We are making available a number of brief statements written by individuals
serving Life Without Parole sentences in Massachusetts. Here's one story...
I've been in prison since I was sixteen years old. I'm from Boston, Massachusetts, where my environment played a vital role in my upbringing and how I viewed myself and others around me. As a young kid growing up in Dorchester, I was surrounded by gangs and the violence that accompanied the lifestyle. Most importantly, I was in close proximity of gangs because my older cousins had their own gang, which would have such an imprint on not only my life, but also my personality and would shape my life in a traumatic way.
I was just eleven years old when I experienced my first loss to gang violence. My cousin Joseph was shot and killed in 2005. This is where the fear of death struck my mind and I began to wonder why would someone want to kill my cousin? Then, I would experience more losses, which would happen year after year. In 2006, I lost my cousin Louie who was killed in front of his mother's house, and In 2007, I lost my cousin Jason who was just fourteen years old, to gun violence. I remember expressing to my childhood friend, Briantey, that I feared that I was next and that I felt like I was going to lose my life because all of my cousins were dying before my eyes. I truly felt hopeless and loneliness at such a young age, and I didn't know how to express my fear and emotions that I was dealing with.
Before I knew it, I would come close to losing my life. In the summer of 2008, I was shot in the arm. The bullet entered my body and stopped inches from my heart. This was the turning point of my life where I was going through the motions and I became careless. Soon after, I would be arrested for the murder of a fourteen year old boy. I was just sixteen. I was convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to life without parole in June 2012. I was only eighteen years old when I went to prison.
But, in 2012, the US Supreme Court decided on a case, Miller v. Alabama, that would change my entire outlook on life. My feelings of hopelessness and loneliness turned into hope and change because my future suddenly wasn't so dark anymore. This decision allowed me to have a second chance at life that I would never have. I immediately began to see change and education, so that I could better prepare myself for the future. Don't get me wrong, there were many pressures and negative influences around me in MCI-Walpole and Souza Baranowski. I made a conscious decision that I was going to make choices for myself and not allow my environment to make choices for me.
Furthermore, I began to separate myself from the negative influences around me, so I could make here to MCI-Norfolk. I wanted to come here because of the Boston University Prison Education Program. I knew that for me to be successful, I would have to educate myself. The education that I have received from Boston University has helped me view life so clearly that I was able to look back at my life and understand that the environment that I came from was not normal. Also, the mindset that I had while dealing with my losses wasn't normal because I became negative like the environment that I hated.
The Supreme Court's ruling, along with the one that followed by the SJC and further changes made to the juvenile law by the legislature, has helped me gain a greater understanding of how much control I have over my life and how I must take responsibility for my way of thinking and my actions. It has given me new life because I know have a more positive outlook at life and I'm more sure of myself than I ever have been before. I was so used to caring about how others viewed me that I never took the time to figure out who I was as a person. The abolition of life without parole for juveniles and the education I have gained from Boston University over these past four years has allowed me to figure out who I am as a young man. All the negative thoughts that I had before I came to prison have been replaced with more positive thoughts and critical thinking. This has helped me to become a better person.
I feel that everyone deserves a second chance. We are not born bad or evil. We are born pure and good, but certain factors change that. People, in general, are capable of change and they just need some positive reinforcements to help them seek that change. I'm no longer that confused teenage kid who didn't know how to deal with his emotions. I'm a young man, now, who has a second chance to be a better person and live a productive life.