Alonza Thomas Answers Viewers’ Questions
Where is Alonza today? How is he coping with life after prison? FRONTLINE asked on Facebook what you wanted to know about the subject of our digital film, Stickup Kid, and Alonza sent us his replies via text message. His answers, lightly edited for clarity, are below.
How are you doing today? When we see you on the couch trembling without hope — is that how you are today?
Today is a struggle, like every day since I’ve been home. But the person on the couch without hope isn’t my complete reality. I’m better mentally, but nowhere near living. My current situation is stressful, but I just keep moving. Sometimes I think life is hopeless. And I pray for strength. It’s 100 percent more stressful out in society.
In what positive ways have you changed? In what negative ways have you changed?
I am better adjusted to society. And I can get defensive at times.
What was the hardest part about your transition, and how did you deal with coming back to civilization?
I am relatively on my own. Most people I encounter don’t understand my situation. And that’s somewhat understandable.
Do you still battle with issues created by living in prison for so long? Did you ever see a therapist, or do you figure if all out on your own? I have so many questions. Do you take medication? Or is there actual therapy that works?
Yes, I battle with some issues on occasions, and I do not get therapy. … I am no longer taking prescription medication.
Do you have a routine every day?
My routine every day is survive. I’m living, trying to make it to my next breath. And praying for the opportunity to reach my full potential.
Have you been able to find employment, or taken steps to complete your GED/HS diploma?
I have had employment. At this moment I am currently unemployed. I have certification for oil field work. … I don’t have my GED or high school diploma at this time.
I hope you are able to continue with your poetry and that someone will step up so you could have a book published. Did you get your driver’s license?
Yes, I have a driver’s license, and I also intend to do poetry.
What is your relationship with your brother like now?
My relationship with both of my brothers are wonderful. They show love and unconditional love.
Do you regret pleading guilty? Did you ever file a petition for habeas corpus in federal court?
If I could change the whole story, I’d write a new book. I would do everything different. Things happened and I couldn’t understand why. It’s not that my 15-year-old old mind was too immature. I couldn’t understand how the adults involved from start to finish were so ignorant that they couldn’t do the right thing.
Some people will focus on one fact [that Alonza Thomas attempted to rob a store]. They excuse the predator and throw stones at the victim. And at 15 I knew those that chose that route were predators of a different nature.
Do you believe if a person would have guided you to church instead of robbing, it would have made a difference?
I am not sure. As I look back on the sequence of events that took place, and the realization of what type of child I was [well behaved] — I never saw prison in my future. The fact that I still ended up incarcerated speaks volumes. I pray that no one goes through the things that led to my arrest.
Why did you share your story with Caitlin and FRONTLINE? What prompted you to share?
I believed in her. And I believed in the story. She didn’t speak to me as the animal most judged me as. And I still believe in her … with no regrets.
What do you hope people will come away thinking and feeling after they learn about your story?
My hope is that people understand that I was a child, a victim who feared for his life. I’ve never once been tried charged or convicted of any crime previous. And I hope everyone can understand that. And for those who can’t right away, I hope when they have children, if they don’t already, look inside their child’s eyes at 15 years of age. And if they were an honest, good kid who has never once gotten in trouble at school or with the law. Try to look at them with a straight face and say… if a predator preyed on you, and you were terrified and all of your life was in danger, and you were forced to commit a crime, it would be your fault. If a person could do that, they would instantly become just as bad as any predator.
What would you say to young kids today who are facing what you faced?
Try to be as strong as possible and I say that with honest hope that no one, child or adult, ever goes through that experience, ever! It would be a travesty in my eyes.