Nevada State Prison inmate Gil Tyler admits he has wronged society.
"I hear it from my wife all the time," he says. "It's like, 'When are you going to give me a break?' But what can I say? She's right. And that's something I face everyday. And that's something that makes me want to change."
Tyler is working to get that message out through "Keeping It Real" youth magazine, which he edits at the prison. He and his inmate staff are working on their third issue. The 35-page, black-and-white magazine is full of articles and artwork by inmates aimed at steering young people away from crime. "Basically what we want people to know is, 'If you come here,you're going to wish you hadn't,'" Tyler said.
The magazine is sponsored and put together by the prison chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Jericho Chapter 1113. The writers and staff want to reach all young people, not just those in trouble.
"I've asked myself a thousand times, 'Where did I go wrong?' and for me it was when I was a teenager," Tyler said. "Maybe if I had had something like this magazine it would have helped me make the right decisions."
Assistant editor Joe Peterson said helping keep people out of prison is good for the community as a whole.
"Any person we help stay away from a life of crime is a savings to the taxpayers," he said.
"And it helps families," said writer Raymundo Iniguez, who did a piece called "Pride Will Bring You Down" in the second issue.
Family is on Tyler's mind, too.
"A lot of my motivation for doing this magazine is that I left a wife and child out there," he said. "And this might be the only chance I have to do something positive. Maybe someday my daughter will read what I've written."
The magazine is distributed to juvenile- detention facilities, churches, high schools and even middle schools.
"It's no joke, we've got younger and younger kids doing drugs - even third- and fourth-graders smoking marijuana," said prison staff sponsor, athletic director Robert Love.
He said a drug court judge in Reno asked for a subscription to the magazine.
"We got bombarded with calls from people who want this thing," he said.
Unfortunately, limited funding makes subscriptions impossible.
The prison NAACP chapter, which is open to people of all races, raises funds by selling Papa Murphy's pizzas and 24-ounce sodas to inmates. A computer donated by the national NAACP, along with two others scrounged around the prison, make up the publication's office in an old mail room. About 150 copies were printed in the first issue, and 200 in the second. They are printed at the prison print shop, Silver State Industries.
The magazine, along with gardening and a dog adoption program, are a positive influence on inmates as well as the public.
"It used to be inmates here had nothing to do but kick rocks and start fights," Tyler said. "We'd sit around the yard and tell war stories - listen to lies."
It's important for inmates to leave the prison better people - not worse, said another staff sponsor, Associate Warden James Baca.
"There's people in here who need to be here for the rest of their lives, but there's also decent people who are going to go back out into society," he said.
He said he and Warden Michael Budge work hard to make sure inmates leave the prison service oriented.
"If you don't learn nothing in here about dealing with society than you'll be back," Tyler said.
- To get g copies of "Keeping It Real" youth magazine, call Associate Warden James Baca at 887-3463.