James Aaron Dyson


In the throes of rage, sorrow, and youthful ignorance, I took the law into my own hands; I shot a man after he was released on bail following his arrest for the murder of my childhood friend, Omar P. Alavarado, behind a dispute over the affection of a young girl. As a seventeen year old kid, I was charged and convicted of engaging in organized crime and was sentenced to fifty years in prison. Several months thereafter, Omar’s killer was convicted of his murder and was sentenced to thirty years.

Yes, you read that correctly. Omar’s killer was sentenced to thirty years for killing him, and I was sentenced to fifty years for shooting him for killing Omar. I cannot defend my act of of vengeance but even so, it is hard to fathom the injustice of these two sentences.

It is said that justice is served fairly by a jury of one’s peers. Whose peers? By whose evaluation? I myself was a kid whose life rested in the hands of twelve adults. Regrettably for me, they were twelve adults who possessed no expertise in child psychology, or were they even instructed to tak my age and diminished capacity into account. Clearly, they were no peers of my own.

Upon arriving in to the Texas prison system, I was given an educational assessment test, which determined that I possessed a sixth grade education.  It is pretty embarrassing to admit, but I could hardly read, write, or spell. For the life of me, I could not understand any of the proceeding of y trial and my attorney afforded no explanations. Why bother explaining something to a kid who was clearly too young to comprehend such methodology.

Two decades ago, I stepped off of a prison bus at the back gate of Ferguson Unit, arguably the worst prison in Texas, and infamously known as the Gladiator Farm. Shortly after arriving, I discovered that I was the second youngest in mate in the entire prison.

Imagine a kid being yanked from a loving home; stripped of everything and then tossed into the pit of hell and you will have taken a glimpse of how my youth unfolded. Needless to say, those early years were difficult for me, but in those years of tragedies and tribulations, I found growth beyond explanation.

He who his brave enough to peer into the darkness in search of goodness will be the first to see a flicker of light.

Being shackled the majority of my life has opened me up to a perspective about life that very few who have not walked in my shoes can or ever will understand. It has pushed me toward a deeper understanding about the preciousness of life and love and has taught me my own worth with amazing clarity. When you find yourself staving for something, you learn the extra ordinary value of it: self-worth, the desire to love, the yearning to be loved, freedom, and life…It is said that nothing easily gained is worth any real value. I must confess what I have gained in my heart and mind is worth more to me than an elephant’s weight in gold.

Since the years of impetuous immaturity have faded away, I have often found myself contemplating the thoughtless decision I mad at that young age and how it not only changed the course of my life, but also altered the lives of all of the people who love me. The thought seems to always linger of where we would all be in life had I not taken the law into my own hands. Would those who love me have been proud of the man I would have become? Would I have found n amazing wife to love? Would I have been blessed with children? Would I have had something greater to live for? Though there is certainty in nothing in life, the possibilities are endless of what might have been.

As my incarceration creeps towards the quarter of a century required of me, I think about how far I have come in my life despite the enormous odds stacked against me in a system designed for one to fail. My spiritual love for Christ, and the character in created within me. The college education I obtained as I fought through learning disabilities. A wonderful discover and love I have fond in literature. Because of the hard road I have traveled, I have found a passion and deep desire to education our youth so that they will not fall into the same mistakes and be forced to endure the horrors so many of us have had to accept as life. So much of my life was lived in darkness because of my environment, but through maturation and a yearning for something better, I found the courage to peer into the darkness and it was then that I found the flickering light of hope. A hope for a future…a hope for an opportunity at redemption…A hope to show that I am not a bad person, but a person who just made a bad decision.