The Salt Lake Tribune profiles a convict named Julian Stevens who struggles to adjust after his latest parole. “All I think about is the streets,” Julian says shortly before his release. “How difficult it will be earning an honest living.” After getting a quick pep talk, $50 and a temporary ID, Julian tells his caseworker he won't be seeing them again. The Utah State Prison staffers give Julian their usual goodbye for inmates: “We'll keep the light on for you.” Julian takes a last look at the barbed wire fences and prisoners lingering in the yard.
Some days, Julian's mother blames herself for where her son ended up. Lynda Gonzales says Julian's father drank, brought drugs around their children and was abusive. The couple divorced when Julian was 4, and Gonzales says she gave her kids more freedom to make up for the tough life they'd had. That backfired when Julian made the wrong friends in their Glendale neighborhood. With five sisters and an absent dad, Julian, known as “J.D.,” craved male camaraderie. He was drawn to gangs. “Everybody I ever knew was in that gang,” Julian says. “I thought it was the cool thing to do.” A beating delivered by seven men initiated him into VLT at age 11. By 13, grunt work as a getaway driver progressed to assaults and drive-by shootings.