My Amends Project
My name is Jason Berg, when I was 17 years old, I turned myself in for my life crimes, which was in 1996. I then pled guilty to all charges without taking a deal, because I was guilty. I was originally sentenced to life without parole (LWOP). Last year I was resentenced. Now I am one of the blessed youth offenders that is being given an opportunity to show the board of parole that I am capable of rehabilitation.
Growing up, I was raised by a tribe of hippie-convicts on the streets of San Diego. I was in and out of foster-care, juvenile-hall, and other institutions. My whole adolescent life I looked up to criminals and not only wanted to be one, but I wanted to be the leader and in control of my life. I realized I was not that guy after I committed my life crime. I was not ready for the emotional response of what I did, as a matter of fact, it was eating me alive.
When I came to prison, I tried to reinvent myself, I tried to change, but I did not know how to fix myself. So, although I changed in someways, I really just made the same mistakes over and over again. In 2012, I was back in the hole for getting into a knife fight with another inmate that picked a fight with me. My father gave me a much needed reality check. He compared what I did to the crimes I turned myself in for, by telling me that I had not learned anything because I was still getting high and still hurting people. I knew he was right.
That is when I really started to change. I realized I could not figure it out on my own because everything I did on my own only dug my ditch deeper. So, I started asking for help; I got a sponsor. I started going to self-help groups, and seeking higher education. One of the biggest things I have learned to do is to stop isolating myself. Something I was not only raised to do, but continue to do as a way of protecting myself. Isolating myself caused a lot more harm than good. Re-engaging with my community assisted me with gaining understanding, it helped me to empathize with others, and it started me on the healing process. All of which, has slowly changed my life. This was nothing short of divine intervention.
Now, I live my life in the service of others as a living amends for all the pain and suffering I caused in this world. This comes in many forms for me. For starters, I am continuously working to improve myself, because I have come to believe that the purest form of amends is making sure that I am not the same immature, selfish, violent, coward that committed such horrific crimes. I also give back to my community by sponsoring other addicts, writing letters to our struggling youth, and participating in community outreach events. For example, I grew my hair out for over four years so I could donate it to wigs for kids in my victims honor. Our LWOP alliance group sponsored a no shave November to bring awareness to cancer and I am currently taking classes with US C golds school of law that is allowing 11 of us to contribute to the educational experience of bright young college students. This is a groundbreaking class, the first of its kind, which includes both incarcerated people and students in the free community. This class will be joining forces to lobby state legislators in the attempt to pass new legislation. I have also written, creative writing pieces for multiple organizations (I will send a few to the amends project). All of these are ways that I try to give back what I have been given, it is just me trying to be a part of the solution, and ways that I am serving my community as part of my living amends.
After I was resentenced, I was given a comprehensive risk assessment by a board of parole psychologist, and received an overall categorical risk rating saying I “represent a low risk for violence. He presents with non-elevated risk relief relative to long-term offenders and other parolees. Low risk examinees are expected to commit violence, much less frequently than other parolees“. Then I had my first board of parole hearing and received a three-year denial. When you think about it, was a three-year denial anything less than a blessing? I should get another opportunity to go before the board approves again around March 2024 if I keep living my amends. I am hoping to be blessed with my release not only so I can be reunited with my family, but so I can get out there and continue to help be part of the solution in the free community.
“ the sea within me”
By Jason Berg
My home is a small town by the sea and wherever I go, I bring it with me. I’ll never forget the day. My mother introduced me to God. She took me to the rocks at sunset and told me this is where she goes to see God. The sun has painted a beautiful tapestry of colors across the sky, I could feel the vibration of the waves as they crashed against the rocks we sat on , and the spray of the mist as it washed over us. I was humbled, like never before in my young little life, I felt so small yet a part of something so big I could barely imagine it.
Anyone who grows up at the beach knows the sea gets into your blood. You have to understand the sea is untamed, ferocious, and violent. It’s also Combe, nurturing, and peaceful. It gives life. Slowly, but surely the sea has a way of seeping into your soul.
In my young adolescent life, I had lost my way. I became untamed, ferocious and violent. At 17 years old, I crashed into a prison system like a wave crashes into the rocks. I have not been home in 25 years, but wherever I go, I bring the sea with me. Whether I’m up in the sticks of pelican bay, or in the mountains of Jahad, choppy, or out in the desert of Calipatria; I bring the sea with me.
The desert of Calipatria has been good for me. There are seagulls that flock into our yards so we can feed them. When I was a kid, I thought of them as flying rats, but now I see their beauty, a livin piece of home that comes to visit me, a sign of the divine. So, now I try my best to be calm, nurturing, and peaceful.
“ a shared moment” by Jason Berg
It’s so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. Across from me is a kid that is just a couple of years older than I was when I first entered these walls but then again, he was not even born yet back then. We are not the same race, yet we are so much alike . We grew up the same way, and it was not easy. We are both suffered and made others pay the price for it.
Right now he is sitting with his eyes closed, facing me, not 5 feet away. He is having a hard time keeping his eyes closed because it’s a vulnerability. We are not used to. He is being told to think of all the pain she has felt throughout his life and I can see his pain as a splashes across his face. It hurts me to see it because I know this kid is like me. He can deal with direct pain, but it’s hard for him to deal with pain directed at those he cares about. So when I see the paint sketched on his face, I know his family has suffered. My heart goes out to the kid.
Now he is being told to think of all the pain he has caused others in the world. His eyes open, refusing to face it at first. Then he finds his courage, he closes his eyes, and he tries. I can see the struggle inside him as it plays across his face. After a while, he silently starts to cry. Before long, I begin to pray with him, and I desperately prayed “please God do not let him have done things I have done!”.