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Silhouette of road signs pointing in different directions
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

My neighborhood in San Bernardino is known as “The City of Executioners.” I joined my gang in 1984 and came to prison for the first time 11 years later. I was taught in prison never to go down during a riot until blood is shed. I feel like I’ve been astray my entire life, lost in my rage, pride and pain.

I expected to be dead by the age of 40. I have been in and out of jail for 28 of the last 36 years. I’m 50 years old now. 

My mind has been chaos, like a cheetah who never stops running. Sometimes I feel like a fish trying to breathe out of water. I never acquired coping skills. I believed that I was unchangeable and unlovable. I figured that three decades of repetitive violent behavior couldn’t be quickly erased. It would not be easy to find peace or positive self-awareness.

And yet I took a step in that direction. I learned to calm down and let go of my trained reactions. To not merely talk about positive things, but to do them. I have learned to block the negative influences and obstacles built by my afflictions. 

Triggers that used to upset me are now like a gust of wind that comes and goes. With my newfound knowledge and restraint, I can focus on healing and forgiving myself. I have accepted that I have no control over anything beyond my cell door. I have to let go of all expectations and adapt to my environment with hope. 

I am on my way to achieving happiness. I have repaired my relationship with my goddaughter as well as with one of my sons. 

After a life of violence, drugs and gang activity, I am now in college and an inmate advocate. 

I am serving life without parole. If I can change and do better with no hope of release, to become a better human being, then anyone can.

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.

Robert Morgan Sr. is a writer incarcerated in California.