Prison is one part of my life I thought I would never experience. Never gave a prison a second thought, let alone what kind of life exists inside. That is, until I was sent here to San Quentin! And, spending the last 30 years wondering what it would be like to live outside of this prison.
It takes time to adjust to a life far different than that of liberty. The freedom of movement, the ability to venture anywhere without restraints. For some, adjusting to prison is quick, they have grown up being raised by the state. For others, it takes longer, a year or more. Some do not adjust at all, they die mentally or physically.
When I first came here I was 32 years old. All I saw around me were condemned men, easily prone to violence, murderers!
Some with no idea what morals were. No sense of responsability, and with a warped sense of respect.
In those first 10-15 years I met violence with violence! Either I succumbed to a beating and/or death, or I defended myself. Prisons are not rose gardens. Even those whom have found religion, are prone to violence. Their god or deity will not protect them from an attack! The air of violence is thick inside prison walls, like a gas waiting for a spark. And, high up on those prison walls are guards with weapons, waiting to use them!
Prison is supposed to be a place of rehabilitation. Executioners say that the only rehabilitation that exists is death. Is it any wonder that men leave prisons with anger, fear, and more anger?! All those negative emotions and no way of cancelling them out.
I have always said that there are two sides to a coin. In every tragedy or disappointment, there is a positive side. You just need to make time to look for it. At times, I felt that my last 30 years were lost, misspent, a waste! True, facing a death sentence discourages one from being positive. Seeing a man go to his death makes that light at the end of the tunnel flicker, and almost go out! But, it does not extinguished!!
Whether that flicker of light goes out or not, depends on the strength of one's character. I must confess, that tiny light was oblivious to me for some time. But, I dug down deep inside myself and said, "Enough"! If I cannot make that tiny light bigger, I can at least try and make the tunnel bigger so I can get to that light!
Hope and age, play a part in one's survival. Time matures one's mind, brings wisdom, and in turn teaches common sense. Common sense, the sense of right and wrong, to use life's experiences for problem solving rather than using brute force!
To keep anger from building up inside of you, when offended by someone or something, is a test of your character. "This", is the other side of my 30-year old coin!
Fernando Caro, 2011.
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