Inmates at San Quentin prison open up about what it feels like to murder someone

'Hurt people hurt people is not a new concept', said one prisoner at the notorious Californian jail

Hardeep Matharu
Friday 16 October 2015 13:17
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An inmate at San Quentin watches a prison performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
An inmate at San Quentin watches a prison performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Inmates at one of America’s most notorious prisons have spoken of what it feels like to murder someone.

Murderers incarcerated at the infamous San Quentin jail in California shared their reflections on their crimes as part of The Last Mile, a rehabilitative programme enabling some of its inmates to blog and communicate on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Although they do not have direct online access, the prisoners’ thoughts, ideas and discussions are uploaded by volunteers.

Taking to question-and-answer website Quora, three current San Quentin inmates gave frank responses when asked ‘what does it feel like to murder someone?’.

Tommy Winfrey found himself in the prison after murdering a man as a 19-year-old drug dealer.

He said the enquiry was the “most personal question I think I could ever answer”.

“I felt immense peer pressure to go through with the murder… I realise now I was in a very bad place in life,” he said.

“I felt worthless and unworthy of love so in return I placed little value on my life or on the life of anyone else.

“I felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I pulled the trigger.”

He said that, now he had come to terms with the personal issues which led him to committing the crime, he felt “immense sorrow”, guilt and shame.

“Admitting to myself I was feeling scared, lonely, unworthy of love and respect was just too hard... by admitting these feelings I would also have to come to grips with what I really did, and how I affected the world… I am finally there over 15 years later.”

San Quentin Prison in California

David Monroe, a friend of Winfrey’s in San Quentin, also laid out his thoughts on the question.

Having killed as a 15-year-old gang member, he said: “The truth is that people murder other people because they are hurt inside and are struggling to deal with their emotions maturely.

“The term ‘hurt people hurt people’ is not a new concept.”

He said his parents had both been alcoholics and that his father later walked out and left the family. He said his stepfather took drugs and abused him and his mother, while his older brother was imprisoned for murder, and his younger brother died at the hands of a drunk driver.

Monroe said the question was a complex one involving “raw truth”.

“I did what most people do and bottled everything up and buried it deep down inside... Through violence I was able to relieve myself of pain by inflicting it onto others… Murdering someone was the ultimate release.

“This is the truth about what it feels like to murder someone. It is the ultimate way to deal with your problems irresponsibly.”

For Larry Histon, the question was “nebulous”.

“I believe that the emotional response would range from emptiness to tremendous regret.

“I believe this to be true whether or not this question is targeted to physical, intellectual or emotional destruction of other human beings. For example, if you are a malicious person and envious of another, you can essentially murder or destroy a person you consider your adversary by the words you speak out of your mouth.”

San Quentin opened in 1852 and is the oldest prison in California. It houses, among others, all of the state's male inmates who are on death row.

The Last Mile programme was launched at the prison in 2010.

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