"You have a prepaid call from (recorded name) at the ___ correctional facility, to accept this call say or dial 5 now", What a life! I get those calls several times a week. I have to put money on my phone to receive the calls, but they are so nice to have. I feel fancy having an extra 10 dollars or so to deposit. Putting money into a phone like that was a cost I could never justify, but since April 2019, I have been thrilled to support my brother. He has reminded me of the sibling love I had for him when we were kids and how I have missed having him in my life.
I honestly loved my brother Richard when we were kids, but was not able to keep and care for him as a big sister should, I was only a few years older. I mentioned our life was hard. We grew up without food and sometimes no roof over our head. Our mother was really mentally absent. She seemed to care only that we "liked" her, not that we obeyed her. She would take my brother's ritalin pills and sell them to the neighbors with the food stamps. My brother was always in trouble in school and in special ED. Sometimes the office would have him tied to a chair. We struggled to survive. I asked my mom when Rich was about 5 or 6 years old, why she did not give him up for adoption so he could have a good family? She was upset I would even say a thing, but it was true. I knew this when I was 10 years old. Richard was special and precious to me.
We grew up hungry with little to no food in the house. Our mom taught her kids to steal food from stores. I was with her once hen she got arrested and I swore I would never be in handcuffs. I was going to walk the line, whatever that meant. I stayed away from home and just played late at friends houses until I had to sleep at their houses. Not many nights were spent with my mom. She had undesirable men around and I did not have a lock on my door. My brother and I would stay together, until we couldn't anymore. I loved him so much and felt it was my job to protect him.
When I was sent away, I was 17. My mother bought me a ticket for Arizona when I was turning 17. I got on the plane on my birthday, to be delivered to No-Place-ville AZ. I did not have a welcome or birthday cake. I sat at the airport making collect calls for several days until I found someone that could come take me home with them. I found friends cared for me. I was fortunate to not be homeless, but I could not take my brother.
When Richard was left with my mother and her abusive boyfriends, he found a group of local kids that were able to comfort him, if he would do stuff for them. Richard became a gang member. Now Richard was taught by our mom to steal food and other household items, so he had that skill, but was desperate for dinner and a bed to sleep. He was 11 years old at the time of his first car theft, age 13 when he stole the next one. And at age 16 he stole 3 days before Christmas, this stint landed him in jail for a long time. He just turned 16 years old 2 months earlier. He was a participant in the crime. He did not kill the person, no, he did not even know of the person before that night, but Richard did not stop the others either. He went along with some older "friends", those friends led him to a violent crime. He takes full responsibility, but honestly he did not do it. He just did not stop it. I am not trying to minimize his impact, but I want to let you know he simply did not kill anyone. He is not the mastermind. Where do you draw the guilty line? The jury found Richard guilt of 1st degree murder as a co conspirator and he was sentenced to 3 life terms at age 16. He did not have family in the audience, he has no support. He was all alone.
For so many years, I could not face the fact I have a brother in Folsom Prison. I couldn't stomach it, I tried to do the right thing. I could not writer to him and tell him all the good in my life. I just did not write. My life is not all good, I have my ups and downs as we all do. I did not know how to connect with him. Should I tell him how bad it is, or how good it is? I was lost. I decided after 20 years, to finally put money on my phone account so I could talk to him, that would be easier.
Richard started calling me, to ask for help. He needed a package, some shoes, or a tv. I would send food and clothing items through the packaging companies. One day in 2016, I had a family trauma. While walking into the hospital for my youngest son, my brother's call came through, I swore to never miss a call from him, but when I answered I told him I was walking into the hospital and to pray for his nephew. Richard was faced with a reality he was shocked by. He reached out to his counselors and made changes in his life. New laws have been coming forward regarding youth sentenced to life. Since Richard was sentenced as a youth, he was entitled to the new laws. When he was given hope and need, he turned his life to God and making an amends. These new laws said he would have a chance to parole. That he would not have to be locked up the rest of his natural life. He made every effort to make the changes to be able to return home, knowing he can help. He wants to help kids in trouble. He wants to help me, his sister. He wants to be helpful to his family he loves. He wants to tell troubled youth what not to do it! He wants to give back, but he is locked up. He started making changes as soon as given a chance to, by signed up for self help courses and college classes. He is making a difference from inside. Richard calls to tell me good things and be supportive. he does not ask for much anymore. It is funny talking to him now on the phone, he is so insightful and clear headed.