David Amaya


Hope And Redemption Team


I grew up in what many would call a normal Mexican family.  I was raised primarily by my mother and grandmother, who provided a stable home for me and my younger brothers and sisters.  My father was in and out of prison.  I was nine years old when my mother remarried, and I moved with my grandmother.  My uncle became my father figure.  He made sure I continued to do well in school and stayed involved in sports.  When I was 12 years old cancer took him from me - I saw him take his last breath.  I felt alone, that the “father” who had been there for me had left me.  My life turned for the worse and I spiraled out of control.  I became a gang member and quickly progressed from petty to more serious crimes.

At 13 I was arrested for shoplifting with an older cousin and I was put into Juvenile Hall, where I served weekends for three months.  I continued to be involved in gangs and violence and was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing two people.  I was 16 and was sentenced to seven years in the California Youth Authority.  I was released at age 20 after serving four years.  I was not rehabilitated in the youth authority, as I didn’t participate in any of the programs they offered.  I came out hardened and more deeply involved in the gang lifestyle, which was glorified by my peers while in the youth authority.  I believed that this was what I was supposed to be - a violent gang member and criminal - that this was my lot in life, because it was what I had seen growing up and in my own family.

Within a year of my release from the youth authority I was wanted for numerous shootings.  I was eventually arrested a month before I turned 22.  I was sentenced to 15 years to life for attempted first degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon.  I thought I would never get out of prison and I continued engaging in the same behaviors, becoming even more violent.  I wanted to prove to others that I was someone to fear and respect.  I ended up with an indeterminate SHU term in Pelican Bay, and thought I had landed where I was ultimately meant to be… Until one day during a visit through a glass window my daughter asked me a simple and powerful question, “Are you ever going to hold me?”  That was it for me - I knew I had to show my daughter she was my priority.  All she saw in me was her father, and I wanted to get rid of the monster I had become in order to be the father she needed and wanted in her life. 

I spent the following eight years of my incarceration working on my positive change and healing.  I took advantage of all the programs CDCR had to offer (CGA, AVP, anger management, AA and NA, parenting, victims awareness, insight, etc.)  I ceased gang activity and violence, and became a better father and person.  I was granted parole and was released from prison after 25 years on June 25, 2015.  I was - and remain - grateful for my freedom.  Since my release I have continued facilitating AVP and CGA, co-founded the Turn-Around Youth Foundation, and worked with the San Diego Police Department as a mentor/speaker for the Off-the-Streets youth diversion program. 

July 13, 2017 I became a life coach with ARC as a member of ARC’s Hope and Redemption team.  We go into the prisons and facilitate programs in hopes to provide the tools and guidance needed for personal growth, and to affect true culture change within the prison community.  I strive to grow as a facilitator and person, and will continue to offer help and insight wherever I can.