Michael Taylor's Story - 60 Years to Life

Michael Taylor.JPG

“My brother-in-law Michael Taylor has been incarcerated for as long as my husband - his brother Richard - and I have been married. That is 34 years. He battled drug addiction as a young man, and some possession related offenses before robbing a fast food place by placing his hand in his shirt to simulate a gun and demanding money from the cashier. He got away with less than $150 but was put away for 60 years to life (with no possibility of parole).”

-Lynne Taylor, Temecula

Michael has filed an application with Governor Jerry Brown for commutation of his sentence. We are posting an excerpt with permission.

“‘Q: Briefly describe the circumstances of the crime for which the commutation is requested’:

"On March 14, 1994, I walked into a McDonald’s restaurant and asked the cashier for a cup of water.

When she turned to get the cup of water, I stuck my hand under my shirt (simulating a gun or weapon) and told her to give me the money out of the cash register. She refused, and I left.

Immediately, I went next door to El Tapatio Taco, a fast-food restaurant, and asked for a cup of water. I offered the cashier $.15 and asked if it would be enough to pay for it. She said “yes”, and when she picked up the coins, I stuck my hand in my jacket (again simulating a gun or weapon) and told her to give me the money. She complied. I left with approximately $130. Within fifteen to twenty minutes I was stopped by the police, detained for a field-identification by the victims, and arrested.

On August 10, 1994, I was convicted of PC section 211 / 2nd degree robbery; and PC section 664-211 / attempted 2nd degree robbery, in the Pomona Superior Court, County of Los Angeles. I was sentenced to 25 years to life for each separate counter under the “three-strikes” law. In addition, I was also given two 5-year enhancements for prior felony convictions (A751243 / 1984 and #A737011 / 1988). My total term is 60 years to life. Ironically, I was arrested for these crimes one week after the “three strikes law” was voted into effect. All the crime(s) I committed (current and prior) are the result of my substance abuse addiction.”

Q: ‘Why are you requesting this commutation’:

"On March 14th of this year I completed 24 years of continuous incarceration. As I stated earlier, I was arrested one week after this law went into effect. I am one of the very first to be sentenced under its full weight. My term is 60 years to life.

Still, I began this journey toward better because I desperately needed it. I wanted it. I became a Christian in this nearly quarter century of incarceration, and not just in word. But in deed. I vowed to do everything that I’d never done to find healing and peace within myself. True freedom. I began attending and participating at Celebrate Recovery meetings to address my substance abuse, shared my testimony there a number of times, and even facilitated the step study group on Friday nights. I continued as a facilitator in the Wednesday night substance abuse, open-share group – when a strange thing happened. A new class was being offered called The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), so I inquired about it.

TUMI is a four-year college seminary level curriculum, with the aim of raising up urban leaders to help, and minister to, those who cannot help themselves (the poor, the weak and the oppressed). We learned to draw out the key principles of scriptures and apply them to our daily lives (ministry). Four and a half years later, on June 23rd, 2017, the inaugural class here at Folsom State Prison held their commencement ceremony (of which I was one of its graduates).

Because of the intense study and learning it afforded us, I was graced and equipped to deliver several sermons at our Sunday night Prison Fellowship Service. But oddly, the unexpected happened during those 4 1⁄2 years. During the past 24 years really. It ceased to be about me.

What started as a journey for my betterment, culminated in a focus for the betterment of others.

Still, what pains me most when I look back on the path of my life, is not the years I’ve missed in prison, but the lives I’ve traumatized by my actions. I could have left positive imprints on the lives I touched. Instead I left negative ones. The ripple effects of which may be felt for generations. Now, I leave imprints that will bear good fruit, striving to always better the understanding of myself, and therefore others as a societal member.

I’ve completed Relapse Prevention classes, tutored men in mathematics (specifically Algebra), so that they can obtain their G.E.D, and I am currently co-facilitating / attending a Prison Fellowship Re-Entry Class (which is 1 year long).

I’ve held numerous teacher-aide / tutor positions, been a physical fitness coach / mentor helping juveniles get Physical Education completed toward their high school diploma, worked as a Dental Lab Technician making repairing partial dentures, and currently I am being trained as a Braille transcriber for the Digital Services Department here at Folsom State Prison, where we transcribe books into Braille for the visually impaired. Late March, or early April, I will be submitting a 35-page Braille manuscript to the National Library of Congress for my certification.

This is what my road to better looks like today. Not necessarily solely for myself anymore, but more so for others. Yet, the weirdest thing happens in that process . . . I’m made better too! Right here and right now."

Judson ParkerComment