Last year, Californians voted to amend one of the state's more controversial criminal justice statutes, the so-called three strikes sentencing law. Bakersfield resident Pedro Marin's third strike was stealing tools from a local Walmart in order to buy drugs. In an installment of our series on community health called "What's Your Story," Marin talks about how serving 18 years of a life sentence changed him for the better.
"I went to jail I think in 1980, 1981. When I’d get out, I’d go back to doing the same things, doing drugs. I was doing PCP and marijuana. And using heroin and cocaine.
So when I got busted, and I was in jail, and they told me that I was a three strike candidate. It really shook me. It broke me. It really broke. And I asked the Lord 'God are you for real? Help me. Reveal yourself to me.' When you’re facing a life sentence, that really, it’s an awakening. It awakens you, and it’s for reals.
Now that I’m out, I spend a lot of time with my family. And I want to be there. I want to be the uncle to my little nephews that didn’t know me. And I want to be a positive force in my family. Because they don’t know how important they were to me, doing time. Because when you’re doing time, and you have people that love you, it gives you strength to go on. You know, I can’t stress how much it helped me do the 25-to-life that, that I was sentenced to.
When they told me I was leaving, I knew it was going to be hard. I have no trades under my belt, I have not educa--other than a GED. But I was willing and I wanted that challenge. I was ready for that challenge.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, getting a life sentence. But it’s bittersweet. I had opportunities to change and I never took that. I never took advantage of them times I got out of prison. So in my case, a lot of good has come out of this. I wish that I didn’t have to go through this, but I am a better man because of it."