Hear David's meaningful story of forgiveness, rehabilitation, spirituality and redemption. In this candid conversation, David talks with Amber and Jason about his difficult childhood where he endured physical, mental, and sexual abuse prior to taking the life of his abuser. After spending years in prison, remarkable events grounded in accountability, acceptance and opportunity, helped David evolve into the strong voice for change that he is today!
David can be found in twitter @DavidLeeGarlock
Amplified Voices - Jason Garlock
Intro: Everyone has a voice - a story to tell. Some are marginalized and muted.
What if there were a way to amplify those stories; to have conversations with real people in real communities; a way to help them step into the power of their lived experience?
Welcome to Amplified Voices. A podcast, lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system. Together we can create positive change for everyone.
Jason: Good morning and welcome to amplified voices. I'm your host, Jason with my co-host Amber. Good morning, Amber.
Amber: Good morning, Jason. Happy to be here.
Jason: Great. And today we're here with our guest David Garlock. David, Good morning.
David: Good morning.
Jason: And David, we're going to have you tell your story and for the folks that are listening, this is going to be quite a story. David's quite an advocate in Pennsylvania and has really a unique perspective. He'll also tell you a little bit about his experience in a major motion picture at some point here, and he has some other personal good news that's happening in his life, I'm sure he'll want to share.
So with that, I will kick it over to you, David. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your experience with the criminal justice system, how you became involved.
David: Well, when I first became involved with the criminal justice system, it was when I was 20 years old. But before that, I have to walk you into how that happened.
And so I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. So if you had a picture dictionary and you looked up dysfunctional family, you would have saw a picture of my family there.
My dad was a Vietnam vet, dealt with a lot of PTSD and his solution for that was drinking. So he was alcoholic.
My mom was very unfunctional as, far, as a parent, she was working, but she really didn't know how to raise us. When my sister was about nine, one of the first remembrances I have was, my dad was really angry with her and my mom and they were being chased around my grandma's house with a Hacksaw blade.
And so this was something that was normal. You know, my dad was arrested and taken to a psych ward for the night, but he was released and the animosity that the, anger and everything just continued to build up. And when my sister was 12 years old, she was kicked out of the house. And when she was kicked out of the house, this caused her to go to a receiving a home in Washington
Jason: When she was 12, how old were you?
David: I was seven.
Jason: You're seven years old and your 12 year old sister is kicked out of the house?
David: Yes. And the way that this happened, it was something that was just all three of us were actually kicked out in different times. And it was the way that our dad dealt with situations, you know, he really didn't know how to work through them. So his way to deal with them was just to kick us out of the house.
And so my mom and my dad got divorced when I was nine years old. My brother was 12. And there was a couple months period where my mom got custody of us and she was an unfit mother. She really didn't know how to take care of us. And so, for that whole three month period, we probably went to school four times because she had asked us if we'd want to go to school. And if you ask a kid that's like seven, eight, nine years old, if they want to go to school, who's gonna say yes, I want to go to school.
Amber: Right, Right.
David: So we stayed home all the time, watching HBO, playing Nintendo. So we had the power pad, so that's going to age myself a little bit. And that was life. We thought it was perfect.
Jason: What state were you living in?
David: We were in Washington.
David: So we were living outside of Seattle.
And so with this though, she worked at a pizza place. So every night she'd come home and she'd have pizza, some Pepsi, so not going to school and pizza every night, it was like a kid's dream, you know. But now all actuality, it was something that was very detrimental to us.
And she had actually lost custody of us because of the way she was caring for us. And our apartment almost caught on fire. And so we went to stay with our uncle and the aunt who is my dad's brother and wife, for about six months before we moved back in with our dad.
Jason: So was there any formal agency involved in your family or is this family intervening?
David: No, this was when the apartment almost caught on fire, child protective services and department of social health services stepped in and they deemed my mom unfit. And our uncle and they were right there, so they were able to take custody of us instead of us going to a group home.
Jason: You stayed within your family.
David: Yeah, at this point. Then our dad got custody of us and we moved in with our grandma again in her basement. And he was physically present, but not emotionally present. He was also working third shift, so we hardly ever saw him. Our grandma pretty much raised us.
After our parents got divorced. My mom, after she lost custody of us, she moved down to California, met an individual that was 14 years younger than her and remarried.
So my brother started drinking, got involved with smoking marijuana and other drugs. And this led him to have an accident at a grocery store where he busted his head open and had to go to the hospital. My dad had to go pick him up. And my dad gave him an ultimatum and said, if you do something like this again, I'm going to kick you out of the house.
Jason: This point, what state are you in?
David: We're still in Washington.
Jason: You're still in Washington. You're with your father and your brother?
Jason: And how old are you and your brother?
David: I was 10 at this point and my brother was 13.
Amber: And you're living at your grandmother's house in the custody of your father?
David: Yes. We're living in the basement and pretty much our grandma's raising us because our dad is working at night and sleeping throughout the day. So our grandma was the one who would make sure we get up and go to school and make sure that we were fed, make sure that we were doing chores and just doing what we needed to.
So my brother was out again with one of his friends and he was walking home and he has some marijuana and my dad and uncle went out, caught him. And immediately took him to child protective services and told him that he couldn't handle him anymore and that he was put into the custody of the state.
And so at this point, he went to a group home there in Seattle. At this group home, he was probably there a month. This individual got out of prison in North Carolina and moved to Washington. He befriended the person that was running the home and started molesting my brother. And so this went on for a couple of months before this individual forced my brother to move out of the home, into his dwelling place.
And then he and my brother went down to California and talked to my mom and stepdad into moving back up to Washington. They weren't doing well down there financially. So he said, yeah, you can stay in my house. You could do this. You could do that. I'll help take care of.
So the whole process there was to have access to me. So this was part of his grooming.
So when they moved up i got a call on January 1st, 1991, I was 11 years old. It was my brother. He's like, Hey, do you want to come over, watch football with me and this and that? I'm like, no, dad and I are getting ready to watch the Rose Bowl and other games here.
So this went on for 30 minutes. We're going back and forth. No, I'm not coming over. Yeah, you need to come over. No. And then finally he put my mom on the phone. When I heard her voice, I'm like, okay, I'm coming over. I hadn't seen her in two years and I'm on mama's boy, you know, it was a relationship that we had, you know. Any time that my parents were arguing and fighting. When I was kid, I was the one who would always come up and get on the bed with her and hug her and cry with her and consul her.
So when I knew that she was back in Washington, I'm like, okay, let me go see my mom. And it was good for probably about the first three, four hours. And then this individual's like, Hey, let's play hide and go seek.
So that's 11 year old. You're like, okay, this is normal.
Jason: This individual is the stepfather.
David: No, no. The individual who molested us was a non family member.
David: He was the individual that got out of prison in North Carolina.
Jason: Gotcha. Okay.
David: And so I'm thinking, okay, let's play hide and go seek. And so I hid in the closet in the basement and he found me, and that's when he pulled my pants down and started molesting me.
And he told me that I couldn't tell anybody. He told me that he would kill me, kill my brother, kill my mom, kill my whole family if I ever told anybody.
And so every time I went over to see my mom, the abuse continued to happen. And this process, you know, the abuse went on for eight years, total. And it went on when we were there in Washington, a little bit later on in California. And then really at that point is when it got more physical. And they're in California, and also when we moved to Louisiana and then Alabama.
And we moved to Louisiana to find our mom and our stepdad. And we found that we had two half sisters who we never got to change some meat.
Jason: Whoa, whoa, wait. I mean, I'm absorbing a lot.
The abuse started when you were 11.
Jason: And so you must have been terrified at 11.
You talked about not going to school. I'm assuming you were back in school at this point. Did it affect your daily life or were you able to compartmentalize what was going on? I mean, I'm so sorry that happened to you.
David: I mean, throughout the whole abuse, you know, I, I began wearing different masks. So when I was at school, I was one person. When I was playing sports, I was another person when I was at church, I was another person, when I was a family, I was a different person.
And so I had like four or five different masks that I constantly have to wear around different people. And it got very confusing at times because I'd always have to think, okay, how do I have to act around this person? How do I have to act around that person?
But looking back now, I think that's something that really gave me the love for acting. And so when I was in seventh and eighth grade, I was the lead and my church play. And my junior year of high school, I was Scrooge in the Christmas Carol. So I've always had this love for drama and acting. And I always look at it as, okay, this was one of the ways that I was able to escape. I didn't have to be this hurt, abused, scared boy anymore. I could be whoever I wanted to.
Jason: Did you confide in anybody? Did you talk with your brother about what was going on or did you just bottle it up inside?
David: It was all bottled up. I mean, no one really knew what had happened until after the murder and everything. So it was something that no one knew.
Amber: And that was probably pretty exhausting, I would think.
David: It definitely was because the whole thought where, you know, I, I can't let anybody know. If I let somebody know, or if I tell somebody, this individual is going to kill my whole family. So it was the whole thought process of not only protecting myself, but protecting my whole family.
And a lot of times people always ask they're like, How did you allow something like this to go on for so long? And if you have never experienced this, if you have never experienced that type of fear, you can't put yourself in somebody's shoes like that. Because you don't know what it's like to be told that you're going to be killed as an 11 year old, if you say something.
And, as the abuse went on, it actually became more physical too. This gentleman had actually tried to kill my brother and me numerous times.
And I mean, one instance was when we were in Louisiana, all three of us were working at this diner. And one night I had a table of three girls and one guy, and I was flirting with the three girls because as a 18 year old, you know, if I flirt with somebody, I'm going to get a better tip. So I was flirting, you know, and then typically I'd go into the restroom, use the restroom, I'd count the money that I'd make my tips.
So this night I was walking in there. The individual that had been abusing us had come in with me and he starts yelling at me and tell me, what am I doing? Why am I flirting with those girls? And then he starts choking me. He grabs me by the neck and pushes me against the paper towel dispenser. And then next thing I know is I'm being punched and I'm coming to. And I had some big old scratches on my back from where he pushed me against the paper towel dispenser. And it's really then.
Jason: How old are you?
Jason: You're 18 at this point, and you're not a small guy. So this guy was I'm assuming he was a pretty large intimidating presence.
David: He was definitely larger than me and definitely intimidating. And, a lot of it is just that continual fear that was built up for those years, you know, and the thought process that he could still kill me, he could still kill my brother, he could still kill my whole family. And this instance really solidified that, okay, this guy will kill me. There's no question to that.
So it was probably about another year, where the abuse intensified. And, this individual, when we had ended up in Alabama, which was probably five months after this incident, we were actually headed up to Ohio and we got stranded and Jasper, Alabama. And there, this gentleman met a 14 year old boy and he started a relationship with this boy too. So here he is abusing my brother and me, but also molesting this 14 year old boy.
And the way that this individual would do things is he would tell people that he was our half-brother. So he'd manipulate everybody into telling him details. So he'd call the manager at the restaurant we were working at, and he'd be like, Hey, what's David doing? What's Joe doing? And they're like, Oh, they's flirting with this waitress or that waitress or this customer. And when we got home, we got the crap beat out of us because, of what we're doing, because we were flirting with somebody.
It got to the point where he would stand outside of the restaurant and just watch us and see what we're doing. And when we got home, we got the crap beat out of us for whatever we were doing at that point, too.
Jason: Oh, boy.
Amber: That's a lot to take in. I'm so sorry that you endured that.
David: Yeah, it definitely is. You know, in thinking back about it, you know, there's times that I wish we were able to speak up and tell somebody about it. But, we came up with this irrational decision that the only way out of this was to take his life.
So June, 1999, it was a Monday. I got home. My brother had been drinking. I had been drinking and we decided..
Jason: I keep asking your age. So at 1999, how old are you?
David: I was 19 and a half, and then my brother was 22 and a half.
Jason: I just want to stop before we go into the next stays here. So the abuse started at 11.
Jason: And it continued and continued and continued. And you were keeping it inside and holding this pain and you must have been just. Like you said you had different masks that you were wearing. And so by this point you just have to be ready to explode.
David: And that's really how I tell people. It's kin d of like the, the psychological thing where people say you see red. And just the, the anger, the hatred. Everything had built up, and it was like a volcano just exploded and everything came out and that's really what led to the murder.
And it was something that was very painful. Thinking back about the murder, I would have never thought that we would have actually done it. So when we did, I was like, wow, this is not what I expected because I expected that we were just going to go to sleep and it was going to be a new day, the next day.
Jason: Yeah. And I can imagine people listening saying, I would never kill anybody, or I would never do that, but they've never been in your situation, right. They've never lived through what you've lived through.
David: And that's the thing. When, when I was in prison and some of the classes I took. And also when I was released and was in college, you know, a lot of the classes say that 85% of people have felt like killing somebody, but what never gets to that point. And there's like a 7% people who get pushed to that point and actually go through with it. And it's not the fact that it was something they were thinking about or wanted to do, but it was just because of the circumstances and situation that led them to it.
I mean, people that know me now, they're like, wait, there's no way that you had committed a murder. You're too nice. You're this big Teddy bear, you know, so..
Amber: I think one of the things that, you know, it's really important to talk about is exactly kind of what you just covered. When we talk about trauma and we talk about violence. A lot of people like to characterize violence as something that is, you know, this is a violent person, or this is a state of being. If you're violent, you're violent.
But violence is an act. Violence is not a state of being, it's not a type of person. And it is very wrapped up in trauma and people's experiences. And something we've heard again and again, as we've been having these conversations, is these things happen based on trauma that really multiplies itself.
David: It really goes along with the saying "hurt people, hurt people".
And, so I served 13 and a half years in prison, and my brother and I, we received 25 years sentence for the murder. We had court appointed lawyers that really didn't want to do anything for us. So we really didn't have anybody fighting for us in this.
Jason: Before we go too far into it, I just wanna ask you a couple quick questions, like. The guy, was there an interaction between him and your mother?
David: No, there was never anything like that.
Jason: So really when he was gone, There wasn't anybody that was really like on his team, so to speak. I mean, I don't know how to even phrase that, but, uh..
David: So during the four month period between the murder and us actually being arrested, there was no one really interested or filing missing person's reports or anything like that. So our life. We didn't have a life. You know, what we did is we went to work and then we came home. We were in the apartment the whole time.
Jason: Did you feel a sense of relief that he was gone?
David: The whole thought process was, we felt like we were now free. We felt there was some form of freedom. But in actuality there wasn't because we went from one prison to this new prison. With the thought process that, everywhere I went I had to think that, okay, I had taken somebody's life, I created a new prison for me.
Even though I was out there and my motto was sex, drugs and rock and roll, you know. So I was out there just living it up, thinking that this is what I was created for. This is life, you know. I'd go to work, I drank, I'd get drunk, I'd get high. I just have sex with any female, you know. And that was, the way that I thought life was supposed to be. But it created a bigger hole and vacuum and prison for me.
Amber: Do you feel that the actions that you took, that were based on trauma, healed you?
David: At that moment, I thought that it did, but it didn't. I mean, anytime you act out in a violent manner because of the trauma, because of any hurt and pain that you've experienced, it does not heal.
You transfer some of those feelings and get rid of some of them, but they're still there. That trauma was still there until I realized, when I was in a behavior modification program, that I wasn't to blame for the sexual abuse. Because for so long, I was blaming myself, thinking that I was the reason this happened to me.
And so I was in this behavior modification program, reading self help books about child sexual abuse. And in them, I learned so much about why this happened. And I forgave myself. And that's really where the healing began when I was able to forgive my, myself for what happened and say it wasn't my fault.
And that whole process there allowed me to forgive others, allowed me to finally get to the point where I forgave the abuser, even though he was deceased, but. That was something that was necessary for me to have that wholeness.
Amber: Right. So again, for our listeners; just making clear that nobody is condoning the act. That didn't solve anybody's problem. It was a trauma response. Understanding the history and understanding the whole situation helps us understand the why.
David: Absolutely, you know, and I do a lot of conversing with individuals who have committed sex offenses and, uh, individuals who have been harmed in that way. And one thing I was talked to, as far as the individuals who have been abused, is that, some of them have the thought process, like, okay, I want to kill the person that hurt me and harmed me. And I always let them know that, it's not going to free you. It's actually going to cause a worse prison.
And that's one of the reasons why I want the death penalty abolished, because it does no good to the family of the individual who lost their life. Because the death of the perpetrator does no good, it can't heal. It doesn't produce anything and it can't bring the person back.
So the abuse that that person has endured has happened. You can't change that. But what you can do, is you can look at it, you can begin to heal from it, and then move forward.
Jason: So for you, being the punisher and inflicting this punishment on someone else didn't solve all the problems. It led to new problems. It led to new feelings and you've really grown so much from the experience.
And I think we're going to come back to this, but I want to now go to: you're now in the justice system, and you were starting to talk about what that was like in terms of going to prison.
So you and your brother both went to the same prisons or were you sentenced together or separately or what happens next?
David: I was arrested October 29th, 1999. And I had just turned 20, 24 days previously. So here I am in Alabama looking at a murder charge. So I'm thinking I'm going to get the desperately, I'm thinking I'm going to get life without parole. And my life is just beginning, but it's ending.
So that first weekend, I was just crying myself to sleep because I didn't know what was going to happen. And November 1st, 1999, the detective came over to take me back for more questioning. He sets me in a room for seven hours. So if you're in an interrogation room for seven hours, you have a lot to think about. I was thinking about the abuse. I was thinking about everything that transpired.
I finally called the detective in and confessed to everything. Confessed to how the murder happened, everything. That was a weight, taken off my chest. And it felt so good to finally tell somebody about what had happened. Because I had been holding the abuse for that eight years, but then I have been holding the fact that we had taken somebody's life or four months now. And so it felt good to get that off and to talk about it.
And on the way back to the County jail, I'm asking him, I going to get the death penalty, am I going to get life without? And he turns to me and he's like, do you believe in God? I'm thinking I have enough time to seek God and everything there, but he was very persistent and he asked me a couple more times if I believed in God. I was like, yeah. He's like, you need to seek him now.
So when I got back to the County jail, I asked for a Bible and I started reading it in revelations. And that changed the whole trajectory of my incarceration, because I regained that relationship with God. I cried out to him and I'm like, Hey, I need you now. I don't know what tomorrow's going to hold, but I need you.
Jason: I mean, you really felt that was a moment. That was a transformative moment for you, that it was like before that moment you were one person and after you were somebody new.
David: Absolutely, because I went from being fearful, scared, not knowing what's going to happen, to being content. To knowing that God was going to be with me on this journey, that I wasn't going to be alone. And that I was going to be able to do whatever time that they gave me. And it really changed my mentality because I was like, okay, I'm going to do the time instead of let the time do me.
So there's a lot of people in prison that allow the time to do them. People get involved with the drugs, the alcohol, the gambling, just prison life. And I wanted to take advantage of the time. I wanted to be a different David Garlock when I got out of prison than when I was first arrested.
Jason: Powerful. So what did that look like for you? What did you do?
David: That looked like me beginning by getting my GED in the County jail. When I went to prison, I went to a behavior modification program.
As I talked about earlier, that really changed the whole thought process and began the healing process. And at another president I was able to get a drafting trade and also a masters of theology through an unaccredited school. And everything I was doing was to better myself and prepare myself.
2008, Brian Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative started working with my brother and me. They wanted to do more for us, but they couldn't help us appeal our sentence because in Alabama, you only had one to two years to appeal your sentence. And this was eight years into our sentence.
Jason: So Brian Stevenson, who, probably most people who are listening are aware of who he is. If you're not, please google him.
So how did Brian Stevenson get interested in your case? Did you seek him out? Did he seek you out? What happened?
David: I had a friend at the prison I was at, who put me in contact with him. And then he came and just began speaking with us and wanted to help out.
With that though, I'd say probably the second or third visit we started talking about education. You know, because, when I got out, I wanted to continue my education. And so he told me about Eastern university, where he graduated from, which is a Christian college outside of Philadelphia. And so when he started telling me about this, I was like, okay, that sounds really good.
But then when I got information from Eastern. They have a prison ministry. They had a street ministry. I'm like, okay, this is a type of place I want to be at. Because you have some Christian colleges that talk about faith, that talk about being involved in the community and doing things, but there's not foot work. So here I am saying, okay, they not only have the faith, but they're putting the actions to it.
So I started writing some people at Eastern and was really excited about potentially getting up there at some point.
And so in 2013, I actually made parole and was released.
Jason: What was your sentence?
David: Uh, we received 25 of year sentences.
So in Alabama, you have really three charges when you deal with murder. You have a capital offense, which is a murder with another felony or multiple murders. And those offenses, the sentence is, either life without parole or the death penalty. People that are convicted of murder, it caries 10 years to 99 years, to life sentence. And then man slaughter's two to 20.
So we were charged with murder and pled out to a 25 year sentence because we had court appointed lawyers that really didn't want to fight for us.
When we got the plea, my lawyer's like; hey, if you have to do all 25 years, you'll be a young 45, and I'm like..
Jason: Oh my goodness.
And before we pled out, they have a thing in Alabama, that's called useful offender status. So anybody that's under 21 can file for this and if you are granted it the most time that you can get is three years.
So. I talked to my lawyer about it. He's like, no, we're not going to play them for that, we're not gonna. So I was really persistent, you know, and he finally said, okay, so he put the motion in.
I went before the judge and the judge denied the motion and he says, rehabilitation is a 70 year old joke and laughs. I was like, okay, I'm in trouble.
David: Yeah. When I heard that the judge was saying that and laughing, I knew, okay. Can I just sign some papers and go to prison because there's no hope for me here.
Jason: So were you expecting to do the full 25 years?
David: No, because I knew a lot of people and in the conversations I had with people is that, at that point you could have a better chance to make parole.
I mean, right now in Alabama, their parole system is so messed up. And just yesterday I saw that 27 people went up for parole and everybody was denied.
Amber: Let's talk a little bit about that parole process. I know it's a lot different now, but for people who aren't familiar with it, how did that work?
David: Parole in Alabama’s a lot different than parole in say Pennsylvania, where I live now, or other States in the Northeast. When you go up for parole, you'll have a institutional parole officer come see you. So at that point, he'll ask you different questions. If you have certificates, if you have letters, if you have anything, you give it to them. Then they make a recommendation.
Now for your actual parole hearing the person in Alabama does not stand before the parole board. So, if you have a lawyer, if you have family members, if you have anything like that, they go to the parole hearing and they speak up on your behalf. Then the attorney general or the district attorney from the county or victim's advocates will speak up too.
There's a lot of cases where you have the state victim advocate, just trying to get anybody who has a violent offense to be turned down for parole.
David: And then typically they'll tell you if you made parole that day and then your family members let you know later that day. Typically it's two weeks to a month after you make parole that you're released and it's always on a Monday morning that your are released.
So I was actually released April 1st, 2013.
Jason: Before you're released here, is there anything else about prison? We could probably do another entire podcast about your life behind bars and what that was like. How many years did you serve? And is there anything else you want to share about that? And then we'll move into the next phase.
David: Well I served 13 and a half years. And I'd say another thing that really was beneficial to me, but it was also very hard, was the last three years I served, I did hospice work.
When you think about hospice work in the free world, you think about just somebody spending eight hours with somebody and the family members are able to come and go as they want and are able to spend that time with them. In prison it's different.
In Alabama the family members could come in three times a week. So for that other hundred and fifty, hundred and eighty hours a week, this individual is by themselves.
So hospice work in prison was a point where I was able to be this person's family. I was able to care for them. I mean, it went from helping the nurses change diapers to showering them, to feeding them. That stuff was difficult to do, but it was also amazing to do because of the impact I was having and just allowing this person to know that they are not alone. That there's people who care.
And there's one individual who I'll never forget. And any time he could see me coming close to his room. He didn't have teeth. So think about this big old smile, no teeth, all gums and everything. And he lit up, I mean. It was so amazing. It's like, that's a picture I will never forget because of the impact that me coming for four hours a day or eight hours a day had on him before he passed away.
Jason: Well, he and those others that were there were lucky that you were the one to be there for them.
Amber: I'm actually, I mean, everybody can't see me, but having hospice experience, I'm seriously having a moment guys.
I know how rewarding it can be. And especially for individuals who really feel that they have been thrown away or forgotten, to have you there with them is amazing. And I just love that.
David: It's always about giving back, you know.
Jason: That's amazing.
So. You were starting to talk about leaving prison. So now you get to the point where you're on parole. So you enter a new phase.
You've got Brian Stevenson kind of in your list of contacts, so you can call if you need to, right. You get out you're on parole. At that point what's your life like? You hadn't met your wife yet, right?
David: No, I met my, when I move up here to Pennsylvania.
And so when I first got out of prison in Alabama, I started attending a church down there. And I had a list of five or six churches to attend because these were churches that came into the prisons and had prison ministry.
Jason: What was it like when you walked out and now you're free? You don't really have a relationship with your, your mother or your father. Right?
David: Actually, while I was incarcerated, my mom, my dad, my sister, my grandma all passed away. So the only family members that we really had left was my brother and me.
And I thought that our relationship was going to be better, but it's been strained. We are connected and we are able to have conversations and stuff and, I mean, he's doing well. So it's something that I'm glad that he's doing well. He just had a daughter about a year ago with his fiancé. And so both of us are doing well and striving and have turned our lives around. So that's something that's definitely powerful.
Jason: That's amazing. But you walk out and you really have. It's not like you're walking out to a big supportive support structure that's got their arms out and saying, come on, David, we're going to help you. You've got to figure this out on your own.
You've spent some time in prison. You've got an educated. But how you got from there to where you are now with the wife and you've got a child on the way, all that. There's more to it, right? I mean, so what was that feeling when you walk out and there's like, now what?
David: Well, we all know the old African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. So my spin on that is, it takes a village to allow a returning citizen to be successful. And at times that village or part of that village is prepared when somebody gets out and then other parts of that village comes together.
So the one part of my village that was already prepared when I got out was the help of Brian Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative. And the different fellows and lawyers that worked with them, because I went through their rancher program, which is post release educational program. And so I was in that program for nine months.
So the other parts of my village were created by the church I chose to attend. And the first day at this church, one of the social workers from EJI had taken me there, we had got there early. So I asked one of the ushers if anybody from the prison ministry was there. And they looked around, they're like, there's no one from the men's prison ministry, but there's a lady that goes into the women's prison ministry. Do you want me to introduce you to her. I'm like, sure.
So I go up, I'm introduced to her. I share my story with her. She's like, wow, this is so amazing. We're glad that you're here. Let me go introduce you to pastor Kimmy. So pastor Kamie is Bishop Kyle's wife. Bishop Kyle's the head pastor of this church.
So I'm introduced to her, I share my story. She's like, wow, this is so amazing. Let me take you back and introduce you to Bishop Kyle. Now, most times you're never going to see a pastor before his sermon or anything like that. And everybody's like, you saw Bishop Kyle in his office before service. They're like, that does not happen. I'm like, okay, that was favor.
So I was taken back. I chat with him. You know, I tell him my story, tell him the importance of Fresh Anointing House of Worship's, um, prison ministry group on my life. And how they impacted me and how this was the first church I wanted to attend when I got out and see if this is where I was meant to be.
He's like, do you mind if I share your story from the pulpit? I'm like, yeah, go ahead. So I go back, I'm praising, worshiping. Some of the ladies and men from the prison ministry come in and so I am like saying them, talking with them, praising with them. And so Bishop Kyle comes to the stage. He starts speaking. He's like, Oh yeah, let me share this thing with you. David Garlock, can you please come up here? I'm like. I'm thinking, okay you told me you were going to share my story, not invite me up.
Amber: Oh gosh.
David: So I go up, you know, and I share about the importance of the church, you know, and the prison ministry and just what I see my life unfolding, you know. And there, he's like, is there anything we can pray for you? I'm like, sure. A job in a car. He's like, how about a wife? I'm like one of those wouldn't be bad.
But, uh. What's funny though, is the car and the wife came together. So when my wife and I got married, I didn't have a car. So my brother in law gave me a car as a wedding present. So I got those two together, so it was kind of cool.
Jason: Your prayers came true.
David: When I was walking down the stage, there were like six people that came up to me and they shook my hand and they had money in their hand. I'm like, okay, this is kind of weird, but and so I'm like putting the money in my pocket. And after church, the social worker that was with me, she's like, so how much money did they give you? I'm like, I'm thinking like 40 or 50 dollars, you know, I'm like, okay.
So the first bill I opened up was a hundred dollar bill. I'm like who comes to church in 2013 with a hundred dollar bill. And they gave me $239. And that really began my savings for college. And they just showed me so much love. They showed me care, compassion, and they didn't judge me because of my past. They'd looked at me as a man of God. And that was something that really was beneficial and needed. And...
Jason: So two points as you're going here. One is, Amber's tearing up.
Amber: I'm a crier. Sorry.
Jason: The second is, that for anybody listening, here's a model for how to treat humans, right?How to treat people. You having that experience, I can only assume what it meant to you after what you'd been through from the age of 11. And even before 11, you didn't have a great beginning before that. But when the abuse started in 11 and then going into prison at the age of 20 coming out, you're 33?
Jason: And so it's like. Finally! Finally! I can breathe. My life is starting.
Amber: Some sort of safety.
Jason: Right. Right.
David: And that's what the village does. The village prepares safety. It shows you that you are human, that you are not your past. And it provides encouragement because for so long people have been incarcerated. They've been told they're never going to amount to anything. They're a piece of trash. They're useless. But now you have this group of individuals that are walking alongside you, believing in you telling, you that you can do whatever you put your mind to.
And that's what's key, you know, especially coming out of prison after so long. I had these people that were believing in me. When I told them that I wanted to go to college, that I want to pursue my education; they believed in me, they stood with me, they prayed with me. And when in January of 2014, when I left Alabama to move up to Pennsylvania, they've rejoiced with me. They were excited because they knew that God had opened this door and that Eastern University is where God wanted me to be.
And when I got to Eastern, I was there by myself. I didn't know people. And the Dean of students wanted to put my testimony in the school paper. So when he first told me that I'm like, okay, let's do this, I like that idea. And we did the article, it was getting ready to be in the paper. And I was so scared the day that the paper came out. I wanted to go to school, grab all the newspapers and leave and hide, because here I am, no one really knows me, but they're going to know everything about me.
And so when I got to school that day, it was so powerful. I mean, I had people come up to me who had been sexually abused and they shared that with me, and they're like, here's a first person I've ever told this to.
David: I had other people who had family members who were incarcerated and they're like, Hey, can you help me set up a reentry plan for my brother? Can you help do this? And it was so incredible. I could have never imagined the reaction or the impact that me sharing my story like that would have had.
And everybody received me with love, with care, with compassion. They never viewed me as somebody who had committed a murder. They viewed me as all the other characteristics I have. And then they're like, Oh yeah, you committed murder, served thirteen and half years in prison. So it was like the after statement. It wasn't the way people viewed me. And that was so powerful because I didn't know how I was going to be received when I got up there, because of that past.
Amber: That's such an amazing and powerful thing that you had that acceptance.
Why do you think that that doesn't happen in every context or for a lot of other people that may have come out of prison in a similar situation?
David: I think a lot of it has to deal with the people that you're dealing with. And then their understanding of faith, their understanding of second chances, their own understanding of who they are and what they've done in life.
Because a lot of times, you know, you have people that are very judgmental. That don't look in the mirror and look at what they've done themselves. They say, okay, that's something I did in the past, that's not who I am right now. But I'm gonna to judge somebody by the set of circumstances I placed in front of me, but they don't judge themselves by those same circumstances.
So I think that's the one thing that causes a lot of people that'd be judgmental and not to receive people and their past.
Jason: Yeah. It reminds me of as we're here in the summer and someone who's Jewish, we've got the high holidays coming up. And one of the lines that it says - for the, for the things we've done, that you know, where we forgive ourselves; for the faults, that we don't forgive in our parents, that we've forgiven ourselves; for the faults that we don't forgive in our children that we've forgiven ourselves; we're sorry that we don't do that. So I think that's human nature to have a level of forgiveness for yourself that you don't necessarily have for other people. It's something that we all have to overcome.
And it sounds like you've surrounded yourself with people who I've been able to figure that out, to have that level of compassion and forgiveness. And that's wonderful.
Amber: That's amazing.
Jason: Yeah. And you've been able to spread that.
Back to parole probation. Did you do one, both?
David: Yeah. So I've been on parole for, um, today's July 25th, so...
Amber: He's not counting down the days.
David: I've been on parole for seven years, three months and twenty-four days. And I have four years and two months and twenty-nine days or something like that left. So...
Jason: So you're checking in regularly. You're calling. Your, you've got and restrictions?
David: So I'm on the least supervised parole in Pennsylvania now. So I only have to see my parole officer once a year. For traveling, I either send them an email or I go in person to him and show him where I'm traveling.
I actually just had my parole officer change. So I had the same parole officer for about seven years up here in PA. And, um, the thing about him was he was very supportive of the work that I do and that I'm passionate about criminal justice reform. And he always tells me, he's like, man, David, I wish all my parolees could be like you.
So, I mean, it was always cool to hear him say that, you know, and have that admiration for me. And when he actually came over to my house and we said our goodbyes, you know, he was just thankful for where I am in life and what I'm doing. And just encouraged me to continue to be an example and continue to speak and to share my story. So that was really powerful.
Amber: It sounds like your experience with that parole officer, which tends to be different for different people in terms of who their officer is, where they live, the particular circumstances; it sounds like he was the epitome of what parole should be, as opposed to what it actually ends up being for a lot of individuals.
David: Yeah, absolutely, you know. Me personally, I believe that parole officers along with correction officers should have more psychology and counseling backgrounds because if they did this, they'd be more helpful and beneficial to those individuals who are incarcerated, instead of trying to just usurp all this authority and the ability to lock somebody up at any time.
So I think that goes back into the thought process that prisons and jails should be more about rehabilitation than retribution, incapacitation, and deterrence. But that's probably another whole, uh...
Amber: I mean, we can do so many podcasts with David Garlock.
Jason: Um, let's go from now you're on parole too, you become an advocate. You become
a movie star.
So how do you get into the advocacy work that you're doing? And what are some things you'd like to share about that?
David: First off, uh, 2015 is when I met my beautiful wife. And we met in April of 2015. We started dating May 17th, 2015. We got engaged July 25th, 2015. And then married August 15th, 2015.
So both of us knew that this is God ordained, let's go do it. And actually today is the five year anniversary of me proposing to her. So it's kind a...
Kind of cool that we're doing this here, so. And then in three weeks we'll be celebrating our five year anniversary. So it's been an amazing journey and just the way that she's accepted me and loved on me. And her parents, you know, that's one thing I always worried about is like, wait, how is this woman's family gonna receive me and accept me with my background, with my past. And they love me like their own son, you know? So it's amazing. I thank God for that. And just the love that they have shown me and continue to show me.
So me getting involved with advocacy, I'd say a lot of that is the result of the education and the professors I had at Eastern university, but also Brian Stevenson and his thoughts. Whenever you hear him speak two of the main things he talks about is being proximate and changing the narrative.
And so, as I went along in my education, I actually had an opportunity to go speak at LaSalle University, which is a Catholic college in Philly. And this gave me this hunger and desire to do more public speaking and to share. And so up to this point, I've spoken in 25 universities up here in the Northeast and, um, churches and different events like that. And this awesome opportunity to educate people, to share my story and then to talk about the work that I've done.
And so a lot of that advocacy that I've done is around people who have committed sex offenses. So for a three year period, I was the program director of New Person Ministries, which is a Christian re-entry home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that works with people whove committed sex offenses.
And people are always like, way, way, wait. You, You were sexually and physically abused. You took the person's life. Now you're working with this population.
Amber: You do have to admit, it's pretty astounding.
David: Yes it is, but that goes back to that grace. That goes back to, really the way Brian Stevenson says - you're not as bad as the worst thing you've ever done.
And that's how I looked at these men, you know. I didn't look at them as whatever offense they committed. I looked at them as the person that was in front of me. And I'd always tell them, you know, you're not sure past. What you do today, what you do tomorrow, that's what defines you.
And a lot of the times they call themselves a sex offender. I'm like, what are you? Oh, I'm a sex offender. I'm like, wait, what are you? I was like, no, you're a man who committed a sex offense. And then it's like, this light went off on their head, like, wait, you're right.
And so I just use that as opportunity to help, change the narrative within themselves. Because, how somebody views themselves is what they're gonna portray to other people and allow other people to see.
I mean, when people see me, they don't see a murderer. They see somebody that committed a murder over 20 years ago. But that's not what defines me. What defines me is the work I'm doing today; who I am, who God has molded and shaped me into. And that's what people see.
As far as the movie. So I did have a small role in Just Mercy.
Bryan Stevenson gave me a call in August of 2018. He's like, Hey, I got this amazing opportunity for you. I'm like, okay. He's like, do you want to be in a movie? I'm like, is you even have to ask somebody? I'm like, yeah.
So in the movie, about 20 to 25 minutes into the movie, I am there with three other clients of Brian Stevenson's.
So there were four roles of people who were incarcerated, who Brian Stevenson was meeting, after he met with Herbert Richardson and Washington McMillian. And what he wanted to do is he didn't want actors to play those roles. He wanted four of his own clients to play those roles because we have the lived experience.
And what's amazing about it too. Is. We have lines in the movie, but they weren't scripted. So each one of us, they filmed us for 18 to 20 minutes sharing our own story. So the lines in there are parts of our own story.
Jason: Oh, wow. I didn't know that. Did you know that Amber?
Amber: I did not know that.
Jason: I didn't know that.
Amber: I love it even more.
Jason: Yeah. It was funny cause, we knew it was coming out and they said it was going to be released on, um. I think they said it was going to come out on Christmas or something but it was only limited, it was New York and California.
And so the first weekend it was going to be here in Connecticut, it was like first or second week of January, and we had tickets and my fiancé and I went. And I were sitting in the theater and you show up and I, that's Daviiiid! And everybody's looking around at me, like, uh, you know, cause we're in a pretty quiet area, it's like, okay.
But that was fun. It was great. And, and the fact that was you actually talking about your own experience. I really thought that that was just some line that you'd given you. But you were great.
Amber: I went to see the movie in the theater with my two daughters. And even the experiences that we've had in our life with the criminal legal system, they were just really astounded by the movie, by the messaging. And what I really love about the movie is, a lot of times you hear, you know, in the media and movies and Hollywood, these stories of people who are innocent, which they did explore that, but also the exploration of someone who had committed a crime and why they were human as well.
That's one of the things that I just really love about the movie and it's arc. And the book, which I had already read, so I was dying to see the movie. So...
David: Yeah. And the thing was that, they did a wonderful job. I mean, if they were to bring the whole book to a movie, it would have had to be like eight hours.
David: The thing that's amazing about the book, that I'd recommend anybody to read, is the other stories of other clients that he has. And really the way that he talks about the trauma that they experienced. And it's going back to the way that that trauma produced a lot of the actions. And that's really one thing that we have to really get to, and we need to get to the place where there's more trauma informed care.
Jason: And to add to that, the reaction to violence, isn't more violence. It isn't state sanctioned violence. It's not putting somebody to death or incarcerating somebody, is not solving the issues of violence they're happening.
Amber: There's so many things that are kind of going through my mind and I'm just so amazed and thankful that you were able to come and talk to us.
So when people kind of approach you and. If there were two things that you wanted them to remember about you, your story, your message. What would they be?
David: One of the main things is that my past doesn't define me. I mean, that's really a key thing that I always talking about. Is that, just because somebody has a past does not mean that's who they still are. We are able to change. And when we're given that opportunity in that change, we're able to impact so many people because of our lived experiences.
And the second would be really the importance of faith. As a Christian it's not just talking about the Christian faith, you know. It's important that whatever faith somebody has, that they allow that to guide them and direct them.
When I was in prison in Alabama, we had faith dorms. In these dorms, we had people that were of Jewish faith. We had people that were native Americans. We had Muslims in there. We had Wiccans. We had Christians. We had Jehovah's witness. So you had this hodgepodge of all these faiths living amongst each other in this dorm.
And people would think, how did that happen? And how did you guys get along and really assist the understanding that, okay, not, everybody's going to believe the same way as you do. And just looking at the similarities and not always focusing on differences.
Jason: And, and to add to your whole thing about faith. We need to have faith based organizations be open, like the one that accepted you, to accept people, regardless of the harm that they may have cost in the past; if they are open and willing to be part of the community and they show that they've turned a corner.
Jason: Because that's the only way we're going to help everybody heal and move forward.
The other question I have as we're kind of wrapping up here is; you told me that your new business model is you're going to be doing public speaking. You're writing a book. You want to tell people how they can either look for your book in the future or engage you if they want to hire a public speaker or anything else that you want to plug. This is your opportunity to do that.
David: Well, I'm on Twitter and Facebook: David Lee Garlock. Also, I have a email: [email protected]
You can reach out to me as far as public speaking. As far as the book, I'm going to be. Posting on Twitter and Facebook. I also have a Facebook page D Garlock speaker. So I mean, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me. I'm willing to travel anywhere.
Um, one thing I also want to do more of is to speak in churches and places of faith and just to allow people to see the change. Cause a lot of times you have churches that want to get involved, but they don't know how to really get involved and they don't know what somebody with a past looks like.
Jason: Yeah, it'd be great to have you in every church across the country. I think you can make a huge difference.
Amber: I agree a hundred percent. I think that's a super important in terms of letting people know how they can help and what really makes the difference for folks as they're reentering. So amazing.
Jason: So, do you have any closing thoughts? Anything you want to make sure that you share that we didn't cover or that you want to put a fine point on?
David: Our baby is coming December 4th - Guy Joshua. So we're definitely excited about that and it's our first child and it's going to be incredible.
David: Thank you so much.
Jason: So um, Guy Joshua. Is there any reason why you picked those names?
David: Guy is just the name my wife liked and we both know individuals named guys. So guy Hamilton Smith giving me a shout out.
And then Joshua, I mean, one of my wife's Bible characters, she really likes is Joshua. And then our pastor's name is Joshua. And so I also wanted to do that in remembrance of him, so.
Jason: You are such an incredible human being; such a wonderful story of forgiveness and turning the corner and what you went through. Nobody should have to have gone through what you went through.
So thank you so much for spending the hour with us. And I'm looking forward to people hearing what you have to say. Ever since I've known about you, I've appreciated what you've had to say. And I learned a lot today and really appreciate you being here.
Amber: I couldn't have said it better myself.
David: Well, thank you for having me. And I definitely enjoyed being on here with y'all and look forward to getting to hear your podcasts and the impact that you guys are making.
Jason: Thank you, David.
Alright Amber, until next time.
Amber: We'll see you next time, Jason.
Outro: You've been listening to Amplified Voices; a podcast, lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system. For more information, episodes, and podcast notes, visit amplifiedvoices.show.