by Amber Jackson
In 1984, in San Diego, I was born to two parents with mental health problems. My parents put myself and my siblings through severe neglect, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse. I am the oldest of six children. My dad was a Vietnam vet. Not only were we abused in the ways I mentioned, but we did not go to school and were forced to live in a variety of vehicles in unsanitary conditions and shower only once a week from the time I was 3 years old.
At age 12 I broke away from my parents and turned myself over to Child Protective Services thinking they could help and were the only answer. Not wanting to leave my brothers and sisters with my dad and mom, at 14 I ran away and made it my mission to find my parents and physically remove my sisters and brothers from them. I felt I had a duty to do that since CPS could not locate them and made little effort to try, it seemed. I was successful.
After having brought my three sisters and two brothers into CPS care, thinking it was my only option, my dad began to vilify me in the eyes of my sisters. They were made to believe I was evil for breaking up the family. They were not old enough to understand why I had to take them into CPS and foster care. So, my dad’s brainwashing and propaganda ultimately sunk in and they began to hate me for no real reason. After hearing that non-stop for so many years, they manufactured a hate for me. And the toxicity of my family deepened.
After age 12, I spent a lot of time on the street and learned a lot of tough lessons. At 13, a girl who I met while at the Polinsky Children’s Center and kept in touch with, she set me up to be kidnapped by two men who attempted to force me into prostitution. I was afraid, but I resisted and refused to cooperate. After a few days I escaped. I’ll never forget the morning after I was kidnapped was the day news broke of Princess Diana’s death. Anyway, this was my first introduction to the streets. I had managed to come out of it without being raped or turning any tricks. After breaking free, I used a Greyhound bus to return to San Diego.
In 1984, in San Diego, I was born to two parents with mental health problems. My parents put myself and my siblings through severe neglect, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse.
After placing my sisters and brothers in foster care, I began a pattern of running away from foster care, group homes and briefly staying with my parents. Sometimes I would get money from my parents and stay in hotels.
At 16 I went to Job Corps in San Diego. After a little over a month, I left there and quickly wound up in Juvenile Hall for a robbery charge. That charge led to my first strike. While serving my time in Juvenile Hall, I got my GED at age 17.
Upon my release I began working and saving money and vowed to make it in life without doing any major crime – occasionally I sold weed. I had respect for the fact that adult prison and jail was a real factor. And I would not allow it.
So, I made a point to stay away from all of my blood family members because of the toxic and often violent behavior. After Juvenile Hall, I had managed to avoid major trouble.
At the turning point of my life, I was 20 years old. One of my younger sisters who I did get along with convinced me to come stay with her at my parents’ house due to financial struggles. I had originally called only to get money. But my sister managed to bring down my guard and I reluctantly accepted the idea.
That decision would cost me! In less than a year I had several violent run-ins with another sister who I had not seen in years. She is five years younger than me and at the time was physically a bit taller and much heavier than me. We had an altercation in which she was burned by hot oil. She claimed I had intentionally set out to disfigure her looks. That is not so.
I was charged with aggravated mayhem, which carries a seven-year-to-life term. While we were separated for years and because of the distance, we did not consider each other family. The reality of the details was exaggerated by the fact that this case became high profile. Not nationally, but local news dubbed this the “Hot Oil” case and it became a circus. I was vilified.
I should have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon or regular mayhem. But the media attention during an election year in 2004 sealed my fate. I was appointed a private attorney who was a rich, white Jewish man. I plan to at some point file suit for $2 million. You see, with a life sentence on the line, he rested my case after having presented NO defence at all! That is self explanatory.
I feel it is because I am Black and was poor. I have overwhelming evidence that he put NO effort into my trial preparation.
At the turning point of my life, I was 20 years old.
I went through years of depression in prison, having no family and feeling worthless. It’s been 13 years now! I’m in a construction vocation learning carpentry. I will soon begin college in drug and alcohol studies! I need a firm support system of people who will become family and help me to re-enter society on a firm foundation.
I am not a bad person and for too long I allowed myself to believe I had NO value. If I had one wish, it would be to be part of a family. I’ve never had one! And my longing for it drew me back into that toxic environment.
In eight years or less, I will be before the parole board asking them to find me suitable. And, it would empower me to find someone who could adopt me and stick by me and help me show them that I do have people who will help me stay on the right track. Now, I’m aware that it is a huge and unlikely thing to ask or wish for. Only God can grant that if it is in His will for me. I know I can’t face this alone any longer without anyone to depend on.
I’m ready to make all my past pain count by using what I’ve learned to help other young kids at some point by opening up a non-profit. I’m doing life without having killed anyone! I was railroaded at trial. I’m no longer angry but it’s time to rectify all this one step at a time.
I’m Amber Jackson and this is my story! These days, I am just focused on my college classes and my rehabilitation activities. Even though prison is not easy, I do feel it made me into a much better woman than the streets ever could have. So, I feel God did use this for good.
But a life sentence is overkill. I am a totally different woman than I was at 20 years old when I came to prison. I’m 33 now. Back then, I did not even know God existed!
I discovered my ability to paint while in prison back in 2007-2008. And that connection to art has changed me in a positive way! I can honestly say I am a whole new person compared to when I first came to prison. I know who I am now. And, I do hope to have a non-profit where I can make a difference with foster care youth!
Send our sister some love and light: Amber Jackson, X15530, CIW, 16756 Chino Corona Rd, Corona CA 92880.