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Having to go before the parole board during the COVID-19 was challenging. Just having to navigate was very difficult although I was able to make all my lawyers and forensic psychology meetings.

I went to the parole hearing but was denied for three years. So that night I started right away on the issues that were raised, including defects in my character: envy, jealousy and entitlement.

I had Los Angeles and San Francisco listed as my primary living arrangements. I had good support, a potential job and transitional housing there. But the parole board wanted to know why I wasn’t moving back to Fresno. I spoke to them about how I was trying to put my new life together away from my victim’s family. They told me that I had no reason not to be in Fresno since my victim’s next of kin had forgiven me. They said that I didn’t want to live in Fresno because I didn’t have anyone to live off of there.

Regardless, I completed all what they asked in 62 days, well within the 120 days before the final verdict. I had a lot of support from many sponsors outside and inside of prison. I’ve always tried to volunteer where I was needed, and I encouraged people and tried to give them hope for the past decade.

What motivates me are the people who have been here, had gotten out and did not come back. As I did my time talking, I noticed people who had access to programs, and I started talking to those people and motivated myself and others around me to start over and rebuild our lives.

I’m proud of how I have facilitated large groups in the substance abuse program. This was a big milestone for me. I was not the kind of person who participated in groups, but I tried it out and that led me to ask a counselor if I could facilitate a program of my own.

This was my ah-ha moment when I started building character, humility and a strong foundation. I began to listen to those men and women as I sat by them. I enjoy watching men come in angry but leave happy and satisfied. People would say to me that I didn’t need to be there because I have changed, but I tell them in return that it’s guys like them that keeps me motivated.

Today, after ten years in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, I reached a milestone — I will be moving down to Level 1 with the violence code removed from my record.

Reaching out over the years to organizations like PJP, Keys to Recovery, Turning Prep, Getting Out by Going In and being able to express myself has helped me so much with doing my time.

To this day, I have no 115 discipline reports, and I’ve not been involved in any violence or altercations. I am committed to never hurt people and instead help them.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

LeBaron Vaughn is a writer incarcerated in California.