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A row of empty glass liquor bottles lined up on a street curb strewn with litter.
Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

“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.

Christian Moreno is a writer incarcerated in California.