James Willock was raised in Sacramento, California. He was sentenced to 34 years to life at the age of 19. He was in prison for 28 years of that sentence, he went to the California Board of Parole Hearings in March of 2020.
For most of James’ early life, his father was in and out of prison. When James was around 8 years old, his father got out of prison, and he and his mother started doing drugs, stealing, went back to their old way of living.
He remembers waking up one night, hearing screaming coming from his parents room. As he got to the doorway he sees his father straddling his mother, blood all over her, she calms him down and says to go call his grandparents. James, not sure of what number to dial, remembers in school they told him to dial 0 when you’re in trouble. After talking with the operator and explaining what was going on, they don’t send his grandparents, they send the police. James will never forget the look of disappointment on his father's face as he was escorted out of the house in handcuffs.
In his early life James learned from his parents that you don’t accept a loss, and you don’t get other people into your business. You handle things yourself, and if you want to be a man, you don’t cry or show emotions.
When he was around 8 years old, James recalls an incident that sticks out to him, when he became aware that his parents were criminals and the things that they were teaching him. His father taught him how to steal, he lifted James’ shirt up, put a fake gun in his waistband, and went to rob a store.
James started living with his friends and coming home less and less. Eventually he found himself relating with the gang members of the community who were going through some of the same stuff that he was experiencing. It was at this time that James started gang banging in his neighborhood.
While attending a party in his neighborhood, James was approached by a few people that didn’t like him. They wanted him to leave the party, so they pulled out a gun and held it to his head. James, being a believer in not letting anyone else in his business, told him to do what he was going to do. Some people that knew James eventually intervened, and he left the party.
After leaving James got a ride to his car where he kept a gun at all times. He made his way back to the party, found the guys who pulled a gun on him, and shot, and killed him. James was shot in the leg and went to the hospital the next day. The day he went to the hospital was the day his mother got released from prison, she found out where he was and went to visit him. While he was getting treated, the police came and arrested him at the hospital. James was charged with first degree murder and sentenced to serve a life sentence in prison.
While in prison James started questioning his beliefs. He had a pivotal conversation, where he was able to question everything that he valued, and why he was in prison. He started to realize the mistakes that he’s made and the people that he’s harmed. He had several talks with another guy serving a life sentence and he explained that you are who you’re going to be whether you’re in prison or not.
James completely transform his life and became a mentor to at risk junior high school students, read books and poetry with high school students and coached college students on how to improve themselves and others around them. He has been focusing his efforts on the next generation, helping them overcome their situation and not make the same mistakes he did.
James is free now and was released from prison a little over two months ago. He is ready to give back to his community, to the people around him, and to the people who are in the same situations that he was in that lead him to a life of crime and being sentenced to serve a life sentence. Our interview with James reveals his perspectives of freedom, what it was like to come home after 28 years and the challenges of reentry. This is his story... https://croporganization.org/about/ #ThePrisonPost #ThePrisonPostPodcast #CROPOrganization #WorkingTogetherToRestoreLives