Monday, November 21, 2011

Tony and Will - Part 1

A few months back I wrote about meeting two former gang members Tony and Will, during my volunteering activities at the Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic in Norwalk, CA (SYCRCC). I had pitched my Citizen film project to get them interested in a consulting job and maybe more. After their release they were housed at somewhat of a half-way house in Moreno Valley, CA and I drove out there to take them out for meals and to get a conversation going about how we could work together. We would just hang out and one day we went for a hike at the nearby Perris Valley reservoir. We slowly built up a little bit of a connection, a little bit of trust.

As part of the Incentive Program Tony and Will were highly regarded by the SYCRCC staff as two of their most promising inmates who turned their life around. I knew the months after the release would be the toughest, not getting caught up in old habits, not hanging out with the old homies who you got in trouble with; finding something to do, a job where you make more than what you make on the street selling drugs etc. The recidivism rate in California State Prisons is around 70% with even higher numbers for younger offenders. 

Although it was made clear that you “never forget where you’re from”, Tony and Will both seemed pretty confident they wouldn’t want to get back to their old life, especially Will. The first call I received from Tony was a couple days after he was released and he would go on to call regularly just to check in to see what’s up, asking when we’re “getting together to make the movie”. He’d call me late on a Friday night while partying just to talk about “the movie”. That just made me feel good and gave me some confidence in their motivation. Jump to Part 2.

The names of the people in this post were changed.

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