Anthony Bell, the fierce-looking armed robber, has been released after serving seven years of his 12-year sentence and is living at Vista Ranch. "I figure," he says, "that I ain't gonna make it back in L.A. Here I'll have a job trimming trees in San Diego when I get out, [counselor] Billy Barnes got it for me. But he's expecting a lot out of me in return."
Kerry Woods, on the other hand, is more certain about "walking with the Lord." Released from prison last April after doing four and a half years for his botched early-morning robbery, he attends a church-sponsored 12-step program, lives with his wife and 15-year-old daughter, has a steady job, owns a 1990 Volkswagen, and has credit for the first time in his life. Amity remains an important turning point, he says. It taught him "the mechanics of relapse and recovery" and why he had remained "stuck all my life."
Ricardo Hinojosa has gone from being a shining example to a cautionary one. In April of '98, he was sitting on Vista's couch, on top of the world, laying out his future. By June he was back shooting heroin. Today, some of his vitality and self-assurance are gone but he is once again optimistic.
Hinojosa attributes his relapse to previously undiagnosed manic depression. He'd been keeping a killing schedule, attending his community-college classes full time, working full time and doing part-time volunteer work at a clinic. That was the manic part. At other times he'd lie in bed, so depressed he was unable to move. A doctor placed him on lithium and Paxil, but he stopped taking them when they interfered with his sexual performance. And that was when he began shooting up again, and wound up in a psychiatric jail ward. Now, he's back in a therapeutic community -- one that uses a "Christian social model" and that will, he hopes, help take him on a "spiritual journey." He graduated from community college last week.
"Amity helped me, but something is missing," says Hinojosa of the program that got him so far but couldn't get him all the way. "I still have this emptiness." He's learned not to look for euphoria. But, like so many others, he's still out searching for the strength.