Kevin and Truvoris' Story
“The amount of time they are giving to juveniles, to me, is horrific. Because you come out, and you’re expected to make it, and a lot of us don’t make it. Myself, I came out in 2005 [at the age of 26] with the life skills of a 16 year-old. What do I know? I knew how to drive, that was it. I didn’t graduate; I got my GED at DeKalb County Jail. And it’s, “Hey. Here. Make it.” But I’ve got an armed robbery, every time you run my background - armed robbery, armed robbery. Nobody’s gonna touch me. I wouldn’t touch me!" - Kevin
“I always called it a microcosm of civil collapse. You ever seen The Walking Dead? It’s a miniaturized version of that. Because you’re talking about one officer for 90 inmates, in any dorm? The inmates run the asylum. Period. So, if you wanna know what it’s like when nobody’s gonna answer 911, and nobody’s gonna come to help you, and you gotta fend for yourself? That’s prison.” - Truvoris
Kevin is a 38 year-old entrepreneur who lives in Atlanta. He started his company, Four-Fourty Trucking, in 2014. He also works full-time as lead supervisor at Trojan Battery Company, where he has been employed for the past 12 years, and he serves as a board member of SPARC (Single Parent Alliance & Resource Center). The name of his company refers to Georgia’s Senate Bill 440, which granted adult courts exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving children (age 13-17) who are charged with one of seven specified felonies. As a teenager, Kevin was charged with armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served every day of that 10 years, and he was released at the age of 26.
Kevin first met then 14 year-old Truvoris when they became roommates in juvenile detention. Today, 36 year-old Truvoris is currently on leave from his job with Delta Airlines due to back injuries that he suffered at work. While he is awaiting surgery and recuperating, he has been working on his own plans to become an entrepreneur, and he has been active giving back to his community.
A motorcycle enthusiast, Truvoris has shared his love for bikes with youth who are growing up in communities where there is a high risk of involvement with gangs. He has also, like Kevin, shared his personal story with law students at Emory’s Barton Juvenile Defender Clinic. When he was 13, he was charged with first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole at the age of 14. Five years after his arrest, in a trial that allowed evidence to support his innocence, his public defenders fought for the judge to overturn his sentence, and they ultimately secured his release. The felony was expunged from his record after the case was closed, giving him a clean slate to apply for work without having to check “the box” on the application.
The years that Truvoris and Kevin spent as youthful offenders in adult prisons still haunt them. While their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) causes every day disruptions in their lives, they say that the only people that truly understand what they’ve been through are others who’ve spent years locked up in prison. “We don’t have a VA to go to. We have each other… It’s almost like a fraternity.” They also talk about what it was like to have support from their family. While they were in prison, their mothers organized Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice (MAJJ) to fight for better treatment and outcomes for them and other children across the state who were being tried and sentenced as adults under S. B. 440.
Interview with Kevin and Truvoris, conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on September 1, 2017 in Atlanta, GA.
Joann: "We'll just start out like we're talking about juvenile justice. When y'all think about, when you hear those words, what comes to mind?"
Kevin: "No justice. It's no justice. I remember after I came home, Randy had a study of the ... I forgot who did the study, but of the human brain, how it actually doesn't develop, I think she said, until 25 years old. As a teenager, you're not making the best decisions, but you're getting sentences as if you are. Of course, you're doing adult acts, but you don't have the mentality of an adult. A lot of us, after it's done and we're in, we regret it. "Ah, shouldn't have did that." It's not like it was a criminal lifestyle you enter, we're dumb and we follow whatever we see. We're getting sentence as if we're those career criminals and the amount of time they're giving to juveniles, to me, it's horrific, because you come out and you're expected to make it, and a lot of us don't make it."
"Myself, I came out in 2005 with the life skills of a 16 year old. What do I know? I know how to drive, that was it. I didn't graduate, I got my GED at the DeKalb County Jail, and it's, "Here, make it." But I got an armed robbery every time you run my background, armed robbery, armed robbery. Nobody's gonna touch me, I wouldn't touch me. I don't know me, but those are the kind of odds you're up against."
"It's really an uphill battle, and one of the things about coming out of prison, you need money. Unless you have family support, there's only so long that they gonna support you, because everybody gets tired, money runs out. You're an adult now, you want to be independent, it's a whole different array of emotions you go through, and a lot of that causes people to go back to what they know, because if you hadn't learned anything new, you only go back to what you know. To me, it's no justice. He and I were talking this morning, saying that we have no help after coming home. We have no counselor, no coping, we have to learn all this stuff, and it's not easy when ... We got each other. He showed me, I show him, and neither one of us really know the best way."
Truvoris: "Blind leading the blind."
Joann: "How about you? He said no justice. For you, what do you think of? What do you think of when you think of the word juvenile?"
Truvoris: "A child, a child. Even the phrase juvenile justice, when you look at it, even from the outside looking in, but especially having been on the inside of it, it looks like a rigged playing field. The whole point of the incarceration, half of it is supposed to be for rehabilitation, correcting behavior. Unless you gonna correct your own behavior or take the time to do it yourself, you got a family support system that's helping you do it, it's not there. The odds of you becoming a recidivist are high, so it's a rigged system. It is literally creating career criminals and recidivists, because of how the system is set up."
Joann: "Since we're here together, I'm not gonna do one side and the other. So why don't y'all tell me how you met."
Kevin: "Okay. I'll lead it off. I would like to say, for the record, this is like a brother from another mother. He's the first person I met in juvenile, so the night they took me in, they put me in B16. It was 16 wasn't it?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Kevin: "B16, that was my roommate. He was 13, about to turn 14?"
Truvoris: "Yeah, I was turning 14."
Kevin: "Yeah. We had the initial conversation, "What you in for?" I'm like, "Armed robbery." You're like, "Murder." I'm like, "Man, y'all got me in ... What? Who you kill?" That was my reaction. I'm playing, you for real, but from that union, we became good friends and were friends all the way throughout prison stint, even coming home, and been good friends ever since. Don't talk as often, but a phone call away. If I call him, he's there, vice versa, but that's when we first met, at [Pentonville 00:04:49] in the juvenile, that's my first roommate."
Joann: "What did you think about him the first time you met him? What do you remember about that first experience?"
Truvoris: "I thought, "Man, you in for a long ride." Because at that point I had been there about four months, no about six, five or six months. And that was the first thing I thought, "You in for a ..." Because he came in at night. And I remember the feeling when I came in. I came in over night, early morning. I knew that first week or two was gonna be an adjustment. He was older than me, he was 16."
Kevin: "Yeah, I was 16."
Truvoris: "Yeah, he was 16, but I knew that it was going to take some getting used to for him. I was kind of already in the ... The head was kind of ingrained at that point. That was my first thought."
Joann: "You were about to turn 14 and you had already been there five or six months."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative) I got there November 23, 1994."
Joann: "So tell me what that process was like, that adjustment that you were making, that you had to make. What was it like before you made the adjustment, and what was the process like?"
Kevin: "Initially it was surreal. You wake up and you look around and you think, "Wait a minute, I didn't sign up for this." It takes about a week, maybe two, after your first court appearance, to get it in your head that, "I'm not going home any time soon." And once that starts to sit in, then it just becomes about survival, mental and emotional survival, and then physical survival just based on what's going on around you. It's an emotional roller coaster that I don't think most adults could handle. So it was literally the worst experience of my life even to this day."
Joann: "Let's back up a little bit. Why don't y'all tell me who you were, how you were as kids growing up, before all this happened, before this experience that led y'all to meet each other?"
Truvoris: "I was an idiot."
Joann: "Before we go too far, if people are listening to this, they don't know who's who. So tell me your name, and you don't have to say your last name, but tell me your name, how old you are now, and tell me about what age you were then, and describe to me what kind of person you were like then. You go first. You go first."
Truvoris: "Truvoris. I was a complete idiot. I was 13 years old. I thought I knew everything. I didn't really wanna listen to mother at the time, and I started ... I was big for my age so I started running with gang members in my neighborhood, and I had convinced them that I was more mature than I actually was, because I looked older. That's a huge ego boost at 13 years old, so I took that and ran with it. So yeah, I was a complete idiot."
Joann: "Tell me a little bit about the neighborhood you grew up in, your family, the schools that you went to and that kind of thing."
Truvoris: "I actually grew up ... I live partially between here and New York City for a while. We finally settled back here on the west side of Atlanta when I was three or four. Then we moved to Decatur, then by the time I was 12 we moved to Stone Mountain. I've always lived in the most of the predominantly black areas in this city. And back then, you didn't really think about it. Things happen in the neighborhood, because you've seen it all your life, so it's not outside the norm, it becomes part of the norm."
Joann: "What was your family like? Who did you live with in the home?"
Truvoris: "My mother, initially. Well, my mother and my father split when I was about a year or two old. My mother was ... Well, when I was about five or six my mother met my step father. So, at that point, they were together up until I was about 12. In addition to my mother and step father it was step-brother, step-sister, and a cousin in the house, up until about 12 years old when they split up."
"It was a full house, it was a fairly stable household. Just random stuff, you know. Regular family issues that pop up in any family, but for the most part it was a stable household."
Joann: "What was it like at school? You said you were a big kid. Were you an athlete?"
Truvoris: "No, not at that point. I did start to play football in Junior High. I got big over the course of one summer. Before that, I was scrawny. I wasn't really into sports. I played basketball between sixth grade and seventh grade, but never any football or anything else. I was kind of an introvert and a bit of a weirdo."
Joann: "What did you do? What did you do for fun? What was your favorite thing to do?"
Truvoris: "Comic books. I loved comic books. I guess it's just because I went from being an only child to having a full blown family almost overnight. That's when I started becoming an introvert and retreat into myself and into my own world."
"And then, at a certain point I kind of drifted away from that and started getting into the world outside. Right around the time that I started noticing girls was about the time that the idiot in me came out."
Joann: "Tell me, how about you, what was your life like when you were growing up? Where did you grow up? What was your home and surroundings and stuff like?"
Kevin: "I'm Kevin. Of course, I'm from a third world country, New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is ... Growing up was great. Very fast paces. I grew up around a lot of shooting where I've been. You name it, I saw it. I ready for ... I moved here about 12. But from 0 to 12 I saw it all. Every house we lived in got burglarized. It's almost like you become numb to it, like it's normal."
"I came here with the numbers, the mentality, like this is normal. So it wasn't a big deal to me. And as I got older, here, at that time, you had a whole lot more access to guns. Whole lot more access to everything, than there."
Joann: "What time period was this?"
Kevin: "This was around '91. We moved here in '91. I think one of the pivotal points in my life growing up, leaving New Orleans ... Before we left New Orleans I was at Gregory Junior High School. In our junior high school, New Orleans, like the size of a college campus. You go from one building to the next changing classes, you feel like an adult now. I loved it. Came here, elementary went to seventh grade. So I was back in one classroom. I was somebody else, I was mad. I rebelled, and I got suspended all the time. I couldn't go on field trips because I was on in-house suspension."
"I was rebelling because I didn't like the situation. And my mother knew. I'm like, "I'm staying in this class, I ain't no kid no more." Like I was brought back to being a child, which I just rebelled against it, and I went on a spiral from there."
"A lot of my trouble then was just being rebellious. Didn't wanna listen to anybody, didn't wanna listen to her. I respected her, but I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I got to high school, I was okay."
"Baseball was my passion. That's what I loved to do. I grew up playing baseball. That was my thing. That was my outlet. I had been playing since I was about six years old. I got here, I played at the park. High school, I played on the team my ninth grade year. Colleges were even coming up to our games. So I was like, "I'm fitna go to college, play baseball." That's all I wanted to do. But I still ..."
"Also in that time frame money kind of got, and I like to use this phrase, as tight as skin on a sausage. Because in New Orleans the economy is horrible. My mother had a house there, and her job gave her the option to move; Atlanta, L.A., Chicago. She went to high school in L.A., she wasn't going to bring me to gangs. Chicago, she knew they were for real there, too. So we came here."
"She couldn't sell the house, so she had to rent it out. The people weren't paying the rent. So she's trying to pay the mortgage there, pay the rent here. I'm an only child, so I was accustomed to getting what I want when I asked for it. That changed. And I couldn't understand it. My mind couldn't process it. Like, "Why I can't get the Jordan's? I want a Starter jacket. What happened?" But I don't understand, and I slowly but surely started doing the small stuff, from stealing candy at the gas station, selling it at school. And I just got progressively worse."
"But, to me, I wasn't bad, until I got expelled from Shamrock High School. I got caught gambling in the bathroom. I can't believe I'm telling you all this. I got caught gambling in the bathroom, and the principal told me, "Give me the money." I wouldn't give it to him, "No, I'm not giving you anything." And I was bigger than him. I'm like, "I'll beat you up, get out of here. No, my money." "They called my mother and said, "Either get him out of here or he can't go to anymore public schools in the county." So I transferred to Southwest DeKalb. Well, I had to set out an academic year. When you transfer schools you had set out of athletics for one year. That's the year I went to prison. And that's the year I had the time to get into more stuff. That's when I played around with the drug dealing. Then comes the guns and I had access to, you name it I had access to it."
"It wasn't her fault, she worked so much she couldn't monitor me. I was doing some of everything, and it just got progressively worse. All the way leading up to the robbery. When you're around it ... Everybody around me was doing it, everybody robbing. And we would see people go to juvenile, go to boot camp, three months come back out. In our juvenile mind, "Oh, he's a soldier. I'm a soldier, too." Not knowing laws had changed, we didn't know this. And I think we did it because we felt like we knew we were kids, we get a slap on the wrist. That's in our juvenile minds."
"Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have thought a little different, but I didn't know. And again, I was young. I was following the crowd. They doing it, I'm gonna do it. And again, we had access and all. The robbery happened and, of course, they got us."
"What happened, my co-defendant ... The way they got us, they didn't know who did it. One thing they normally do in the neighborhoods is, if they see you walking during school hours, they'll put you in the back of the car, interrogate you about why you're not in school, about different events that may have happened recently in the neighborhood. And some people get intimidated. He got intimidated. They asked him about a robbery that happened. He cracked. "It wasn't my fault, he made me do it." And, oh yeah ... He sent them straight to my house to come get me. That's how they got me."
"Just fast forwarding, about with the juvenile, we went to trial. At the time ... Do you wanna stop?"
Joann: "No, keep going."
Kevin: "At the time, I would have pled guilty to anything. When I met him in juvenile it wasn't real, it was surreal. I woke up, like, "Where I'm at?" I didn't realize I was locked up. I thought it was a dream. A couple days later public defender came to see me. That's when it got real. She said, "You know how much time you're facing?" I was like, "I don't know how much." And I'm thinking boot camp, 90 days. I'll get out, go back to school, everybody be looking at me like I'm a soldier, let's get it."
"She said 10 years. My heart hit the floor, "How many you said?" I couldn't even see that far. "Ten years? I'm trying to make it to prom. You said 10 years."
Truvoris: "Ten years per count."
Kevin: "Yeah. That's when it got real. Going fast forward a little further, I would have pled guilty to anything but the mandatory 10, any 10 I would have pled guilty to. I knew I did it, but I couldn't see doing the whole 10. I would have did any kind of five, six, anything with parole involved, I would have pled guilty to. They wouldn't do it. I didn't know why they wouldn't agree to it until we went to trial. I went to trial because I had no other option, I wasn't gonna plead guilty."
"We went to trial. That's when I found out my co-defendant was testifying against me the whole time. And that day they found me guilty they let him go home. I don't regret it. About two years later he was murdered. So he got out and got back into it."
"I would call home often and a friend of mine was like, "Yeah, they killed you boy." I said, "Yeah, what happened." And I remember they told me. I'll never forget, they told me that they shot him and left him behind the elementary school. They found him a couple days later."
"I wouldn't trade places with him for the world. That's the kind of stuff was going on with us."
Joann: "Well, we're here so tell us about the trial."
Kevin: "The trial was four days. I can't say ... We had great public defenders, they believed in us. They should have got paid for the work they did. They worked for us like private attorneys. They really believed that we were kids and we were just stupid. And they really fought ... I went on three appeals, they did all of them. Public defenders don't even do that. They fought a lot for him as well. I think we had the same ones. They all work together."
"The trial was four days. We went through jury selection. The whole time I'm thinking, "They can't find me guilty. They just ..." I just didn't see it. A lot of family and friends would come to trial each day. It was kind of fast. Juror selection one day, the next day the witness came. And it was crazy because she couldn't identify anybody. She couldn't identify me or him. But they had his statement, which was enough. I was saying, "He's lying, it wasn't me." He's like, "Yes, it was."
"They came and we got to the third day, and they were asking about testifying. They asked me if I wanted to testify. I said no. And then they came to him, he said yes. I couldn't believe it. He got on the stand and he cried like a baby, put on a show. That last day we came back to court, and I'll never forget Judge Mallice told me to stand up, and they sentenced me. He said, "I sentence you to 10 years mandatory minimum sentence." And he was saying, he said, "I hope you come out better than you are now." I'm like, "How?" And I literally, no lie, hit the ground. I passed out. I was conscious but my body went limp. I hit the ground. My eyes were open, but I couldn't control anything."
"The guards picked me up. And they knew me, because when you go to court so much, we went to court maybe 20 times throughout the nine month period while we were in the jail, so they knew me. And they were like, "Man, get up, get up." They literally had to carry me like a suitcase to the elevator, put me on the elevator, take me down to the bottom floor, they laid me on the bench, they propped me up and gave me some water, and just stayed with me til I came back to. I couldn't believe it, I was awestruck."
"And I finally had came to, still wasn't real. Still wasn't real. It didn't really get real until my mother came to see me that night, and I saw a look in her face, and I knew I messed up."
Joann: "What did she say to you?"
Kevin: "It wasn't anything that she really said, it was just a look, like nothing else she could do. I just knew I messed up. I messed up bad. Like a grown-up, you mess up, "I'm sorry." This wasn't "I'm sorry." I couldn't get out of this one. Wasn't nothing she could do."
Joann: "You said they had a jury selection."
Joann: "At what point did they stop treating you like a juvenile and start treating you like an adult?"
Kevin: "What do you mean?"
Joann: "You obviously ... You don't get jury selection in juvenile court, do you?"
Kevin: "I never saw juvenile court."
Joann: "Okay. So tell me how that happened. What happened that they said, "Okay, we're gonna actually transfer you into the criminal court and do all this in a criminal court?"
Kevin: "Okay, so Senate Bill 440 came out. They came out, I wanna say, it was May, '94. Was it May, '94 Senate Bill 440 was introduced? That bypass to juvenile for the seven deadly sins, you didn't even see juvenile court, you went straight to superior court. And armed robbery was one of the seven deadly sins, so we never even saw juvenile court, straight to adult court. You can be as young as 13."
Truvoris: "And we did, at arraignment, they would make a decision whether to bound it over to superior court."
Kevin: "No, I didn't get that."
Truvoris: "You didn't?"
Kevin: "No. My arraignment was on [Maury 00:24:36] Drive."
Truvoris: "That's what ... Yeah, that what ..."
Kevin: "Not in juvenile, though. I was an adult, I didn't go to juvenile. I went to the adult side."
Truvoris: "We went to magistrate on the adult side, but that was the evening where they would made a decision whether or not to bound it over."
Kevin: "I don't remember that."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Kevin: "I know I never went inside of the juvenile court."
Joann: "At what point did you move, in terms of the detention facility? Because y'all were in juvenile at first."
Kevin: "In Pentonville, yes."
Joann: "And then they moved you at some point."
Kevin: "Yeah, I was there about, I want to say, maybe a month. It might have been two months. It was two months. And then they came around and was letting us know we're about to leave, we're going to the jail. It was crazy because all of us was scared. We thought we was grown men, so we had this big meeting, "Hey, we're gonna stick together."
Truvoris: "In the holding cell."
Kevin: ""Anything happens, we got each other's back."
Truvoris: "The funny thing is, the day that they moved us, June 9, 1995, the whole youth detention center was having basically what amounted to a field day, that you would have in school, because this is a juvenile facility we're in. Everybody in the facility is out on the yard listening to music. Didn't they barbecue or something? Didn't they have hamburgers and hotdogs?"
Kevin: "[crosstalk 00:25:51] yeah."
Truvoris: "It was like for an hour or two we were not in jail. Then they come get six of us and tell us, "Pack up."
Kevin: "Sure did. Took us in groups. Six, six, yeah."
Joann: "So is it the six of y'all that had the pow wow?"
Kevin: "Mm-hmm (affirmative) We all did, but they took in groups. We went to the holding cells in the bottom of the jail, and we're looking around, and we're all big for our age, but compared to adults, we was like, "Oh no, we can't, nah, we gotta stick together. They bigger than us." And then we end up getting put into a juvenile dormitory on the third floor. Remember, they had us in there with Ahmond Dunnigan."
Truvoris: "Ahmond Dunnigan."
Kevin: "He was a killer, an adult. He was an adult. But he was in protective custody. But they had us in there with him."
Joann: "What did the cells look like? Did y'all have individual, group cells? How did that work?"
Kevin: "Individual cells."
Joann: "Okay. Y'all moved together on that day, June 9, or whatever."
Kevin: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Joann: "And you were in this dormitory, juvenile dormitory, what are the, in terms of the treatment, in terms of the environment, in terms of the way the correctional officers were, what were the major differences just immediately between being in a juvenile detention facility and going to a ... It was county jail, right?"
Joann: "It was an adult jail?"
Truvoris: "First glance difference were the uniforms. These guys are in uniforms, Sheriff's deputies. We weren't used to that. These people, the staff at the youth detention center, they didn't wear badges, they wore street clothes. They were like counselors. That's the first difference."
"What else? The food was terrible."
Truvoris: "And also, it was understood, they made it plain to us almost immediately, "You're grown men now. You're gonna be treated like grown men. You're gonna be expected to conduct yourself like a grown man. And even if we don't correct you, somebody in there will." And it was put to us just that plain."
Joann: "Meaning one of the other inmates."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative) The officers did everything they could to scare us going in. That's when we had to have that little pow wow and decide we were all gonna stay back-to-back and stick up for each other and make sure we were okay, because they basically told us a few of us might not make it out of there. We found out later that that wasn't necessarily the case. We figured out, and it was an immediately lesson in adulthood and in maturity, we figured out that survival in that situation is all about how you conduct yourself. And for some of us that lesson was hard learned. That was the biggest thing. It was a crash course into adulthood, immediately."
Joann: "How old were you went you got transferred?"
Joann: "And you were?"
Joann: "Let's go back a little bit and talk about you were introverted kid, you like your comic books, you grew up really fast one summer."
Joann: "Physically, grew up really fast."
Truvoris: "Sprouted summer '93. Yeah, '93."
Joann: "Tell me about the experiences that led up to the point of you getting arrested."
Truvoris: "My younger brother died that summer, June 1, '94. Right after that my mom and my step dad, they split up, which we found out after the fact that it had been coming, and that was just the worst timing for everybody."
"So me and my mom, we moved out to Stone Mountain."
Joann: "What happened to your brother, if you don't mind me asking?"
Truvoris: "He died from an asthma attack."
Joann: "How old was he?"
Truvoris: "He was ... I was 13, he was 12. And our birthdays are literally a day apart. I'm April 28th, he was April 29th. So it really messed me up. Me and my mom moved to Stone Mountain, and all of a sudden it goes from ... Like I said, I went from being an only child to a full family overnight. Now, overnight I go from that full family structure to only child again. And my mom's having to work twice as hard because now it's a single parent household, single parent income. And I didn't reregister in my new school immediately. I found the neighborhood. My mom's at work and I'm home bored and haven't started my new school yet, first thing I do is go out in my neighborhood and explore. And the first people to speak to me were the gang bangers in my neighborhood. And from that day forward I was with them every day."
"I had already started hanging around the gang bangers when I went to Sequoia Junior High School the year before, but now these are the people that literally live right next door to me so I have to see them every day anyway. And I'm young, I needed something to do."
"Eventually I got it in my head that, like he was saying, my mom can't necessarily do as much as she could for me, I can do it myself. And that's when I started going with them and breaking into apartments in the neighborhood and breaking into homes in the neighborhoods around us. It was just a trickle down effect. You do one or two things, you get away with it, you get more bold, to the point where you're doing things that you don't stop to think about because you got grown men telling you, "You can do it and get away with it." So I went."
Joann: "So how did you get arrested? Like law enforcement, at some point, got you."
Truvoris: "It's funny, it's strange actually. My mother always said something wasn't right about it. My mother always said it looked like it had been set up by the same people I was hanging around. A couple weeks before I got arrested a friend of mine got arrested. He had shot at somebody. And when the police came to the neighborhood that night he still had the gun on him. So they locked him up on a Friday night. He was home on a Saturday afternoon. But they still had the gun. In two weeks time they had run the gun through forensics, found out the gun was attached to somebody that had gotten killed a few weeks before that in our neighborhood."
"One night we all hanging out together getting drunk, playing cards. I pass out. By the time my mother got home I was passed out in my bedroom, no clothes on, with a suicide note next to me. And in the note they claimed I implicated myself in the murder. When I woke up I was at Northside Hospital in the emergency room getting my stomach pumped. That's how they caught me."
Joann: "Suicide note in your handwriting."
Truvoris: "That was never determined. They never let me take a handwriting analysis."
Joann: "So you woke up in a hospital?"
Truvoris: "In the emergency room."
Joann: "Did somebody come and question you in the hospital when it happened?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative) Two detectives showed up. My mother invoked my right to remain silent at that point. And that's when they went ahead and decided to charge me. Now the ironic part is that the detective that came to the hospital that night, that friend of mine that got arrested a couple weeks ago with the gun, he was in the waiting room. And the other people told me he was trying his best to get out of there when the detectives got there. And that same detective recognized him and said, "Hm, it's funny you hear because I was coming to see you tomorrow." This is before they ever knew anything about me."
"Like I said, my mother always said something about it just looked completely wrong. I ended up going to trial three times. That same friend of mine testified against me three times. And in every trial his story was different. He gave two or three statements to the police that night and the next day, and every one of his written statements was different."
Joann: "Were you ever offered any sort of a plea bargain?"
Truvoris: "Not initially. The first trial I was ... Because I was indicted on five counts, two counts of ... Wait a minute. Two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of malice murder. And my first trial they found me not guilty on three counts, and there was a nine to three vote for equivalent of the two counts. So I was actually that close to going home. They declared a mistrial, six months later we went back to trial, and it was a six/six vote, the jury was split six/six on the other two counts."
"We went to trial again, the third time, and that's when they changed judges. I had Judge Weeks at first. They changed to Judge Wheeler. And changed the District Attorney. I had Ann Long for the first two trials. They gave it to Tom Clay. And a lot of our evidence all of a sudden was inadmissible. A lot of things we couldn't even say in front of the jury that time around. So that's when they finally got a conviction, and they sentenced me to life. I set for two years, yeah two years, and we finally got a motion from the trial based on a lot of the stuff that was done in the third trial that wasn't done correctly."
"We were getting ready to go to trial for a fourth time, and the District Attorney came to us with an offer for 10 years. And I think our counter was five years to serve. At that point, I had already been in four years. The judge accepted a plea of 10, and serve 6. So I served five years in all before I made parole."
Joann: "Tell me about that last trial."
Truvoris: "It seemed to go a lot quicker. It was the same standard, four or five days. First day, jury selection. The rest of the week for evidence, and deliberation on Friday. But, like I said, they had changed judges from my previous two trials, they changed the Assistant D.A. They put a different Assistant D.A. in the court room."
"I remember the jury deliberated a lot quicker, because there was a lot of evidence that we couldn't challenge. A lot of things that happened in the first two trials that they ruled inadmissible that time around. So the jury deliberated and came back with a verdict within maybe an hour."
Joann: "Were there witnesses?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative). One of my witnesses couldn't make it."
Joann: "Character witness, like a supporting witness?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative). A friend of mine. Jason Lewis. I think, by that time, he was in a coma. He had flipped his car over coming back from a nightclub. So he was in a coma by then, he couldn't make it."
"There was one witness that had pretty much killed their case the first two trials. It was a girl that was kind of like an ex-girlfriend of mine. Every time she got on the stand she would contradict the statements that she gave every time. And every time it would get worse. It got so bad that by the time the third trial came around we were waiting on her to get on the stand, because it was comic relief, it was that bad. They wouldn't put her on the stand again."
Joann: "Was she testifying against you?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative). But her testimonial during both trials, it shot holes in the case, so they never put her on the stand again after the second trial."
Joann: "What was the evidence that was impermissible?"
Truvoris: "I can't remember what it was. I think it was my school records. This happened ... No, it was testimony from another friend of mine that had spoken to me that same night. For some reason that was inadmissible. A few things, I can't remember exactly what it was, though."
Joann: "That's a friend of yours that had spoken to you the night that you passed out and woke, and [crosstalk 00:40:38] the night of the-"
Truvoris: "The night with the shooting."
Joann: "... of the shooting."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Truvoris: "What else was there? There was something else."
Kevin: "Didn't they find out about the jury tampering? Didn't that come up while you was at Alto?"
Truvoris: "No, I think that came up ... No, it was the judge gave the jury a charge that he should have given them at the third trial. That's how we got the motion from the trial. That's while I was still at DeKalb County Jail actually. I was almost into my second year in the life sentence. Something else. I can't remember what it was."
Joann: "How old were you when you actually got the life sentence?"
Joann: "Okay. And this was the trial where they deliberated quickly and came back out?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Joann: "You were in the court room, you had taken the fifth, you were standing there with your public defenders?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative). I testified."
Joann: "You did testify?"
Truvoris: "On my own behalf, mm-hmm (affirmative)."
Joann: "What was that like?"
Truvoris: "The third time it was kind of easy."
Joann: "What was it like that first time?"
Truvoris: "Surreal. Again, just ... It was the most awkward feeling I had ever known up to that point. Here it is, I'm sitting in a room looking at 12 people that ... And know that what I say from now until the time I step away from here is gonna help them decide what to do with me for the rest of my life. It was a bit of a high pressure situation."
Joann: "Did you know, going in, if I lose this case, the only option is life? Or did you think that there was a range?"
Joann: "That was it?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Joann: "And how old were you the first time you actually took the stand? Probably 14?"
Joann: "Okay. So what was your reaction when they came out and they said, "This is it, this is guilty."
Truvoris: "Disbelief. Same thing happened to me when they sentenced me. I collapsed. My legs just gave out. And it was because I heard my mother behind me when the judge said life. My legs just gave out."
"They actually tried to ... They had called back to ... By the time they had brought me back to the jail, I guess they had called back and told the officers on my floor what had happened. They tried to put me on suicide watch that night. I wouldn't do it."
Joann: "What did you go back to? When you went back, you were at the jail, was it ... At this point, were you still kind of on a juvenile dorm hall?"
Truvoris: "We were still in the same dorm."
Joann: "Did you see him when he came back?"
Kevin: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Truvoris: "First person to come talk to me."
Joann: "What was that?"
Kevin: "They called us ... The officers at the dormitory had called us up to the speaker and told us what happened. So were kind of prepared. I don't remember what I told him, but I just know when he came through the door I was there. Just like, "I don't know, we gotta figure this out."
"None of us could believe that they actually would give a kid a life sentence. Couldn't believe it. And it was unreal. We felt like they were throwing us away."
Joann: "Was that like, "This is life without parole." Or did they give you, "If you serve a minimum of X number of years you can be up for parole?" Did they even talk about that? Or did they just say, "Life is life?"
Truvoris: "He never went into specifics. He just said I sentence you to life in prison."
Kevin: "And I know life back then-"
Truvoris: "Used to be seven years."
Kevin: "No, 14. They had one 14. I remember back then, you serve 14, you come up for parole after 14. The always deny the first parole, always. That's just standard. So you're at least gonna do 20 years before you even get thought about again. I got a friend right now I still keep in touch with, he's on year 27. He had a life sentence from '91 that was a seven year life sentence. When you have a life sentence, they get to you when they get to you. Some people get out, some don't."
Truvoris: "After I was sentenced a couple of the jurors went to my mother and told her, "If we knew he was gonna get that kind of time we would have found him not guilty." We weren't allow to say during trial how much time we were facing. That had to be kept a secret because they felt like it would sway the jury one way or the other. And they admitted that if they knew I was gonna get that kind of time they would have found me not guilty, they thought I was gonna get a slap on the wrist just for being bad. They didn't know I was gonna get 10 years mandatory."
Kevin: "And that's the point. My first trial, they thought that [dead locking 00:46:14] on those last three counts was gonna force them to let me go. They just couldn't ... They didn't wanna be accountable for making the decision. Same thing, if these people had actually know what kind of time we were facing, or what kind of consequences we were looking at ... I think both of us had jurors that had daughters or sons that went to high school with us."
"They had a frame of reference for where we were in life. That's why they keep the jury from knowing anything about Senate Bill 440."
Joann: "At what point did you ... Did your public defenders ... Were you like, "Okay, this is it. I gotta reorient my head?" Who was it that said, "We're gonna keep fighting for you?" When did it come back around to-"
Truvoris: "Both of my public defenders said that at the table when they read the verdict. At that point I'm not hearing it. They reiterated against my mother by the time she got to the jail that night to see me. But again, I'm just numb. I'd say about a year into being sentenced. I gave up. I gave up. I literally put my head in a space of, "This is where I'm gonna spend the rest of my life, or at least for the foreseeable future." So I changed mentally and emotionally, and it started to show physically within the dorm."
Joann: "How do you mean it started to show?"
Truvoris: "My attitude just became worse. Where there would be times where an argument would just be an argument and everybody can go their separate ways. It got to a point where my patience got shorter and my temper got quicker. But I was trying to prepare myself for prison. They told me that we had filed a motion for a new trial, but I didn't see how it was gonna happen."
Joann: "So you said when you got sentenced you heard your mom. What was your mom's reaction?"
Truvoris: "She screamed."
Joann: "What did she say to you when she came to see you?"
Truvoris: "She actually told me not to give up. It was the first thing she said. She said that Linda, one of my public defenders, had told her they was still working, and they were filing a motion for a new trial on that Monday. She didn't give up."
Joann: "At what point ... You said about a year later ... Y'all had already moved ... At a certain point you had moved from the county jail to the prison where you were gonna stay."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative) At one point they separated us, because when he turned 17 they moved him upstairs to the adult floor."
Kevin: "The day I turned 17."
Truvoris: "The day you turned 17."
Joann: "Happy birthday."
Truvoris: "By the time ... I stayed for another two years until I turned 17. I turned 17, went upstairs to an adult floor. And within a few months, that's when I entered my plea bargain. My mother was very ... My mother, his mother, a few other mothers, were really, really active in making sure that we were treated fairly in the jail. So as soon as they realized I had a [EN 00:50:40] number-"
Kevin: "[crosstalk 00:50:39] network, yeah."
Truvoris: "... Department of Correctionals number. As soon as they realized I had a EF number they shipped me out of there, so that my mother would ... They thought if they got rid of us, got us out of DeKalb County Jail, that was gonna stop our mothers from coming up there demanding fair treatment. What they didn't realize is that our mothers were talking to other women whose children were in there and they were still coming out there."
"It was two years ... It was about four months after I was sentenced I was transferred to Alto."
Joann: "You said you had an EF number. What does that mean?"
Kevin: "Earned felony."
Joann: "You said it as if it was a number that identified you as somebody who had support from the outside."
Kevin: "No, EF number is a number you get when you go to the prison system."
Truvoris: "Department of Corrections."
Kevin: "Everybody has a number, so we have an EF number."
Joann: "Okay, meaning these guys are bound, they're gonna be going."
Joann: "They're leaving here and going to prison."
Kevin: "Yeah. As soon as that number generated ..."
Truvoris: "Bye bye."
Truvoris: "Still remember mine."
Kevin: "Me, too."
Joann: "What do you-"
Kevin: "We still remember our numbers."
Joann: "What are they?"
Kevin: "Mine was 393240."
Truvoris: "It was EF398440. Mine disappeared."
Joann: "What do you mean?"
Truvoris: "Because it was so early in the process when we were charged, they did my paperwork wrong early on. So after I was paroled out and then a few years later completed my probation, my charges disappeared like it was a juvenile charge, because they filed the paperwork wrong at some point."
Joann: "So you didn't have to go back and get it expunged?"
Truvoris: "Uh-uh. But it took ... Let's see, I came home in 1999, it took them til 2004, right after 2004, when I completed my probation, it disappeared."
Joann: "So now there's nothing on your record."
Joann: "Wow. We haven't talked much about your moms, the advocacy and the support they were giving you."
Kevin: "She's available over the phone, or however."
Kevin: "She actually just called. She's anxious to talk."
Joann: "She wants to talk. She's ready for her, she's ready for her ..."
Kevin: "We'll get her in a minute. But my mother and his mother launched MAJJ, an acronym for Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice. And they fought tooth and nail. If it wasn't for them we probably wouldn't have gotten the treatment we got, seriously. But they fought tooth and nail from beginning to end. They fought the reappeal Senate Bill 440 several times. No luck, they weren't changing it. They called us super predators. They wouldn't change it for anything."
"And, like I said, they fought years and years and years. My mother was the reason I was able to get into the transitional center the last year of my sentence, which really made a difference on how I transitioned out, because you send that much time in prison, you say you're not, but you become institutionalized. You operating in prison ways that you don't even realize. And it takes a while to even acknowledge it and to start to break it."
"And that time I spend in the transitional center, I remember the first day I got on the bus, I went all the way to the back of the bus, and I was watching everybody, because I'm thinking they watching me. Because in prison that's how we operate, you watch everybody, because something could happen in the blink of an eye. In a blink of an eye it's a fight, it's a stabbing, it's whatever. So you always on high alert. And I'm on the bus watching people like ... Unconsciously doing it."
"It took a little while, so realize, "Why am I all the way in the back?" If I couldn't get to the back of the bus, I'm standing up in the front. I'm not sitting down with my back to anybody I don't know. "I don't know y'all, I don't trust y'all."
"But those are the ways you come out with and we don't have any support, in terms of even how to get through it, how to get rid of it, how to ... I remember coming home to my mother's house the first couple weeks, I wake up 5:00 in the morning at attention for inspection, for count. We had to stand up for count at 5:00, I'm up thinking they fitna count me. I'm at home."
"Even to this day, I still don't sleep good. I have dreams that I'm back in prison. I still have them. It haunts me. That's an experience I don't wanna live anymore. But it's amazing. It's almost like you got PTSD."
Truvoris: "I was just gonna say that, PTSD."
Kevin: "I don't operate in those ways, I'm far removed from that. But during my sleep, and it happens a lot. I have bad dreams. I just pray about it. But it's something we live with."
Joann: "You spent the full 10 years there?"
Kevin: "Full 10, no parole, no probation, nothing. Ten years, they let me out, said, "Live your life." With the life skills of a 16 year old. It's not easy. I remember I had been home two years ... I'm 26 when I got out, to my mother I'm still 16. So she's ... "Hey, look, I'm grown now, leave me alone." So me and her clashing. I'm like, "I'm not a kid." "You my son. Why you didn't call me telling me you weren't coming home." "I'm grown. I got my own car. Leave me alone."
"I had a job. I'm working up. And that was the transition she had to go through, because she didn't see me grow up. And I didn't really didn't grow up, I just aged. In about two years after being home, I was like, "I need my own place. You getting on my nerves."
"And I remember going to an apartment complex. I was working at Trojan Batteries. Same place I'm working now. I've been there 12 years now. I had the income. I couldn't get approved. I might have went to 50 different complexes. As soon as they run the background, "Oh no." I was disappointed many days. But I was determined, I didn't give up."
"The sad part, I finally find an apartment complex that would accept me, in the same area I got arrested."
Truvoris: "Same neighborhood."
Kevin: "Around the same people. And they was still there. That's where I got my first apartment, in the same ... Clarkston, same place."
Truvoris: "Right down the street."
Kevin: "Like he said, had I not corrected myself on the inside, it's easy to go back, I'm in the same neighborhood, the same people. And looked like they were doing the same things still. But I was different. I didn't have time, I gotta go to work. My mind wasn't thinking about any trouble, I'm working. But I'm in the same place. And it's like a setup. How I end up in the same environment, I was supposed to go somewhere else. I tried to get anywhere else outside of that element, but I couldn't. I couldn't find a place to go. And I didn't wanna stay home anymore, I had enough money to live on my own."
"Actually, I had a roommate, because I didn't have enough to do it on my own. He and I met in prison. And we're still good friends today, Wess. He and I met in prison and all. We ended up getting our first apartment together. That was my first foray into living on my own."
"And then, after that first year I got a raise and made a little more money and I was able to live on my own, and been on my own ever since. But it's an uphill battle."
"At that time, where I work at now, Trojan, they were hiring anybody; illegal immigrants, convicted felons, they didn't care. The work was so hard, nobody wanted to do it. They were getting us straight out of the half-way house. I didn't get the job from the half-way house. I got it after I got out, heard about it. I remember I called every day for at least a month. "Y'all hiring? Y'all hiring?" Till they knew my voice and relation, "Just come in tomorrow at 9:00." I was there at 8:45. And I got the job and I'm still there now, 12 years."
"Everybody's not that fortunate to find ... And being that I was so desperate, I did the work. People who had other options was quitting. Literally, they were hiring 10 people a week. By Friday there was one left. That's how bad the work was."
Joann: "What kind of work is it?"
Kevin: "It's a battery company. And back then, in 2005, it was all manual, manual labor. And again, if you weren't ... Only people who worked there were convicted felons and illegal immigrants, that's it. If you had another option you were not gonna do that. And we worked with lead and acid, it was hot, you had to change your uniform three times a day. It was just like ... But you know, my mind frame was, "I used to work for sandwiches. I can work for $10 an hour." I didn't care."
"So I was just like, "Hey, I did it for free for years." And a lot of us convicted felons were there and are still there. That was like our saving grace almost. Now they don't hire convicted felons anymore. They stopped that. But those of us who were there, they allowed us to stay because we didn't lie on our application. If you applied and lied and said you weren't a convicted felon and they went back ... And they went back and re-background checked everybody about six years ago. And if you lied on your application you were terminated."
"A lot of us told the truth, because we knew they didn't care. So we're like, "Yep, armed robbery." And we're still there now. To me, we made good money to be coming from where we are. But not a lot of jobs are hiring convicted felons like that. And even Trojan now won't do it. You can't have anything now. Too many tickets, they don't wanna hire you."
Joann: "What kind of work do you do now there?"
Kevin: "Well, actually, I'm proud to say I don't do anything anymore."
Kevin: "I'm a lead now. I have about 19 people that I supervise. So I pretty much just get the shift started, let them know what we're doing from day to day. I'm pretty much a babysitter. That's it. But I like doing it. It's just that I work at night, which I hate. But I had no other option, because the department I used to work in was phased out, and now a machine does it. So I was going to take a big pay cut. I was going to lose at least about $20,000. Or I could go to night shift and be a lead, which you know I don't want it. So I took it. That was the only way."
"Because I couldn't see myself surviving losing $20,000 with the lifestyle I had established. I got a car note. I can't lose that much money. I've been on that shift about five years now. I hate it but [inaudible 01:02:00]."
Joann: "What about the trucking company?"
Kevin: "Four-Fourty Trucking. I named it 440 Trucking after Senate Bill 440. That was my response to the bill. My sentiment was, "If you give us this time, I'm gonna figure out how to make a company." And my ultimate goal is to hire convicted felons like myself who get out and who really wanna get their life together, and are serious. I can't do it now because I contract with a larger company. But that's my ultimate goal, to give people like myself a chance."
"I launched Four Fourty Trucking in 2014. Like I said, we contract with a larger company. I love it. It's my first forereach into entrepreneurship. I'm looking for my way out of a 9:00 to 5:00 world. As I've grown, I still read a lot, I listen to a lot of people [inaudible 01:02:57] and I realize that working is essential. You can't be a millionaire working for somebody. So I have high goals, high hopes for myself. This is one of my things."
"A friend of mine, he's been doing it, and he brought me into it. And it's been pretty good. I'm actually going to buy another truck today. When we leave here, that's where I'm going, to buy another truck. I don't even know how to drive the trucks, I can't move it. I can't. I can crank it up, that's it, and watch it."
"But, like I said, a friend of mine, he brought me into it, so I had help. He had a recipe, he had a game plan, and he gave it to me. And I'll follow that same game plan. It's about five of us, and we all just help each other with it, because we realize without a team you can't do anything in this world. So that's my team. And again, we're doing really, really good."
"And also, Father's Day, I did an event out in Gwinnett County for SPARC, I'm also a board member of SPARC. That stands for Single Parent Alliance and Resource Center. And they help a lot of single parents in that community. I did an event in June just to show the kids something they hadn't seen before. My brother here ... I gotta say your bike name. I didn't know he had a motorcycle name: Hammer-time."
Truvoris: "Don't say it. Don't say it."
Truvoris: "Don't say it."
Kevin: "Yeah. I hadn't even seen his bike till June. But he brought some of the bikes out. He brought some of the bike clubs out, and they helped me put the event together. And the whole idea was, we knew that as kids we wanted to be a part of something. And I just wanted to show them that you can be a part of something you don't have to go to jail to be a part of it. And one thing about the bikers, people don't mess with bikers, at all."
"But you don't see bikers going to prison or doing nothing. That's the whole idea behind that. We try to do stuff in the community and give back as much as we can. I don't have a lot of time like I used to. And again, when it's always something that I can reach out to him, we do what we can to make it happen, because we live this stuff every day, every day. It'll always be a part of us."
Joann: "How old are y'all now?"
Kevin: "I'm 38 years old now."
Joann: "Tell me about your transition, the reentry process, what that was like."
Truvoris: "It was rough."
Joann: "How old were you?"
Truvoris: "Eighteen. It was really rough. When I came home, I came home on house arrest. I literally had an hour and a half of freedom. The first thing I did was went and sit in the bathtub, took a bath."
Truvoris: "Been taking showers for five years. Immediately after the tub I had to get dressed and go see my parole officer. After seeing him, I had to go down the hall and see the home monitoring people. Two hours out of prison, I had an ankle bracelet on. So for the first six months being home it was go to work, go home, that's it. I was blessed enough to be working within three days of coming home. I went to work with the company my mother worked for, which at the time, the only thing I was qualified to do was telemarketing, because it didn't take any qualifications. Within a year I was a supervisor there."
"But because of my approach to things ... This is where I started to realize that the PTSD was something real. My response and my approach to things when I felt like I wasn't being treated fairly, or I felt like something was wrong, it was not what you'd typically see in the workplace in corporate America."
"So within about two or three years of being home I left that company. Doused around for a little bit. Eventually ended up working as a piano mover. And that was the greatest job I ever had. It was the most fun I ever had. I saw half this country from the cab of a truck, and I loved every minute of it."
"Eventually I got married. My wife and I, she wanted to open a business, so I helped her run it. That didn't work out, you shouldn't go into business with your spouse. That didn't work out."
"After that, I spent almost five years at Delta Airlines, because at that point I had figured out my record was clean. And just left there just about a year ago."
"In addition to that, I figure out that one of the best ways for me to channel my frustration, my issues, is through music. I've been dabbling as an independent artist, almost from the time I came home, up until now. I haven't generated a lot of income, but we have fun doing it, and I always feel like I bring a level of integrity to what I do, in terms of the music."
Joann: "You said "we" so you have a ..."
Truvoris: "Me and another friend of mine. Somebody who's also like a brother to me. I've known him for about a decade now, almost a decade, just as close to me as he is."
Joann: "When you say you're in music, what is it that you enjoy doing? Is it the lyrics? Is it performing? Is it the recording? What is it?"
Truvoris: "All of it. Every bit of it. Just the whole creative process. To me, I feel like every part of that is a bit part of the creative process, even being on stage. You find out a lot about yourself that you didn't know in front of people, being able to perform under pressure. All of it. Even down to I could be washing dishes and start writing a song in my head. It may take me a week to finish it, but going from that to hearing the finished product is satisfying."
Joann: "How did you get into bikes?"
Truvoris: "When I figured out that I was initially coming home I started thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle when I came home. I put it on the back burner for a while and would gravitate to it here and there, and then when I moved out to Gwinnett County, back in, this might have been 2003, 2004, a friend of mine that lived out there introduced me to bikes by letting me mess around on his bike. And I just always said once I got the opportunity and found a good financial situation and a good social situation I was gonna try to go the motorcycle club route. And it just so happened about two or three years ago a coworker at Delta was prospecting with a club and I said, "Well, you know what? I'm thinking about buying a bike."
"I didn't wanna be that midlife crisis guy riding around by myself, so he invited me to check out the club after he had gotten done prospecting. I liked what I saw and just jumped into it. Put a little bit of a strain on my marriage."
Joann: "Are you still at Delta?"
Truvoris: "They're still paying me. I was doing a lot of overtime while I was there and ended up working myself to the point where I ended up with three herniated disks in my back. So I could not return to full active duty at Delta. Now I'm just waiting to have surgery."
"And that was one of the things that all I could hear was his voice in my head tell me that ... We always talked about when you're working for somebody else you're making somebody else rich. I realized that not only was I making them rich but I was putting myself in physical danger. Nearly every time we talk, we talk about that being the next phase of my life, as well. Transitioning to something entrepreneur."
Joann: "You said that there was a certain point when you had gotten a life sentence when things shifted, and you were like, "This is it." Were you able to ... When you found out that you were gonna be leaving ... At a certain point, how did your ... Did you have a mindset shift at some point? Or were you ... How was your head?"
Truvoris: "When I figured out that I was going home?"
Truvoris: "Actually, I had kind of gotten numb inside. You get to a point where you convince yourself to just be prepared for the worst in anything. So I just kind of ... Even though I knew I was coming home, I had gotten to the point where I was like, "Well, if it actually happens, I'll wait and see." And up until that day, I still thought that something was gonna happen with the paperwork or something, up until the moment they opened my cell and took me to dress out."
"I still react to certain situations like that now. A lot of times I'll do as much as I can, put as much effort as I can on my end, and then just sit back and pessimistically wait for an outcome. You get used to being disappointed when you're in there."
Joann: "Did they ever offer any sort of transition counseling or support or anything?"
Truvoris: "Yeah, they actually mandated that we take certain classes, but the-"
Kevin: "The class is a joke."
Truvoris: "Yeah. The counselors that teach those classes, they literally read from a lesson plan book. They're no different than public school teachers."
Truvoris: "They're just teaching you to pass the course work. They're not actually spending any time making sure that this is ingrained in you and that you can practically apply it in the real world. I took family violence, anger management, and substance abuse."
Kevin: "The only thing I forgot to mention, when we both went through it. Once you find out you're going to prison that's probably the hardest transition to make, because you don't know what to expect. You hear all kinds of stories from different people. "When you get there do this, they do this." You got a hundred different stories put together and you're trying to figure out, "How am I gonna make it?"
"And I remember I had a fear in me, like, "I don't know how this is gonna turn out." But I also couldn't show any fear. You can not show fear. People in prison sense fear like dogs, literally. And it's something you develop from being in there so long. When I was there, after a couple years, I could, too. And you go in like you just can't show any fear. It's something you can not prepare yourself for, you can't."
"And in doing time you realize why so many stories are different, everybody has a different experience. Everybody has a totally different experience. But one of the experiences that I think is similar for all of us, you have to go in and make an example out of somebody if you wanna survive. You have to hurt somebody, literally. I had to do it at my first prison. When the situation came, either I hurt him and make an example out of him or I'm gonna have a hard, long time. [inaudible 01:16:01]"
Truvoris: "Because then you get [crosstalk 01:16:02]."
Kevin: "They'll steal from you, they'll try to rape you. You will have a hard time. And one thing about prison, information travels very fast. So you could be at this prison and get transferred to the next, word already got to the next prison, who you are, how you are. So they already know how to treat you. They know he's soft, we got him. You're gonna get extorted, they do it. You name it, it's done. You get extorted, you have people ... Mother sending money to this other guy to keep him safe. It's real. And that goes on for years."
"Protective custody is a joke, because you're gonna go to another prison and they still gonna extort you. Because they're gonna write a letter to whoever they know, letting them know, "He's soft. That's one right there." They know. "He's a killer, leave him alone." Once you make an example out of somebody, you kind of don't have to do it as much, but you still have to maintain strong stance."
"I remember I got transferred to the worse prison, during my stay was at Calhoun. It was a close security prison. I had about three years left. Everybody in this prison either had a life sentence or at least a couple hundred years. And I got sentenced on disciplinary transfer. I got caught with a cell phone."
"And I remember the warden told me he was gonna send me so far my mother would have to catch a plane to come see me. He wasn't lying. They sent me about four hours away. Like I said, it was the worst prison I had been to. I get there and they put me in the disciplinary dorm. Everybody in this dorm is on some kind of restriction. So everybody's stealing, stabbing, fighting every day."
"It just so happened I see one of the guys from juvenile in there, Marco. You remember Marco?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Kevin: "And I got there, he said, "Man, what you doing here?" I said, "I just got here." He was like, "You gonna need a pistol." I said, "Yeah? That's a shame." He's like, "I'm gonna get you one in the morning, because you're gonna need it." I been praying like, "Lord, I'm supposed to be going home, I don't wanna stab nobody. I'm gonna have to. And I'm gonna get some more time if I do."
"But in there you can't let anything get past you, you can not. It was crazy. And at that prison people got stabbed every day. I remember a guy got air lifted out of there they stabbed him so bad. And there, the cities stuck together; Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Augusta. And you kind of had to run with your city. If they fought, you gotta fight, too. Because if you don't then it's gonna come back on you. And I remember we had a standoff with Savannah, and all of us had shanks, and I had a shank. I used to work in the kitchen, the shank was like that. And I was praying, "Lord, I don't wanna use it. I will, but I don't want to." And, by the grace of God, the standoff ended peacefully.”
"We was on one wall, Savannah was on another wall. And it was literally two people that were going at it. And as soon as they fought it was gonna be like a little mini riot in the dormitory. And it ended up not happening. One of them was scared. And I think the other one was glad the other one was scared. But that's how stuff happens. And that's something you can't prepare for. That's something where ... There's people still in prison because they had to make a decision. You can't make a decision not to do it, but you're gonna have a hard time."
"Prison can be really, really hard when you're getting extorted. When you got the baddest after you, because they think you're soft and they're gonna try to rape you. It could get bad. Ain't nobody wants a hard time in prison. That's just something I just wanted ... And that's something we both have lived, where you have to make an example. It's kind of like that, you have to conform to your environment just to make it."
Truvoris: "I had to sign into protective custody my last six months just to protect my chance of making parole."
Kevin: "I remember. I remember we used to write each other all the time. I remember his locker got broke into. This is the kind of games they play in prison. The guy who broke into his locker actually was trying to help him find his stuff."
Joann: "What do you mean?"
Kevin: "The guy who broke into his locker stole his stuff. When he got back he said locker stolen, fitna find out who did it, the guy that offered to help you. He's the one stole it the whole time."
Truvoris: "He was involved in it, so I couldn't catch him. I caught one of the other guys involved."
Kevin: "You made a [milkbone 01:21:03] wasn't it?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Truvoris: "Put two bars of soap in a sock, tie it at the end of it. And went and made a cup of coffee and I caught him with his back to me watching TV and I threw the coffee on him, fresh, and commenced to beat him with the soap in the sock till the emergency response team came in. And they packed me up and sent me to the block."
"The next day my counselor came and seen me. Turns out the Board of Pardons and Parole met that day and granted me parole. So I literally ... This happened after 6:30. The Board of Pardons and Parole met at 5:00 PM. I literally almost cost my ... I was that close to costing myself parole."
"So I did my time in the hole, in isolation for that. When I got back out they sent me to an even worse dorm than the one I was in. I unpacked, laid on my bed for a while, and I thought about it. I said, "I got six months until my tentative parole date. I know I'm gonna blow it, because I'm that ... I'm gonna respond again. I'm not gonna be a victim just because I'm trying to make it home." That's an easy way to not make it home, too. So I made the hardest decision I had to make in five years, I signed myself into protective custody. Laid on my back for the next six months."
Joann: "Is protective custody like the solitary? How do they do it?"
Truvoris: "It's like solitary, except you have all of your privileges. You just have to stay in a cell all day. You get to take a shower every day, as opposed to every two days like in isolation. You get to have a Walkman, you get to have cassette tapes, you get to have reading material, pen, paper, all that. Isolation, they take all that from you. So that was the only difference."
Joann: "So that incident with the coffee ... What did you call it, milkbone?"
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Joann: "When you went in the hole, how long was it? What do they do?"
Truvoris: "They gave me 30 days in the hole. I think I served 12 in all before they cut me loose. Because they were getting overcrowded. It was like a revolving door."
Joann: "What's that experience like?"
Kevin: "In the hole. Go ahead."
Truvoris: "It can be relaxing sometimes. Like I said, I was an introvert from the time I was 9 or 10 years old. So for me, once I got a pen and paper it was peaceful. You just have to learn to deal with being hungry all the time."
Kevin: "Yeah, you come out light skinned and skinny."
Truvoris: "Yeah. But for some people it can be peaceful. I've seen it break a few guys just completely. They'd scream all night. They stuff they're clothes in the toilet to clog the toilet-"
Kevin: "Flood it. Oh man, that was the worst."
Truvoris: "... and flood it everywhere. For me, it was peaceful. That's why it wasn't that hard for me to make the decision to sign into protective custody, because like, "I'll just go back over there and relax. This time I have all my stuff, so I'll be fine."
Kevin: "I hated the hole."
Joann: "What did you say?"
Kevin: "I hated it. I've been about three times, 30 days each time. I didn't like it. I wanted to get out of there."
Joann: "What did you do? What was the punishment for?"
Kevin: "One was the cell phone, one was somebody had wrote a [inaudible 01:24:47], say I was having person dealings with staff, then the other one was for when I had to make an example out of somebody, they put me in the hole for that. But every time it's 30 days, and you come out light skinned and skinny."
Joann: "That's a long time."
Kevin: "Oh, yeah."
Joann: "You get one hour a day?"
Kevin: "Yeah. One hour, but you're in a fence smaller than this room. And you just walk around the fence. We shower twice a week. So you pretty much stink."
Joann: "Do they feed you less? You said you were hungry."
Kevin: "Well, the food-"
Truvoris: "We don't have access to commissary."
Kevin: "Right. We live on of honey buns and cookies. That keeps us going. They give you enough food to keep you breathing, that's it. So if you're living just off of the food that they serve-"
Truvoris: "You'll die."
Kevin: "Well no, you'll still live, but you're gonna be [inaudible 01:25:43]. You're not gonna be able to fight, I'll tell you that."
Truvoris: "And the worse time is the weekend, because on Saturday and Sunday they only feed you twice."
Kevin: "And now it's Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they feed you twice. We might eat waffles for breakfast, that's 5:00 in the morning. Then 5:00 in the evening, a Hot Pocket and some squash. They make you steal. They do. The food is enough for you to ... That's why I say you come out light skinned and skinny, you're hungry. We live off of ..."
"And that's with Christian environment, why people rob and steal and do what they do, because my mother sent me money. His mother don't send him no money. So he gotta either come up with a hustle or something so he can get some snacks. If you don't work in the kitchen, if you don't have a hustle, then you're stealing, he robbing."
Truvoris: "Or extorting."
Kevin: "Or extorting. You gotta find something to do."
Joann: "What kind of jobs they have? You said you worked in the kitchen."
Kevin: "Yeah, I worked in the kitchen. I worked in the kitchen, I worked as a visitation orderly, we had to do things to make it. You would traffic stuff. In the kitchen, I sold sandwiches, especially on the weekend, I made a lot of money. Money to us was a sandwich for two soups, we sold. And that just was the culture."
"You worked in the kitchen, that was a hustle. If you worked in the laundry room, you washed people's clothes. Because the clothes would come ... The uniforms are white. If you get them washed by the prison themselves then you come out like this, brown. So unless you had a dollar to pay somebody to wash your clothes, your clothes stay brown. So I usually have to pay a dollar a week to get mine washed so they stay white. That was just the culture, that was the hustle. Either you gotta have a hustle going or you're into something criminal."
Truvoris: "Or you got a family that's supporting you."
Kevin: "Yeah, unless you have ... A lot of times that starts to run out. We see now how ... A friend of mine that I still talk to, to me, he called me too much. But I understand, he thinks I've got the time he's got, which I don't. I'm doing stuff, I'm running around. "`You done it yet? You sent the money yet?" "No." But that's how we were. You think the people outside have all the time in the world to cater to your needs, and they don't. And that also frustrates you, because you call, and the money gotta be on your books by a certain time. It's crazy."
"That's why, really, I'm probably just give you her number. My mother can tell you the strain it puts on family to be there, sending money, phone calls, phone bill $400 a month. It costs you. We realize it costs our families just as much. We spend time in, but they suffer out here. [crosstalk 01:28:56]"
Truvoris: "They're literally doing the time with us."
Kevin: "They're doing time with us, yeah. From both sides, it's just bad. It's bad. But hopefully something can be created to change that [inaudible 01:29:15]. Again, like I said, 90% of the juveniles who do it, you catch them and they get caught, they're gonna say they're sorry. "I didn't mean it. I was just playing."
Truvoris: "And a lot of them just don't have any real concept of what it is they're doing. They don't have a concept of right and wrong."
Kevin: "Because you're young, you think you're invisible. I thought I was. I thought I was invisible. You think, "Ah, it's fine. That can't happen to me." Your brain hasn't developed. Again, it doesn't develop anymore in there, because you spend years surviving. And then you try to come out here and be productive."
Truvoris: "A guy that we both knew, Kenneth [Trusty 01:29:57]."
Kevin: "Oh, yeah."
Truvoris: "He tried, but he couldn't get to a point to where he could function completely out here, mentally and physically, and ended up right back in for 30 years [crosstalk 01:30:18]."
Kevin: "Nah, Kenny got life without parole. Me and Kenny, we were in juvenile together. Me and Kenny went to high school together. I saw Kenneth right before he got rearrested, I saw him at the carwash in Clarkston. He was working at Trojan with me. Kenneth had an aggressive side that he couldn't channel. One of the maintenance guys said something to him he didn't like, he fought him. They fired him. In 20 minutes he was fired. There go your options."
"So after that he was back to doing what he knew. He was out robbing. I saw him a couple days before he got arrested. It was on the news and the newspapers, he had a list of charges. I wanna say at least about 30. And right now he has life without parole. He'll never get out again. But him not being able to make that change and learn how to channel his aggression. To me, he wasn't a bad person, he just had an aggressive side. Maybe he should have been a football player. Something where he could challenge it. But we're not taught how to channel that kind of stuff. Again, as kids you don't know how to channel your anger, you don't know, you just react. That kind of help wasn't there."
"Maybe if he had it when he came out while we were working at Trojan and we had some kind of therapy, something to just bring it to our attention, he may have been able to make that transition, but he never could. He didn't have any help. He didn't have the support he and I had with his parents, it was just him. It was just him and the girl he met he was living with. That was all he had. I think he had a sister, but he went to prison for her the first time for stabbing her boyfriend. The boyfriend beat her up."
"I get it, he stabbed him. He went to juvenile the first time for that. But that's all he had. So not having that support makes a big difference. I think he and I, me and Truvoris, also had a level of accountability to our parents. Like, "You know what? We can't do this again."
Truvoris: "Mm-hmm (affirmative)"
Kevin: "And also, knowing that you're feeling like you owe them made it real hard. If you don't have nobody you feel like you owe or are accountable to you're like, "So what." But I think that also made a big difference in the choices we made and coming home. I knew I couldn't disappoint mine anymore, I couldn't. She was all I got."
"I remember a friend of mine, Vick, he and I went to high school together. And again, all of us were going to jail for armed robbery, all of us. But he was 17 when he got arrested. I remember, we was in DeKalb County. His mother died while he was in jail. That was one of my biggest fears, "I don't want my mama to die while I'm in here. I'll never forgive myself." Those kind of emotions you deal with when you realize the decisions you made, but again, you have no options, they give you 10 years, you're 10 years. It's no, "Let's go see in five years if he's changed any."
Truvoris: "It's funny, it depends, when you look like us, those are the options. We knew a couple guys, Joe Lambert. What was the other one? Doug? I forgot his name."
Kevin: "Doug? I didn't know him."
Truvoris: "It's literally at the D.A. and the judge's discretion. And they play favorites."
Kevin: "They do."
Truvoris: "Even you can look at other states. What was that kid's name, his defense, a couple years ago after the vehicular homicide, was affluenza? Because he came from an affluent family."
Kevin: "The one that ran to Mexico?"
Truvoris: "Because he came from an affluent family, he had no concept of right or wrong, so the judge should have been lenient on him. They gave him probation. He never showed up to his probation officer. He was caught on camera drinking again. And then, he and his mother fled to Mexico to avoid being ... You don't remember this?"
Joann: "But this guy that you know personally, Joe ..."
Kevin: "Joe Lambert's mother ... She was with GBI wasn't she?"
Truvoris: "Stone Mountain Police."
Kevin: "Stone Mountain Police. So he had more charges than I had, and they gave him-"
Truvoris: "He had kidnapping."
Kevin: "Yeah, kidnapping."
Truvoris: "And armed robbery."
Kevin: "Kidnapping and armed robbery. They gave him 10, served 4. Didn't Joe come up brain dead or something? Didn't they mess him up at Alto?"
Truvoris: "I don't remember."
Kevin: "Somebody told me that. But I know he didn't come out the same way he went in. But he got a deal, nobody else got a deal [inaudible 01:34:57]."
Joann: "Now y'all are in your late 30s, y'all talked about the nightmares, you talked about the PTSD. How do you feel like this experience, did you get anything positive at all out of this experience, in terms of how it changed you, and the lasting impact [inaudible 01:35:17]?"
Truvoris: "My work ethic. My work ethic and my ability to weather bad situations in life, period. Life, no matter how hard you work, it's not always gonna be perfect. So I got a serious work ethic and a serious resolve out of that."
Kevin: "The guy I told you I still keep in touch with, I call him Tiger, he looks like a tiger, I met him at Frank Scott. I forgot how old I was, but Frank Scott was my second prison. That's where I stayed the longest. He was into reading all kinds of entrepreneurial magazines, books, and he had a real positive influence on me. With him, I bought my first stock. We bought stock from in prison. That's where I learned it don't matter where you're from, if it's green they're gonna take it."
"We were in trade school, and that's how I got there. My mother called and called and got on their nerves and moved me to Frank Scott so I could take up a trade, because I don't wanna sit here 10 years and don't do anything. I wanna come out better than when I came in, I need to learn some things. So I got there for trade school and I took up Graphic Arts. That's the first trade. He took up something else."
"So once the trade was done I was just sitting so he and I were talking one day and we were like, "Man, let's try to take another trade, we can't just sit here idle." So we tried to take another one. They had an unwritten law, you can take one trade per sentence. The thing was, you take a trade, one trade you're done, you gotta get out, come back and take another one."
"He was like, "Let's challenge it." And we challenged it. And we challenged it with the counselors and with the chief counselors and with the warden. They ended up letting us take a second trade. And I took Architectural Drafting for my second trade. That moment was a defining moment for me where I no longer accepted "no" as an answer. I brought that same drive out here with me, like it's not a "no." That's why I went to so many apartment complexes, because I'm not taking "no." You might say "no," but somebody gonna tell me "yes." And that's the same drive I have today, even with starting my business and seeking loans and whatever it is, I don't believe in "no." Somebody's gonna say "yes.""
"But I think that's the drive I have from that moment in there, when they had that rule, you could take one and we challenged it, and actually they bended it, said, "Okay, y'all can take another one." We're the only ones who did it. So, again, for me, today and moving forward, I don't believe in "no." That's why I got my passport, that's why I travel. I don't believe in "no" at all."
"I applied for my gun rights and everything. I have a resume, I have a stack of stuff I gave to the board. They told me to come back in two years. They gave me a pardon, which I couldn't care less about a pardon, because I made it, I don't need a pardon. Which is right there, actually. But I made it without it. I'm gonna reapply again because it's for like it's no "no." I don't need the gun rights, to me it's just about exploring myself to who I could have been and the rights I could have had, minus the bad decision I made, that one bad decision. So just trying to be whole again. And I vote all the time. You name it, I pretty much do it."
"I do that because, also, as I meet other people, I wanna let them know it can be done. And a lot of people don't do it, but they don't know it can be done. For me, my motto is, "Ain't no 'no.'" I'm not accepting it."
Joann: "So when y'all talk to other people, I know you've talked to [inaudible 01:39:20] law students, and y'all mentioned talking to young people, those are two different audiences. You got the law students-"
Joann: "... and then you've got the kids in the neighborhood. So what are your messages to those different groups of people? Like when you tell them this is-"
Truvoris: "With the law students, we really try to impress upon them the fact that that could easily be you. And we always talk about sitting in that classroom, somebody in there is a future state legislature, a future senator, a future state representative, a future District Attorney. They're in there. We really try to impress upon them the need for some kind of legitimate rehabilitation system, instead of just incarceration, and prep for [inaudible 01:40:15]."
"The kids in the neighborhood, we try to do less talking and more example. With the people we grew up around, in both circumstances, people pay more attention to what you show them than what you can tell them."
Kevin: "Law students are fun. I like to see their expression when we tell them about stuff like the booty bandits. And they're like, "Who? What?" People do do that, they have a crew that will do that."
Joann: "How is that different than what you see in the movies? In real life, what is that like, versus what you see in a ... Because you see it in the movies."
Kevin: "Yeah, it's different. Prison is different. The booty bandits, they're gonna know if you want it or not. It's crazy."
Truvoris: "Or if you're gonna give up easy."
Kevin: "Only certain people get tried. Only certain people get tried, and they're gonna convert you. If they find out you had any kind of crack in your wall, they're gonna find it and they're gonna try to convert you. It's kind of like the one's who they get, in their eyes, even our eyes too, you wanted it. Because if you didn't want it you'd kill every last one of them, seriously. That can be so graphic, but if you didn't want it they're gonna pay for it."
"But their expressions are like, "Wow." TV doesn't show everything. Prison is like a city. If you name it, it's there; cell phones, drugs, you name it, it's there; sex with the officers."
Truvoris: "I always called them micro cosmo civil collapse. Have you ever seen The Walking Dead? It's a miniaturized version of that. Because you're talking about one officer for 90 inmates in any dorm. The inmates run the asylum, period. If you wanna know what it's like when nobody's gonna answer 911 and nobody's gonna come to help you, you gotta fend for yourself, that's prison, period."
Kevin: "They give you the idea that-"
Truvoris: "Movies don't show that."
Kevin: "It's somebody you go sit in front of, which are not true. The way they do parole in the state of Georgia, they get your file, and they can get it at home. Look at your file, flip through it, yes or no, that's parole. You don't meet anybody, you just get a letter in the mail, denied, granted, that's it. So you never get a chance to sit in front of anybody and say, "Hey, I've learned this, I've done this." Especially on TV, that's not real."
Joann: "When you're talking to the law students versus talking to the kids, what is your message? Like, "If you don't remember anything else, this is what I want you to get out of me talking to you.""
Truvoris: "That it could be your kid, too."
Kevin: "That what you learn in this book is different than what people live. These are actual people who live this. Yeah, the textbook says this, but we're talking about flesh and blood and people's lives. And I try to impress upon them that these are real people, who are dealing with this year after year, gonna represent them, you go home every night, they go back to this horrible place. Whatever side of it you're on, you're dealing with real people whether you're prosecuting or defending, you're dealing with real people."
"And when you sentence somebody to however many amount of years, especially a juvenile, it's a great impact you're having on them. Unlike an adult, who has developed and knew what he was doing, this juvenile, he's different. And now you can make him something worse than what he was. When you force him back into that element or ... I try to impress upon them that as kids we need help. A lot of us didn't have anybody to show us anything better. Nobody showed us about how to open a business, everybody around us had guns. Sold dope, our role model was the dope boys. They had nice cars."
"We didn't know any celebrities. We knew who we saw. And you kind of emulate who you see. And I believe that if you show somebody better, they can do better. But we're not show better, we're just put in prison. And what are they gonna show us in prison? How to make shanks, how to survive, that's it. And you come out with that, you're older, and now society expects you to function on an adult level, but you had the life skills of a kid. You had the mentality of a kid. Because, in prison, you do not mature, you just age, you get older. When I got home I still looked probably 16 years old. Your face stays the same. I can show you pictures, I looked young. When we went to Bank of America, "You're 21?" "I'm 26. What are you talking about?""
"And we can't have facial hair, so you look like a little kid. But, again, you function on that same level. And I really, again, try to impress upon that, we need help. We need help and we need somebody who can show a better way. Because, again, what we see around us, it's all we know. And if our parents don't know any better ... Your neighborhood, if you grew up around money, then money's nothing to you. If you grew up poor, it's emulated until you make that choice to break that cycle. And I made that choice in prison, probably my ..."
"And I did the same thing he did, I lost my mind the first couple years. I was rebellious. Police beat me up a couple times. I didn't care. When I finally realized, "I can't keep getting beat up, it's starting to hurt." In prison, they draw blood. In the jail, they beat you, they rough you up, bruise you up. But in prison, they draw blood. They literally, your blood will be on the wall. So I was like, "I'm not playing with them. I'm gonna sit out."
"But I realized, "I'm here and I don't wanna come out the same way I went in." But that was a decision I had to make, prison's not gonna do it for you. And everybody didn't have that level of determination or drive, you need help. And just without that help, that's why a lot of us come out and reoffend and go back in. And, for the record, people wonder why it's easy for guys to go back in. Because when you grow up in an environment you feel like you got more control, [inaudible 01:47:54]."
"You can control this. Even thought you can't, you can control what goes on in your little world. But out here it's different. Everything's wide open. You don't go to work, you don't get paid. In prison, you don't go to work, they're still gonna feed you. So it's like, "I go in there and make it, I'm gonna extort somebody. I go back there breaking in lockers. I'll survive in there." Out here, if you don't have that help it's different. So that's why it's easy, it sounds crazy, but it's easy for guys to go back. Especially when you spend the kind of time we did. It's easy."
Truvoris: "Eventually you get to a point where you think, "What they gonna do, lock me up?"
Truvoris: "I'm in jail already. Send me back to the hole I just left."
Kevin: "And they send you back to the same prison you paroled from. Oh yeah, they embarrass you, you going back to the same one you just got out from. "Dang, you back already? Well come on." It'll be like a reunion. But I couldn't go back. They put cuffs on me and I might pass out and die. Better not put them cuffs on me, I can't take it. I don't have a day in me."
"But when I say that, that's another reason why, like I say, the dreams, they haunt me. I don't live like that, but it's just when you go through that it never leaves you, the stabbings, I've seen some stuff that I'm not gonna say, but you still remember it. Even the way the officers treat you, they treat you bad. They treat you really, really bad. They treat you like you're almost not human."
"And you get out with, I would say 90%, and I'm just speculating, 90% get out with hatred toward police, because you get treated so bad and now you hate authority. They handle you real bad, talk me into [inaudible 01:49:52]."
Truvoris: "That also translates to supervisors, too, when you talk about working on the job."
Kevin: "Just authority period. I remember one guy got beat up, they beat him up, the police did, put him in the hole. His parents came to see him, they told him he was transferred. They do stuff like that, like you're in there, and they do a lot of evil stuff. They do a lot of evil stuff to you, and you just ... Unless you can break away from the hatred and let it go, it still stays with you."
"I don't have it anymore. I've been past it, I'm on to something else, cruises and stuff. But that's a place you have to get to, and again, we don't have any help with that. They don't understand why people come out, wondering why you're so angry, that's why. You're treated bad in there, real bad. They treat your family bad when they come to visit you."
Joann: "I'm sorry, go ahead."
Kevin: "I said they treat your family bad, they come and visit you. What were you gonna ask?"
Joann: "You said, "I got rid of it."
Joann: "How'd you do that? How'd you get past that? How'd you just ... Was that something that you got rid of in thinking, "I'm gonna get out and I can't be feeling like this," or is that something you had to work on to get rid of it, that feeling towards ...?"
Kevin: "It was just a conscious decision that even though I went through what I went through, I wasn't their fault, I still did it. I shouldn't have did what I did to get there, so I held myself accountable. I just consciously did not blame them. I blame them for the stuff they did to me, but I blame myself for putting myself in the situation to be there. That's how I was able to get away from it. Because had I not put myself there they couldn't do that stuff to me. A lot of people don't do that."
Joann: "I appreciate y'all, and I want to talk to your mom. I'll have a separate conversation with her so I can just be focused on her. Yoshi's gonna take some pictures."
Joann: "Before we stop, is there anything else y'all wanna share with me? Y'all have been ... Anything you thought that I was gonna ask you? Anything that we didn't cover?"
Truvoris: "Nah. I don't know, I guess just some anecdotal funny. I've been watching "The Nineties" on CNN for last few weeks. The summer that we were getting ready to go to trial, it was the same summer as the O.J. trial, and the same time that Bill and Hillary Clinton had coined the phrase "super prejudice." And to sit and look at that now knowing were we gone for most of that decade, it's a lot of nostalgia in that. You know what I mean? For us, more so than a lot of people, that was a pivotal decade. You know what I mean?"
"I don't know, you get a real picture of what you missed, just culturally, but you also get a picture of the fact that we played a huge part in what was going on during that decade. Which is weird. I thought about it last night when I was watching it."
Kevin: "I would like to say, in closing, to people listening, would you make the same decision if it was your child? You know the answer to that. So even thought it's not yours, it's somebody's. It's still a kid. So the same way you would fight for help for yours, it's still somebody's child. And I think that gets lost in the system. And this is somebody's child. It gets lost."
Joann: "Thank you."
Kevin: "Thank you. We got a whole lot more, but we ..."
Joann: "Gotta get back to work."
Kevin: "Oh yeah. I gotta go."
Joann: "You gotta get packing because you're going on a cruise tomorrow."
Kevin: "I got a lot to do. I gotta go buy this truck, I gotta three trucks to move."
Truvoris: "Wish I could join that one, but nah, can't help you."
Kevin: "That's some [inaudible 01:54:30] drivers, like hey, I told them I have something to do, but when it comes to this I'll stop what I'm doing, because I believe that God takes us through things for a reason. And it would be a waste-"
Joann: "Wait, wait, don't mess with that. I wanna hear what you're gonna say."
Kevin: "Oh, I'm still recording. Oh. It would be a waste for me to go through what I went through and not share it if it'll help somebody else, even if it's one other person. Just to help somebody else to know that you can make it, it's not all bad, just own up to it and just go. And there are people out here that will help you when they see you trying to help yourself. They will. That's why Randy always calls me, if it's speaking, whatever it is, she'll reach out to me, but she knows how hard I worked. She said, "Stand free." And being successful, we're in one of my, it didn't used to look like this, the young lady I had here before did all this crazy painting, but it was a great feeling when I bought my house. Like, "I own this house. Wow."
"It's a really good feeling. I see a different side of life now. I own a house, I have a passport, I have a business account, I have credit cards, I got business loans, I have real collateral. They ask me to put down, "Okay, this truck is worth this." I got this medical van, "Come do a medical transport as well," I got a medical van on the road. So I'm like, "I got people that work for me."
"So I'm seeing a different side of life where the possibilities are limitless. We only limit ourselves. And that's just something I'll share at any time, because it's doable. If we just believe in ourselves, it's doable. Again, the support makes a difference, it really does. Like I said, my mother was my everything. When you talk to her she's gonna give you an earful, from her side. And till this day she says I owe her $999,000. Number ain't changed. That's from all the years of money, visits, miles she put on her car coming to see me. But it's doable."
"He and I and a couple of others stay in touch. We're each other's encouragement. We're still here. A lot of people didn't make it, went back. We're almost accountable to each other. "You do something stupid, I'm gonna be mad." "Hold on, explain this to me, make me understand." And vice versa, so we kind of hold each other accountable. It's quite a few of us that, we don't talk every day, but we're a phone call away. And that support we have from each other is phenomenal. All of us have felonies, but we managed to get through. And those who, and I have to admit, those who didn't make the change I don't associate with, at all. I can't afford it. I got too much to lose. So if you're talking stupid, you stay over there."
"And it's only a handful of us. And it's like we're our own little group nobody knows about, we're just here, but we're happy to be free. I wish I could stop having those dreams though, I do. I literally, and I say this on record, I have to take sleeping pills sometimes to go to sleep. I feel like a junky. I probably take sleeping pills four days out of the week to sleep. If I try to sleep normally, I'm just gonna nap. And I wake up, and it'll be some crazy dream that I had. I don't know what it is. I went to the doctor for it, they claim it's the shift I work on. I said, "I've been having these dreams. It ain't no shift I'm working on." But it's just something I deal with."
"We don't have a V.A. to go to. All we got is each other. We have the same problem, how are we gonna help each other? I really wanna get rid of those, I'm tired of them. Seriously. It's bad. You try to take a nap, and it could be I'm at a different prison, and it could be just new stuff like just, "What?" Just crazy stuff. I'm okay when I don't wake up traumatized, because I know I hadn't done nothing, and I ain't gonna do nothing. But it's just having to live with it day in and day out, and I think that's something that's not told, people don't talk about that. But I know there's a lot of us who've been to prison who have those nightmares. It's something you carry with you, like a suitcase, like some luggage, it goes with you everywhere you go."
"We learn how to deal with it. And I can't say ... And I also think we struggle with relationships. Not really knowing ... I didn't have a father around. I believe that, since I've been out, I've struggled with relationships identifying what's good and what's bad, what's healthy. But we don't have anything to show us anything different, so you kinda just get into it and ride it, "That didn't work. Nope. Uh-uh." And you just go from situation to situation."
"And that's something else I think is very pivotal for us as we mature as adults, I believe in the successful union of a man and a woman, I do. But we struggle with it, just knowing how to even function in a relationship. Of course, I'm better now, but coming out ... And you still have those times where the female guards just talk to you crazy, you better not saying nothing out of the way."
Truvoris: "Now you tend to over respond in your own personal relationships."
Kevin: "Yeah, because you're gonna respect me, "Hold up now, it doesn't take all that." But not knowing any better and coming from such a volatile environment. But is say, even now, me and Omar talked about it. Omar just wrote a book. Randy knows Omar as well. Omar was an adult, he was about 19 when he went in, so she didn't include him in this segment. But he talks about it in his book, struggling with relationships. Of course, we get along fine, we was in prison together, so we kinda got a different understanding."
Truvoris: "It's almost like a fraternity."
Kevin: "Yeah. We understand each other. When he overreact, I understand. No big deal, he didn't mean no harm, he'll be all right. Just in other relationships, and now that I talk about it, everybody I associate with came from prison, now that I talk about it, yeah."
Truvoris: "I see a lot of times with relationships you'll jump to cut somebody off, you'll jump to close that door before they get a chance to do it, just subconsciously. You'll almost sever it just so you don't let somebody else have the opportunity to take something from you."
Kevin: "And that comes from being in prison and people walking off on you. I had a girlfriend when I went in and that was it. Once I left, like, "I ain't fooling with you."
Kevin: "Huh? Nah, Aisha."
Truvoris: "Aisha, yeah."
Kevin: "No, Toya was another one, a couple of them, I'll say. There's a couple of them. [inaudible 02:02:39] Toya, I remember Toya. But they stop writing. Our feelings get hurt. And not understanding they're free, they ain't got time to be writing nobody. And we carry it with us probably today, unconsciously. I'm gonna walk off on you before you do it to me."
Truvoris: "It's a lot. But that's why, like I said, the biggest thing is, for the ones that's in there, teach them some kind of life skills, because it's hard enough to deal with when they get there, it's even worse when they get out. For the ones that ain't there yet, try and figure a way to get to them. Try and figure out a way to reach them."
Kevin: "But I believe if you show a person ... If you take a person getting out today, if I could have them working in a week, and have them in a life skills class, have them in a coping class, work with them consistently I would say for at least six months. I believe they'd make better decisions, even in the workplace. That doesn't exist right now, but ... I'm speaking strictly for those who went in young like us, if that was something that was here, I think a lot more would stay free, make better decisions."
Truvoris: "Teach them something as simple as credit management."
Kevin: "Yeah, exactly. They don't know anything about credit. If you don't have credit right now you can't do nothing, nothing. Georgia Power will run your credit before. But these are things that aren't taught, basic life skills. I had to learn how to cook. My mom, she cooked, but I might want to do it my own. I know how to make prison food; take the soup, add water, smoosh it this way. We know how to do that, but you come out and you're just trying to survive, buying groceries. You should have saw my grocery basket when I first came home; bologna, bread, cheese, roman noodles."
Truvoris: "Raman noodles. Swiss rolls."
Kevin: "Swiss rolls, some honey buns, oatmeal pies. That's all we knew. And it went like that for a while. And then I graduated to frozen pizza. But, again, outside looking in, you look at us like, "[inaudible 02:05:16] crazy." That's all we knew. I really believe if that kind of help existed then it would really, really ... And I'm all for it, whatever I can contribute to help them, I'm always all for it. Because it's needed."
"If you look at the future, each generation is our future. And more and more are going to prison. More and more, even girls now. And that felony is one of the worst things you can have, because it's always used against you, always."
Joann: "How'd you meet Randy?"
Kevin: "I met Randy through Alisha, Alisha Thomas and [Morgan 02:06:07]. Alisha is, she was one of the youngest black state reps in Cobb County. I think she was, what, 19 or 20 when she got elected to office."
Truvoris: "She was 24."
Kevin: "She was 24? I thought she was young, fresh out of college. Yeah, she was 24, she was fresh out of Spelman College. And she worked with our parents on MAJJ. She worked closely with them. When I got out, Alisha had me do a lot of speaking engagements. And at one of them Randy was there, heard me speak and asked me to come to her class. And I came to her class, and from there the relationship flourished."
"At first, she had me come every quarter. As the years passed by I got busier and busier, I was doing more. To where, now, she may have to call me a month in advance, because I have a lot I'm doing, between working six days a week, managing these trucks. When I'm not at work, trying to get a little bit of sleep. The time is just not there. Which is fine with me, I'm making money."
"That's where the relationship flourished. She just ... And brought him to speak with me a couple times, that's how she met him. I'm proud of the few that she has on her list that he stayed out."
"That's how we met, through Alisha. Like I said, our parents did a lot, and met a lot of people in the political arena that were pivotal in our success, in terms of going through prison. Because that prison, the one I was at, I told you I was scared, I was only there six months. I called mama every day, "Get me out of here. Please, do something." My fear was more me doing something to somebody and getting more time."
"Well, I stayed there six months, then I got sent to a county camp. And that's where you go outside and you cut grass and whatnot. But she got me there. That was because she had called the guy over transfer. If she wasn't doing what she was doing and meeting the people she was meeting a lot of stuff that I experienced wouldn't have happened. I think about the guys who don't have that, they're just going to go through the hard part of the system."
"I went through the hard part but I was privileged to get to even [Clay 02:08:36] Transitioning Center, it was only two of us. I remember it was me and a white guy, Bobby. Both of us had armed robbery. And I knew, they didn't have to tell us, but I knew we were a test, because you weren't supposed to go to a transitional center without having parol options. If you didn't make parole, you can't go. So he and I went there. And he and I talked. And he said, "Man, they're testing us to see if we're gonna make it. If we don't make it then they ain't gonna let nobody else with armed robbery come here." And we made it through. And we kept in touch a couple years after we got out, but we were the only two there."
"And after that, they started allowing people with mandatory sentences to come. But at first you had a mandatory sentence, you could go to a transitional center, which is something that's needed. Because I had a whole nine months to work. I worked at McDonald's. So I had a whole nine months to work and get reacclimated and just be around people again, regular people."
"To me, it made a big difference. I had a chance to shave off that sitting in the back of the bus watching everybody. I had a chance to go to work everyday. For me, it makes a big difference coming out of transitional centers. Like I said, you had that time to reacclimate, and also, you don't come out broke. I came home with about $7,000. They charge you $90 a week for room and board, but they keep your money. So you can get your money, like if you need groceries or something, you can do a request for $50, $100, whatever, you get your money. But most of us come out with thousands of dollars. We worked nine months, even though it was at McDonald's, I had about $7,000 when I came home, so I was able to get a car. Those kind of options make a difference. Then you come home looking at your family's face, like, "I'm hungry." So I had a head start."
"It went fast though. That money went fast. But I did have that head start. When I got out I quit McDonald's that same day. I couldn't do it. I get it, they say, "Any job is better than no job." But $6 an hour just wasn't gonna cut it. I couldn't, nah. So I working at Embassy Suites after that. And then I ended up at Trojan, like I said, I've been there ever since."
"But that opportunity, it was easy for me to get the job at Embassy Suites, because I already had a job. And I had lined it up before I got out of half-way house. It's easy to get one when you got one, which I learned pretty early on."
"I ain't gonna hold you, because I can go on and on. We live it every day. Those 10 years, they don't just go away. They don't. But I'm glad to say we're here. Any questions you have before you go?"
Joann: "I'm good. I'm good. I've kept y'all long enough. I know your phone's been blowing up."
Kevin: "Yeah, but again, I'll put everything on hold, because this is something that is my passion. And I didn't go through it ... To me, not giving back, not sharing my story, is going through it in vain. So at least I can help somebody else. It'll help with what you all are doing or whoever. When people call me I'll come, I'll make the time. This stuff I can get to, it's not going anywhere. I feel like, also, that's where my blessings come from, too, taking the time to give back."
"Randy had me working one of her guys, trying to get him a job. I'll stop what I'm doing for that, when it comes to that. I think everybody ... Part of life is you have some kind of charity that you give. And this is mine, this is my charity. Even if it's just my time or whatever I have, I'm willing to give it anytime."
"Like is said, it's needed and people don't talk about it. But it's a lot of kids suffering, and I see it every day on the news. And I look at the news, I'm like, "Well, he'll be gone for about 20." "Yep, they gonna give him 30." I also have a mentor, Miss. Miller, who's an activity director at Marietta YDC. The last time I talked to one of her kids, they had gave him 160 years. They have a new thing, gang affiliation is now a mandatory 10 year sentence. So he had three counts of armed robbery, he was 15 years old, three counts of armed robbery, 13 counts of gang affiliation. Because you get a count for each person you're around. Oh yeah. So one, two, three [inaudible 02:13:48] in a gang, one count for each person. So he had 13 counts of that, three counts of armed robbery, they gave him 160 years."
"She put me on the phone with him. She was like, "Tell him it's real." He didn't believe, he's like, "Nah, man, I ain't doing all that time." "You will." And she'll call me and when some of them get ... I talked to one kid they gave 45 years to. So they haven't stopped giving that time out. They giving it. And again, nobody got killed. Somebody got robbed. And they'll give you a count. They give you a count for each person, each incident, that's how they do it. That's still happening. But again, that's another 15 year old that's thrown away, that's somebody's child. We know if it was ... I'm not saying you, but if it was your child, you're gonna fight tooth and nail, "Hold it, he needs help. We need to figure something out judge. Can he get some boot camp? Can we fix it? I'll punish him. Something."
"But they don't even allow parents to get involved like that, they don't. If that was an option, "Hey, okay, I'm gonna give him a chance. He comes back, he's done." Those options don't exist."
Joann: "Well, thank you."
Kevin: "Well, thank you."