Julio–A Lifer Tells His Story, by Julio Bonilla

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Greetings, my name is Julio Bonilla, and I am twenty-eight years old.  As of 2017, I have been incarcerated for eight years for homicide.   My sentence is life without the possibility of parole, with an additional sentence of five to ten years.  Well, I would like to tell you a bit about myself and the life I lived.

I am a father of two very beautiful kids, whom I love very much; a daughter named Anais and a son named Anthony.  Both of them are my whole life, the reasons I fight every day to get out of prison.  This is the first time I’ve been locked up in prison.  But here at SCI Dallas I have learned many new things.

I have learned just how beautiful life really is.  But in a split second everything can change!  One of the main things I have learned (the hard way) is that the streets take you to only two places:  PRISON AND AN EARLY GRAVE!  I give thanks to God that I landed in prison and not that grave.  He truly blessed me for real!  For this I have a life that I can work to change.  I give thanks to the Lord because he has made me a better man today.

Mentally I am so much different than when I first came here.  I would rather be someone who can work and provide for my family, instead of indulging the life of the street, chasing fast money, selling drugs, or doing them myself.  Now I feel that through the Lord I should be his soldier in Christ – to preach the right words, and share my testimony with those who are lost as I was.

In those urban and rural communities there are people who need to hear his voice and learn his way to being totally free.  The Lord has opened my eyes and changed the way I choose to live my life.  It is through this new beginning in my life that I would like to help others change theirs before it is too late.

Today’s generation of our youth is struggling with so many things.  One of the deepest issues is drug addiction, followed by growing up in single parent homes.  That is important, believe me.  I know because it is an issue I, myself, grew up with.  About 75% of inmates today have gone through this.  Please allow me to tell you how life was.  I hope all of you who are reading this will bear with me.

When I was a little kid, the majority of my life was spent being raised in Puerto Rico.  My family wasn’t a family that had lots of money.  Yeah, I know, a story heard many times.  Yet it is the life of many who are in prison.  But it was difficult for us.  My parents brought four sons into this world.  It was hard for them to give us everything we wanted.

After a few years living in Puerto Rico my mother got really ill, so she came back to the United States to get the treatment she needed.  My sister and I were left behind to live with our father.  Those times we were mostly by ourselves because our father worked day and night to keep us fed and clothed.  While in school I started going downhill and hanging out with the wrong crowds.  School wasn’t a priority anymore.

Like a knucklehead, I was skipping school and the classes that I needed, just to hang out in the projects and this place called “El Zero” in my city “Yauco.”  There I saw things that impacted my whole life, like people getting shot, using drugs, even getting killed.  It got to a point that my father got tired of all the problems and troubles I was getting into, and he took me out of school.  It was a shame that I had only made it to the sixth grade.  Either way there were no more schools that wanted me.  I was a “special education” kid, and in my thinking, no one wanted to deal with me, yet alone teach me.  How wrong was I in that belief?  Still, my father felt that since I wasn’t in school I had to work.  He put me to working around him in construction so he could watch over me.

Life got harder when I learned that my parents got divorced.  In that moment of my life I was hurting so deeply.  The only person who knew how much pain I was in was my sister.   I was going through so much, and she saw me crying every single day.  I was only a kid, and I had all this weight on my shoulders.

That’s when I started using drugs with guys from the neighborhood.  It was Coke.  Let me tell you, it got to a point that I wasn’t listening to my dad, plus I was very disrespectful towards him.  Before I came to prison I had five overdoses, with the last one being at my Aunt’s house.  Thank God she knew CPR!  This is just a small bit of what I went through.  I want to give evidence of who I once was so my children never have to go through what I have been through.

Some in our community judge us for being incarcerated, but I would like to share a little testimony.  Every Friday at our chapel here, we have prayer services.  I expressed the fact that one of my sisters couldn’t have a child.  Her name is Amarillis, so we put her in our prayers for three months.  One day one the brothers said to me “Your sister is going to have two children.”  It turned out that she did have two beautiful healthy girls!!

That goes to show that no matter who you are, what crimes someone has committed, as long as you have faith and are a true believer in the will and words of God, He will hear you.  The power of prayer is great.   I maintain always to try my best to be positive and be around positive people, even here in prison, where there are always negative vibes surrounding you each day.

Now I understand that if I stay close to positivity, then positivity will stay close to me.  Since I have been here, I have completed all my programs:  Violence Prevention (high intensity), Drug and Alcohol (out-patient), Inside-out Dads, and Anger Management, among others.  I really like the “Read Books To Your Child” program, because it brought me closer to my children.  When you come to prison you will find others who are just like you.  People don’t know the lonely roads you’ll travel in here, and believe me, the roads are very long.

Still, the Lord blessed me with two beautiful parents that have been very supportive of me all this time.  My dear sister Linda has not let go of my hand, nor has my brother Steven.  Thanks to them, I get to see my kids often.

I can’t believe It took me coming to prison to realize who is who, and who would be there for me when I needed them most.  Where I had no hope or belief, God came into my life and brought with him my family, who has kept me strong.  My hope is forever strong.  I will not give up on myself or my God.  He believes in me, so why not me in him?

In the end, I say to you all that this is a journey that will never end.  I know in my heart that one day my God will provide, and one day break me free of these chains, to bless me once again as he has come into my life to free me.


EDITOR’S NOTE:  You can write to encourage my friend, Julio Bonilla, a “lifer” at the State Correctional Institute at Dallas, PA.  You must use a plain white envelope, and you must put his DOC # directly after his name on the first line of the address.  You must use a return address, or it won’t be delivered to him…but, if you prefer, you can use my ministry return address: Prison Mentoring, Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927

Julio A. Bonilla  JW1561,                  SCI Dallas       1000 Follies Rd.         Dallas, PA  18612

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