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Monday, August 13, 2012

Lavahn Gay, Jacori Bender's Grandmother, Sees the Silver Lining in His Prison Sentence

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Bender is scheduled for release in November. - SHOUT
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  • Bender is scheduled for release in November.
Lavahn Gay is holding a card she received a couple months back. The correspondence is from her grandson, Jacori Bender, subject of last week's feature, "Menace to Society." It's a warm afternoon in July and Bender has been locked away at High Desert State Prison for more than two years, after being convicted for gun possession and gang participation.

The card -- which Bender signs with his family nickname -- is for Mother's Day and for Gay's birthday, both of which are in the same week. 
 
Hey Nanny Happy B-day and happy mother's day Papa was thinking about you so I took and sent you a mother's day picture I love you Take care Be easy PS From, Papa

Bender, who turned 21 in July, is scheduled for release in November. The way the California corrections system works, an inmate who demonstrates good behavior can often leave the state pen after serving around half of his official prison sentence -- then, usually, comes a halfway house and/or probation.

Gay had a feeling Bender was bound to face consequences for his lifestyle choices. She knew he had been shot at twice and that he spent a few nights in jail after breaking a stay-away order that accompanied his conviction for misdemeanor criminal threats. And she also knew that a some of his childhood friends had been arrested for carrying a gun.

"But it's the kids he grew up with," she says. "Who else is he gonna hang out with?"

That doesn't mean that she embraced his crew. She wouldn't let them inside the house, worried they might bring to her doorstep whatever beef was boiling out on the streets.

"He just got caught up," says Gay. "Ain't have nothing to do, so he hung out on Third Street and got caught up."

On the Mother's Day card, across from the writing, is a picture of Bender. He is standing, smiling, arms crossed, with a brown rosary around his neck, before the kind of cloudy blue backdrop used for school picture days. He wears a white T-shirt and navy blue sweatpants that state "CDCR Prison" in bold yellow letters down one leg.

He's put on some weight, Gay notes. He's also gotten new tattoos -- his mother's name on his chest was all he had going in. Now, his forearms bear a sleeve of intricate designs up to at least his elbow-- anything more is covered by the shirt.

Bender was initially scheduled for release in April, because of good behavior. But sometime before then he got into some undisclosed trouble, so his release was pushed back several months. He plans to re-enroll in college and get another job once he gets out, Gay notes. Time will tell whether the gang validation status, in addition to the prospect of losing more of a life to prison, pushes him toward a different lifestyle.

In the meantime, Gay adds, prison does offer one blessing.

"At least he's safe out off the streets," she says.

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Albert Samaha

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