Saragoza, 43

Saragoza, 43

Meet Saragoza…

If a loved one is not in a good space, I give them positive reinforcement and make them laugh. Then, tell them all the reasons I appreciate them and why they are a rockstar!

Saragoza, 43
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, California

My struggle began as a baby when my father was gunned down near where I was born. The judge threw the book at me and sentenced me to 335 years to life. The ultimate kicker, I was charged as an aider and abettor. I know what you’re thinking, and no I was nowhere near the crimes. My son was five months old at the time. I was destined for ten lifetimes in Pelican Bay’s Solitary Housing Unit (SHU). In 2013, we did a big hunger strike to end long term solitary confinement. I lasted a long 18 days and was released. Now I love to read and I have learned to remain positive and how to refocus my thought process to happiness, love, joy and prosperity. I was never a negative person and I was only a social drug and alcohol user. I exercise every day to clear my thoughts. I meditate every morning. I read positive spiritual material. I draw, write and listen to all types of music that takes me away from here 😜 I have become and enjoy being a motivator to those in my life. I’m into building people up in all aspects of life. I want to help them better themselves or their circumstances by giving genuine love and support. I’m happy being able to contribute to their happiness, to me that’s what love is. You know what I do if a loved one is not in a good space: I give them positive reinforcement. Then I make them laugh and tell them all the reasons I appreciate them and why they are a rockstar! As far as romantic love, well my superpower is to fall in love like it’s the first time all over again, every single morning I wake up. Yet, snail mail and 15 minute phone calls can’t compete with social media. So I have to fall in love with my imagination and dream woman. I remain steadfast on my journey to help others stay focused on positive and productive things. Thank you for your attention in reading my story and thoughts. I wish and want the best for everyone. Big love always ~ Santos

Robert, 63

Robert, 63

Meet Robert…

 The walls were stained with every substance imaginable. The peeling point was a sad testament to the hopelessness and despair etched on the faces of the few men who stirred from their curtained bunks to check out the new guy.

Incarcerated: 23 years

Housed: California Men’s Colony, Vacaville 

I was taken to the hospital for surgery. Then transferred to the California Medical Facility in Vacaville to recover. I learned how to walk again, to climb stairs. I participated in physical therapy with zeal. Two doctors stating only a small percentage of their patients had my mobility and agility. I pushed through the pain of therapy, so I could hurry back to San Quentin where my life was. I requested an early discharge, he agreed, filed the discharge papers, then the bottom fell out from under me. SQ wouldn’t take me back since I was assigned a wheelchair, a walker and a cane even though I didn’t need them. The doctor corrected the paperwork saying I had no need of any mobility device and I waited, and waited. I was in a filthy hospital dorm with 12 people. Three were under palliative care and in their last throes of a very agonizing farewell. I expected to see my transportation officers appear at any moment. Three days later I was told to pack up what meager property I had. I was being moved to “the mainline” of Vacaville — what! I was taken to a cellblock which consisted of a long hallway with five locked dorms on either side. The noise and smell are what assaulted my senses right off. Music was playing, men were screaming at one another while others gathered in small groups. The smell permeated everything. The shower was releasing billowing steam infused with antiseptic fluid used to spray the walls. Dirt was deep in the walls with ancient food stains, it made for a very moist and dilapidated environment. The officer unlocked the dorm to my new residence, he pointed to an empty bunk and gravely announced that it was mine, then promptly left. Musty cardboard boxes were stacked haphazardly in the dusty corners. The walls were stained with every substance imaginable. The peeling point was a sad testament to the hopelessness and despair etched on the faces of the few men who stirred from their curtained bunks to check out the new guy. Two days later, I asked the floor officer to please check when SQ was coming for me. He called someone and told me I was staying. I was stunned. What? I have nothing here! No life, no friends, my parole packet, typewriter, no personal belongings. All my stuff was stored at ‘Quentin before I left where it will stay until further notice. The fellows here are different from the ones I know in SQ. They are predisposed to violence and criminality. At 64, I can easily be pulled into violence, as an innocent, labeled as a collateral participant. Most get high every chance they get. My life and worldview has changed from criminal to returning citizen. This is a scary place for me.

Danny, 33

Danny, 33

Meet Danny…

Upon my release I want to have my own youth ministry. I can empathize with the youth because of what I lacked and experienced growing up. I just wish there was a program like mine that could have reached out to me and shared their experiences so I wouldn’t have come to prison.

Incarcerated: 14

Housed: California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo

I found my passion and purpose in life by being part of a youth diversion program in prison. When I was asked to get involved, I really hesitated. I didn’t like public speaking. I felt it wasn’t for me. With much persistence and persuasion, I decided to be in the program. A supposed friend asked me to join, yet didn’t believe I would be an asset to the group. To be honest, I was offended and hurt for two reasons, one because he was my brother in Christ and two, he said it behind my back. Little did he know, I love challenges. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have found my purpose in life. At first I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I believe when you are called to do something great you will face opposition for the impact that is to come. My thought process was to receive my certificate and jump to the next class. Little did I know, it was a never ending class with no certificates. Three years in and I was feeling like I wasn’t making an impact. I was very close to dropping out until Kyle, 15 and Tim, 16 walked into my life. Following my presentation, the Probation Officer thanked me and said I had an impact on them. I will never forget that feeling. To know my labor was not in vain, I felt rich. At 25, I ended up being one of the best speakers. As a youth offender, I was able to reach the youth. They always asked for me, which was an honor. This is why I created Challenging and Helping Adolescents Navigate Change by Educating for Success, CHANCES, I want to continue to give back to the youth. They are our future. Kobe Bryant said, “Our youth tends to get the short end of the stick in terms of the investment that is poured into them. Instead, it should be the opposite because they are our future.” Upon my release I want to have my own youth ministry. I can empathize with the youth because of what I lacked and experienced growing up. I just wish there was a program like mine that could have reached out to me and shared their experiences so I wouldn’t have come to prison.

Dennis, 54

Dennis, 54

Meet Dennis…

I am currently employed as an ADA worker earning eleven cents an hour. I assist old and disabled inmates seven days a week, earning $17 dollars a month. I want another chance at life.

Incarcerated: 27 years
Housed: California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo

I am incarcerated for attempted murder. Twenty seven years later, I am on my way to my first board hearing in June. In which, no one is ever granted suitability at their first hearing. I am prepared to be denied parole. However, the timing is perfect because I do not have a strong support network that would put me in good standing with the board commissioners. I would like to seek and build a support network from the outside world to help prepare for my hearing. The CDCR has never offered inmates meaningful training or job trades to prepare us to survive in the 21st high-tech world upon release. Prior to prison, I dibbled and dabbled in the electrical field but never earned any certifications. I was self-taught. In every prison, I have run an electrical service hustle from my cell. This is what I want to do when I get out. Is there anybody willing to properly teach me electronic repair straight out of prison? A lot of basketball players are drafted into the NBA straight out of high school. Why not hire me for a job straight out of prison? I am currently employed as an ADA worker earning eleven cents an hour. I assist old and disabled inmates seven days a week, earning $17 dollars a month. I want another chance at life.

Michael “Money”, 49

Michael “Money”, 49

Meet Michael…

I’m not comfortable in prison, but I am comfortable when I know my family and loved ones are good.

Incarcerated: 21 years
Housed: California Institution for Men, Chino

Mood: Positive, strong, determined and ready to get out and live. 

I’m taking it one day at a time in this concrete jungle they call prison. But as my mama used to say, “Only the strong survive,” may she rest in peace. One day I will be physically free, I’ve been wrongfully incarcerated for 21 years. I have a lot of evidence to prove it if you’re interested in reading about it. 

I’m not comfortable in prison, but I am comfortable when I know my family and loved ones are good. I have the hygiene and food I need. I’ve learned a lot here, primarily patience. I’m trying to change my quick temper and a lot has changed in me. I have a routine and having a job helps. I spend most of my free time at the law library to help me get my physical freedom back! I think a lot. I don’t sleep well in here, and not being comfortable keeps me up at night. 

What do I miss about being free? 

I miss doing what I want. I appreciate things more now, simple things like a shower, bath, clothes, good food. 

How do I feel love? 

Love in my family and those who are here for me while I’m in prison. I don’t see my family since they all live out of state. I talk to them here and there and communicate mostly by mail. 

Love is real, meaningful and beautiful. 

Love is God and Jesus.

Love is strength and determination. 

Please feel free to write to me anytime. God Bless!