Mark Baynard: How to End Vicious Cycle And Change Your Life

Interview with Mark Baynard, the author of “100 Years”, a memoir of his life that seeks to help the youth avoid jail.

Growing up with a single parent is very tough for most young people. Mark Baynard was no exception. His life on the streets ended up in a number of arrests. Mark spend a total of 15 years in jail. However, he was able to turn his life around. He worked on himself, got an education and now works with the youth as a mentor. He plans to be able to affect the youth on a policy level after completing his studies. His books, 100 years: A Journey to End a Vicious Cycle and also 100 years II: Truth be Told, aim at helping prevent the youth from making the terrible decisions he made. Mark Baynard talks to us today about how he was able to turn his life around and what led him to write his books. He also touches on the juvenile justice system and police brutality.
Hello, Mark! We’re very excited to have you here with us today. Our readers would love to know you more. Could you introduce yourself to them?
Mark Baynard
Yes, my name is Mark Baynard and I’m the author of 100 years: A Journey to End a Vicious Cycle and also 100 years II: Truth be Told. During my teenage years, I was raised in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, outside of Philadelphia – it’s not too far, 20 minutes or so. I was raised by a single parent so I kind of ended up going to the streets, eventually I ventured off into selling drugs, using drugs and just living the street life. So my circle was New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, those areas. At the age of 18, I did a 2 year sentence, came home when I was 20. And within a year, I was back and I ended up serving 13 years on that sentence. Both convictions were for drugs.
Please tell us a bit more about your incarceration?
Mark Baynard
My first 2 years I was actually by myself, you know, got caught in a car with drugs. I made bail, remained out on bail till sentencing and then went and did my time. Came out and evidently I went right back to the same things, I got back in the game, same activities, sold drugs in the street, did what I knew to do to survive. The second time I got caught also – and I’m just talking about me – for drugs in a vehicle and instead of taking a plea bargain with that, I sent it to trial and lost and was given 22 years. I also was a defendant in New Jersey so I had to go to New Jersey and I got 5 years there. So I had a total of 27 years for drugs by the time I got sentenced. Now during that 13 year prison sentence, when I first went in, I was angry so I stayed in fights, a lot of negativity. Then I got to a point when I started reflecting on myself. I wanted to grow and I knew I didn’t want my life to be the way it was, angry and just mad at the world. And I started, I guess you would say, taking self-inventory. I started dealing with me, taking responsibility for the choices that I was making, and I got involved with the stuff that was invaluable in the prison such as different programs, drug treatment programs, self-esteem programs, and the education department. I changed friends and the system, like, there were other people, read different books, so that was the journey.
So what happened after prison? Why did you decide to study and why did you decide to write your books?
Mark Baynard
You know, once I started making changes to my own life which took a long time – I didn’t change overnight, it took a while, it was a process. But once I came out, I’m still changing, I’m still growing, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. When I finally came home, I started looking at the bigger picture, I started looking at my entire family. And that’s when I realized that my family collectively wasted more than a 100 years in prison, which included myself, my younger brother, and a few of my cousins. Before writing the book, I used to talk about it among the family, among my small circle, and then I realized while I was doing time, I saw situations where dads, granddads and their sons were all in prison. The cycle wasn’t just in my family, it was a community issue. So I said I can’t just keep talking about it in a small circle. I wanted to reach out and one of my ways of reaching out was to write a book.
Let’s talk more about the book. Is it a message to the youth about how to avoid prison, and choose the right path to live?
Mark Baynard
Yes. But let me say this too. Also, in the meantime, when I went back to school since I’ve been home, you know, after getting out, first of all I started working with troubled teenagers. I’ve been doing that for the last 10 years. Before I wrote the book, I went to college, got a social degree, then I got my Bachelor’s degree and now I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree, I’m real close to getting that.
How’s the reception to the book? I understand that the second installment is out.
Mark Baynard
Yes, correct. The reception is good. That’s why I wrote again. Because my goal was going to be just to write that, I did my job, the book would’ve been written and I’d just leave it alone. But people were saying, “When are you going to make the next one?” I was getting questions like that. So a lot of feedback, questions, pressure, and then I kind of felt obligated, you know, because I felt like I got something that I needed to give away if it’s worth something to somebody so that’s what I did. And then the first book was kind of focused around me and my family as well as the community but the second one is more broad. The 100 Years II is more broad because it deals with the community. I touched on police brutality, Black-on-Black crime, I touched on a lot of stuff going on in our communities, how we look at each other, how we treat one another. So anyone who liked Part I, I believe is going to love Part II. It’s also a show of my personal growth as a man so you’ll get the journey with me and my personal growth and how I’m dealing with some of the challenges that I’m meeting because when it’s said and done, I’m still a Black man, I still have to face challenges and I share some of these challenges that I’ve faced as well.
You really sound very passionate about getting a message across to the youth. Is it only writing that you use as your way of talking to the society, to the youth, or you have other workshops where you meet with people and talk to them? Do you speak at some seminars and events?
Mark Baynard
Yeah, but on a small local level. Schools, different community centers, I’ve been invited to speak, but I’m working on growing up my character like you would say. Right now I’m doing it locally. I do have a book launched in my hometown – I’m an Alabama man – but I’ll have a book launched in my hometown which is Wilmington in the Philadelphia area, Detroit state area. And while I’m there, I might stop by a school or community center. I’ve got a couple of places where I’m planning on stopping to say some words to some young people.
Now could we talk about your family? You talked about them spending collectively more than a 100 years in jail. Could you please tell us more about some of these cases?
Mark Baynard
I’m sorry to have to speak about somebody else but I can just share the information that I know. This is in the Alabama area. We had a serious situation where an officer was shot and killed in the line of duty, and I saw it on the news. So I went to work that morning and my thoughts were like, “Man that’s crazy! A man only doing his job.” Well, later on that evening, there was a knock on my door. We came out and one thing they asked me was, “When did you speak to your brother? When was the last time you spoke to him?” I told them whatever I knew and then I came to find out that he was a suspect in that case. So those were some agents at my door because of that situation. This happened some years ago. They went to court, it played out, and long story short, he ended up getting the death sentence so that’s where he’s sitting now, on death row.
That’s really sad. 
Mark Baynard
I can’t miss this question about Black Lives Matter. Do you support the movement?
Mark Baynard
Yeah, most definitely. But let me be clear on it because I don’t want to just paint a broad picture. With me it mattered all the time even before that. Once I came to become a man, Black lives started to matter to me and I think it matters too how we treat one another, how we live our lives. So yes, most definitely it matters. But it can’t just be under the umbrella that everything they do is glued to this movement. I think it’s got to be something that we walk and live. It’s more than just a movement for me. It’s something serious because I see the destruction, I see the young people die, I work with troubled youth so I see them coming in and out of the youth facilities all the time. And then I see them on the news killing each other, so yeah it matters and I’m very disappointed with a lot of stuff that’s going on.
So what’s your mind on police terror and police violence?
Mark Baynard
I’m totally against that. It breaks my heart every time I see it but I’ve seen that though because I grew up in a housing project. I saw that when I was young, I’ve seen different things so it’s not like a surprise to me. But the thing is, what’s going to happen? What can I do? You know, what’s the end result? OK, they get charged in some cases, and in a lot of cases it gets thrown out or they’re found not guilty.
What do you think can be done about it?
Mark Baynard
Most definitely it’s got to be across the board. I heard there were some suggestions made where they were giving the options to use and a lot of departments did not use any of those recommendations that the president put out. So I don’t think that it should be like recommended that you do this. I think that it should be mandatory. The policies and procedures and things need to be changed in a way training goes and how they treat people. And I think it should be steps, you shouldn’t go from zero to the pistol real quick. There should be a number of other methods that you’re required to use before you go from zero to shooting somebody unarmed or even armed. I do understand the safety of law enforcement so yeah, I get that. But what I’m saying is that in so many cases we’ve got so many examples where they go from zero to a 100 real quick.
I do agree with you. Now let’s talk about your current education. We understand that you’re studying at two universities right now and you’re doing criminal justice. What are your plans with this education? What do you plan to do after graduating?
Mark Baynard
What I plan to do is that I would like to be involved in some type of policies and procedures in the way we handle our juveniles. I work with them but on a kind of lower level. Now I want to use my education to be in the policy-making position. We have to change the way we deal with them. Because we’ve got a high recidivism rate among young people. At least in this state, I’m just speaking for the state where I’m at right now. I think some of the policies and procedures on how we handle them, whether it’s a re-entry as a kid, we might need to tweak some of those programs. Something needs to happen. It’s like they come to juvenile and they get prepped for prison, do their time, go home, to the same community to continue to do the same thing and end up in adult facilities.
I like your passion when you talk about working with the youth. It’s very touching.
Mark Baynard
Another thing that I want to do which I just implemented, I just started a non-profit youth mentoring program. UCAN, and it’s an acronym. U- Universal, C-Community, A-Advocacy and the N-Network. Universal Community Advocacy Network, it’s my non-profit youth mentoring program. Within the program, I have plans for re-entry, aftercare, as well as diversion programs to reach some of the non-violent, first offenders, offenders that may not really need to go in there with some of the harder juveniles and get corrupted. We might deal with them in the program outside of a facility.
Can we get some of the feedback that you’ve got from your readers? Are there any interesting messages you’ve received that you can share with us?
Mark Baynard
I can’t remember specifically but I can tell you generally speaking it was like, “I can relate, I have a similar story or situation.” Maybe not really a 100, because 100 is extreme, but if you’ve got 10 years within your family, that’s a problem. If you’ve been in jail for 2, your dad’s been there for 5, that’s still too many years. So some of the things was even with parents concerning their children. I see that on that level. Also, some of the youth have read it and those are the most, for me, positive feedback from reading the book.
Finally, do you have any message for our readers especially the youth since you are so passionate about them?
Mark Baynard
Yeah, first and foremost, to the readers, think before you make a decision. Because you could make a decision that will mess the rest of your life up. So take a few minutes and think before you make a decision, because once you do it, it’s done. Your mum, your dad, they might not be able to help you at that point because now you are in the hands of the justice system. We always have to think because we could easily make the wrong decision. Somebody might say something that will offend you and then you go off the head and you want to handle it the best way you know how, and in a lot of cases, it’s the wrong way, because it’s through violence or because you don’t have conflict resolution skills. So I say take some time, think about your family and all that you have and what you might lose before you make a decision. I would say that over and over. Think before you make that decision.

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