An in-prison program seemed like a "beacon" calling to Hamid—the source of light he always needed.
"My earliest memory of my father, Mustafa, is being with him in his home and the police coming to get me from him," remembers Hamid Bashir. "The sound of their voices echoing through my father's house, calling him to bring me out of the house. He kidnapped me from my mother."
Hamid grew up in South Central Los Angeles at the height of the crack epidemic. His mother struggled to take care of him. His father was addicted to drugs.
Hamid went to live with his grandmother, Anna, who first taught him about Christ. Although she provided a good influence, Hamid became a depressed, rebellious teenager who resented his parents for their actions. He began to abuse marijuana and alcohol to forget the pain. Soon, he had dropped out of high school and hit the streets with his friends.
Hamid joined a string of armed robberies in the summer and fall of 1998. At the sixth robbery, Hamid and an accomplice held up a store at gunpoint in downtown Los Angeles. By the end of the altercation, Hamid had murdered one man and injured another.
"That was the climax of all my sin and rebelling and turning away from God," says Hamid.
BREAKING FREE WITH TUMI
Behind bars, Hamid didn't fail to find drugs. He got high in his cell to celebrate his birthday in 2005. Then, looking out his cell door, he realized that if he continued this lifestyle, the view of prison walls would be his reality forever. He shuddered at the thought.
Hamid was living and breathing, but he was spiritually dead. In tears, he called out to God, "I can't do this! Take this—whatever 'it' is—please."
Confessing his helplessness, Hamid began to let God work in his life. Little by little, he says, he broke free from the spiritual chains that kept him in bondage.
Later, Hamid transferred to Ironwood State Prison near Blythe, California. There he received a flyer about The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), a biblical studies and leadership program facilitated by Prison Fellowship® in coordination with World Impact. "The program was like a beacon," Hamid says—the source of light he always needed.
After enrolling in TUMI, Hamid spent the first module learning how to read the Bible and apply it to his life. For the first time, life seemed full of hope and possibilities instead of dead ends.
"I don't have a lot of certificates as far as school and diplomas and stuff like that," Hamid explains, "but I have my testimony in Christ Jesus and what the Lord is doing for me."
A HEART ON FIRE
After a major riot occurred at Ironwood, Hamid felt seriously traumatized. In the aftermath, he was transferred to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, California, where he met other TUMI graduates. They formed a deep bond and started a church behind the walls that they called Pillar of Fire.
Hamid petitioned the governor’s office for early release for many years. Finally, in 2018, he received 7 1/2 years off his sentence and went before the parole board early. He walked free on May 18, 2018, in a white sweatsuit and flip-flops.
When Hamid stepped off the Greyhound bus back in San Diego, he couldn't find a payphone. It was the first—and perhaps smallest—of many challenges to face after prison. But Hamid isn't alone. He remains closely connected to his network of TUMI graduates, and their fellowship motivates him to persevere and succeed.
"I want them to be proud of me," he says, "and know that I'm doing the right thing."
Today Hamid is working full-time with a property management company. A man of many talents, he’s also passionate about skateboarding. He founded a Christian skateboard company called Cross Flip. "I'm praying the Lord takes my interests ... and brings those things together with the right people," he says.
Hamid still thinks back to the days he petitioned for a second chance, and he thanks God. "I want [former] Gov. [Jerry] Brown to look at me and say, 'Hey, that guy—I didn't make a mistake with him.'"
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