Brian, 52
Brian, 52

Meet Brian…

I live for my fiancée and my daughter, they are constantly on my mind. I attribute my relational rehabilitation to them.

I was just talking to my fiancée. I live for this time of day when I can talk to her and to my daughter. My days revolve around my time with them on the phone. My fiancée lives in Pennsylvania and when I get out, we will get married.

I was married before and I have never been faithful. It doesn’t have to do with me being incarcerated. I know myself a lot better now, she has taught me so much about myself. I used to have a lot of trust issues and was very lonely. I still have trust issues, but they are my issues and not hers. We’ve been together for about seven years and she has issues with me that I have given her. She still thinks I am the person I was when we first met. All of my growth, I attribute to her in that she made me a better person. We meet each other’s needs. We have our doubts about each other, but it’s okay. I know what she is to me. 

I was also talking to my daughter Desire, she’s 22 and just had my second grandbaby. When I held my granddaughter, I was just walking back and forth in the visiting room enjoying every second as my baby girl stared up at me. I’ve been incarcerated my daughters whole life and never got to hold her like that and she was watching me carry around her baby and was so happy.

I’m proud of my daughter. It’s hard for a young lady to have two kids and to stay together with her boyfriend and they are making it happen. People go through problems. They have their little place and they’re keeping it together. I told her that it’s her responsibility to keep that family together. She’s the backbone. Her mom’s there to help, but she needs to struggle. Her mom’s not going to be there forever.

Summary: I live for my fiancée and my daughter, they are constantly on my mind. I attribute my relational rehabilitation to them. They have opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed and I am a better person in every way. My fiancé can’t see my growth, she thinks I’m the old unfaithful man she knew on the streets. I’m excited to share my awakening with her and to be in my daughter’s life.

More about Brian

I work for San Quentin Television (SQTV). I’m also the executive director of the San Quentin Prison Report, an award-winning video and radio program that highlights the transformative work of men inside San Quentin State Prison. I went from short-form storytelling to practicing a mostly documentary style. I have a few projects in the works. One currently titled, Growing Up Behind Bars, is a dive into the life and rehabilitative journey of juvenile offenders serving life sentences. (See, growingupbehindbars.com). Another project features a story about Watson Allison, a man who spent 31 years on San Quentin State Prison’s death row, and who, in the middle of quarantine, received a parole date and went home during the COVID-19 outbreak while still residing at San Quentin State Prison.

I participate in other leisure time activities or self-help groups, such as the Day of Peace, Mental Wellness, and I am a member of the SQ Basketball Program. But I am mostly a filmmaker who is trying to change the prison narrative. Language is important to me and I am passionate about changing the language used to describe incarcerated people. As vice president of the San Quentin State Prison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), I am seeking to change how mainstream media labels incarcerated people. I do this by asking the press not to use words like “inmate” or “prisoner” when discussing prison issues. We believe it is more humanizing to call people by their names, or to collectively refer to incarcerated persons as “people.” I’m not an “inmate” or “prisoner.” I am a person who happens to be incarcerated. We are incarcerated people. We are returning citizens. Changing this language could change the narrative.

Blue Grandpa

I see my family once a year courtesy of Get on The Bus, a program connecting kids with their incarcerated parents. Get on The Bus has been my only outlet for visitation with my family since 2012. So I sit here in 2020, looking at pictures of myself greeting my grandson for the first time. I think about 2019 and the first time I laid eyes on my granddaughter, Dakota. I have another grandson as well, and we often talk on the phone. He calls me Blue Grandpa because he says every time he sees me I have on blue.

As I wait to see my grandbabies, I become nervous and excited. To keep myself busy, I hang out on the yard with my basketball teammates. My name is finally broadcast over the public address system and I can’t get to the visiting room fast enough. Once inside, my daughter gives me a huge hug, reaches down to the baby seat, and then hands my granddaughter over to me. During the visit we take a few pictures and my daughter watches me eat and play with Dakota. For these two hours, I feel as if I’m on top of the world. Then I feel as if I’m at a loss when the visit ends. I cry as I walk back to the yard. But I can’t wait to show off my new pictures.

The time for graduation finally arrived in the earlier part of 2020. I remember how I could hardly wait to receive my AA degree from Mt. Tamalpais College. The college is located in San Quentin State Prison, which makes it possible to invite family to the graduation ceremony, including kids and grandkids. I had everything prepared and my heart was set on seeing my loved ones, but COVID-19 prevented me from being able to graduate in the company of their joyful presence. I worked hard to finally be able to graduate and was really disappointed when COVID-19 took it all away, just like it took so many things away from other people.

I’m thankful to have my kids and grandkids in my life. I’m also thankful to have my fiance, Lisa, who keeps me grounded and strong and tells me when I’m right or wrong. Receiving so many pictures from my family and not being able to see them this year really solidified the fact that I am overly ready to go home after 22 years of missing out on their lives. If there is one piece of advice I would give people out there in society, it would be this: when you find yourself feeling like things are not going your way, or that life is too hard to deal with, just think about me. I would change places with you any day of the week. Try waking up in a cage as big as your closet everyday while still being able to keep your head up and stay positive through these unprecedented times.

Things haven’t changed too much for us in here, other than my not knowing whether COVID-19 might take away one of my loved ones before I get a chance to make it home.