In this episode, Romando discusses what it means to be somebody, inside and outside the walls. He advises those coming home and their families to communicate clearly about their needs. He tells us the story of his arrest as a veteran suffering from PTSD, and his decision to cut off his addictions while incarcerated. Maltreatment in the prison has caused Romando partial blindness since coming home, but he talks about leaning on his newfound faith in Islam to find community and hope.
My name is Romando el Valeroso the Third. I am 74 years of age.
I graduated from high school in 1962 and enlisted in the United States military the following week. I spent 6 1/2 years in the military serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. Upon my return and relief from Vietnam and the military, I moved from New York to Detroit where I was sent to prison. I was recently released from the Michigan Department of Corrections after having served 45 years of a second-degree life sentence that was imposed on me in 1973.
I found myself coming into a society, into a community, that had passed by me completely. It took a lot of hard work and is still taking lot of hard work. Not to catch up, but to adapt. I continued my education and I was able to receive a bachelor's degree in 1997. I love painting, I like playing chess, I love reading, I love being around people, and I love trying to do things to reach out to help others.
My main goal is to be an advocate for those who are unable to speak out, for those who are still incarcerated. It is very important for society, for the community, to actually know how prisoners react, what a prisoner needs, what they want when they’re released from prison. Someone has to be willing to step up and say, we are willing to give this person a chance, we are willing to give this person an opportunity to prove that he or she didn’t become a statistic. Prisoners are people who laugh, who cry. Who have dreams and needs just like anyone else.
I am not a monster. I am a person that is going to be treated as a citizen, as a person who is trying to do right. To be a voice among many voices speaking out for those who are cannot speak for themselves.