Sunday, January 2, 2011

"That Kid" , Roy Rogers

My name is Roy Rogers, I'm 32 years old. When I was 16 years old I was sentenced to life in prison for first degree intentional homicide party to a crime.
If someone asked the question, "Roy how was your childhood, what was your life like?" My response would be, "I was that kid."
You know "that kid" that other parents wanted their kid to be like, that kid who was quiet and obedient to his parents. That kid who enjoyed to read and enjoyed school. That kid who got good grades and made the honor role. I was that kid that parents referred to when they chided their kids saying, "You need to be more like Roy!" Yeah, that kid. I was that kid, the least likely candidate for prison. This is who I was. So from elementary school to middle school I was an average kid who did not smoke, use drugs nor gang bang. The thought of doing so was stupid to me.
However, at the age of 13 I became obsessed with "the cool" and the "in crowd." You see I grew up in Mississippi, in the country and wasn't introduced to city life till I was 11 years old. So at 13, my country boy image was inter­fering with what was considered "cool" and "in." Consequently, I found a new set of friends who were not interested in comic books grades and band. They smoked weed, cigarettes, got drunk and hung out on the block. Most of the activities they engaged in were illegal, harmful and potentially life threatening and I was well aware of this.
However, these facts alone, the mere possibility of danger excited me; I was seeking a new experience.
So now I'm hanging out with thugs and gang members, I was more or less curious about the lifestyle; I was attracted to the image. I wanted to know for myself what it was all about. I wanted to know was it as bad as it was told to me by moms, teachers and media shows. As I spent more time out of the house on the block with them, my identity began to be shaped into theirs and I enjoyed being around them in that atmosphere. There likes and dislikes, creeds and way of life became mine.
So how did this begin to affect family, and friends where did it lead to?
How did these choices affect my family relationships? Well, I began to spend more of my free time with the guys on the block, wherever they were, I was expected to be there as well. Family events and activities took third place in my life, the "hood came first." Hood values took the place of my family values. I started lying to my family about where I was going and who I was with because I knew my family would strongly disapprove of my new friends and our brand of fun. I would hide things from my love ones specifically my secret lifestyle of thuggin’.
Also,I broke household rules moms laid out for me. Rules like, the established curfew, no drugs, smoking or drinking in the house. I neglected my house duties and my attitudes towards moms and her rules were negative which showed in my behavior.

How did these choices affect my friendships? The friends that I normally made time for and spent time with, took a back seat in my life. Why? Well, I felt they were boring and wasn't "on nothin," they were square. My new friends and old friends were from two different worlds and these two worlds didn't mix. I no longer shared the same interests as my old friends. My interests were now informed by the streets and my new set of friends. Having nothing in common with my old friends, we soon grew apart. They went their way and I continued to go my way. The things I was getting involved with they wanted nothing to do with.

And school? Well, as I said I did enjoy school; I valued education because this is how I was raised. When I began to rotate on the block more, I would skip school just to hang out with them. First, it would be just one class I would skip, then it would be the whole afternoon, then I would skip whole days! Kickin it, so I thought. My school attendance dropped, my grades dropped, my enthusiasm for school dropped. When I did go to school I was always tardy.
Where did all this lead to? Well, before I made the choice to see what them streets had to offer me, I was a kid who loved school, received good grades, didn't use drugs or alcohol, didn't smoke, never skipped school, no police contacts, no criminal record and involved in the church. I had big dreams and ambitions of graduating from college, owning my own business, raising a family and even pursuing a political career.

Sadly to say, the choice I made to sample the streets were connected to consequences that didn't lead me down a course of academic achievement, entrepreneur-ship, family building and political success. Instead, the choice I made at the age of 13 gave birth to a lifestyle. A style of
living that destroyed life and diminished the quality of life. Three years later found myself sitting in prison with a life sentence. That's what I became.

While in prison it took me a few years to actually come to grips with my new reality. I was depressed and didn't know I was depressed. I was traumatized and didn't know it was trauma. I recall during my waiver hearing that a social worker testified about me and said, " I think Roy hates himself." I went thru a period of self-loathing where I had given up on life and family, I embraced suffering and kept it within myself. Any wrong that occurred and any miscarriage of justice I experienced I felt it was part of my redemptive suffering. My communication with the outside world diminished.

I struggled with the question of why bother to better self, to what end and for what purpose and does it even matter. I was becoming a pessimist without knowing what pessimism was!
This is what characterized my years between 16-20. All these things played itself out in the context of the prison violence around me. Turing this time Jesse Anderson and Jeffrey Dahmer were murdered.
Prior to Dahmer’s death I witnessed an earlier attempt on his life while in a church service. Things erupted so suddenly I was shaken. Being one of the youngest inmates in a "double max" made physical, mental and emotional development difficult to say the least. There were no process mental health groups to help me work thru all of this; the chapel was limited in its resources and there was no one I felt comfortable with talking to about this ... this was prison.

However, I came to an understanding of the forgiveness of God and the sacrifice of Jesus for sins and what it really meant to confess my sin. I faced the ugliness of my deeds, looked the monster in the eye and took ownership of it and buried it. I realized I was much much better than the worst I had done. I realized I had to go beyond remorse to repentance. My thinking and attitudes had to change and in turn my life, personality and character would change. I realized that I was obligated to live life. Live my life in light of my crime not in the shadow of my crime.
Meaning the source of all that was good in me derives from an understanding of the pain and destruction my crime caused and the determination to not allow such pain and destruction to happen again. And the only way to do that is to destroy the conditions that could potentially produce such pain and destruct­ion. I had to undergo a radical transformation that began at the thought level which moved to the word level, which manifested on the action level, which influenced the habit level which developed a new and improved character which has reset the course of my destiny from now till eternity.

Consequently, I began to engage life intensively. I began to study and educate myself any and everything to better myself. I engrossed myself in the pursuit of God. Three things saved my life in prison. Jesus, the Reach Out Program and Restorative Justice at CCI. My conversion set in motion what I would eventually achieve and accomplish. The reach out program was juvenile delinquency prevention program that targeted at risk youth to keep them from making the same mistakes we made. I was recruited for that group at the age of 16, talking to kids my age and younger about my life, mistakes and regrets. I grew up in that group. Hearing the stories of the other convicts in that group helped me just as much as it helped the kids who were attending the program. That was from 1994 till 2002.

In 1999, I was introduced to the philosophy of Restorative Justice by Warden Jeffrey P. Endicott. This gave me a frame of reference to explore victim awareness issues and the triangular impact of my crime on the victim, the community and the offender. This philosophy gave me the tools needed to do my part to live out restorative justice by involving myself in community service projects, victim awareness programming; writing music and songs that deal with victim awareness themes. From that point on I tried to measure all my activities by the standard of repairing the hurt because I acknowledged the hurt my crime caused.

These three life savers drove me to express myself as a musician and songwriter. I learned to play piano in prison. At CCI, GBCI and OSCI I operated as the chapel's choir director and chief musician. I'm currently the keyboard player here at SCI. At these prisons I have provided musical services for graduations, veterans' programs, victim awareness programs, volunteer banquet programs and memorial services for fellow deceased inmates. This is who I am.
With these words I have attempted to paint a picture of who I was, what I became and who I am now. I have reaped what I have sown. Now I am sowing good things and I am expecting to reap the same. And whether the doors of the prison open for me or not; I will continue to serve Jesus, live life as a whole human being and be blessing to those around me

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