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Did Lovelle Mixon Get Any Respect?

New America Media, Commentary, Gary R. Ryan Posted: Mar 26, 2009

Editors Note: The story of Lovelle Mixon and his murderous rampage highlights the problems many parolees face trying to transition to life outside prison. It is often a matter of getting some respect, says former inmate Gary R. Ryan. Ryan, author of Blessings in Disguise , was born and raised in Minnesota. After overcoming a battle with substance abuse, he successfully completed a two-year academic program at Camarillo State Mental Hospital and worked at an Acute Psychotic Intervention facility for adolescents.

Lovelle Mixon, the 26-year-old Oakland resident, wanted for failure to appear at a mandatory parole meeting, was killed in a gun battle that also left four police officers dead. My heart aches for these fine young men. This is a horrible tragedy that, if my assessment is correct, could have been prevented. Mr. Mixon had a criminal record and had recently served nine months for identity theft and forgery, so he was no stranger to the system. But heres a guy, a nice looking young man, caught up in illegal activities: (past conviction of marijuana possession, auto theft) and goes to prison for forgery and nine months later comes out a killer.

How in the hell did that happen?

Let me tell you, this happens more often than you know. The skills for survival in prison do not work well on the streets but its hard and sometimes impossible to leave those skills behind when you get out. You see the prison system is set up to conquer you, to render you completely impotent and harmless to society. It fails miserably, of course, because nobody of any consequence is going to allow himself to be conquered. They may pretend to be harmless in order to get out, but it is just an act. Inside, they are seething, angry, and vicious. Its that viciousness that enabled them to survive. You need to be willing to kill or be killed in order to protect your honor in prison because it isnt just the authorities that want to conquer you. There are those among your fellow inmates who would like to punk you out, make you their bitch, especially if you are as pretty as Lovelle Mixon used to be. And I can tell by looking at Lovelle Mixons police photo that he was not about to be anybodys punk. He would demand that you respect him or pay the consequences, and that means he was willing to kill you or die in the process if you should ever disrespect him.

I dont know, but I suspect the dispute with the parole officer that, according to his grandmother, Mr. Mixon was depressed about, had something to do with respect issues. There are certain guys caught up in the correctional system that just seem to piss the authorities off. I was one of those guys. Im guessing it had something to do with the way I looked, the clothes I wore, the way I walked, the way I talked.

You might say I had a bad attitude, at least so far as the police and the parole people were concerned. I could get stopped for walking down the street. Ive lost track of how many times Ive been arrested. Once a cop wanted to question me about a burglary that had occurred in the vicinity and he arrested me because, while I was questioning him, he put on his con face, was the way he described it in court. The way I remember it, I simply decided to stop answering his questions and look as innocent as possible. The jury found me not guilty, but it was a night in jail before getting bailed out, lawyer expenses, and several months of extreme anxiety while awaiting trial. That was punishment enough even though I didnt get convicted. And I was even more pissed off, if that was possible.

Ive been lucky because I finally got over it and became a contributing member of society. Mr. Lovelle Mixon? Not so lucky.

It shouldnt have to depend on luck. How hard can it be to understand that most convicts have this sensitivity for respect and that it carries on, even after parole? Its tough enough trying to make it on parole without having a parole officer that doesnt like your attitude. Would it kill them to have a little understanding? What is it with the need to subjugate those youre in charge of? It would make a tremendous difference in the life of a parolee to have someone to confide in, someone who cares if you make it, who will go to bat for you when you need help. This would have to be someone who knows what youre dealing with, because in order to be heard by those who suffer, you must speak their language.

Something is drastically wrong with our system. Over 70 percent of the parolees in the State of California return to prison within three years. It seems like the prison system, as it presently functions, is a very expensive way to make bad people worse.

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