It would be easy to state that the majority of José’s life was spent in institutions. Growing up in a very dysfunctional household, he became a ward of the court before age 13 and was in and out of institutions and homes until the age of 16. Growing up in a gang-infested environment and immersed in the lifestyle since adolescence, led him to believe and adopt the culture by nurturing the character defects already established from his troubled upbringing.
He ran the streets perpetuating the criminal mentality and destructive behavior of a gang member. By the time he was 16 he had committed numerous crimes, which eventually led him to an adult maximum security prison with a life sentence.
As a 17 year old, Jose lived and understood that he would never be released and that his life was going to be dedicated to imprisonment, isolation, and the gang. His disruptive behavior continued in prison. While learning basic male milestones, such as how to shave, he also learned how to function in adult facilities. He learned prison principles, such as how to manufacture weapons, conduct oneself around like-minded peers and participate in the chaos that is the California prison system. He epitomized the stigma given to someone who is raised by the system.
However, in the midst of all of the negativity, he maintained a few positive behavioral traits from his childhood -- those he used in an attempt to escape his reality by fleeing from his problems and responsibilities. Reading, drawing, and his enjoyment of school continued to be his solace from the harsh conditions of prison life and with them he was able to begin to set a foundation from where his work on introspection could begin. Education is where Jose attributes his change emerged from. Despite the constant denial by CDCR of an extended education (having a 12.9+ GPA excluded him from school programs), he was finally able to enroll in community college. While just a pilot program, he was able to earn units and, with them, the education needed to proceed to the next level.
ARC Founder Scott Budnick would visit Jose during this time and assisted in planting a seed of hope that one day would bear fruit. Alongside Elizabeth Calvin, Chief Senior Advocate for Children’s Rights at the Human Rights Watch, and with the help of many organizations, they created and passed into being the youth offender law SB260. Jose qualified for this law and after a 7 ½ hour hearing where he was able to explain his past, present and outlook for a productive future he attained parole suitability after 20 years of imprisonment. With no family support ARC was able to assist him and with the help of transitional housing he eventually began to work towards self-sufficiency.
Immediately after parole, Jose became an intern at ARC, and within months he was also working as an assistant at Human Rights Watch. He serves as a counselor for at-risk youth for The Harold Robinson Foundation’s Camp Ubuntu where he assists in helping kids be themselves and enjoy activities they would otherwise never experience. He is also employed by AEG at the Staples Center Arena in the Guest Services department, where he gets paid to work at every concert, game, and event held there. From time-to-time he also works as a production assistant in the entertainment industry.
In 2016, he was accepted into the University of California and California State systems. He decided to attend Cal State Los Angeles where he could continue to earn his degree. He is currently working towards his BA and double majoring in Psychology and Political Science.
Jose is happy to work for ARC full-time and to have had the experience of working for Elizabeth Calvin at the Human Rights Watch. He believes all of this has helped him to assist others in similar circumstances as his own. He was hired at ARC, just over one year since his release from incarceration and he looks forward to what the next year will bring. He hopes to one day be successful, to truly begin to enjoy life, and to pay it forward to the next person.