OPINION – True Story by a former correctional counselor at the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Rayford Johnson, Former Youth Correctional Counselor-13 years, N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Inmates 18-25 yrs. of age.)
I remember working at the correctional facility on a lock-up unit, which was basically the jail within the jail. This unit was extremely loud throughout the entire day, due to the constant verbal combat between gang rivals. However, on this one particular day it was unusually quiet.
My co-workers and I were amazed at the almost dead silence, other than the one screaming inmate in a solo cell on the second tier. I volunteered to make an attempt to quiet him down. As I approached his door, I stated, “Every one is asleep man, why don’t you take a break, and lay it out too?” He screamed out through his vent again, seeking a rival gang response. Again, I informed him everyone was asleep.
Through some small talk to follow, we engaged in a conversation, at which time he stated, “I hate it when it’s quiet.” When I asked him why, he replied, “Because I think.” I asked him, “Why don’t you like to think?” He said, “Because I think back to all the evil I’ve done, the girls I’ve violated and how I’ve let my family down.” He stated when he was on the “streets,” he could distract himself from his thoughts through drugs, alcohol, sex, music and “gang banging.” However, on the lock up-unit, no such escapes were accessible.
He conveyed the only method available for him was to engage a rival gang member in verbal combat. He said the real prison was not the brick, mortar and metal of the prison, but the prison within his mind. In short he told me his personal thought life made him not like himself, due to all bad he had done in his life.
Knowing he was in a gang, I then asked him, “ Why did you join the gang in the first place?” His tone changed immediately from a low-level somber tone, to a military drill sergeant, stating, “For respect and respect for my barrio!” I told him I wanted to test that. I explained to him that we were going to see if it was actually true that he joined that gang for respect. “Do the activities you do as a gang member violate your conscience?” He looked at me with a surprised expression, then responded, “Yeah, so.” I asked him how does he deal with it? “ I smoke weed and drink some alcohol, and then shake it off.”
I then asked him, “Would you say your conscience and your self respect is one in the same?” “What do you mean by that?” he asked. I went on to elaborate the following: “If you didn’t smoke cigarettes, because you believed it to be bad for you, but I put pressure on you to smoke any way, and you finally gave in. Did I make you violate your self-respect, by making you go against your conscience? He thought about it for a few seconds and then answered, “Yeah I guess.”
I then asked him, “How do you get respect in a gang, when what you do as a gang member violates your self respect?” He looked at me for a few seconds, then looked away, as if he felt ashamed he didn’t have an answer for me. I went on to explain, when we do actions that violate our conscience, we are in essence “punking” ourselves. If you are living a lifestyle of cursing, stealing, substance abuse, lying, sexual promiscuity, negative peer association and entertainment etc… you are truly again, “punking” yourself, and where is the self-respect in that?
I believe for the first time in his life, he finally realized that he was living a lie. The main thing in his life he believed to give him respect, was actually making him loose it within himself. My purpose was not to humiliate him, or make him depressed. But it was out of God’s love for him. God’s Word tells us “The truth shall make you free.”(John 8:32). This individual had been a slave to a lie, but was made free by finally learning the truth, that true self-respect is living life according to our God-given conscience.
God placed a conscience within all of us as a compass to keep us on track toward His perfect will for our life. Learning to listen and follow our conscience is the only way to obtain true joy and peace in our lives. When we violate our conscience, we not only loose our self-respect, but our peace within.
Many seek a counterfeit peace through drugs, alcohol, sex, adrenaline rushes, etc. — but this only provides a temporal fix. This is probably where bars got the concept of Happy Hour because the drinking only gives you that happiness for an hour. You see the difference between happiness and joy is this, happiness comes, only when something happens — like receiving money — that will make you happy until it’s all gone, then the excitement of the happiness expires away.
Joy, however, will sustain us with peace, hope and happiness within, even through the long trials and tribulations life brings all of us. This is because we know that when we live out our lives in obedience to God, by living within our conscience He gave us, we know He will take care of us,regardless of what’s going on around or within us at the present time.
God’s Word states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
Please remember this truth, a man or women with true self-respect, lives their life according to their God-given conscience.
By Rayford L. Johnson
Director & Founder of ThugExposed.Org/Author of Thug Mentality Exposed
You can watch some Amazing Gang & “Street” Testimonial Videos and Purchase Ray’s book Thug Mentality Exposed @