Victor Torres loves two things most of all in life: his family and God. That’s why if he could, he’d travel to Jerusalem to walk the streets that Jesus walked. First, he has to keep his promise to his granddaughters, to whom he owes a Disney World cruise.

The first thing Victor notices when meeting someone new is their smile — especially since he began working as an assistant dental technician. He completed his dental apprenticeship with his brother Jorge, and they have a plan for when they get out: a mobile dental unit to assist those who need it, especially the elderly and infirm. Right now, of course, their plans to refurbish a camper as a rolling dental lab is only a dream. For a first time non-violent offense, both brothers are serving life in prison without parole.

Victor’s enterprising spirit is nothing new. As a kid he wanted to become an accountant, and enrolled in Baruch University with that goal in mind. When his girlfriend became pregnant, Victor began working as a janitor to support his new family. It wasn’t enough. Focused on his unborn son, Victor dropped out of school to work more hours. When that too proved insufficient, he finally succumbed to the promise of a quick and better buck. He was the only guy he knew from the old neighborhood who wasn’t dealing.

His conviction devastated his father, who spent his whole life trying to keep his boys away from that life. Nonetheless, Urbano Torres – lovingly known as “Papi” – continued to love and encourage Victor and Jorge, because that’s what a father is supposed to do. And that’s what Victor wants most of all: to be a father to his children like his father was to him.

Even after 30 years in prison, Victor remains hopeful.

He finds hope in daily Bible study, and in the knowledge that he has learned from his mistakes. Though repeatedly denied the chance to prove his personal growth beyond prison walls, he doesn’t let that stop him. Instead, he spends his time pursuing degrees and apprenticeships to ensure that when finally released, he won’t be a burden on his family. He strives to help other young men come to terms with their mistakes.

Atonement, Victor believes, is a tremendous source of strength.

He hopes to ease the suffering of his family, who he feels have been unduly punished for his actions. In his letters, he remembers his beautiful 63-year-old mother “aged more than ten years in a matter of days” after his sentencing. Visits with his family are incredibly painful. No matter how much it hurts to see his family go, the pain of their departure is worth the few minutes of joy being together brings.

Victor’s father and three of his brothers have passed away while he’s been incarcerated. Not getting to say goodbye has been hard. He wishes he could have been there for his family when they needed him most. His mother is 93 years old. Thirty years into his incarceration for a first-time drug offense, it’s more important than ever for Victor to go home.

 

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