for many of us who

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have been condemned, like myself, and I'll get into that

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in a minute, have come home and our parents are gone. Like the

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last time we were here in the community we had we had parents,

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some of my friends didn't have parents, their parents were

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older gang members, or addicts, and had their own traumas to

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deal with. And these youth, many of us come home and the world

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has changed. It's a digital world today. It's a very

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personal world where the socialization has dramatically

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decreased, as opposed to when I was out in the community in

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1992. And but some of the things that haven't changed are how we

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treat people who have committed crimes who have made mistakes in

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the community. And, again, you you mentioned career path. Many

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of us work coming home, we haven't made a career of crime,

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we were condemned as kids and and returning home 2530 years

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later, we come home believing that our debt has been paid. And

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then we're going to have a fresh start to only encounter that.

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That we have no support, that you can't enter into a contract

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at lease that you can't obtain jobs out here in the community.

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Even though you obtained a degree in prison, you come home

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and can obtain the same job. I came home I applied for one job

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on federal grounds. During my job interview, I was told to

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leave grounds because it was federal property and I was on

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parole. No one prepared me to go to a job interview being happy.

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My family I'm on my way to a job interview here in my community

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and my experiences to be told that I have to leave grounds to

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go to another job interview and they have police officers in

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doing the interview would live firearms, the same billy clubs

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that they used to use on us when we were young, as well as in

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prison or now in job interviews. I did extremely horrible. So you

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know let me explain a little of why I'm speaking on this is

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because I was that condemned youth the age of 17. I'm growing

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up in a very tight toxic environment in East San Jose,

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where gangs were, were gangs were the dominant influence

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their addiction, prostitution, high rates of crime. And being

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born into a family that had its own internal struggles. My

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father immigrated from Mexico, my mother was born on a cotton

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field in Texas. I was raised in a very toxic environment, and

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experienced lots of trauma. And at the age of, you know, age of

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1314, I started to hang around with the neighborhood mentors,

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which were the gangs. And I was provided drugs provided weapons

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at a very young age. And this is how I was molded.

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In the community, after receiving trauma, like many of

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the decisions we make, as kids are fear based, as any kid does

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to survive, he will do what, whatever he fears, the most, to

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gain acceptance within people, adults that we expect to have

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our best interests at hand. And so at the age of 17, I was in a

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car with two other friends of mines ever gang members, and an

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adult, shot and killed another adult gang member in the

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community. And I never had a gun, I never discharged the gun.

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I never directed this older gentleman to do this. However, I

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was condemned at the age of 17 to life without parole, plus

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four years. So I was forcibly emancipated from my parents that

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lacked in education, their report did not have the

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economical means to provide or tried to protect their son. And

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I was turned over to the juvenile criminal justice

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system, who quickly moved to try me as an adult. And this didn't

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take an observation this I was never assessed. I was never

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spoken with to find out if I had a mental illness. It was in to a

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juvenile fitness hearing, tried as an adult with no witnesses at

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my trial, my fitness hearing bound over to adult court, where

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I was condemned very quickly to life without parole. And I

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really felt that my life was truly over the things that I was

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told of who I was who I knew I wasn't this evil person, this

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mastermind. Just,

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you know, it's 17 years old, at 77 years old,

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yes, at 17 years old. Just hold that I would die in the cage.

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For my role in this crime. I had a fifth grade education level,

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when I was condemned. I didn't comprehend when life without

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parole meant my public defender was in tears could not explain

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what had just happened to me. My parents could not understand

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what had just happened. But I was ushered away in chains. Off

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to these adult cages that we now have here in juvenile hall, with

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the worst of the worst, with the worst of the worst. And I met

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friends there that were like myself, some of my friends never

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made it out. And just arriving there and stepping into an

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environment like no other environment you would ever want

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to step into. Just think about that dark alley. And you see

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that shadow in that wall on that wall.

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So I had a I had an experience. It was in my early 20s. I grew

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up in the Bay Area, not that far from you, but worlds apart from

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you. I mean, I think that's one of those things about the bay

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area where there's, there's Silicon Valley and there's other

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parts of the Bay Area and they couldn't be any more different.

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And we I grew up in Sunnyvale, we were probably 15 miles apart

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at that time, but I didn't have any of the same pressures. I

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didn't have the same environment that you did. When I was in my

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20s. I played on a softball team. And we would go in a few

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times a year and play in prisons, we would go in and

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provide you know, be be there to help in the prison and I went

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into into Folsom a few times. And I hadn't been accused of

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anything. I didn't have any kind of a criminal record. I knew

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that at the end of the day. I was leaving. And it was still

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the most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life to hear the

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sound of those bars closing behind you when you get entered

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in and to have the the briefing from the guard saying you know

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something goes down here. We're not protecting you, you're here

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on your own and something could go on. But just that that sound,

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and it's been 40 years for me from hearing that sound of those

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doors closing, and I can't imagine, it was terrifying. As I

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said, when I hadn't done anything, and I knew I was

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leaving, I can't imagine that sound closing behind you when

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you know, you're never leaving. And that it's just got to be,

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and I can't imagine it at 17 years old.

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Right. So just let me take you back to something that you said,

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what the guards told you, when you're going in, that they're

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not going to protect you. They're not there to protect

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you. And they're not there to protect us kids, when they put

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us on these maximum security yards with the worst of the

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worst, some of the disguise have been there 1520 years, extremely

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manipulative, extremely dangerous, extremely aggressive.

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And that is what we do to our youth. These are the things that

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happened to us. And so entering the prison system condemned, it

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broke me. And it's kind of hard to explain that because I was

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already broken. When I landed into the juvenile criminal

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justice systems care, they quickly bound me over to this

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adult care level and being broken, being sent in here being

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condemned, broken again, what shattering a what that does to a

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youthful mind, it basically says everything that you have thought

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about that you wanted to be everything that you have thought

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felt is done. And that will never come back for you. And it

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just sent me off feeling dead inside. And I had felt dead for

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a long time already. So arriving here, encountering this

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environment, as a as a troubled and traumatized youth, I did

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exactly what I did to survive in my toxic environment, the same

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thing, no other model, there was no treatment model there it was.

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align yourself with the same people that had conditioned you

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to be in this situation right now. And with that alignment

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came, much brutality, being stabbed in prison being beat not

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only by staff, by by other inmates, gladiator fights,

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watching suicide, watching rape, observing murder, this is what

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we do our youth. And then finally, surviving in prison

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means you have to be violent. And when I went in there, as a

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dead kid, I told myself, that I wasn't going to be a victim

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anymore. And I knew what laid ahead for me. But I would just

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tell myself that I would keep fighting. And that meant

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everything was on the table. My intentions were, to hopefully

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die a peaceful life, even though I knew more than likely

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wouldn't. That's what kids have to tell themselves in there. And

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so, going in there doing the things that I had to do, they

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labeled me violent, they labeled me a gang member according to my

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case, as well as my behaviors in there. And then I was condemned

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again, to an indeterminant shoe for being involved in gangs in

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prison. being violent, being everything that it takes to

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survive in these toxic environments as a kid, they then

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condemned me for life to solitary confinement at Pelican

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Bay Shu. And that is the worst of the worst. That's the end of

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the road. If you've ever been in there, if you've ever read an

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article on that, if you've ever seen videos on there, you know

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what goes on there. And I would remain there for over a decade

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of my life still as a youth maturing, mentally being sensory

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deprived. Again, feeling hopeless, feeling broken, but

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still still fighting. You just don't give up. And yeah, over a

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decade of sensory deprivation, and finally, I decided to leave

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the game. Too much turmoil, my mother had just died while I was

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in solitary confinement. And I had I had to make a decision.

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And so I left the game and began a different assimilation and

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transition in prison with the same attitude that although I

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was maturing and making decisions, that everything was

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always on the table.

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It it had to be So as I was leaving the game, there was

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talking in the community of reforming this child predator

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law that allowed judges to condemn youth that allowed

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district attorneys to try youth as an adult without even any

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trial. Because other reforms had come to strengthen and, and

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reinforce the the hardened laws that existed. They moved further

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by passing district attorneys have the authority to just try a

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kid as an adult according to his crime, which is all the time,

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which is almost almost common practice. And they reformed the

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law, they said that youth that had been condemned to life

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without parole to die in these cages would have a chance after

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serving 25 years or 20 years of their sentence, they would be

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able to petition the court on my 22nd year at petition the court

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after this law had passed Senate Bill nine. And the judge saw my

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change. She read the transcripts, read that my

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youthful, my hallmarks of youth were not taken into account when

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I was condemned. And so she made a decision that I was a youth

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that I was immature, and that I could change and I had taken

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steps to change. And she followed the law. And she

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committed my sentence. And so in 2015, I was sentenced to 29 to

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life, which allowed me to become able to parole. However, I was

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denied Chrome, because they felt that I still had more work to do

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on myself. And I went to a program a counseling program

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back in prison, and an educated myself obtained skills in what I

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am and what I use today, to do the work that I do. And then I

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went to board again and was released September 28 2017,

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after 25 and a half years, I was able to come home, six days

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prior my father had passed away. So I came home to just my

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siblings. And and it was it was extremely hard, trying to

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assimilate again, trying to transition again, with no help.

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And so I co founded by organization revolution, to try

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to be that help, because when I came here to San Mateo County,

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the only ones that reached out to me, were the police

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department and detectives and Gang Task Force when they came

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to my house and search my own. That that was my introduction to

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San Mateo County, being hauled down to this police station

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stripped down again, having pictures taken of me being

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threatened about behaviors, past behaviors. So no change, no

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belief that these kids could change, right. And I'm sitting

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here in disbelief. thinking, thinking to myself, of

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everything it took to get to where I'm at. And this is how

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I'm received threats of the chains and the cages again. And

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I'm thinking this is no transition. This is no, this is

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no help from the community. And so when I began to volunteer in

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the community, I understood that the leaders of our community are

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not a reflection of the actual community. This community has

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been wonderful, has been loving, has been compassionate, has been

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empathetic, and has been extremely supportive. And the

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reason I'm able to do the things that I do is because community,

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the community believes in me. And with that help leaders in

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the community are starting to believe in me as well. And, and

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listen, they understand that I am those kids right now, today,

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with all the reforms that have taken place, the 17 year old

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Paul Bocanegra, the 17 year old, traumatized kid can be condemned

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again. There is nothing stopping district attorneys and judges

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from condemning the 17 year olds that exist in our juvenile hall

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again, and that's why I do what I do because they have no clue

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of the path that they're about to embark on. And trying to

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educate them prior to that path or maybe intervening in that

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path before they start that path. It's it's important to me

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it's important to me for several reasons is personal. How and and

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it's personal because it's inhumane that leaders in our

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community legislators, judges, that district attorneys

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attorneys that they think that it's, it's okay. We plea

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bargain. We have the best district attorneys ever highly

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funded, so well educated. They play they put kids in cages that

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are mentally ill, and then they plea bargain felonies with them

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that will destroy their careers for the rest of their life like

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this is what's taking place. We're no longer waiting for the

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career criminal. The career criminal is now the juvenile who

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is mentally ill, who's about to sign a deal with the district

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attorney to forfeit his career, you'll never be a fire fireman,

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you'll never be a police officer. Because you'll have a

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felony. It's tragic. It's absolutely tragic. how far we've

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come. It's amazing. I mean, youth.

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It's amazing when I when I hear you and I you know, as somebody

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who's not close to it, and then I've heard all the terms. You

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know what warehousing? People, it's even worse than that from

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what you're describing. It's not just warehousing them, it's

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warehousing them and taking away all hope from them. You are a

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story of rehabilitation. When oftentimes I hear you know, the

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prison system, it's not a rehabilitate, there's no, it's

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not designed to rehabilitate. It's designed to punish and

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warehouse and you mentioned, you know, even leaving you kind of

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cavalierly I think said, I decided to leave the gang. Even

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that can't be as easy as you just described it, I would

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imagine that the you've got, you've got these pressures from

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both sides, you get these pressures from society and from

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the law, and then you've got this pressure on the gang side.

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And so you come out. And the police immediately come after

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you to say, you know, just don't forget who we are. I would

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imagine that whole process has to be not that different with

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the gang you're in with those guys as well as coming back and

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saying, again, not so fast,

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right? Yeah, no, absolutely. And so what I would how I explained

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this is, think about this, when you enter a gang you adopt, and

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you absorb all the gangs, enemies. These are enemies where

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I had riots with in Folsom, I was in the maximum security

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Folsom as a youth, having 1000s of enemies and not even know

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your enemies, when you decide to leave the game. It just adds one

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more layer to the dangerousness that you've been living your

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entire life. As a youth being in gangs. I had enemies I didn't

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even know. And I went to prison and joined a gang. And again, I

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had all these enemies that I didn't know. In fact, some of my

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friends that were in juvenile hall with me became my enemies

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just because of the race, just because of their factions that

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they had to join. And it is extremely sad. What happens in

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these toxic environments that you can embrace culture. You can

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embrace social socialism in there, and I won't I mean,

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socialism, I'm saying the social aspect that you think about here

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a Good morning, how are you doing today? Yeah, you know, you

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want to have a cup of coffee today. That doesn't happen. And

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in their life,

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you have to be segmented right? The black guys and the Hispanic

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guys and the whites of skinheads are white supremacists. And

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right, it is

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extremely segregated. And the fact that many of us youth in

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born in these environments, we don't encounter, we don't know

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what a white supremacist is. But when when you enter this toxic

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environment, you're giving a quick lesson of who they are.

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And you think, wow, but I know him, he's he was raised with

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Mexicans, you can't be surprised. They say, you know,

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he's a supremacist now. And it's disbelief. I had friends that

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were Jewish, that were tattooing swastikas on themselves, because

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you can't be who you really are. And there you have to adopt

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this,

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they do that for their own protection, right. That's the

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way the only way they're going to survive is to assimilate to

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that

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you have to assimilate into something you know nothing

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about, but that's going to be toxic in ways that you don't

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believe. And then when you attempt to simulate that, that

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there's more threats of violence and another type of philosophy

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and ideology you have to embrace that you know, nothing of that.

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And so it's been an assimilation and transition for myself

Unknown:

throughout my life. And my my, my leaving the game has only

Unknown:

enabled me to do the things that I'm doing today. And I harbor no

Unknown:

ill will towards anyone I speak bad and no one because I'm still

Unknown:

alive. that gang that took me in and and toxified my life as a

Unknown:

youth took me in, in this environment that we just

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described, and taught me how to survive there. And it was

Unknown:

difficult the Stockholm Syndrome like, we don't you realize the

Unknown:

Stockholm syndrome in this situation, because we're

Unknown:

criminals, right? We're the worst of the worst. But that's

Unknown:

what takes place. As a kid growing up in these institutions

Unknown:

under those conditions, the Stockholm Syndrome, kicks in.

Unknown:

Classical conditioning is always that play from the second they

Unknown:

put the chains on you, and they put you in that cage. That's

Unknown:

what you're going to adapt to. That's what's going to be your

Unknown:

bar in life as a kid path off and scanners that play from the

Unknown:

beginning to the end. And understanding finally, what you

Unknown:

had been conditioned to accept your three meals a day, that

Unknown:

warm bed, right? That cage, your family, your friends that are

Unknown:

there, when kids are grown up, to adapt, and assimilate into

Unknown:

that, and you don't show them anything else to assimilate

Unknown:

into. That is what they come home with. And it's our job to

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be able to recognize this and want to help this youth because

Unknown:

they're still best 17 year old we condemn. Yeah. And that's not

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how it happens. And that's why I worked so hard to try to make

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that happen. So number one, we don't condemn the youth. And

Unknown:

when we understand them, when they come home, we still have an

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understanding. And there's also the spectrum. But we helped him

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when he was 15 1617. Then he was sent to prison 10 years, where

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did you spend his 10 years because this is in

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rehabilitation, what we're seeing. And so that's why I

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enjoy doing the work that I'm doing. And I'm so passionate

Unknown:

about it, because I'm fighting for myself, I'm and I'm still

Unknown:

fighting for the adult me now, trying to bake break the

Unknown:

barriers that that change is impossible, that I'm not who the

Unknown:

judge said I was. That's not That's not who's here today

Unknown:

having this conversation that was 17 year old mean, there's

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something called maturation that takes that takes place. And this

Unknown:

is the adult me that's doing what I'm doing today that 17

Unknown:

year old that was condemned, that that was told that he would

Unknown:

never do anything with himself that he was evil, is now the

Unknown:

complete opposite. And I have to give things to my higher power,

Unknown:

because there were situations that I shouldn't have walked

Unknown:

away from that, that that I was able to walk away from and in

Unknown:

walking away from them, I think back now and I think like holy

Unknown:

snaps. Although I had walked away from God, because I was

Unknown:

about to engage in things that I knew were not God like that is

Unknown:

what was a safety net. For me, that just quiet voice that never

Unknown:

went away. That's the voice that I leaned on, when I came home.

Unknown:

And it's made my transition so much better to be able to be

Unknown:

spiritual to be all the things that a human being is that I

Unknown:

couldn't be in there. Because it would have been

Unknown:

a sign of weakness by everyone, not just like the gang culture

Unknown:

by everyone, even law enforcement themselves. And I

Unknown:

have to just reiterate what you said, what they tell you a grown

Unknown:

adult, we're not here to protect you. If something goes down,

Unknown:

man, hey, we're not here to protect you. That's what they

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tell us kids when we're walking in there. And you know what? The

Unknown:

Right? I've watched them sit back. I've watched them engage.

Unknown:

And in gladiator fights, I watch and sit back and just know that

Unknown:

someone's going to be harmed. And they're okay with this. So

Unknown:

as long as it's not themselves, what they tell you is what they

Unknown:

tell us. And this is why I do the work. Because if I'm not

Unknown:

doing this work, people aren't going to be aware of the work

Unknown:

that needs to be done. And so that's all I'm doing is just

Unknown:

highlighting the things that need to be done. And I'm gaining

Unknown:

a little bit of momentum and people are starting to

Unknown:

understand like, wow, we can learn from lived experience. He

Unknown:

doesn't need a Stanford master's degree, right? Because many of

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these institutions are the ones who built the institutions that

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I was raised in that I had to survive. And so now I come home

Unknown:

to these institutions and educate them on their, on their

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on their practice of law, their understanding of treatment

Unknown:

models that are not treatment. After all, and they're

Unknown:

listening, right, there's many social justice groups and

Unknown:

classes that are taking place now in colleges, and so they're

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starting to listen more however, it's not happening quick enough

Unknown:

for us to intervene with this prison pipeline that we have in

Unknown:

schools, straight to prison, as I was a victim of, however,

Unknown:

there's no pipeline from Stanford, to Pelican Bay. But

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there's a pipeline from Sequoia High School to Pelican Bay. And

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that just doesn't make any sense to me. And that's why I'm

Unknown:

passionate about what I do.

Unknown:

You mentioned the difference in how youth are socialized today.

Unknown:

And so you know, I'm a parent, but my kids are older now. But

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and my kids, I was lucky enough that when my kids were younger,

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it was before the social media world existed, cellphones and

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things just in there wasn't the same things that they're,

Unknown:

they're not that much older. But they're old enough to have

Unknown:

missed that. But I've got to imagine that just to two sides.

Unknown:

One is all of those things and those pressures on top of the

Unknown:

rest of the pressures that you described. And you don't really

Unknown:

learn interpersonal skills, because you're doing everything

Unknown:

via texting or whatever it is. And then there's got to be a

Unknown:

corollary to that. If you are incarcerated, like you were,

Unknown:

like, those things didn't exist when you were in prison, and

Unknown:

then you come out. And the world is a vastly different world. So

Unknown:

you're starting from a deficit perspective from day one,

Unknown:

because you're in a different world than the one you lived in

Unknown:

before you're incarcerated?

Unknown:

Yes, yeah. 1992, we had the cordless phones, if you had a

Unknown:

cordless phone, you were doing big things. If you had a pager,

Unknown:

you were doing big things. When I cut when I came home, it just,

Unknown:

we have televisions in cars, now you have screens on cars that

Unknown:

take you wherever you want to go that talk to you that that they

Unknown:

speak back to you actually, when you speak to it, it speaks back.

Unknown:

You see people being able to pay to go to space now. However, a

Unknown:

lot of the social skills have deteriorated, as well as, as

Unknown:

well as have been amplified, right, because I'm able to meet

Unknown:

you right now and hang out with you, without having to drive to

Unknown:

wherever you're located. I'm able to meet with people in

Unknown:

Africa, in Europe, and have the same conversation about juvenile

Unknown:

criminal justice, reform, and be impactful in another continent,

Unknown:

because of technology. So technology has really allowed me

Unknown:

to assimilate and transition a little more easy because I'm

Unknown:

able to connect with people that have had similar experiences

Unknown:

without having to go drive to another county to look for them.

Unknown:

They're right here at our doorstep. However, the other

Unknown:

side of it of it is the etiquette, the there the

Unknown:

etiquette has drastically changed. There's no if you're

Unknown:

not on Zune, you don't talk to anybody in the community,

Unknown:

everyone is in their phones. People don't say excuse me,

Unknown:

people don't say good morning, people are shocked. I see the

Unknown:

reaction was a good morning, happy holidays, I see the

Unknown:

reaction, some people. And then in some people, they ever lift

Unknown:

their head up, they're just in their phone, on

Unknown:

top of we had a pandemic, right. I mean, that's like another

Unknown:

wrench thrown in the whole thing of it's even worse, where people

Unknown:

are all isolated, even people who aren't incarcerated, we're

Unknown:

all isolated at least. And this then adds on to that whole

Unknown:

thing.

Unknown:

Yeah. And you know, I actually facilitated for an organization

Unknown:

on on the ripple effect, but on the things that you can do to

Unknown:

keep yourself busy, like some of the same things I used to do in

Unknown:

my cage, to keep myself busy, I share with community members out

Unknown:

here on exercising on reading books, learning more about

Unknown:

social justice, having a pet, what is it like to care for a

Unknown:

pet, a garden, becoming more intimate with your wife, your

Unknown:

kids. But then there's the flipside, if you were in a toxic

Unknown:

environment, and the only reason you're able to coexist was

Unknown:

because eight hours of the day you were both sending or maybe

Unknown:

like most families commute an hour or two, on top of that,

Unknown:

apart from each other, and suddenly, you're there 24/7 with

Unknown:

each other, you realize you really aren't that compatible,

Unknown:

compatible, and the things that were keeping you together are

Unknown:

now the things that are driving you apart. And so people are

Unknown:

also being harmed. So the pandemic has been, has been a

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way to connect with people through social media, but has

Unknown:

also been away a toxic way for people who aren't living through

Unknown:

social media and are living together in a household so three

Unknown:

families sharing a house in order to make to be able to live

Unknown:

in the Bay Area. Suddenly that's not possible because 24 711

Unknown:

people and what a two bedroom home is not gonna it's not going

Unknown:

to work well. And so there's that deterioration of human

Unknown:

contact as a result of the pandemic, then you have those of

Unknown:

us who are transitioning from cage to community, many of my

Unknown:

friends, desperate to taste life, have to now isolate have

Unknown:

to shelter in place. And they felt many of my friends feel

Unknown:

cheated, that they have to transition in a pandemic, once

Unknown:

again, they feel well, this is my luck. And I explained to

Unknown:

them, it's not your luck, there's so many cool things that

Unknown:

you're gonna be able to adapt into, even during the pandemic

Unknown:

like this, this conversation that we're having today. And

Unknown:

these are the things that they haven't realized yet that they

Unknown:

will begin to realize, but it takes people like ourselves to

Unknown:

help them realize that these portals exist, to be able to

Unknown:

still tap into, you could still go out and socialize. But

Unknown:

unfortunately, you have to do that with a mask for now. Yeah.

Unknown:

And being a part of the community, I pray and pray to be

Unknown:

a part of the community again. And finally, I'm a part of the

Unknown:

community again, and they say sheltering place. At first, it

Unknown:

was like, Oh, well, that's not cool. And then it was suddenly

Unknown:

like, hey, you know what, my community is sheltering in

Unknown:

place. I want to be a part of the community. So I'm going to

Unknown:

shelter in place, and I'm going to be happy to shelter in place,

Unknown:

my community wants to be wants everyone to be vaccinated,

Unknown:

because it makes the community safer. I'm going to get

Unknown:

vaccinated, because I'm a part of the community. I'm a part of

Unknown:

the fabric now. So it's just like stopping at a red light,

Unknown:

right? The community stops at a red light stop at a red light,

Unknown:

right? You're not, you're not driving right through a red

Unknown:

light. These are the things that we've learned that makes us

Unknown:

safer, that makes us able to coexist in the manner that we

Unknown:

are. And so I

Unknown:

think you probably have, you probably have a perspective to

Unknown:

that just a different perspective. You know, there's

Unknown:

there's, there's so many people out there screaming about the

Unknown:

things that you were just describing wearing a mask

Unknown:

getting vaccinated saying you're taking away my rights, they have

Unknown:

no idea what taking away their rights really are not in the way

Unknown:

you understand what having your rights taken away, really are,

Unknown:

you know, being put in a cage, being shackled, being thrown

Unknown:

into violence every day, being put in solitary for 12 years.

Unknown:

Like that's taking away your rights. Now, whether you earned

Unknown:

it or not, whether you deserve that or not, that's a whole

Unknown:

different thing. And I'm sure some people who have had that

Unknown:

happen, probably do really deserve that. I don't know that

Unknown:

anybody deserves that. But but you know what I mean, but

Unknown:

there's a very, that's a very different thing than saying I'm

Unknown:

going to take a shot because it's the way to keep my

Unknown:

community safe and safe. That's that's a different

Unknown:

world. Correct? Correct? Absolutely. When they say you're

Unknown:

infringing on my rights, exactly how you put it is, I think,

Unknown:

like, wow, they've never been chained up to a metal chair, in

Unknown:

a in a concrete and still sell and not be able to leave that

Unknown:

chair change like an animal. Like I have my beautiful German

Unknown:

Shepherds, they have never seen the inside of a cage. And I It

Unknown:

hurts me when I put them on a leash because I like to walk

Unknown:

with them in the neighborhood. But again, there's rules.

Unknown:

There's rules in the neighborhood. And so I was

Unknown:

chained to a chair overnight, at times in my underwear, cold,

Unknown:

nowhere to go, no one to scream for like if you would have

Unknown:

screamed, nobody would have heard you. And this is what our

Unknown:

government does to us. So when my government says a medicine

Unknown:

says that the vaccination is the healthiest way to protect

Unknown:

yourselves and protect your community make the community

Unknown:

safer. I'm all in. I'm all in. And so I'm like that with my

Unknown:

friends. You have some that resist, right? Some, some are

Unknown:

paranoid because of history, right, like eugenics. We know

Unknown:

what has happened in history. But I found myself being

Unknown:

incarcerated 25 and a half years, being forced to eat the

Unknown:

things that they made me hate being forced to be vaccinated in

Unknown:

their tuberculosis if you they're going to come and get

Unknown:

your TB test. We might as well outlaw TB testing as well. If

Unknown:

you're not going to get vaccinated, like these are the

Unknown:

things that are going on today. These these practices have been

Unknown:

on since been going on for for hundreds of years in communities

Unknown:

right? Today. This is the book bionic play. This is our bionic

Unknown:

leg, the corona COVID-19 tuberculosis, this is how you

Unknown:

fight tuberculosis. This is why you get tested every April for

Unknown:

tuberculosis. And if there's something wrong, you get

Unknown:

medication. This is it. This is we're doing this again. So it's

Unknown:

not something that we haven't been doing. However it's been

Unknown:

it's been utilized, I think for political reasons. And I think

Unknown:

that's where people are able to to gather the strength to say no

Unknown:

No, I'm not gonna do it. And this is this is serious. This is

Unknown:

just like tuberculosis. If you don't believe in this, you don't

Unknown:

believe in tuberculosis, right? Why even get tested for

Unknown:

tuberculosis?

Unknown:

So, um, a couple of questions for you before, before I let you

Unknown:

go well for and then I want you to circle back and talk about

Unknown:

revolution and what you're doing and just how people might be

Unknown:

able to help. But before we do that, so, the first one is,

Unknown:

what's what's your proudest moment?

Unknown:

Hmm. Wow, that's a hard one, because that every

Unknown:

accomplishment is, is that proud moment, like, just, but I think

Unknown:

I would say the proudest moment, for me probably has to be to be

Unknown:

baptized, and be confirmed by my church. Because when you have no

Unknown:

one, as as a human being, when you're chained up to this chair,

Unknown:

you have absolutely no one to speak to, right. And so you

Unknown:

speak to who you know, is listening. And so the spiritual

Unknown:

connection, this love that I developed as a kid for God

Unknown:

suddenly was in play again. Out of desperation, right, wanting

Unknown:

to communicate, being able to use your tongue, your voice, and

Unknown:

having that dialogue, right, this is a very serious

Unknown:

environment where you do very little talking, and you're

Unknown:

utilizing all of your other senses of smell, your senses,

Unknown:

your sense of, of hearing, your your your sense of sight, but

Unknown:

your tongue is normally closed. There. So that dialogue. It

Unknown:

always happened, it always happened with my my higher power

Unknown:

with God. Some times it was positive, sometimes it was

Unknown:

negative. And I have to say that when I came home, my wife, she's

Unknown:

Irish Catholic, and she's grown up in the church. And that's

Unknown:

what I was, I was a Mexican American Catholic, baptized in

Unknown:

the church, a decision made by my parents. Right after I was

Unknown:

born, that I would be touched by God, and put on that path. And

Unknown:

then I strayed from it for a long time, I strayed from it for

Unknown:

a long time, and coming home. Engaging in that quiet dialogue,

Unknown:

again, a different conversation. Because different, you know,

Unknown:

being under the stars at night, watching the moon, from my

Unknown:

porch, with a glass of a glass of milk or hot chocolate, with

Unknown:

my German Shepherd sitting next to me, the dialogue is

Unknown:

different. And I started to have those dialogues again, being

Unknown:

introduced to that. And when I was finally confirmed, and then

Unknown:

married in the church, being able to sit down with a priest

Unknown:

and, and really let things out. Just gave me a fresh start. I

Unknown:

sat there with with, with another man that was there in

Unknown:

human form, to listen. Like I had imagined, in that cage

Unknown:

chained up to the chair. And it was a different dialogue. But

Unknown:

this time, it was a different environment. And it was like a

Unknown:

sign, let me know like, remember what you used to think. Remember

Unknown:

what you thought. Remember how you felt? You have no excuse

Unknown:

anymore here. Here it is. And I think realizing that was my

Unknown:

greatest moment because I launched right after that. I

Unknown:

launched and I went, I went harden up with my assimilation

Unknown:

with my transition, knowing that that spiritual connection wasn't

Unknown:

in fact, always there. It was something that I was there, but

Unknown:

man, man will make you think that it's not. And they made me

Unknown:

feel and made me think like it wasn't for a long time. And, and

Unknown:

when I finally had that dialogue again, and it was a serious

Unknown:

dialogue, it was a I was able to leave it there at the Church of

Unknown:

Nativity, where I'm a member at and That's where he remains. But

Unknown:

that's a where else would get my energy to be able to re

Unknown:

traumatize myself every single time talking about these things,

Unknown:

for the betterment of the next generation that's coming up in

Unknown:

the chain in the cages. And that's why I'm so passionate.

Unknown:

But I will say that was my proudest moment, is, is

Unknown:

reconnecting with a dialogue and realizing that

Unknown:

that there was a different, there was a different way of

Unknown:

life, that the life is different. And so those

Unknown:

conversations have completely changed. And there, there's the

Unknown:

day, they're still they're different. Now. It's like, wow,

Unknown:

when you think when you think you know, life, when you think

Unknown:

like, when back when man, policy law, whatever it is, makes you

Unknown:

finally feel like, Shit, this is life right here, you're gonna

Unknown:

get a curveball at some point, you just have to recognize, you

Unknown:

have to recognize it. And I've recognized it and I revel in it

Unknown:

every day that I wake up, I have to commute from Redwood City at

Unknown:

open because I can't find a job in my county. Believe me, I

Unknown:

torture myself with that too at scenic view, as I drive on to

Unknown:

the manmade engineering miracle, that bay bridge that was created

Unknown:

the safest place to be on during an earthquake here in the Bay

Unknown:

Area. I revel in that, rather than complaining about it. I

Unknown:

come home to my wife, my dogs, some people dread coming home. I

Unknown:

revel, I revel in it when I'm here. My wife is in the other

Unknown:

room working from home right now. And I just love my life

Unknown:

today. I think that I love my community, just as much as I

Unknown:

love God, because it's gonna take a community to make this a

Unknown:

success. And right here in San Mateo County community is making

Unknown:

it a success. And now I'm working with all of the criminal

Unknown:

justice system here, the district attorney, the chief of

Unknown:

probation, Superior Court Judge private Defender's Office, to

Unknown:

create a space that is treatment based rather than punishment

Unknown:

based, we're creating an alternative to the chain in

Unknown:

cages, we understand that we can't punish mental illness out

Unknown:

of a kid, we can't punish complex trauma out of a kid, we

Unknown:

can't punish addiction out of a kid, it's a disease. So we're

Unknown:

going to create a space now that provides treatment for these

Unknown:

diseases we understand now. And they have been open to

Unknown:

listening. And that's why that we we've come to this

Unknown:

understanding as human beings as adults now that we we can't be

Unknown:

so quick to condemn our kids, we have to give them the space if

Unknown:

they don't have that space in the community. It's our job to

Unknown:

provide that space. And that's where I'm geared toward. But

Unknown:

that was that was a great question.

Unknown:

So I'm on those along those lines, who inspires you?

Unknown:

Oh, wow, I have so many. So many people who inspire me, I have so

Unknown:

many mentors in life. But the one that I believe inspires me

Unknown:

the most is my wife because she was with me, 17 years of those

Unknown:

25 and a half years when I met her while in prison, and 17

Unknown:

years, she would come to visit me and see me completely

Unknown:

different than every other human being would see me there. And

Unknown:

when I when I came home she doesn't see me any different she

Unknown:

still sees me exactly the same way just in different clothes

Unknown:

without chains without can cups. I mean, and her her struggle has

Unknown:

also been a struggle. Just like every other person out here in

Unknown:

the community has struggle. But the inspiration comes from the

Unknown:

unconditional love, aside from my mom and my dad, I that I

Unknown:

received that I have felt from her. These these 19 years 20

Unknown:

years that we are are on it that's inspirational, that

Unknown:

unconditional love does exist. And again, that's part of my

Unknown:

dialogue. With with my with my higher power with God is is when

Unknown:

you think you know something you really don't you just have to be

Unknown:

open to to see that opportunity coming upon you. And also,

Unknown:

always being prepared, doing your best to be prepared to

Unknown:

capitalize on opportunities. So that means brush your teeth

Unknown:

every day. combing your hair every day. And and look at life

Unknown:

as you want life to look at you and just be prepared for that

Unknown:

opportunity it'll come mind has come what I thought I was doing

Unknown:

when I was leaking blood in prison, when I was getting beat

Unknown:

by clubs, when I was being forced to engage in gladiator

Unknown:

fights. I didn't see these operate, I couldn't see the

Unknown:

opportunities, I was too busy trying to stay alive. And today

Unknown:

I could see him and, and I'm more prepared than ever to

Unknown:

capitalize on any opportunity that crosses my trajectory

Unknown:

today.

Unknown:

That's awesome. Um, how can people help? My listeners

Unknown:

probably would love to know now after listening ways that they

Unknown:

can help your mission? Well,

Unknown:

again, I don't get paid for doing this work. So I have to

Unknown:

raise money to keep my organization alive. My

Unknown:

organization I have. It's here in San Mateo County. And I need

Unknown:

any support I can get this money is just invested into the work

Unknown:

that I'm already doing. Whether I get the help I need or I don't

Unknown:

I do this work voluntarily. It's going to happen. And that is the

Unknown:

the biggest way a 501 C three can can exist can stay alive.

Unknown:

The other thing is get involved with juvenile criminal justice

Unknown:

reform. figure out who's your chief of probation? Who's your

Unknown:

district attorney? Who's your sheriff? What are their

Unknown:

policies? Do we obliterate families? Do we deport the

Unknown:

breadwinner and leave kids into the foster system? Are we trying

Unknown:

kids as adults? Are we condemning kids? Are we plea

Unknown:

bargaining with mentally ill kids that we put in cages that

Unknown:

are desperate? That will sign in the piece of paper to get out of

Unknown:

that cage? Are we providing mental health services to these

Unknown:

kids? Are our kids here in the foster system? Our kids are

Unknown:

beyond our county lines? Why do they have to be beyond the

Unknown:

county lines, bring them home? Let's invest. This is part of

Unknown:

the investment. So this is how you can help me by getting in

Unknown:

contact with me getting in contact with your community

Unknown:

leaders and finding out how are your youth being treated? Even

Unknown:

the ones that commit horrible offenses. Ask why? This

Unknown:

Rittenhouse kid, 17 years old, demonized, no one has yet asked

Unknown:

how did he get in semi automatic weapon? How why was he raised to

Unknown:

think that that was okay. He hasn't even dealt with the

Unknown:

impact of what it's like to take the life or to lose somebody, he

Unknown:

hasn't really felt that yet. And it's going to hit him, it's

Unknown:

going to hit him he hasn't matured that impulsivity is

Unknown:

there right now. But it's going to set him. And when you realize

Unknown:

how damaging a human being can get you, you either are going to

Unknown:

do the work on yourself to change or you're going to start

Unknown:

giving back and support your community support your youth.

Unknown:

Look me up revolution. I'm on LinkedIn, I am on Facebook, I am

Unknown:

on Instagram, I'm on Twitter, support. Get involved in if you

Unknown:

need help getting involved, please reach out to me, I am

Unknown:

more than willing, I stretched myself very thin to get the job

Unknown:

done. But I think we are in a state of emergency when it comes

Unknown:

to humanizing youth, we have to move quicker to intervene in the

Unknown:

pipeline that exists to prison. Again, we don't have a pipeline

Unknown:

from Stanford or Harvard. But we have one from our high schools.

Unknown:

It doesn't make any sense. We we have to do more to get more

Unknown:

involved. And I look forward to any type of help or feedback

Unknown:

that I can get. That would make me not only a better person, but

Unknown:

better prepared to continue to deal with the criminal justice

Unknown:

system as I delve deeper into the layers of it, because now

Unknown:

I've got people's attention, people are listening. And any

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type of empowerment that I received from the community only

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enables me to push harder for the things that I want to do.

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Great. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really

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appreciate it and good luck and Godspeed to you.

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Thank you so much for this opportunity. God bless. Happy

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Holidays to everyone and get vaccinated

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