“I sentence Mr. Moreno to 29-years-to-life in prison,” said Judge Cheri Pham.
Growing up, I was always told I was stupid and not worth anything. My dad was no father, he was an alcoholic. As a kid, he repeatedly belittled me. I tried speaking up to my mom, but I remember she’d just excuse his behavior as “being drunk.”
This form of manipulation led to trust issues, so I isolated myself and used drugs and alcohol. It’s unfortunate that I caved to my dad’s comments and allowed myself to think I was worthless. Now, as a 26-year-old at California’s Salinas Valley State Prison, I wish I could tell my younger self that I didn’t have to make my dad’s problems my own. Once I realized this, I became motivated to rise above my father’s hatred and become a better person.
Prison has tested that goal. Since I’ve been here, it becomes more apparent that prison is structured for you to fail rather than succeed. Since I arrived, I’ve been asking for help only to be neglected by counselors, correctional officers and other incarcerated people.
Despite prison obstacles, I’m still improving myself. To do that, I had to rid myself of the hate and anger that resides within me. My ways were so wrong. I was weak. I made mistakes.
However, I believe that if we have the courage to face our own issues. We can change. My mistakes do not define me nor will I let them. Ridding myself of these resentful feelings, I can move forward and treat everyone I come across equally, with compassion and love.
While growing up, I volunteered for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I tried to be a good role model. I failed because I hadn’t yet confronted my demons. Now, as I take a step back, I realize how selfish, insensitive, irresponsible and immature I was.
I am now willing to confront my own issues so that I can help others. In the future, I plan to advocate for those kids who were also deemed “failures” for no reason and give them the chance to show people that they are not. No one is a failure in my book.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.