Citizen Robert

By: bmshep

Apr 20 2010

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Male Citizens

1 Comment

Focal Length:38mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:FinePix S5Pro

This is Robert. I’ve seen Robert around downtown with his dog Sharkie, usually at a corner asking for help with his sign, but sometimes just playing with his dog. Tonight I saw him doing both outside of Safeway on 19th.  As we talked, a well-dressed woman of about 50 left the store and dropped a bag of dog food with him, another man gave him a banana, and yet another gave him some cash, saying “Go ahead and buy whatever your going to buy, have a drink.” “Oh, I’ve got my drink!” Robert replied. Robert is a Sac native, and he and Sharkie and another friend are hanging on to a two bedroom apartment with the help of GA and whatever he can scrounge together. His last job was as a sign waiver, but he doesn’t really consider that a job, and the situation he is in now seems light to the more than half of his life spent in gangs and in prison. Robert belonged to the ‘Northern Family’ and spent stretches of time in San Quentin, Folsom, and Pelican Bay for burglary, assault, and finally a 7 year stay for armed robbery. He’s just trying to fit in somehow, but he gets edgy around people and finds it hard to maintain a job. Prison ruined him for that, he says. He has family in Sacramento that would have him if he quit drinking and slamming, but he doesn’t quit, so he stays on his own. Still, he thinks his present is better than his past, so he keeps going. Robert is 49.

Favorite Accomplishments: Working construction in the ROP program when I was a kid. I was good at it, I was putting up walls and doing the big jobs.

Regrets: Having spent half my life in prison.

What are your passions and obsessions? I like to work warehouse jobs. Loading and unloading, shipping and receiving. Just working!

In all of the time you spent in prison, did you ever feel any positive influences? Only from my bros, not from anyone else. There was no rehab in prison for me, just sitting around wasting time.

Sound Off! I’m just trying to blend in with society.

The fact that the one thing Robert was excited about in our conversation stems from an organization that helps people, ROP, makes me wonder how Roberts life could have been affected if other people had taken an interest in him, especially while he was in prison. Did Robert ever have a chance to become anything else after that point? Eventually prison broke him and he quit gang life, but what else was left for him then? Changed but not helped, set free just to be blocked in again. Does it matter? Does it make you feel better to look at a poor, inked up Mexican and dismiss him as a lost cause, without thinking of the life he could have had? Can you see him as an 8 year old boy with his whole life ahead of him?


One comment on “Citizen Robert”

  1. This is so sad, but Robert still has a chance with his family if he agrees to stop self distructive behavior. Life really is all about choices and where they lead you.

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