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A Blog by Tony Hicks

Meet Tony

In 1990, Tony Hicks came to live with his grandfather after a young life overexposed to violence, gangs, abuse, rejection, and rage. Ples was a role model, boundary, and passionate grandfather to Tony but the teenage years were difficult.  One afternoon in January 1995 Tony ran away from home to be with the wrong crowd. That night, after a day of drinking and drugs, Tony became part of a pizza delivery robbery. He was given a loaded handgun and told to shoot the driver who had refused to give up the pizzas.

Tony murdered twenty-year- old Tariq Khamisa, an innocent young man working his way through college.  At the age of fourteen, Tony became the youngest juvenile in California to be charged and convicted as an adult.  He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  Tony’s first parole hearing is scheduled for 2018.

Second Chances

I was released from prison on April 9, 2019. I didn’t sleep well the night before. I had been overly excited about the possibility of being free, leaving behind an environment that l had spent most of my life in. I was also a little afraid that it wouldn’t happen, that even though I had signed all of the proper paper work, spoken to the necessary people and even mailed home the little bit of personal property that I hadn’t already given away, I still would not get out. The surrealness of it all was a little overwhelming and like any dream I felt like I would wake up at any moment.

Even while I was being escorted by a Correctional Officer to R&R (Receiving & Release) I was still uncertain. It wasn’t until I walked out of the front doors of that prison and got into my grandfathers’ car where my mother was sitting waiting in the back seat that I could breathe out all the anxiety and doubt that I had about my freedom.
My transition since then has not been an easy one, but I never thought it would. I think that’s the mistake some in my situation have made before; coming out of prison assuming that the hard part was over and everything would now begin to just fall into place from here on out and when there are obstacles or long periods of time when things are not going “right” the pressure and frustration is all they can see. I’ve had to temper my expectations by a lot while rediscovering the world. Trying to find work and being turned away, adjusting to the fear of learning how to drive a car, reconnecting with family with distance between us. But I am one of the fortunate ones though. I have an amazing support system that has made my adjustment easier than most. I was able to find work after two months obtain my drivers permit shortly after and will hopefully be getting my drivers license soon. And I am grateful and excited for all those things because they are visible signs of my progress for me. Something that I can look back on and smile at when an obstacle comes into view as they always will.

There is no red carpet rolled out for those of us getting out of prison and looking to rejoin society. We must seek out resources and take advantage of them to the best of our ability. That’s what I see as my responsibility at this moment; being an active participant in my successful reintegration into society. The few obstacles that I have faced so far and whatever ones lay ahead of me are, I feel, a small price that I have to pay to be back among the world with an opportunity to help make it better in some small way and continue to better myself. And again I am grateful for that.

From Tony – Gratitude

Greetings to all. I wanted to take the time to speak to my experience recently. I was extraordinarily fortunate to be granted suitability at my first parole hearing on November 28th.

I, of course, am grateful to be given a second chance at freedom and a chance to continue to atone for all of the damage I’ve done to the lives of the Khamisa family, as well as, so many others; never forgetting or shying away from the fact that where I was eventually allowed a second chance at life I denied Tariq that very same thing 24 years ago.

I will forever carry a great amount of shame and guilt for murdering Tariq, as well as for the mind state that I held onto long after that night. But where my immaturity caused me to run away from the shame and guilt of my actions, I am now motivated by the knowledge of the pain that I’ve caused and a sense of responsibility to make amends to those I’ve hurt and attempt to atone for the life I’ve taken.

I’ve been very fortunate that I have had support throughout my incarceration of my grandfather, Ples Felix, Azim and Tasreen Khamisa, as well as numerous members of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation who saw fit to visit me, write me or accept my phone calls from prison over the years providing me with hope, inspiration and words of encouragement as I struggled to grow up in this environment and cultivate maturity needed to make necessary changes in myself and reconcile the things I’ve done with the person that I am today and strive to be moving forward.

I understand how much of a blessing it is to have “support” in your life and I can speak directly to how the support I received, at times when I did not feel like I deserved it at all, kept me from slipping into the abyss of apathy and negativity that prison can be and from completely losing myself to my shame and anger or being swallowed up by my environment.

I would like to thank everyone that has helped me in every way great and small. The time you invested in me provided me with pieces to the puzzle that I was and helped me to slowly acquire the courage to gain insight into myself. I also want to thank everyone that sent a support letter to the board on my behalf. It was overwhelming to hear the numerous names of people, more names than I can list here, being read off in the room.

I can’t thank you all enough for expressing your faith in me and my ability to grow and change throughout this experience, as well as, your faith in restorative justice which is at the center of Tariq’s and my story. I hope to be able to thank you all in person one day but for now I hope these few words will do, thank you.

 

Sincerely,

Tony

Questions From Students

How has prison changed you over the years?

Prison helped me to understand things about myself that I, for a very long time, was unaware of. It highlighted qualities that I thought were strengths (especially in a world like this) Anger, Aggression, Displays of Disrespect, challenged them and exposed them as weaknesses and insecurities showing me the strength in qualities that I assumed were weak like: Humility, Patience and Gratitude( to name a few). Of course my change was gradual. First, I had to become aware of the things about myself that I needed to change which wasn’t easy in here because negative behavior was praised and validated by other prisoners and in my insecurity I valued that acknowledgement and acceptance; it gave me a sense of identity and purpose that I lacked, as well as, a false sense of power and control in my life.

Thankfully I had people in my life that loved and supported me through my insecurities pass my mistakes and lack of courage who consistently fought through the noise of prison to encourage me to  push  pass  my  limitations(this  environment.)   More than anything I give them credit for my change. What prison provided me was the space and time I required to think and really dig into Tony, who I really was and what kind of person did I want to be, which wasn’t a small thing for me; the actual changes themselves had to come from within myself. After that it was just a long process of building and rebuilding me from the inside out stumbling at times (which I did often at first) but not giving up on the person I wanted to become( the person that I am today); a calm, humble, patient, gracious, compassionate, understanding and forgiving human being.