“The research I'm doing is on how having parents in prison affects children's lives. It's work that I want to do because both my parents are in prison currently. It relates to me.
My father is currently in state prison and serving a life sentence. I never met my father until I was 8. At the time, I did not know why he was in prison and the crime he committed, but I was told later. The last time I saw my mother was in my eighth grade year of middle school. I remember when Drug Enforcement Administration raided us and arrested my mother. After that, I was not the same person.
She is currently serving time in federal prison, but she's going to come out next year before I graduate. I have two older brothers and younger siblings who lived with their dad. Both my older brothers are serving prison sentences. The oldest is serving life in prison and my other brother is serving 10 years in prison.
Me and my two older brothers were raised differently. We had a different mentality. We weren't that into education, but more into gangs. It's been a large part of the majority of our families. It began with my grandfather and took in my uncles, my parents, and my two older brothers. Growing up in South Central, the only role models I looked up to were gang members.
I was always told I had to live up to my family’s reputation and was expected to join a gang. I became involved with a gang after my mother was arrested. I guess what made me change was that I noticed that most of my homies and family were locked up, deceased, or drug addicts.
and I kept thinking that I should go back to what I used to be doing.
I remember my brother was shot at multiple times by a rival gang member. He was able to recover from the gunshot wounds, but he never learned, and he was arrested. I was reflecting on how I'm going to end up in life. So I started thinking that if I continue living within this gang activity I'll eventually be in prison, paralyzed, or even killed.
Going to college, it's weird, it's a culture shock. There were times that I would just think that this is not me. And I kept thinking that I should go back to what I used to be doing.
I was paranoid just going to Carson, because I had to go through rival gang territory every day. When I reflect back to when I first started college, I've kind of changed as a person. I'm not as stubborn or always trying to get into fights or involved in gang activity anymore.
When I graduate I'm going to be excited, because my mother is going be there, and I’m receiving two diplomas, one in Chicana/o studies and another in criminal justice.”