VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: A True Story

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By Ari Morales

It all started when I was brought to the Richmond Police Department at the age of 16. This pivotal moment is the flame that ignited this everlasting fire that I’m still going through at the age of 30. This article is simply to highlight and expose the coercive tactics that police officers use as a weapon towards our young, despite your age or innocence, to extract an admission to secure a conviction. I also want to share my experiences that I’ve had while incarcerated, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is a true story of what Ari Morales went through as a child.

It may have been 3 or 4 days after the incident or crime took place right before my eyes that I found myself at the Richmond Police Department in Richmond, California. While at the police station, I was interrogated by two seasoned detectives: their main objective was to coercively-extract information out of me beginning at midnight. I remember being put in a room, a small room with only chairs and a table, and being told to sit down. I began to feel scared and confused. I didn’t why I was there alone with two detectives. Within minutes, the interrogation got really uncomfortable and aggressive. I felt as if I was trapped with no help at all, and no one was coming to rescue me from this physical psychological entrapment. It was literally midnight when the questioning began. I was mentally tired and fatigue was creeping in. These factors worked in favor for the detectives because after multiple failed attempts of asserting innocence they kept questioning me, and it gradually became more intense and at times personal. It seemed as if every time I made an innocence claim they found a new deceptive way to disregard that by intimidating me, by stating if I “hear voices coming from down the hall” or that “my mom raised me right” and that “I was the man of the house.” This psychological pressure mounted on top of an already fatigued mind.

This whole time I was being aggressively questioned all I could think about was

mother and sister who had witnessed me being handcuffed in front of my home by what seemed like the entire Richmond Police Department.

During this interrogation, I remember that all I wanted was to go home and tell my mother I was okay, but at no point did I feel at liberty to do so. I didn’t know whether I was a suspect or a witness because the detectives told me that “we were just talking,” but yet why would you handcuff a 16 year old kid and aggressively question them “If we were just talking.” At this point I didn’t know what to do, or who to turn to for help. I was literally left with no choice in our “conversation” but to admit to crimes I personally saw others do after what felt like hours in this small room and realizing that the detectives were not leaving until I made a coerced confession.

I remember asking one of the detectives at the end of this questioning if I was going home today which was well into the morning hours of the next day and his response was “well what do you think?” This snide remark made me realize that I was just psychologically bullied that day by these two detectives and my perception of law enforcement changed from that point on. Every time the detectives would imply I was guilty by stating ” You need to tell us what happened; you need to tell us that you were with your friends that night. You were on the side of the school.” This happened over and over again. So what is a kid to do when he doesn’t know how to use his constitutional rights or really what they mean? I was never taught the Constitution. This is a David Goliath situation and in this case, Goliath got an easy win because little David did not know how to protect himself from a bully.

After this psychological beatdown, I found myself in a juvenile detention facility for 2 full

years, which meant I was considered a violent kid because most juveniles at a maximum spent 3 to 4 months there; then you were shipped somewhere else to do your time. My nightmare began, or I should say the reality of my situation wasn’t felt until I stepped foot in that juvenile detention facility. The first thing I saw was my brick walls, stainless steel toilets and concrete beds. This was my new home. Lets fast forward to the year 2012 when I landed at San Quentin State Prison, infamously known for its Death Row sector. This was a nightmare on top of another nightmare because I was taken to a reception area for new arrivals as if I was a consumers product put on the Conveyor belt ready to be packaged and purchased by the highest bidder. I vividly remember my arrival because that was the first time I was standing next to at least 10 other incarcerated individuals, and we had to strip down and take everything off including our boxers so we were literally naked. To add insult to injury, in front of us was the entire inmate population, and that day I felt humiliated down to my core and downright just taken as another statistic. This was beyond human imagination what our carceral system was allowing within its walls. These are unspoken and unwritten rules that dominate our prisons. After what felt like an eternity there, I was called back to court, and I remember being put in a holding tank at San Quentin State Prison awaiting my transfer back to court. While I was waiting, I remember a correctional officer came and told me to change clothes into a see-through orange jumpsuit, but the Correctional officer also told me to take my boxers off, the only piece of clothing I had that was not transparent. You can use your imagination as to how I was transferred back to court.

In conclusion of my account of incarceration since the age of 16, I wish and pray that our criminal justice system take extreme caution and go the extra mile when dealing with our youth.

Our youth are our future and if we disregard the protections afforded to us by our U.S. Constitution, then we are planning and preparing for a future of enraged and bittersome youth that when they grow of age and are released the natural result of this is violence. Violence can only be prevented by showing our youth that there is another way, giving them the proper tools to respond and not react to situations. I myself tread the path of rehabilitation because I’ve come to understand that “Violence is not an option.” That is how I operate my modus operandi. And I’ve personally seen and witnessed how our youth inside our prison system are just a mad ticking time bomb because extreme caution and going the extra mile to protect them are completely off the table. If I was really cared about by our police officers that day and if they lived up to serve and protect,  then I wouldn’t be in this situation where I feel that every bone in my body was burned by the fire that enraged these police officers. Still till this day, it’s hard for me to breathe since I don’t know or even what it feels like to breathe as a citizen since my citizenship has been in an institution since I was a young kid. I feel that I was thrown inside the lions den devoured by the fury of our criminal justice system, but more specifically by detectives who only cared about extracting a coerced confession through mental and psychological deception from a boy just turned sixteen old the month before. I’ve turned this living fire into a mechanism to expose those in power that just want to tread upon whomever they need to for their own nefarious intentions. This is a true story.

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