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Get to Know the Alumni

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These days I'm working three steady jobs, and trying to really give back as much as I can. I'm still afraid of the dark, I bought LED lights as nightlights to help with that. I bought a little squeak pig to keep me company when I feel lonely and he helps me calm down. I know it's weird. I'm looking to get a place and I'm trying to be successful. I volunteer at an organic farm that donates food to food banks. I've been making some connections with people that are passionate about creating awareness. I'm trying to become the best that I can be. I constantly realize that no matter how much I try to say I don't avoid things or I'm willing to face things head-on there's always something else that I'm trying to avoid or put off or push under the rug. I'm excited and thankful to be part of the community again, and I feel like I'm giving back to it in a healthy way. I enjoy spending time with my children when I can and hopefully I'll be able to make it enough that they could come and spend more time with me. I think I'm ready to start looking for a relationship now, and I hope that I'll be able to find one. I'm really thankful for the friends I do have and the support I have. I know that without the support and love that I've been given I wouldn't even be close to where I am today. 

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February 5th of 2020 I was released from prison after serving 18 years on a 21 to life sentence. A second chance I was given to live life, right this time around. Prison prepares you for reentry with different types of classes that will give you an idea of what to be ready for upon your release, these classes are usually run by inmates who never really experienced reentry themselves. If you were eligible for SAP then you were given plenty of classes that would prepare you for transitioning back into society, only problem was that typically lifer inmates are not among the candidates for these classes and SAP is usually reserved for inmates with shorter sentences. Preparing for the Parole Board usually requires an intensive well thought out parole plan that consists of short-term goals, long-term goals, and relapse prevention plan. Once released from prison most of that goes out the window and you begin to navigate and survive.


I was not prepared for everything that has come my way and all my expectations and visions that surfaced in my mind have yet to come to fruition. I remember one of the things I looked forward to the most was walking into a grocery store, just to smell the fresh produce and the sweet aroma a grocery store provides. What I wasn’t ready for was the anxiety that would overcome me and the feeling that everybody was watching me or were too close to me. Over time it has gotten a little better though; I still need some work at feeling more comfortable in public.

Another thing that I was not prepared for is paroling and a month later being in a once in a century pandemic that stopped everything, not just for me but the whole world. This pandemic has really prevented me from the interactions with my family that I was looking forward to having. Being in a transition home I was not allowed to visit with my family for months, not what I had envisioned. I haven’t really been outside much or gone anywhere, nothing exciting for me yet. At some point I know that I will eventually move around more freely so I am not too concerned.


I am finally getting ready to take my driving test in about 10 days and I am excited and nervous about that. Coronavirus cancelled all driving tests and so I am now finally getting the opportunity to take the test. I did get the opportunity to work for a little while and so that was a blessing. Currently I am looking around for a job as I get ready to settle in at home with my wife. My 6 month requirement for living in a transitional home is up and I am now awaiting my transfer. This is an exciting time for me because it is a new chapter of my life, living with my wife and being able to move around more freely. More than likely I will be visiting family more as well. My job search has not really netted any responses, typically I don’t get a call back or a chance at an interview. I did apply for Amazon and my background check was a factor in me not getting hired. I also interviewed for a mentorship job and never received a call back. Both situations of rejection were disappointing and affected me. There are questions and doubts that surface and so I really have to check those thoughts and remind myself to be patient and that things will come around eventually. I try to remind myself of the blessings I do have. 


This past summer session I attended college and just completed my first college class outside of prison and this Fall I will be taking three more classes. Taking the college course helped me because I am getting more comfortable with computers and technology. I have attended several groups online through zoom which has helped me connect with support groups, and I have also reached out to friends and family.


My attempts to establish relationships with my family is somewhat of a mixed result. Some of my family members still struggle through addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle, including my mother and brother. Boundaries and the awareness that I cannot change anybody is something that has been a primary factor in my familial relationships. Even finding footing with my wife is something foreign that we are both adjusting to; being married in prison is one thing and actually being married outside of prison and around one another is different. Literally, I am coming into her life after she was doing things by herself for so long.


Everything is not quite how I expected and I wouldn’t change anything. Every day is a blessing and I am grateful for the opportunity I have in front of me. I think about all the people who are not given this chance or who have yet to find themselves and continue to squander their opportunities at freedom. I look around and see homeless people struggling and it breaks my heart, that is definitely something that weighs heavy on me everytime I see it. I do try to give back financially to different organizations and hopefully soon I will be able to commit my time to helping others. I think about the people I left behind in prison and hope that they will see this blessing someday. Not too sure what the future holds and I am ready to keep moving forward.   

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My name is Luis Venegas, and I have been a part of Kid C.A.T. for over 2 years. I was incarcerated at the age of 15, tried as an adult, sentenced to life, and sent to an adult State Prison at the age of 17. I would eventually be found suitable for parole and released at the age of 34.


As I approach my 1 year anniversary of release, I have found myself more self-reflective than usual. These last few weeks, I have reflected on my past, present, and future; what have I done since release, where am I in life today, and what I still want to accomplish in the future. I feel that in the one year since I have been released, I have accomplished so much while at the same time feeling that I have not accomplished much.


I successfully completed a six-month transitional housing program and have been living independently for about 6 months. I have two jobs, one at a pet boarding facility and another with the prison dog program that I was a part of while incarcerated; New Life K9s. I was recently promoted at the boarding facility, and I enjoy the work I do. I have earned my Associates Degree in Sociology. I have taken steps to build a foundation from which I can continue to grow, and I am excited with what the future holds.


More importantly, for me, is that I am enjoying living life; experiencing the world with friends and family; being a contributing member of society; and enjoying the small moments that make us human.  These moments make memories, and I am appreciative and grateful for them. To sum it up; I am happy.

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