“To the state of California, Antonio Cruz is a murderer, permanently defined by the night in 1997 when he took a rival gang member’s life.
Back then, Cruz was a wiry 16-year-old growing up in South Central Los Angeles. Now 38, he spent an October afternoon seated in a ring of blue plastic chairs assembled in a sterile family visitation room inside Centinela State Prison, a high-security facility that sprawls across 2,000 acres of scorched desert in California’s Imperial Valley. Like many of the men in the circle, Cruz has been sentenced to life. The group had gathered to talk about who they were when they committed the crimes that landed them in prison—and how they’ve changed since.”