Personal Page for Family and Friends
Who Is This Guy?
Hello, and welcome to the private page of my site! Here you'll find my unabridged biography (below), a photo gallery (to the right), and my private journal.
I bet you're wondering how much of Redemption Story is autobiographical-- how much of it is true. I get those questions a lot.
The key elements are autobiographical, but that just sort of happened after I decided why I wanted to write. My desire to write was stirred up by everything I was seeing in the world. The hungry nature of the prison system, the flood of young confused men coming to prison, and my realization of the pain their mothers were enduring on their behalf disturbed me. I started writing this book as a tribute to them. Many of them urban church woman like my mom, who undoubtedly pray daily for their arrant sons to turn their lives around.
I realized that what they needed to strengthen their souls was a vision of what that turnaround would look like to counteract all their fears that the turnaround wouldn't happen. And for the men themselves my vision of a turnaround could be their guidebook, written in the form of entertainment so it would be easy to digest.
I took details from my life, what I'd learned about universal themes, and my familiarity with the elements common to every turnaround, to write this story. Although I focus primarily on the themes and lessons, you still end up reading a lot about my life.
My story is a lot like Joseph's. Just like Joseph, when I was growing up, I was one of the boys everyone assumed would do alright.
My story started in April 1973 when I was born into a Belizean family that lived in the Jefferson Park community. When I was 10 months old they baptized me at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic church, located on Jefferson and Gramercy.
At age 5 they enrolled me in the parish school. School let out at 2:30. After school I walked or rode the bus up Jefferson to my grandma's house where I'd do homework, play outside, and then wait for my mom to come get me.
Around the 5th grade I started playing sports such as flag football and basketball for the school. For a while I took guitar lessons at a music school on Crenshaw by 55th, but I felt too self-conscious about riding the city bus with a large musical instrument, so I quit.
At age 13, I started playing little league football for the Culver City Lancers.
At age 14, I graduated from Holy Name of Jesus Elementary and applied for entrance into three LA-area Catholic high schools: St. Bernard's, Serra, and Loyola. I got accepted into all three. The school I favored was Serra because it was the popular choice of all my male classmates. The school my mom favored was the prestigious "St. Ignatius of Loyola College Preparatory School," known for its tough academics and high honor code. At that time its student body was still all boys. Guess where I was enrolled!
To get there everyday, I woke up around 6 and rode the city bus from the corner of MLK and Crenshaw, east to Normandie. Then I rode the Normandie bus north to Venice, where I got off and walked the rest of the way to school on foot.
During my 9th and 10th grade years at Loyola, I earned a 2.78 G.P.A., while playing football and running track. I adjusted to the tough academic requirements and got a long socially, but faced a tougher problem with my identity, I didn't feel like I belonged. I identified more with the poor public school kids I saw on the bus each morning, than with privileged mostly-white kids who came from surrounding suburbs to attend Loyola. Unfortunately I didn't have any insightful adult males in my life at the time to sense my teen crisis or counsel me through it.
After two years, those feelings would push me to leave Loyola and enroll in a public school.
I chose the King/Drew Medical Magnet High School in Watts, on 119th Street. There I had more of the high school experience that I felt like I had been missing. In short, I met lots of girls.
I did well academically and socially. I stayed there for a year and a half, until an argument with a teacher made me want to leave. That's when I enrolled in my local high school, back in the Crenshaw District.
While at Crenshaw High, I ran track and did well academically, but my focus was on what I could do socially. The scene there was exciting. I flirted with a lot of temptation, but fortunately the experience was short-lived. I graduated from Crenshaw High in May of 1991.
My graduation present was a summer vacation in Belize. For three months I stayed with different family members in my ancestral homeland. That was a time when I should have focused on doing some necessary critical thinking. I was 18 years old, straight out of high school, and I should have had the awareness to carefully plan my next steps.
When I got back to LA, an instinct told me to get back out. I sensed a danger I couldn't put into words. Basically, I knew I identified with the inner-city male stereotype and I knew that their statistics weren't good.
Instead of confronting my self-esteem and identity crisis (I did not have the tools or skills to do that), what I did was enlist in the Marines. *sigh.*
Running from one's issues is never the answer. I reported for boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. After graduating from boot camp I returned to Camp Pendleton for additional training. Halfway through that second level of training I started having problems. I had unrealistic expectations of the world, I was immature and needed to grow up. I thought everything should have been easier than it was. I had a difficult time learning how to deal with a bureaucracy. Instead of developing genuine mental toughness and inner strength that would have seen me through, I took the (youthful) easy way out. I quit.
After my discharge from military service, I returned to LA and enrolled at West LA Community College. I attended there for two semesters. Once again I did well academically and should have kept my focus on that, because I had a bright future ahead of me, but as youth often do, I took that future for granted.
The materialistic and fast-paced partying atmosphere of West LA attracted me. In order to keep up with it, I started selling marijuana to other college kids and occasionally loaned drugs to their drug dealers. For me, selling drugs was not a lifetime decision or a full-time vocation. I also held a part-time job, right up until one month before my arrest, working for the Pizza Hut on Leimert Blvd. and 11th Ave. (It's still there!)
I was a college kid dabbling in crime, naively believing that I had the situation under control. I thought that selling a so-called "soft drug" like marijuana, instead of hard drugs like crack cocaine, would limit my risk of getting caught up in that life.
I was wrong.
I learned the hard way that when you are engaged in an illegal activity, it opens the door for everything to go bad. It is incredibly easy for events to slip out of control, especially if you have a weapon and any of the people involved are acting under the influence of drugs. At that point, your intentions no longer matter. I did not want to hurt anybody, but it happened nonetheless. I got arrested for two attempted murders and for a murder I did not commit.
My arrest, trial, and conviction in 1993 took a huge toll on my family. My mother was crushed. This was something most of the people in my church and community would never predict. No one saw it coming.
I was in shock too. I had never even been to jail before, much less prison. Facing three life sentences, I lost my mind. I thought my whole life was over.
But in the winter of 2000 after almost seven years in prison, I woke up, God started speaking to me. I realized that if I was to have any hope, I needed to go back to being me: not the promising but naive college student, not the Marine recruit with potential, certainly not the faux-gangsta drug dealer, but the person God intended me to become. Someone genuine, open, humble, willing to learn and longing to grow according to His patterns, not anybody else's. That was the beginning of my path of healing and spiritual discovery.
Along this path I have faced many challenges, but at each step, a power greater than myself has assisted me. I have met remarkable people and been given remarkable books, all of which continually enrich me.
I am still in prison, but I am at a stage in my life where transformation is happening and I want to share it with everybody. I have a vision and my method of sharing it is through writing books that show other prodigal sons like myself how to reach for possibilities. The books I have written so far are just the beginning. I aim to make a difference in society.
Please help me get my message heard. My book is available right now. Please support it through word of mouth and social media.
Thank you and God Bless!
You can write to me directly at:
Paul Pommells, CDCR# J34848
California Men’s Colony State Prison
PO Box 8103
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8103
Please do not mail any packages, just a card or a letter would be great. Any enclosed items probably won't reach me, so don't send anything except your own words and any photocopied articles or studies that you want me to read.
You can interact with me privately via my personal journal, here. Or you can interact with me publicly by joining the discussion on my blog. Yes, it's a slower blog than some; I write my blog posts with pen and paper and mail them to my webmaster, who posts them for me and sends me your comments once a week by mail. As mail can take five to seven days to reach me, and another four or five days for my reply to get from me to my webmaster, please allow a couple of weeks for my reply to your comments... more than that if my reply requires a lot of thought or research. But if you are patient, I love tough questions. Those are the best ones to ask, and the ones most worth striving for an answer.
Let's strive to answer these tough issues together.
Paul's Personal Journal: click here.
Personal Photos & Glimpses of my Life