Was it predetermined? That life would be like this?
Glenn has always felt trapped by his fate.
Now the 47-year-old will learn that life turned out the way it did because of the choices he made for himself. It is not too late to make new and different choices.
But the road ahead will not be easy.
Many of them were killed because of separation from Latino gangs.
– Anger, hatred, violence, revenge and murder. It is a circle from which one cannot get out.
As a young gang member, Glenn learned that anyone who belongs to another gang is an enemy.
And life is war.
When he was 13 years old He became a member of one of the notorious Mexican gangs in Los Angeles.
-You made the wrong choice because you want respect and affection from the gang leaders. Big guys with money, guns and girls. They are street leaders. If you get a permit, they'll say the gang is your new family.
But in reality, bosses only want money and power.
When he was 17 years old, he received his first prison sentence. But this did not break the relationship with the gang.
I reinforced it.
Conviction of theftKidnapping and attempted murder have continually expanded to include new crimes committed behind bars on behalf of gang leaders.
In 1996, when he was 20 years old, his sentence was extended to life.
– I was sent to a maximum security prison. It was like a war zone. Everyone tried to kill everyone. Prison rules applied, so you had to look as strict as possible. I had to expect that if anyone messed with me, they would be killed. This is how you survive.
– It took me 25 years to realize that there was a way out. When it became known that I could be pardoned, I separated from the gang.
And I found love.
The year before Glen He was scheduled to be pardoned, and was presented to Cynthia Huizar (35 years old). They married while he was still in prison.
Cynthia could understand his background, because she had it herself.
-I grew up in the same gang environment, and I know how difficult it is to break up with it. I became a mother when I was 16, but by then I was already in a gang, and I couldn't be a good mother.
By the time Cynthia was 30, she was a single mother of four with several short sentences behind her. I decided to leave the gang.
-The gang will keep you back. She says she doesn't want to succeed in leaving the criminal life behind.
-You can't do it alone. You need a new “family”.
Glenn and Cynthia He received help at one of the few places that gives former gang criminals a second chance.
Homeboy Industries is a Los Angeles company run by former gang criminals, and the goal is to help more people break ties with criminal gangs.
The less likely you are to get a job elsewhere, the more likely you are to get a job at Homeboy Industries.
At any given time, about 400 former gang members are part of an 18-month program where they learn a trade, receive further training and receive counseling and psychological follow-up.
We are accustomed to society turning its back on us. Here we are welcomed with open arms, explains Omar Perez (33 years old).
Under the umbrella Omar has a memory of the life he would rather live without her.
A jagged scar makes it look as if someone tried to open his head with a can opener.
-I was shot eight times. In the head, leg and arm. When I joined the gang when I was 13, I was sure I was going to die young, so I didn't care about anything.
Omar has several prison sentences behind him. But he will never return, neither to the gang nor to prison.
He is now a Homeboy veteran, serving as a mentor to others.
– “Homeboy” saves lives and gives life meaning, says Omar.
One of the most obvious Signs that you belong to a criminal gang are that you have tattoos with gang symbols.
It is the stigma that instantly tells the world who you are, or have been.
In “Homeboy” you can remove tattoos.
“It's incredibly painful, ten times worse than when I got the tattoo,” explains Brett Kirby (35), who is receiving laser treatment to remove his tattoo.
Collective tattoos They are intended to intimidate, but can also lead to them being shot by rival gangs.
Removing them is also risky.
A doctor performing the laser treatment says three patients were shot in retaliation for removing their gang tattoos.
-I do it for my children. When they were young I was in prison and their mother let them down. They ended up protecting the child,” Brett says.
– Now I have custody back, because I will change my life here. When you get a second chance, you have to take it.
New opportunities It's the essence of “Homeboy,” explains assistant director Hector Verdugo.
-Pain and trauma keep you tied to the gang. He explains that we learn that everyone has the right to love and healing.
The director himself has a half-life as a hardened criminal gang behind him.
– You have undergone baptism of fire: The first thing you need to do is fight children of the same age. Either you hit them, or you hit yourself.
Hector says he received large sums of money from a gang selling drugs smuggled from Mexico.
– I was lucky And good lawyers, so I only got short prison sentences. But I knew my luck would run out. Here I got help to put that life behind me.
– With us, you meet at any time 400 people who receive help to live a normal life, instead of being in prison. “We save millions from the community,” Hector says.
But taking the step toward a “normal life” isn't just easy for an elderly prisoner, as Glenn Rees explains.
– In a way, life in prison is simple. One is deprived of all opportunities, but one also bears no responsibility.
She has it now Suddenly he had a lot of people to take care of, as a stepfather to Cynthia's four children.
– Years of imprisonment She deprived me of the opportunity to know my daughter. I lost them. Love for Cynthia and her children gives me the opportunity to become a father again,” says Glenn.
His new wife tells the man to take it one step at a time.
– Patience is the solution. Cynthia says everyone here knows that if you make a mistake, you could get sucked into gang crime again.
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