Having an LWOP sentence may seem zombie-ish, like “walking dead”… a meaningless life. Existing in a separated class, so far removed, forgetting what life is or was. Realizing a distorted vision of others, they have hope and we don’t. LWOP… Each one of us knows the feeling of being stranded on our own island, alone, and consumed by hopelessness. Rescue ships come and go, passing by, never giving a second thought to our deprivation. It’s a mindless state and one in which it’s easy to become careless. In fact it can be dangerous.
Nearly one year ago, that was my mentality in its essence. Since then, something amazing happened, the process of a "zombie transformation" were realized. As zombies suddenly awoke, I became “undead“ for real. I noticed a change when another LWOP began to make noise, running around, and shaking others attempting to wake them. It was nonsensical at first, all I heard was “Rah, Rah, Rah!“ Typical zombie sounds which usually were a call for brains.
When the LWOP alliance was formed and made official, after weeks and weeks of attending, I began to notice the sounds the zombies were making were different, and the way this zombie was feeling was different. Through this new group, specific to me, and my LWOP brothers, zombies were becoming human again, life was breathed back into the lifeless. I began to really “feel” this experience. Instead of faces with dead expressions, smiles with hope replaced frowns of bitterness. Warmth over-took the cold state my body was in for so many years. “Rah, Rah, Rah“ became remorse, empathy, sympathy, compassion, spirituality, change, hope, second chances, awareness, mentorship, life, prosocial isolation, and positivity. This thing that we are now a part of is bigger than us alone, it is something to live by and for. We are taught all the “meat and potatoes“ of recovery, commutations, board prep, psychotherapy, relapse prevention, and life skills at college level.
Thanks to the creators of this group and the hard work of the members the “walking dead“ have transformed into a collective group of men healing from the pressures of despair and hopelessness. We now identify as the LWOP Alliance, our mission is to be not victims of circumstance, but to be creators of our own success. It is our goal to rehabilitate, earn credibility, network, motivate, build community, educate, move forward, and create. Each step further away from the death trap only we knew.
If this is you stuck on an island not comprehending anything outside of Rara open your mind. Life is real and the future is in fact possible.
I remember, I remember. When I was a little boy. My mother's boyfriend used to abuse my little brothers and me. He would hit us with telephone wire and it times have a smile on her knees and have us put a chair over our heads that was real heavy for hours. We cannot lean against the wall to lessen the weight and if we got caught doing so, he would hit us again. For many years I watch this man beat my mother. I had developed so much anger for this person I wanted him dead. I even had my own plans of doing it when I grew up and became strong enough. But I never did. Life for me became very complex, and I spent most of it in prison, but that never made the pain go away. Not until recently did I ask the Lord to lift this pain from me, so that I wouldn’t feel hurt anymore. I now forgive this man and have learned to love him, not feel hate for him. I understand back in the 80s things were different, and this man was lost in ignorance. I forgive him now. I remember. I remember when Jesus healed me. I remember.
To accept graciously being thanked
I remember, I remember. A time when I began doing self-help and doing programs here offered by Calipatria State Prison for rehabilitation purposes. I began not knowing what to expect and to my surprise I was embraced by self-help community. However, as time went on I began to encounter people who would simply thank me for giving them the courage to also want to rebuild the tape. They told me I was the influence they needed to encourage them to do it. At first I thought of it strangely, and didn’t understand why some people were looking to me as an example. However I began to notice the change of everyone around me and so I am braced it. Now, I accept it graciously and look at it as something I must continue to uphold , Because my behaviors do affect those around me. It is important that I remain in good spirits, in touch with God, and willing to impact others through the life I live now. Jesus transformed me and gave me the tools to rehabilitate, therefore I must reflect his goodness through my actions, and from my example, except others are watching and looking for someone to guide them. I resist accepting others gratitude in the beginning. Now I see it as a channel God gave me to help others. I remember. I remember when in different periods during my rehabilitation others thanked me because I encouraged their own rehabilitation.
Father forgive them
I remember, I remember. When I had gotten arrested for these crimes I committed. I lied to my family and my babies mother. I claimed I was innocent. I kept saying this until almost a decade had passed. I finally felt so convicted that one day I went to visit and prepare myself to tell them the truth even if it meant losing them forever. As I sat down with them, I said the words I told them, that I was guilty of the things I did and no one else except me was responsible for the crimes I got arrested for. I waited for them to get up and leave, but instead they told me they figured it was true and then I was lying to them. However, it wasn’t going to stop them from loving me no matter what. I felt free from all the lies I had told him. It felt as if I was getting a new beginning with them. I had never admitted my crimes to anyone before this except for God. Ever since I’ve done this, I’ve been able to heal and live a positive life in honor of all my victims. I remember. I remember. The time all my truths before those I loved, and Jesus gave them and me the power to move on and forgive.
I remember. I remember a time when I wanted to change a bad habit in my life. I could never break it. The bad habit was listening to the evil inclination of my heart that always sent me into a whirlwind away from the people I love and the life of freedom. This habit haunted every inch of my body worse than any drug habit an individual can describe. This habit was an addiction, a cycle that was continually being repeated from the time it was conceived from the age of 11 until I became 34 years of age. I finally became able to break away from this habit when God took it away and placed his good word into my life. Although I am in prison today, I have found freedom through his love. It has been god that gave me the power not to listen to my evil habits. He has freed me from my addiction, and now I choose good over evil. I think him first and foremost for transforming me into one of his saints. I remember, I remember when I wanted to change my bad habit in my life.
(esten preparados /be ready)
Segundo Domingo de Adviento/ Second Sunday of Advent
I remember. I remember a time when I thought about changing my life. I was with my best friend Jack here. We were both 15 years old and at this time a part of a gang. I told him when we turn 18 we will leave the gang in the neighborhood and join the military in order to change and become responsible adults. We both agreed, but said we will also honor our gang until the time comes. Well, turns out we were both arrested and tried as adults and spent to prison for 12 years. We never became soldiers. The dream of becoming responsible adult never came true for me, but it did for him. He changed his life once he came home. He was smarter than I am. Today I am still in prison and he is free as a bird. We keep in touch through phone calls and letters. I am happy he made it. I have also changed the rehabilitation and transformation of Jesus Christ in to my heart. Changed and come for me; it’s just a little different from what most people experience. I remember, I remember when I thought about changing my life in a moment of time. “Segundo Domingo“
Tercer Domingo de Adviento/ Third Sunday of Advent
I remember. I remember when good news came and told me about hope. It came in many forms speaking through different people with different messages. However, I remember a time when hope and a message came, and it spoke to me like no other. A man here in Calipatria State Prison delta facility said to all who are serving life without possibility of parole “if we begin to believe in God the true source of hope and begin to program and rehabilitate, God will open the gates and allow us to walk home free. The proof is in the pudding.” That day he introduced us to a person who paroled that had life without possibility of parole. It opened my eyes, and since then I have been grinding, staying out of trouble, and rehabilitating myself at a capacity that proceeded surpassed just about any other inmate. It was God who showed me my new reality and told me that freeman could be me and gave me the tools to do so. I remember, I remember a time when good news came and told me the hope to come. All I have to do is surrender and believe through Jesus Christ anything is possible “Tercer Domingo”
Curator Domingo de Adviento / Fourth Sunday of Advent
I remember. I remember a time when I felt the presence of Jesus next to me. There was a moment in my life when I felt lonely and unloved. I wanted to give up on myself because I felt worthless and no one understood the pain I was going through inside of my heart. I came to my cell and lay in my bed and began to think about the things that had happened in my life to get me to this point. I begin to think about Jesus and the things he had suffered on the cross. I realize then it wasn’t anywhere near the suffering that Jesus Christ had endured. All of a sudden, I felt something very strange come over me. It was a good feeling and the things I felt all of a sudden went away, and I was filled with positive thought instantly. I had no other explanation, but to assume it had to be Jesus because he was the only person I was thinking about at the moment when this occurred. It felt like he was next to me and healing my negative thoughts. I remember, I remember when on one occasion it felt Jesus post to me. “Cuarto Domingo”
Cristina ha nacido/ Christ is born
I remember. I remember there was a time in my life during Christmas this term in prison. I had nothing to give my daughter for Christmas because I have no way to earn money. However I felt bad and didn’t know what to do. I asked Jesus to help me in a prayer. On Christmas morning my sister sent a bunch of presents to in my name for my daughter and also an angel tree. What was amazing about the entire thing is Jesus already knew what I wanted and prepared before time and put it in the hearts of other people to send presents in my name, so that my daughter could have a nice Christmas. Jesus knows my daughter is innocent and it isn’t her fault that her dad is in prison, she is deserving of his blessings. I think the Lord for being generous, loving and thoughtful in his infinite wisdom. That Christmas, I was told was one of the Best Christmas as my daughter had ever experienced and wasn’t one I spent disappointed in myself. I remember, I remember when Jesus took the initiative and made presence appear for my daughter when Christmas morning. “Misa de Navidad”
La Sagrada Familia/The Holy family
I remember. I remember a time when I needed my family in a real way, and they decided to come through for me. When I was preparing to crawl on my last term after serving 12 years, the correctional officer in charge of handling my discharge from prison asked “where are you paroling?“ My response was I have no one and I plan to pour a transit. The counselor knew I had been in jail since I was a teenager and she wasn’t having that. She contacted my family. My family wondered how come I didn’t come to them. Anyway, they gave me the house in Belmont Shores near Long Beach and bought me a car for transportation before I paroled. They even came to pick me up. I’m glad they stepped in to help me without asking them, because if it wasn’t for the counselor I was too full of pride to ask for help. I’ll never forget correctional officer correctional counselor number one Miss Allyod for doing all this for me. In reality though, I did need my family in a real way. I remember, I remember when my family was there for me. “La Sagrada Familia”
Solemnidad de Maria Santisima, madre de Dios/ Solemnity of Maria Santisima
I remember. I remember when it felt like I was reborn. This happened when the Lord came into my life and transformed my heart into one that became loving. That day, everything changed. I felt like all the weight of everything I had committed was lifted, and I was given a second chance to make everything right. I received a forgiveness which enabled me to give compassion, empathy, and a willingness to hear others with a loving heart at the same time opening up my heart and thoughts to how I felt and what I was thinking. This was an experience I had never encountered up until this point. It was a joy that overcame me because I knew everything inside me was new and different. Before this happened to me I used to think to myself “how is it that others say they’ve experienced this transformation, yet it seems unlikely this can be so or true,“ but when it happened to me all my doubts went away immediately. I guess it’s all in gods timing, not when a person forces change. It’s in the divine power of God that regenerates the heart and when he touches our heart it’s only then that change occurs and you get a new heart. I remember, I remember when rebirth happened to me and what it felt like.
La Epifania del Senor/ The epiphany of the Lord
I remember, I remember last year during the season of spirit it was very difficult., One, because I was taking seven courses in college. Three with imperial College on site here at Calipatria, and four with coastline community correspondence courses. Plus, I was taking multiple self-help programs. I was really no time for myself or to draft for my daughter. I felt overwhelmed I had no clue how I was going to get through the season or semester without having a breaking point. So many things were happening during this moment of my life. I wasn’t sure if I should just drop some of the classes to list the weight off of my brain and prioritize other things over school. I asked the Lord to give me strength and confidence to make the right Choices. Well, I got over that long season and fought my way through with the Lord‘s guidance because of my own I knew I wasn’t going to be able to overcome the obstacles before me. I remember, I remember when God heard my voice during a difficult period in my life and he made certain the outcome I chose would be good in all dynamics of my life.
El Bautismo del Senor/ The Baptism of the Lord
I remember, I remember when I decided to change my path. It was here on Delta facility SNY when I grew tired of my old criminal beliefs and chose to change. I pray to our Lord and asked him to help me. The help came, but it was a slow transforming Period. It came in the form of people other inmates who are all well ahead and self-help rehabilitation and cognitive growth. No matter, every opportunity I was given to meet up and learn from them I always knew it was the Lord who sent each and everyone of them to help me walk a different path. I kept my faith in him and knew the Lord was with me. I began going to church and attending the retreats with our program, father Mike, and with Bobby Garcia, also Arturo. I found a lot of peace and wisdom during our meditations. Transformation has been a long process, but it speed it up faster than it took for evil to erode my life for 24 years. And three years the Lord has worked on me, and it is shining forth as a new creation that he has fashioned for the whole world to see and know. If he can change me, he can change anybody. I remember, I remember when the Lord became my advocate when I decided to change my path
Life without the possibility of parole
My name is Ruhani Bustamante AS1728.
By the age of 11, I experienced incarceration. Throughout my teens, juvenile hall had become my home; one month here, two months there, but I occasionally came home. Freedom as a teenager, as far as I can recall are only select snapchat memories.
Ultimately, in 1999 at the age of 17 I was tried as an adult. I was sentenced to 12 years in the California Department of Corrections. Restorative justice and rehabilitation wasn’t practiced in those times. Instead I was offered a system that uses retributive justice, plagued with violence, and to thousands of others: a place with no hope. I came in with a criminal gang mentality and re-entered society as a defective product tainted with criminal prison gang belief system with an expectation of return 90% within three years. Ignorant of the statistical facts ,the odds of successful re-entry were against me long before I was committed to the department.
Today, I have a sentence of four life terms, without the possibility of parole equal to 224 years. Since my return to prison, things in here have changed significantly. The department of corrections and rehabilitation took notice of my criminal gang behavior and thinking, gave me the cognitive tools and therapy (through various self help groups) to correct my behavior and thought process. I am working towards multiple associates degrees with an emphasis in American studies, art and humanities, science and math, social and behavioral sciences, Sociology through Coastline Community College and an associates degree through Imperial Valley College with an ADT in sociology. With a little luck, by mid 2022 I will have or should reach this goal. In addition, I am a member of the LWOP alliance support group, L-TAG here on Delta facility at Calipatria State Prison. We encourage prosocial behavior and helped build a community were antisocial behavior is discouraged.
I have participated in projects that promote altruistic behaviors within the confines of these walls and outside to society, and I have taught others to rid themselves of their criminal victim mentality, all in the effort to improve their behavior and thinking.
I am living amends to all those I have harmed and affected by raising awareness, impacting others through my journey and positive actions. I am living proof redemption is obtainable and I am no longer a product of defect. I chose rehabilitation over antisocial behavior.
I hope that these words transcend through these prison walls. I am a different person today and I am not the same person who came to prison.
Lord please forgive me of my trespasses, I have sinned against you. I ask that you grant peace and comfort to those I’ve afflicted, amen