‘I truly believe I was locked up before I ever experienced a prison cell’
After 25 years in and out of prison, Adam Verdoux, 42, is preparing to parole for the fourth time. But this time will be different, he said.
First incarcerated when he was 17, Verdoux has served time in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina before he migrated to California, where he robbed a bank in San Francisco, leading to his most recent conviction.
He has taken a more proactive approach to this parole.
Already, he has set up an internship with the violence prevention program Man-Alive, which he became involved with in jail. He plans to continue his education with support from Project Rebound, which will help him to obtain a masters degree in social work from San Francisco State University.
The path to an internship and graduate school was hardly a straight one.
Verdoux said he grew up surrounded by violence. At the age of 8, he attacked his stepfather when he saw him beating his mother. From that moment on, fighting became a way of life.
He dropped out of high school at the age of 15. By 17, he was incarcerated.
“I truly believe I was locked up before I ever experienced a prison cell,” Verdoux said.
In the county jail, Verdoux began to seek help. He tried to get into a drug program, but he was rejected because of his violent history. Verdoux scoffed at this news because he did not believe he had a problem with violence. But the program coordinator reminded him that he was locked in administrative segregation for fighting.
He was, however, accepted into Man-Alive, the violence prevention program where he is interning after his release.
“The Man-Alive program changed my life,” he said.
The program helped him realize that he was not born violent, but the violence was a learned behavior. He stayed in the Man-Alive program for two years until he was sent to prison.
He arrived at the San Quentin reception center in March 2010 and was sent to the mainline in June of the same year.
Verdoux took all the skills he had learned in the county jail and applied them to his life in prison. He enrolled in self-help programs and the Prison University Program, which were instrumental in validating the things he learned through the violence prevention program.
He said academia — classes like sociology, social psychology and neuroscience — allowed him to examine objectively the cycle of violence that he had been immersed in his whole life.
Verdoux said he knows that if he had not been raised in a violent home, his life might have been different. But his first memories are of crying, arguing and violence, so that is how he adapted to the world.
“A child must be taught a moral education,” he said, quoting Aristotle.
Now, he is using his fighting spirit to obtain positive change in his life. The fear of the unknown makes stepping out of prison scarier this time, he said, because he will be living life in a different way.
But Verdoux believes the transformation he underwent during his incarceration has brought the freedom he had been missing his whole life.