This story is a lightly edited version of an article first published in the June issue of Mule Creek Post.
The pandemic halted much of what goes on in the world, especially at California’s Mule Creek State Prison, but it did not stop the men on Facilities D and E from holding a walkathon to honor crime victims during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
The national event—held every year in April—draws attention and awareness to victims of crime and provides an opportunity for offenders to hear firsthand accounts of the impact of crime through the personal stories of victims and their families.
The men at the Mule Creek Infill Complex chose to show their support by kicking off the first Crime Victims Awareness Walkathon, which is hoped to evolve into an annual event.
“It’s a challenge,” said William Fowler, coordinator of the walkathon. “It’s something we all need to do, something positive we can do to give back to our victims.”
Jesse Vallez was a gang member at the age of 13. While hooked on drugs he did just about anything to stay high, which included robbing bars, gas stations, and stores, and doing home invasions. He witnessed the fear and terror reflected in his victims’ eyes, both at the time of the crime and later in the courtroom, and he no longer wants to create victims.
He also learned something about the ripple effects of his past crimes when his step-daughter read about his offense in the newspaper. Vallez is mindful of his past victims and donates money to the Get On the Bus program that works to keep prisoners and their families united.
Ronald Prasad has participated in National Crime Victims’ Rights Week for the last four years and volunteered to support the walkathon.
Prasad said this was his way of making amends. In 2017, he received a phone call informing him of the death of his beloved mother. Realizing what his victim’s family might have felt when they received that same phone call 15 years ago was a cathartic experience.
“[Victim awareness] comes to you in bits and pieces, but you don’t know it completely,” said Prasad. “Then one phone call makes it all clear. Now I contribute my time and energy to give my victim a voice.”
Carlos Cruz walked in honor of his victims — the young man who was killed and the family and friends who grieved for him. ”The walkathon was an opportunity for me to honor and stand up for those I harmed,” said Cruz. “I regret who I was and what I did back then. Every day I think about the life I took and how much his family misses him.”
Billy Chadd and Clinton Browning have served 44 and 35 years in prison, respectively. Despite some mobility issues due to their health and age, they put in laps to show their support.
“Hey, we were gonna’ be out here anyway,” said Chadd. “Yeah,” said Browning, “we might as well do it for a good cause.”
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.