Michael, 40

Michael, 40

Meet Michael…

We were called to love one another to value others more than ourselves.

Michael, 40
Incarcerated: 4 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

It was another beautiful sunny day in Southern California that turned dark real quick. I am a father to three handsome boys Isaac, Ethan and Andrew. I am a happily married man of fifteen years to a beautiful woman named, Marissa. I was active in my church, our community and a manager at Costco. Unfortunately, I am also the reason for that dark day four years ago. My reckless actions and my selfish choice to disregard the lives of everyone else on the road that day, took the life of a fellow brother in Christ. Officer Steve was the victim of my conscious disregard for others. The impact of my decision to drink and drive created a ripple effect felt by his family, his friends, my family and those in our community. I pray daily that God’s saving grace, His manifested mercy and love has poured into the hearts of those victimized by my premeditated choice, to take my keys after four hours of drinking, and put them into the ignition. I know I don’t deserve God’s grace for the pain and suffering I caused. I do believe God’s grace changes people so we can do good works. Because of this unmerited gift do I have comfort, strength, love and support to get through each day. He alone can bring out prisoners, those who sit in darkness, and free us from the bondage of our sins. He gives me opportunities to exhibit grace daily, by educating many, that drinking and driving is not normal. It is like playing Russian Roulette, except your car is the gun, you are the bullet and everyone else is the target. The more you do it, someone will get hurt. Don’t let that be a choice you make or you too can take a life. I am writing to help raise awareness. I appreciate the many opportunities we have to speak on our crimes and our actions. I see the Humans of San Quentin as one of the platforms for the incarcerated to reach out to the free community. I knew little about the system and those incarcerated but it is good to bring an education to others. I hope the stories leave the readers feeling that we are people rehabilitating, maturing and gaining an understanding of the choices that put us in here. A humanness factor to the facade of a prisoner.

John, 40

John, 40

Meet John…

 I wanted something better. I wanted to go home. I realized I wasn’t worth anything doing bad. I embarked on a journey of transformation. I took control of my life and destiny.

Incarcerated: 23 years

Housed: San Quentin State Prison

She was a teen mom, raising me in poverty. I didn’t feel life’s hardships until I was teen. My grandmother, who loved me dearly, passed away. My dad was already in prison. My step dad was known for the biggest drug bust of all time and earned a long prison sentence. After his arrest, my family endured a lot of pain. I tried to stay out of trouble by going to school, working and playing ball, while all my friends went to the California Youth Authority. In the hood, there was nothing but devastation, poverty, prostitution, drugs, gangs, domestic violence and corruption. I ignored it, not knowing how to ask for help. I turned to the gang lifestyle, fast money, not thinking this abuse was an addiction and would become my norm. One day my life spiraled out of control. I shot and killed a human being. I was given a 57 to life sentence for murder. In prison, I continued to live the gang lifestyle. I landed in the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison. The gang culture was deep, violence, riots, stabbing and killings was the norm.  After 12 years, I woke up and saw I was destroying myself and realized the harm I was inflicting on people and my family. I wanted something better. I wanted  to go home. I realized I wasn’t worth anything doing bad. I embarked on a journey of transformation. I took control of my life and destiny. I stopped killing the authentic me by committing violence. I attended self-help classes, I identify my character defects and warped belief systems. I changed my thinking, reactions and habits. Positivity became second nature. I earned a college degree, completed vocational trainings, and have been disciplinary free. After taking parenting and family relation classes, I began to build better relationships. I was grateful and surprised by their encouragement and pride in me. Instead of being leary or worried, they can’t wait for me to come home, if God wants. In the process of this journey, my release date changed. I qualified under Senate Bill 260 & 261 as a youth offender.  go to the parole board next year. I am optimistic and hopeful. I contribute my success and change to those whom I owe amends. 

Paul, 64

Paul, 64

Meet Paul…

Life is a play. We play many parts, when the curtain is drawn, what will it all mean? Peace is a process, not an acquisition.

Incarcerated: 20 years
I am a prisoner, a pauper, a poet, a painter and an author. I am a father and a son. My life is more than half over. It feels like I was born here in this cage, and when I die it will be my mausoleum. Life is a play. We play many parts, when the curtain is drawn, what will it all mean? Peace is a process, not an acquisition. Hear me, I am the silent one, the one you cannot see, then I shall fade away. Think before you feel. Be careful, life is full of negative emotions.
Breathe!

Body And Soul
Is love a desire and lust a need?
Is lust a desire and love a need?
The body has needs
The heart has capacity

Control of one is possible,
But are both?
Or is all truly illusion?
Do we control anything at all?

Love we cannot demand
It must be given freely
Yet we can open out hearts to love
Though to love is not always wise

Lust demands a payment from the soul
Love rarely remains unbroken
When all is done
When life and love and lust are through
Only death remains

Life and Death are opposites
Are Love and Lust?
Death knows no weakness
Only Purpose

Love Sorrow
Imprisoned corpses shake the ground
In a box of iron ore, limestone, silica sand
A container and magnet for negativity

Love rarely remains unbroken
Flying wingless detritus
Sorrow is a ghost of pain and grief
Immortality of spirit

Pale horse frowned
That a heart cannot be stolen
It must be freely given

Entertainment grabs your mind
Love hangs on a cross only as a symbol
Of our unwillingness to reply in kind
Though to love is not always wise

Demiantra, 40

Demiantra, 40

Meet Demiantra…

Everybody I thought I knew and cared about seemed to take the approach that I died. But, the reality is – last time I checked, I am alive. The pain and suffering that I’ve dealt with throughout my life has shown me I am very much alive.

Incarcerated: 23 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, CA

Memoir: Last Time I Checked, I was Alive, by Demiantra Clay.

I chose this title for my memoir because, going to prison at such a young age, is like everybody I thought I knew and cared about seemed to take the approach that I died. But, the reality is that last time I checked I know I am alive because of the pain and suffering that I’ve dealt with on an ongoing basis through out my life– that pain and suffering is a constant reminder of my existence.

The most impactful sentences in my memoir are in the Chapter, “Fifteen Years Down the Line,” which is the epilog– it’s looking what happened to me, 15 years later as I reflect on what I’ve been through as a youth offender.

The parts that make it pop are these words:

“I had a lot of close calls, near-death experiences, and warning signs, and I failed to take heed of them because I wasn’t as grown as I thought I was. A life sentence in prison is worse than one can imagine.” This was a reality check!

Here’s a part that let me know I can play a positive role model for youngsters come from this part:

“Right now, we’re on lockdown because the bloods and crips keep getting into it. Lockdowns means we’re in the cell 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s good to keep a cool celly due to these circumstances. My celly is a young homie from Village Town Compton Piru. His name is Knucklehead; we were celly’s in Tehachapi SHU. He’s short timing; he gets out in months. I do my best to help him get in the required mind state for success when he’s released from prison.”

I would not be in a good place, mentally, if it weren’t for my wife – that acknowledgment is written, like this:

“Woodie aka Woo Tang aka Heart Throb and I are together. Yuppee my sisteren Preachtree’s best friend since like 1991. Yuppee Mrs. LaWanda Clay is my God-given queen, my wife, and this year in March 2014, she moved all the way from East Saint Louis, Illinois, to Chico, California in order to be closer to me. Tnanxxx Bao Bao; you are the best mommee!!

What I learned about myself by writing this book is that I’m very determined as long as I stay focused I can accomplish what I set out to do, no matter how much I struggle or complicated it might be.

Gabriel, 46

Gabriel, 46

Meet Gabriel…

 I am two semesters away from completing my Bachelors Degree in Communication. A feat I never thought was possible, now it is within reach. Life is what you make it and life is good.

Incarcerated: 22

Housed: Folsom State Prison, California

I was having a conversation with my mother, it had been eight years since I have seen her. I was excited. I was catching her up with my accomplishments. I started college and had completed many classes to help improve myself. I was talking and talking. I noticed she was looking at me strangely. I asked her if everything was okay. She said who are you and what did you do with my son. It was at this moment I realized that my transformation had been extreme. This change is what contributed to me meeting the most wonderful woman, my wife. I am finally in a place where I love myself. I care about my future and this translates to my decision making. I am two semesters away from completing my Bachelors Degree in Communication. A feat I never thought was possible, now it is within reach. Life is what you make it and life is good.