By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
To dismiss him and Moore as pathological deviants is to miss the point. All their lives, in fact, they've been overachievers, but in the world of gangbanging. Crossley's mother died of cancer, and he never really knew his father. Moore's father deserted him as well -- when he was 3. He was raised on welfare by a crack-addicted mother who had no time for him. What they needed, they both got from the gang.
Now, as Crossley tells it, he's "got a new family" -- Amity. "I used to call Amity people faggots and punks," he says, "but now those same people are there for me, helping me out, giving me pull-ups. I don't go to the yard anymore, there's nothing there but negativity. I'm paroling out in 60 days. Without Amity I'd just be getting out with the same old plans, doing the same old things and throwing my life away."
TO HELP PAROLEES LIKE CROSSLEY EASE into the outside world and stay there, Amity's program includes a post-prison halfway house called Vista. It's a crucial transitional steppingstone -- prisoners who go through a halfway-house experience after a prison program like Amity are far less likely to re-offend than those who don't. About one-third of Amity inmates go on to Vista, a 40-member residential community living in a 10-room Spanish Colonial mansion set in a wooded campus in northern San Diego County. Seated on an oversize circular couch in the mansion's rustic, high-beamed rec room on a spring day in 1998, is one of Amity's, and Vista's, success stories: Ricardo Hinojosa. Hinojosa's white teeth and thick, slicked-back hair belie his 40 years. Only the prison tattoos that cover almost every inch of his bare arms indicate his decades of doing time.
Hinojosa was raised in one of the toughest gang-plagued, drug-infested areas of San Diego. When he was 5, his mother abandoned him and her four other children. At 13, he went to jail for smashing an uncle with a baseball bat. He started sniffing spray paint, and at 16 -- after chasing a woman down a busy ã street brandishing a samurai sword and with silver paint splattered all over him -- Hinojosa wound up interned in a mental hospital. Finally, when he was 20, his sister, a dissipated longtime dope fiend, turned him on to heroin, and for the next 16 years heroin was his life. To the dealing and PCP manufacturing he'd already been into, he added robberies, burglaries and purse snatchings to support his habit. Whenever he was released from prison, the first thing he'd do -- even before visiting his kids or girlfriend -- was score some drugs.
During his third prison term, Hinojosa joined Amity. About two months into the program, the grandmother who'd raised him died, and Hinojosa took it hard. He received powerful support from his Amity community, from men demanding nothing in return -- no drugs, no money, no one asking him to fuck someone up in the yard. And that was his turning point. After 19 months of treatment, Hinojosa was paroled and entered Vista, where he encountered similar support. As he sits on the rec-room couch and walks Vista's grounds that spring day of 1998, he reflects on the landmarks of his success: He has married a public school teacher and is working in a detox center. He's enrolled in a local community college, where he's majoring in behavioral science. He's remained clean for three years. He's no longer on parole. But his achievements hide the unending difficulties that Hinojosa, like all Amity's participants, faces daily.
THE DIFFICULTIES WERE ON AMPLE display when L.A. Weeklycaught up with veterans of the Amity program some months after they initially talked to the paper. Charles Crossley had paroled out of Donovan and entered Vista in the summer of '98. Then he made a young peacock's mistake and, against Amity rules, bought a car -- "a lowrider," says a parole officer, "that just set him up to be stopped and searched." Crossley left the program, quit reporting to his parole officer, and last August was sent back to Donovan. No longer part of Amity's therapeutic community, Crossley is back in the yard, hanging with his homies. Monte Moore, on the other hand, is making good progress. He'll face the acid test his friend Charles failed when he's paroled and enters Vista.
Randy Journey, the lifelong junkie with the wistful eyes, returned to Imperial County where he lived for a time in a trailer owned by his father. After a parole violation for theft, however, he was sent back to Donovan. He is scheduled for release in the summer.
Mark Dumas, who learned his brother was wanted from a TV show, has also had his problems. He was offered some reefer out in the yard, and took it, and got caught. His punishment was suspension from the Amity program for two months, an additional five-month sentence, and loss of all privileges for 90 days.
He'd been caught short before -- with marijuana, with a shank (a prison-made knife) and during the brewing of some inmate-concocted wine -- and as a result, he was forced to serve every day of his five-year, 10-month sentence. Finally, last November, he was released, and is living with his family. He vows not to spend the rest of his life back in the yard. His goal is to become an Amity counselor.