Dr. Jesse De La Cruz was raised in the barrios of California. At the age of 12, he began a journey that led him to join a neighborhood street gang, heroin addiction, prison and eventual membership into a violent prison gang. He served approximately 30 years in numerous California State Prisons from Soledad to San Quentin. After his final release from Folsom State Prison on April 2, 1996, Dr. De La Cruz committed himself to a residential drug treatment program in June 1996 and has been clean and sober ever since.
In the spring of 1997, Dr. De La Cruz enrolled in a community college. He had not attended school since his December 1968 expulsion from high school as a sophomore student. In 2001, he graduated with his Baccalaureate Degree in Sociology. From there he went on to obtain a Masters of Social Work Degree in 2003. After a seven-year hiatus, he returned to college and obtained the highest degree possible in his chosen field, an Educational Doctorate (Ed.D) at California State University, Stanislaus in 2014. His dissertation was a study of gang members titled: Mexican American/Chicanos Gang Members’ Voice on Social Control in the Context of School and Community: A Critical Ethnographic Case Study in the City of Stockton, CA.
In 2011, Dr. De La Cruz published his memoir Detoured: My Journey from Darkness to Light which chronicles his involvement in gangs, drugs and eventual incarceration. He has lectured students, teachers, and community leaders about his experiences with gangs, drugs, crime, and our immense judicial and prison system and gives possible solutions.
A natural storyteller, Dr. De La Cruz reveals during his presentations a deep and rich understanding of the causes and conditions that bring about gang involvement, criminal behavior, drug addiction and our nation’s huge incarceration problem.