Larry, 65

Larry, 65

Turmoil to Tranquility

I spent many years at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City before coming to Lancaster. We were frequently on lockdown due to recurring violence. Races were separated and contact was limited. I had to navigate through rules with which I didn’t agree; rules that were enforced through my intimidation, coercion and extortion. Being fearful and “looking over your shoulder” was a constant norm. Most men just watched TV all day because very few programs were offered.

After attending college for a few years, I was given a job as a teacher’s assistant. I had the honor of helping men attain their GEDs. This position gave me purpose and helped me escape the joylessness of prison. By the grace of God, I was able to stay disciplinary free. Eventually, my record earned me the privilege of transferring to CSP Lancaster. I had heard rumors about the Progressive Programming Facility (PPF yard), where there were men like me who didn’t want to partake in racial prison politics, join a gang, or do drugs.

Upon arrival, I first noticed different races sitting together, talking and walking the track. I found dozens of educational classes, religious services and self-help groups that were offered on a daily basis. I immediately enrolled in several of these programs and I was thrilled when my friend, Jon Grobman, asked me to become part of the “Paws for Life” program. Seeing dogs running on the yard is astonishing, petting them is amazing, and being a part of their lives is a true miracle. I’ve been blessed to have been in this life-changing and inspirational program for over two and a half years. More than ten of the dogs I helped train now have “Forever Homes”.

Bolinas — My Portal into Self-Awareness

There is one road in and one road out. The ocean is on one side, a lagoon on another, and national park everywhere else. The mall town of Bolinas is twenty miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. My parents first took me there in 1965. Bolinas had a family style Italian restaurant that went by the name of Tarantino’s. I can still picture the wife of the owner who got around by pushing a food cart. She was quite feisty! Delicious food!

One of the beaches (Agate—near Duxbury Reef), when at low tide, had an abundant selection of ocean life, such as Starfish, crabs, abalone, sea urchins, sea anemones and other colorful “creatures of the deep”. What first caught my eye as a child was all the dogs roaming free and most of the men had long hair and beards. The atmosphere in town was so peaceful and relaxing. It felt special everytime we traveled there. A few years later Tarantino’s burned down.

After high school and college, I started going to Bolinas on my own. I used to sleep in my car and wander around town. The only tavern in Bolinas was Smiley’s (originally called The Schooner Saloon built in 1853). It is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. Due to its location, prohibition (1919 – 1934) didn’t affect alcohol sales if you’d “Speakeasy”. I enjoyed many fun evenings with the locals at Smiley’s. Most Bolinas residents like their privacy. They would remove the sign on Highway One pointing in the direction of town. The Bolinas Lagoon separates the town from Stinson Beach. I’ve swam the Bolinas strait between the two many times at the mouth of the lagoon. It is usually overcast in the morning and clears up later.

In the late 1970s, I lived in Berkeley with my hippie girlfriend, Mary. I knew she would love Bolinas as I did. I owned a Ford van with two captain’s chairs in front and a cozy bed on plush carpet behind them. We’d “Camp” in it on secluded back roads. We felt totally safe. When Mary discovered the “Nude” (clothing optional) beach, she never wanted to leave. She was completely happy naked. On the other hand, I was a bit shy. Mary liked her marijuana cigarettes. Every time she lit up a joint, it seemed couples from all over the beach made their way to our blanket. She sparked up often. It was a good way to meet locals and other “tourists”. I recall a small cottage/house at the corner of Wharf Road and Brighton Avenue that welcomed us. We spent a lot of time in Bolinas the next few years.

The funky stores were a highlight for her. Mary’s favorite was named “the Chameleon.” It sold clothing, mainly. The Bolinas store had everything we needed. John, the proprietor, was there often. The community bulletin board on the store’s outer wall filled us in on the latest happenings in town. The Coast Cafe served fresh fish and tasty ice cream for dessert. The Grand Hotel always seemed to have a flea market in front of it. The community center had all kinds of interesting activities with guest speakers. I recall attending many a breakfast to benefit local causes. We enjoyed the book sales in front of the library.

There are various routes to get to Bolinas. Highway One is a pretty drive, but the heavy traffic can make it miserable. Via Olema is another choice. The Fairfax-Bolinas road is my favorite. A slow, relaxing cruise through the redwood trees. It Always puts me in a mellow mood. True bliss is when the Pacific Ocean comes into view. I believe it followed an old stagecoach route or horse trail from San Rafael through Fairfax up the Bolinas Ridge to the summit house and down to Bolinas.

For most of my adult life, Bolinas has always been the “Go To” place when “city” stress got to be too much. The solitude of strolling an isolated ocean beach with the fresh air blowing through my long hair, cleared my head from the daily turmoil. The magnificent sea life during low tide at Agate Beach is truly unique and added to the enjoyment. The dirt path down to the beach is less than a half mile.

On one particular day, the wind was howling and extremely unpleasant. By a stroke of luck, I discovered a small opening hidden and partially obscured between some overgrown vegetation. It opened up into a small serene valley protected from the wind. It felt I was treading through uncharted territory. A little further up this curious route I noticed a wooden bench near a creek. It was a welcome sight. The babbling brook was uttering captivating sounds. I immediately flashed back on a book written by Herman Hesse (Siddartha). An elderly man listens and learns from the river. I began to take a few deep breaths. The guise of this bench had become my portal into self-awareness. I relived past experiences, pondered the future and then, returned to the present moment. I never judged myself too harshly. I have laughed, shed tears, made love, meditated, prayed, asked for forgiveness, grieved, was lonely, had anxiety, released anger, felt calm, was grateful and hopeful as I sat on this invaluable creation.

Who built it? Why? When? Perhaps I’ll never know. Returning often over the years, I always left encouraged, optimistic and rejuvenated. You can see why I hold it dear to my heart and why I hunger and thirst to return one day for more spiritual guidance. I wonder if anyone else has felt the magic here. I’ve never seen anyone while I was there.

I took my future wife there in 1987. Sharen was pretty, conservative and didn’t quite understand the peace I felt while in town. After a few years of dating, she wanted to get married. Her being Catholic (I wasn’t), Sharen needed to be married in a Catholic church. I agreed, that is, if I got to pick the location. Enter Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic church in Bolinas.

Gregorio Briones willed the land upon his death in 1863. The Mexican governor of California deeded him ten thousand acres (roughly three miles by six miles) in western Marin. The land grant was called “Rancho Baulenes.” The church was built by Timothy Phinney (a chicken farmer) in 1877 for $2000.00. It has always been a mission church without a resident pastor. There is an old pioneer cemetery behind it.

We met the priest and decided on a wedding date for November 17, 1990. Father Raymond Decker presided over the ceremony. We filled up that little country church with  family  and friends totalling nearly 100 guests. We were told of a secluded bed and breakfast inn for our honeymoon. It was on the road towards the southern entrance to Point Reyes. A “Rose” symbol was the only clue to its location. I’ve forgotten the friendly owners, but I do recall their huge dogs (Huskies?) named Oscar and Lily. We continued the tradition of staying there yearly to celebrate our blessed union.

Our reception after the wedding was on the mesa. The location was a lighthouse style Bed & Breakfast (on Kale?) with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. The catering was provided by the local bakery. All the employees wore tie-dyed shirts. The pumpkin cheesecake made the special occasion memorable. A couple we met at mass performed the music at our reception. They lived across the street from the church. A long dirt driveway led to small cottages. I booked the two rooms at the Grand Hotel for my best men and their friends. Everyone went to Smiley’s afterwards. 

Sharen and I had three children. The five of us strolled through the cemetery before and after mass. We noticed very few new plots. I seem to remember a wooden bear tombstone with trinkets left under it dedicated to a young boy. It was drizzling a certain Sunday morning and we took refuge under a tall redwood tree. Right in front of us were two burial plots. Our middle daughter suggested we purchase them. To make a long story short, I did, #173, #174! They overlook the beautiful Bolinas Lagoon. It gives me total satisfaction and peace of mind knowing I will be buried in a place dear to my heart. I often daydream of all my carefree and fun times in lovely Bolinas. Soon, my spiritual eternal home will call my name.

Dedicated to my two friends: Norman Staub Sr. of Stinson Beach and Father Raymond Decker. Acknowledgments: The Bolinas Museum and the Stinson Beach Historical Society.


My life as I once knew it, is gone forever. It has been replaced by a new set of rules that I have little control over. In my freedom I took a lot for granted. I used to swim, loved driving my car or riding a motorcycle. I used to go to restaurants, take hikes in the forest and stroll up and down the beach picking up seashells. Can you relate to this? I used to check out concerts, play golf (it was my thing) and feel the thrill of catching fish. Even the little things: walking to the store, or setting off fireworks on the 4th of July. All of that is gone now. I miss going to sports events, living with a woman or cutting down a real Christmas tree. And Halloweens were the best!

Now I can’t even visit my friends and family. And the worst is not being able to go to their funerals when their time comes. I can’t even say that last goodbye. Many have passed away, and the mail is so slow I always learn of something after the fact. My parents are currently 87 and 88 years old. I don’t even like to think about it.

I have made some really bad decisions. I have caused a lot of pain and grief to many people, friends and strangers. When you hurt people it spreads to other people you can’t even imagine, hundreds upon hundreds, because people know other people and we are all connected. It could even be a thousand people affected in my case. It is very sad. I was a selfish person. I didn’t think of anyone but myself. That’s not the way it goes. I was doing drugs. Even when you don’t plan for it, that’s what drugs eventually do.

I didn’t listen when people were trying to advise me. It was like they were preaching to me. I hated it. My parents, teachers, and friends all tried to tell me I was going down the wrong path. I refused to listen. Even to my best friend! I began doing drugs by myself. I would hide it from people. I spiraled out of control.

Don’t make the mistakes I made. Don’t spiral out of control.

Adriel, 43

Adriel, 43

My name is Adriel. I am one of the transwomen here in San Quentin. I am 43 years old, and a Taurus. I am Spanish, French, and Yaqui Indian.

I knew by the age of 5 that I was born in the wrong body. But I couldn’t tell that to my parents, because the machismo was running rampant in my home. You were born a boy, you will act like a boy, like that was going to be easy.

I was way too flamboyant for my own good. Luckily for me, my family thought I was going through a phase. It was difficult growing up in a household where you couldn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to someone, so I had to bottle up all my emotions.

I have always loved going to church, but with COVID-19 that is not possible. I am looking forward to going again.  A year without church services is driving me crazy. Church is where I find my inner peace. I find answers to many of my questions in church. For instance, concerning my transition to womanhood, I pray to God day and night about my inner feelings about who I am.

One day I decided that I was  going to be straight-forward with God. I said, “God, You know what is in my heart. This is what I am asking of You: If I am walking in Your Will, let the hormones that You bestowed upon me work to make the changes to my body. If it’s not Your Will, then the hormones won’t have their effect on me. I just don’t like that I am holding back from the growth that needs to be done. I need that inner grace so I can excel at the piano and singing and play the drums better.” Within a month after my prayer, my body started changing. My diabetes was under control and my blood pressure has gotten better. I started feeling a whole lot better. I started feeling like the woman I should be. My focus at church improved, including playing the instruments and singing. Everything was going so great  even my hair began to sprout at the bald spot on my head. I was so grateful that God heard my prayer.

Now that I was transitioning into the woman I was meant to be, my family had a huge surprise coming. What they thought was just a phase is actually who I am. They get to see my truths in the way I think and act, and about my life overall. They might not understand it at first, but that’s ok. I just know that I have changed a lot from the person that I used to be. I am a lot more compassionate, affectionate, empathetic, kinder, friendly, loyal and trustworthy to those around me. My talents have become better as time goes by, and it’s only going to get better. But while these changes are happening, I’m glad that I can still find peace and comfort in my surroundings.

What brings me comfort, you ask?

When I am nervous, stressed or  have anxiety, I go to my comfort food of chips. I  have different categories of chips. If it’s nerves about work, I go to my plain Lays potato chips, they are salty and just plain ol’ good. The salt from the chips soothe me. I know that is weird, but it truly does. You would think I would get high blood pressure, but it is just the opposite, it’s plain uncanny.

When I am edgy about a conflict that takes longer to solve, I resort to Doritos nacho chips. Yummy! The cheese and the taste of the chips helps me think of solutions that other people are not able to come up with. I guess I can say that it is my thinking chip. LOL. Sometimes I eat half of the bag because I usually come up with something that is easy to execute. Other times I end up eating the whole bag because it took a little more brain work to come up with a solution.

When I am jumpy about life, not knowing what is going to happen next, I get out the big guns. Grilled cheese sandwiches. It  varies in what I put in them depending on my stress. There are times I would add chicken chunks,  onions, bell peppers, and  tomato. Or I would put some pastrami with the veggies and sliced pickles. Who doesn’t love pickles, yum!  and I add Jalapeno with a little cilantro-lime seasoning just to give it extra flavor. I just find ingredients and off I go creating a wonderful meal.

There are other times when a sandwich just isn’t enough or the world is too overwhelming; then I make burritos.  I would just do bean and cheese. Other times I would make it with just vegetables and cheese. When you cook it with butter you’ll sound just like Homer Simpson drooling over a donut. Just the other day I used four shredded beef pouches, with three honey turkey meat logs, with black beans and rice. Talk about a party in your mouth. You just felt like slapping somebody. SMACK!!!

When I am sad I go to my Gospel CDs. They bring calmness and joy back into my life. When I lost my dad, what brought me comfort was music. It brought the memories of when my mother and I would play music throughout the house and just have us a good ol’ time. Music and food bring me comfort at the times that I need it the most. Just like my dad used to do….

I would like to introduce you to someone who is special to me. My dad. He meant the world to me. He was my hero. Remember the old Superman show that was black and white? I used to suspect that my dad was actually Superman. I even asked my mother if it was true. She said, “Yes. your dad is really Superman, but you can’t tell anybody, because then they will want to take him away so he can save the world again.” I was in total awe of my dad because he decided to retire and raise me. I looked up to my dad because he would comfort me during an earthquake. I was truly afraid of those. When one would start,  my dad would hear me scream, he would run and scoop me up in his arms and head for the couch. He could cradle me into his chest so I wouldn’t see anything shaking or hear the rumble of the quake.

Growing up, my dad would tell me little corny jokes,  but I had to laugh because he was trying. If he couldn’t make me laugh, he would tickle me until I was breathless, pleading for him to stop. My dad was great. He taught me how to ride my bike and drive a car. I always appreciated him for that. He also gave me words of wisdom. As a child, I was deathly afraid of the dark and I could not sleep in the room by myself. My dad stayed up late, so that I could sleep, before he got to bed. One night he sat next to me and asked me what I was afraid of. I told him that something was out to get me, I heard noises outside. He told me to shut my eyes and listen. It wasn’t that hard to listen since the walls didn’t have insulation, so everything was crystal clear. While my dad sat there I closed my eyes and listened, slowly I started to recognize the noises. Like the pigeons that my dad kept in the backyard, they were cooing and their babies were chirping for their parents. I heard the cat meow. My dog was running around the yard chasing the cats. After a while, I did not feel my dad next to me, but I was not afraid.

When I got into trouble for shoplifting in Santa Cruz, my dad was truly upset and that was the last thing I ever wanted–to disappoint him. He told me that I should choose my friends wisely because I never knew what kind of trouble would come my way. He also told me to observe all things around me. If I did,  I would eventually learn to spot trouble before it came to me. That advice has helped me throughout my incarceration.

I never thought that I would lose my dad while incarcerated, but I did. It was the hardest time for me. But God looked down upon me and had mercy on me. Fortunately, at that time, I had a very cool boss. I thank God for that sergeant. I was able to talk to my dad every day on the phone. I was thankful that I was able to sing to my dad; I sang one of his favorite songs to him over the phone before he was gone. I miss my dad very much, but one day I will see him again.

Mark, 36

Mark, 36

I am native on both sides. I’m the product of a Mexican mother and an African American father, so I’m all kinds of ‘gorgeous.’

My mother ran away from home at the age of fourteen due to her stepfather molesting her youngest sister. Her father, my grandfather, was in prison. My mother eventually turned to the streets of Los Angeles and joined a gang called the “Lost Girls.” She started selling drugs, then using and soon she started committing robberies. She used to break into empty hotel rooms by putting me into the window to unlock the door. She would turn tricks if need be and do whatever she had to do to keep me and my brother fed. My mom did the best she knew how to do and I will always respect her for everything she did.

Mom exposed us to most shit people only see in movies. Seeing her beat by different boy friends, my big brother and I learned how to fight like cage fighters. I’ve stabbed, shot, and ran over her dudes. But to this day, I’ve never raised my hand to a woman, and I never will. Mom met her second husband, a Crip, when we were living in LA. This is a time when gangbanging was really gangbanging. Most mornings I’d wake up on the floor to keep out of the line of fire from the drive-by shootings. To top it off, her husband was Black and my mom looks like she’s Mexican and Indian.

On their anniversary, I’ll never forget, my aunt was watching us when she got a call from the cops at the hospital. Seven Southsiders had jumped my Mom and her husband for being a mixed race couple. They were coming off Santa Monica beach when it happened. Oh, don’t feel bad, my Mom kept an ice pick in her hair. One Southsider died, one suffered brain damage for life, and the others were either beaten up or stabbed after being disarmed from their own knives by my Mom’s husband.

After their divorce, my Mom, brother and I moved back to Sacramento and lived with my aunt and uncle until we learned my uncle was beating my cousin, his stepchild. My cousin would get beat until he bled. Off again we went. There were times we didn’t have money for food. Mom would walk us into stores and we would open bags of chips, cans of soda, and make sandwiches. We would walk around eating unbought food, and then just walk out.

At 11, I joined a gang and started gangbanging. My uncles and cousins in Southern California, from Norwalk, Pico, and parts of East L.A. are all Southsiders,

gangbanging was not a way of life for me, it was life.        -Joe Crauter
I heard my father was a badass and I longed for a connection with him, yet I’m glad he wasn’t around. He beat my mom and had he not been killed; my brother and I would have certainly tried.  

Now I’m telling you this so you can better understand who I was, who I am now and what I’ve been through to become who I am.

I grew up wanting love from my father but hating him for putting hands on my mother. I was fucked up. As I said, what makes me is the pain and suffering I’ve endured, but yet, I am strong enough to still find beauty in life.

Now of course I’m skipping some things I can’t talk about, but before I started gangbanging I had seen too much death. At eleven I was put on the head.

I told myself I was going to be bigger and badder than my father. To prove that point, we did a mail in DNA test, called Ancestry Tree, and, believe it or not, ‘Geranimo’ is related to us in some way. I mean, how I was raised, no joke, to this day King Kong could’ve called me out for a fight and in my heart and soul I will find his weakness and beat him. Truly, I only fear GOD, one of my downfalls. Anything you can think of gang-wise I was a fucking nutt. I could pull out guns on my older homies and this behavior only got worse. Couldn’t no one tell me shit, until my baby brother died right in front of me, in my mom’s arms, choking on his own blood.

At 14, I was charged as an adult for a home invasion robbery. I was given bail at 15 and I fought my case for eight months and lost. I didn’t go to the California Youth Authority, I went from juvenile hall to Tehachapi State Prison. It was a level four facility, which is the highest level of security within the California prison system. Prison to me was like a game or a movie and I was the lead actor. I learned real fast that gangbanging in prison was radically different.

After back-to-back fights, gang and race riots, and a broken hand, I was placed in solitary confinement for two years. I did 18 months in “The Hole.” I was moved to a level three yard that we were beefing with the Southsiders and the Correctional Officers.

There were riots, deaths, stabbings and I remember writing my mom a letter and telling her, “Mom, I love you” just in case I didn’t make it home. Well… she called me a sorry ass, punk-ass bitch and said I had better stop talking like a fucking punk, that I had no choice but to make it out or she was going to kick my ass. That’s who my mom was.

Although I was still winning head-up fights, I learned in riots that if you don’t move right you will get stabbed. Well, I was then transferred to Jamestown level three yard, which was still rocking, but it wasn’t shit compared to Tehachapi’s. To me, it was a walk through the park.

After a few riots with the Southsiders and gang riot in Jamestown, I paroled with new found knowledge. I was always sharp-minded and crossed paths with some real good older guys that told me, “Don’t go back to the head, you know what it offers, you’re still young, turn your life around.” I paroled from a level four with a gang file and I was considered high-risk. I was told if I got caught anywhere near my hood I would be locked up.

I got out of prison and had my own car waiting on me courtesy of my Mom and brother. I got a job six days later at a care home. I’m a people person so I took care of the people as if they were family. The patients called me Uncle Mark.

I met my wife one week after her twenty-first birthday. She probably thought I was crazy. I told her this might sound crazy but in a year from now you’re going to give birth to my babygirl and we’re going to get married.

She’s all I ever wanted in a woman. To this day I’ve never seen anyone with eyes like my wife’s. I mean the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen. Her eyes have orange and gold flakes and in the sun they tend to change different hues of color.

She’s beautiful, smart, kind, warm- hearted, and has strength and is self-motivated. She was putting herself through college at Sacramento University. I was amazed at how focused she was on becoming a teacher. All I said came true. My wife, while pregnant, continued college and obtained her Bachelor’s degree. Sadly, I caught my case while she was four months pregnant.

Once our baby girl was born it was too difficult for her to get her Masters degree. She’s the best mother ever. My wife has been by my side from day one. She teaches for a living and home-schools our daughter and son. I’ve never spent one day with my baby girl outside these prison walls; this prison is all she knows. You’ll have to forgive the tears…I get emotional thinking about my family. So it’s hard, our daughter wakes up crying for me or is in a bad mood after a visit, and the list goes on.

There’s only so much emotional support I can give over the phone, so my wife is there to deal with her emotions, and our son’s emotions too.

When my family hurts I hurt. It’s hard, real hard when my daughter misses me a lot.

At visits she sits on my lap, laying her head on my chest the entire visit. I fought back my tears when I held my baby.

So my wife is my hero, she’s my superwoman.

She keeps our family together and helps us all with our emotions while dealing with her own. I’m very much involved in my daughter’s life. She’s a dancer, she’s been dancing since she was four. She’s a ballerina, and she is very good at it. Well, this takes me into how I came to be in solitary confinement’. I spoke to my wife and kids three times a day and got visits every other weekend. So, as Covid-19 worsened they shut down visiting. Mind you, that’s the only way I get out to see my babies. Then the staff and officers would shut the phones off and the situation only worsened. All my daughter knows is that contact with her loving father stopped. I was worried because I didn’t know what was happening with my family. I thought of my options, and although it was wrong in some eyes, I knew people with cell phones and I started using one to reach my family. My daughter loved it. She couldn’t see or talk to me for at least a month before I made the choice to take that risk.

During my first call she was crying and asking if Covid-19 was going to kill me. I made sure she understood I was strong enough to fight through it if I caught it, but it didn’t help that on the evening news people were dying all over and still are. So I kept using a cell phone to talk and check in on my family. After getting caught with two cell phones a couple months apart I was placed in the ‘hole’ and put up for transfer. Would I change my choice if I could go back in time? “No!” It provided reassurance to myself, and my wife and, most importantly, my children.

Crazy thing is, in the ‘hole’ we got more programs, showers, and phone calls than on the mainline. We showered every other day, yard every other day, and got phone calls once a week. When I was in general population showers were every three to six days, and if I tried to get on the pay phone ever, all I got was yelled at.

So here I sit in the hole. I miss taking college classes, which helped me transform as a man, father, husband and as an all around human. The mental walls put up by indoctrinated prison politics and street life no longer existed. Sitting in a class with ex-skin heads, Southsiders, the very worst gang members you could think of, and yet everyone through higher education is searching for answers and realizing we’re all the same. I mean, I’ve had the most difficult, yet intellectually eye opening conversations that would never take place in other prison yards. Funny, I talk to some of the people that volunteer here, folks like teachers and tutors, and when they hear just pieces of my story they’re in tears and want to write about it. Before programs were shut down, I would leave class and race to call my wife to share what I learned. I’d be as excited as a little kid at a park.

About a year or two ago at San Quentin, Mount Tamalpais college put on an academic conference and without knowing what it was, I chose to attend. In one of the rooms a panel of women shared their stories about being locked up. A trans-woman spoke about her struggles. It really was brave of her and it got my attention. I started to ponder on hate in different forms.

One form of hate we are all familiar with is racism, I would like to draw a parallel if you will. Black people have struggled with equality, it seems, since forever. We were looked at as different for our skin tone along with other features. We know we were born the same, breathe and eat just like others. We don’t like being beaten, or called names for the way we were born – that we can’t change, right?

I took a cultural anthropology class a few semesters ago. I learned we can’t control the way we are born and that’s what makes everyone beautiful, unique, different and the same all at once. No one likes to be an outcast, discriminated against or hated for how they’re born. No matter your skin tone or sexual preference, we all deserve respect, empathy and equality. In truth we all have more in common than not.

Time is the most precious gift to those of us incarcerated, because we lost so much of it. For amazing teachers to volunteer time out of their lives to teach us is beyond me. Helping further our education means the world. Ten years ago I didn’t have the education that allows me to think on a whole entirely different level. It’s said with age comes knowledge. The new-found knowledge I acquired leaves me thirsty for more.

Three days after I arrived in San Quentin my mother passed away. Her passing during my incarceration was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. But, my time in San Quentin has made me feel as if I am richly blessed. Blessed because I had the opportunity to attend self-help groups and college and I’m a few classes shy of an AA Degree. Then, suddenly, COVID-19 hit and all positive self-help groups stopped. It stopped everything. I thank the university staff for my success. As a student, I generally receive A’s and B’s. Another group that I attended was Prison to Employment Connection , I eventually became a facilitator for their group. Members of Prison to Employment Connection helped prepare people to re-enter the workforce and brush up on everything they may need to find and keep a job. They offer a 14 week job preparation course that ends with a job fair.  In another group that I was proud to be a part of was San Quentin Utilization of Inmate Resources Experiences and Studies (SQUIRES), where I was a mentor for troubled youth we share our upbringing and help redirect the youth onto the right path and help them deal with their issues.

Mount Tamalpais College and staff, I thank you all. And if you’re reading this and have a loved one in San Quentin, or if you’re a youngster, please take advantage of what’s being offered here. Your views and outlook on life will change and you’ll be given tools to make better choices in life. Speaking of tools, I plan on telling the world how to become trained to be a SQUIRES member. SQUIRES helped me save my son’s life. I was able to redirect his path from wanting to hang out and become part of a gang- to walk the straight path.

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