Category Archives: The Beat Without

Something You’ve Never Done

by Harry Goodall

The main thing I want to do is be a dad. I have two kids, but have missed all of their lives because of a prison sentence. I feel that just because I helped in the creation of my kids does not make me a dad.  I’m just a donor. It’s other scenarios that had complicated me being involved in their lives, but I have had to learn to live with that.  If I didn’t place myself in prison maybe the restrictions wouldn’t be there. After all, you’re not placed in prison because you’re a good guy.

As a result of missing all of their lives, there is some resentment in how my kids feel about me. They are not to blame. How can you explain to someone that has needed you all their lives, that you felt the crime you committed, that you had to do it. I have estranged relationships with my kids. It’s sort of hard for them to accept me and what I can offer them as I have always been missing from their life. read more

Sharing Our Deepest Scars

by Keith Erickson

The scars of my childhood are the very parts of me that so many men like me, incarcerated men, want to keep locked away from the rest of the world around them. The Alternatives to Violence Project Workshops bring out the courage in men that you would never expect to witness within a prison. This weekend was like a whirlwind of emotions and laughter that left many of us crying, yet with the realization that our personal afflictions are so much bigger than just ourselves—they also belong to so many others within and outside of these granite walls.

Fatherhood/Parenting: this was the focus of this weekend’s workshop. New faces, some familiar, yet uncharted territory for many of us to share due to the scars that are concealed beneath the billboard display of tattoos that take up much of our bodies. It is a well-known fact amongst us prisoners; the Alternatives to Violence Project is designed to make you uncomfortable in order to make you comfortable. There is no growth without the pain of finally beginning to confront the damage that’s been done to you, including the damage we’ve all been guilty of doing to others. That’s the beauty of these workshops: we learn to love, trust, and support men around us regardless of where it is that we’ve been, all within a crash-course un-fold of three days. In the bigger picture, we’re restoring our humanity while helping one another heal. read more

Your Life Has Value

by Christian Bost

What I’m about to tell you is not a story, but rather a reality of my life. The reality is that I was seventeen years old, tried as an adult, and fighting for my life, praying to God that I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life in prison for murder.

I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles, CA. I was raised in a household with just my mom and four brothers. My dad wasn’t around because, when I was just three years old, while he was locked up in his cell, his cellie decided to murder my dad.

So, growing up without my father always left this emptiness in my heart. My mom always worked hard to provide a roof over my head, but there was one thing that I felt she didn’t provide: unconditional love. It was the emotional support that I desperately needed. I would always do things to get her attention; usually to get her attention was to act up, and ultimately getting jumped into my gang. That sure got her attention. read more

Juvenile Emancipation

by Brandon Martinez

Looking back over this ole life, a young buck adolescent, sitting there in front of a judge quite perplexed of my hearing being conducted for emancipation, often throughout the proceedings I was a bit baffled. As a teen, I lacked the intellectual ability to comprehend the magnitude for his decision to be rendered. Although factors were taken into account by the judge at his discretion, perhaps I should have provided some input, certainly the task was exclusively delegated to him, with such an imperative crucial decision at stake. To not object by advocating on my own volition was a mistake, I can’t change the past of what transpired that day.

What I can do is convey to you that if you ever encounter this predicament as a youngster, please make the proper decision in your best interest. See the broad picture of life. For certainly there’ll be fallout as a result of you being granted emancipation. Absolutely, to some extent for the time being in the moment it will appear you’ll lap in the luxury of freedom with the yoke of the parental reign dismantled. read more

Dear Youth

by Ernesto Rodriguez

I wanted to take the time to write to you about the importance of relationships. You see, relationships do not only mean the kind we have with an intimate special someone, but the kind of relationships that pick you back up in life when you fall.

You see, in life, we have the illusion that the friendships we build with homeboys or the homegirls are everything. We believe that if we are accepted and build up our reputation in our hood, in our street, that somehow it will erase or blot out the heavy and painful things we go through in the darkness of our lives. In the darkness we are born to. Some of us go through things that may traumatize us and make us feel vulnerable in a way that we turn to aggression and violence to mask the insecure thoughts and feelings those experiences may haunt us with. We may grow up seeing our mothers beat mercilessly, we may see our little sisters struggle psychologically because they experienced sexual molestation or rape, we may grow up in poverty that never allows to develop some kind of stability in our lives and therefore become apathetic towards others… So why should we nurture the kind of relationships that promote the very things we are trying to escape and hide from? Yes, the gang life, the street life and the homegirls/homeboys only represent the very things we are ashamed of. We tell ourselves a lie that because we are brave enough to defend our neighborhoods through gang violence, that somehow we are brave enough to carry the vulnerable secrets in our hearts that we want no one to know about. That somehow, we are being aggressive, not to the human beings we are hurting in the process of our internal struggle, but to the monsters that took our innocence during our vulnerable stage of childhood. read more

Broken Crayon Still Colors

by Son Nguyen

I like the saying, “Broken Crayon Still Colors,” because it could help us see things from a more positive perspective, especially during difficult times.

Being locked up no matter where we are at, whether it is in juvenile hall, jail or prison, it is easy to get discouraged. We are stuck behind concrete walls, while the world on the other-side carries on without us. We have been banished from the rest of society. People who we were once close to start to forget about us, while others have turned their backs on us.

Confinement often causes people to feel despair and induce them to lose their sense of self-worth. Life might seem dark and you may feel worthless because of the situation that you are in, but I’m telling you not to give up hope!  You may be down right now, but you are definitely not out.  Look at the circumstances that you are facing as a blessing in disguise. Take this time as an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover yourself. The greatest treasure you will ever find will come from within, that is when you learn to love yourself for who you are. read more

Dear Friend

Angelo J. Vasquez

I’m writing you from prison like l always.  I’ve been here since I was sixteen years old and I’m twenty-seven now.  It’s truly amazing that I’m not dead.  My life wasn’t ruined when my mother and father got a divorce when I as five years old.  No that just meant more presents and two bedrooms.  It was when I first began to smoke weed.  When I was a nine-year-old boy I began to smoke rock, meth and PCP.  I couldn’t be sober once I started.  I began to steal from my family, anything of value was going to ‘the connect’.  Then an idea that seemed to solve my problems.

I bought a couple ounces and began slanging.  I got in a gang so I wouldn’t be robbed.  I got lost in the streets.  I didn’t even know who my family was anymore.  My mother would cry herself to sleep, driving around every street pulling up to every crowd looking for me because she loved me.  My father gave up on me, moving out of state.  I was so numb on drugs I didn’t even care.  I thought this gang lifestyle was the top, that it doesn’t get better than this. read more

What Does Success Look Like for Me?

by Anthony B

For me, success has many different ways that it can be viewed or displayed. One thing for sure is the fact that my current situation does not at all de ne success; but what I do with the time while I am con ned will de nitely lead towards success. Taking my life one day at a time. By not wasting time, so that I can achieve my desired or favorable outcome.

For example: Me living a productive life with a happy family, no longer being a resident in this jail, or any other correctional facility. Being a provider instead of a taker. Being active in my daughters’ and my grandbaby’s lives. Being available for them when they need me. Truly giving my mother a reason to be proud of her only child. Her only son.

Success is waking up in the morning before my wife and kids, cooking fried pork chop, cheese grits and scrambled eggs with hot buttered buttermilk biscuits with g and strawberry preserves and an ice cold glass of vitamin D whole milk and a cup of coffee. And a bowl of frosted akes for my wife and kids! Just kidding. Just being able to do that for them is success. read more

The Fruits Of My Labor

by Jesse

Sometimes I close my eyes at night and re ect back on my life and all the things I’ve done to get me to this point – and I must admit – I’ve worked really-really hard to get to where I am today! I mean all the things I’d done on the streets – the gangs, guns and violence – the drugs and shootings – the not going to school or listening to my parents or anyone else for that matter.

All these things had earned me a life sentence in prison – and if that wasn’t enough – once in prison I continued down that same path ‘till l the things I’d done in prison – the ghting, stabbings and assaults – the drugs, gang violence and prison riots had earned me a life sentence in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous SHU (Security Housing Unit) program! The “hole” – a prison within a prison – a place where they put the worse of the worst – where even ies refuse to land! And as I sat there in my cold concrete cell – staring thru the 5,126 holes that make up the front of my cell, all I could do is ask myself – is this what I worked so hard to get to?! Because now that I was there – I wished that I wasn’t! read more

Mirror

by Q

When I look in the mirror I see this young girl that’s hurt deep down inside, Lost and confused, hurt and abused, don’t know what to do, trying to gure out my next best move. Addicted to the streets ‘cause I’m always on my feet. Ran away as a child because my young life was wild. Beaten and mistreated, still don’t know a reason. Wondering why I always get high to forget my problems. It’s just some hard shhh to swallow, nobody was there to listen so I stayed missing. Missing in action became a habit.

Starting boostin’ from stores to take care of myself nancially. Mentally I had a lot going on and didn’t have nobody I could trust to go to. I felt like everybody was against me. I ran away so much I ended up getting sent out of state. Got sent to Colorado for three years, came back to Cali in 2010. At this point I was 18 and you would think stuff got better, well in my case stuff got worse. read more