I was a gangbanger growing up on the mean streets of South-Central L.A., a tough dude you didn’t want to mess with. If you strayed onto my turf, there were consequences—usually fatal.
The cops caught up with me, and looking back, having ‘cuffs slapped on my wrists probably saved my life. When it was all over, I got tagged with a 12-year, eight-month prison term for second-degree murder and 52 counts of armed robbery. I actually breathed a sigh of relief that those were the only charges the LAPD could pin on me.
I ended up in solitary confinement inside a California lockup that housed the worst of the worst—New Folsom State Prison. My 80-square-foot cell came with a single bed and a toilet. Since I had no windows and no daylight, my cell was dimly illuminated by a heavy Plexiglas light that couldn’t be turned off, which meant that I had trouble distinguishing whether it was day or night. There was no TV, no radio, and certainly no computer. And no books because I was denied this privilege. Add this all up, and I had literally nothing to do for 23 hours a day. Talk about sensory deprivation.
No wonder guys went nuts. The prisoner next door, called Piggy, was convinced that he had a bunch of ducks in his cell, which was comical and extremely sad. Whenever he left his cell for exercise or a shower, I listened to his interaction with the guard.
“I’m not going anywhere until I have all my ducks,” he’d say.
“Piggy, you ain’t got no ducks,” the guard would reply. “Get a move on.”
And around and around it would go.
It was in this crazy environment that I experienced Jesus Christ in an amazing way. Shortly after I gave my life to Christ, I was transferred into “mainline”—the general prison population. God had a plan for me there as well. I participated in several Bible studies and a weekly chapel, but the persecution was heavy. I was the frequent recipient of “hard candy”—prison slang for a severe beating—that often landed me in the infirmary. I don’t know how I survived the stompings or wasn’t killed with a prison shank.
By God’s grace, I was miraculously paroled, which leads to a story that I love sharing. On the day I was released from prison, I passed through the last checkpoint and breathed in the air of freedom. In my arms was a box with all my belongings, including two Spanish-language Bibles. Suddenly, a man in a dark business suit and sunglasses stepped toward me.
“Darwin Diaz?” he asked, using my formal name.
“Please turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
My stomach dropped. I didn’t know what this was about. Could it be another crime that I had long forgotten about and now I had to do the time in a federal prison? I didn’t know.
The agent handcuffed me and put chains around my waist. Then he walked me over to the van.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Who are you?”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Casey Diaz