By Troy Williams
It is amazing to compare my current mindset with how I used to look at life while growing up under the influence of gangs and violence.
When I was young, I believed that I would not live past the age of 25. And the only reason I thought I would live to be 25 was because I had spent the ages of 15 to 21 in California Youth Authority (CYA). So at the age of 16, I gave myself a few years to get out, have a child, and be murdered on the streets by rival gang members or the police. I didn’t know which would happen, but I lived expecting to die an early and violent death.
The trauma of living with the fear of being murdered was so overwhelming that I quickly learned to pack a pistol everywhere I went and aggressively attacked anything and everything that even remotely resembled a threat. After all, my survival depended on it. Or so I thought. But the truth is it didn’t and so much has changed since then.
Who in the world would have thought that I’d be sitting at a resort in Palm Desert as I write this, training Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) facilitators about how to deliver programs to the same under-represented and marginalized populations that I come from?
My job title is Youth Programs Development Specialist / Lead VOEG Facilitator & Trainer for the Insight Prison Project (IPP).
IPP offers restorative justice programs for men, women and youth at 13 state prisons, one federal prison, three county jails, several reentry facilities, one juvenile institution, and we are expanding.
Over the years, I have faced a lot of trials and tribulations. But it feels good to be on this side of the struggle knowing that I have a chance to make a difference. No, I’m still not the man I want to be, but I’m definitely not the boy I used to be. Thankfully I’m still growing because I’m still breathing.