Jose, 32

Meet Jose…

“I have lived both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us.”

Incarcerated: 11 years

My life with a face tattoo.
When people see me with a face tattoo, their first thought is “He’s dangerous, he must be a gang member or criminal, he’s up to no good.” They start to be cautious or nervous. They clutch their children and personal belongings and judge me because of how I look. I was a lost kid and selfish. In spite of the consequences, my face tattoos would bring at home and on the streets, I didn’t care about anything except myself. I have a huge letter “P” on my cheek, along with a teardrop. All are gang tattoos and my poor decisions. At first I thought I was cool and everyone respected me. I wasn’t thinking of all the negative things it would bring. I found it extremely difficult to talk with someone. I was always judged by my appearance. I would get pulled over all the time. I would be followed and blamed for everything. Then there’s the gang negativity. I couldn’t walk in certain areas. Gang members would see me and start causing trouble. I couldn’t take my family around or be with them in certain places. When I came to prison, it brought its fair share of problems. It’s ironic, you would think that it would be normal in prison… NO. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always what you think. One good example, I was applying for a job in prison. I met all the criteria and had support from fellow workers. I never had a work-related incident and always had good job reports. Still, I wouldn’t get hired. I remember asking, “Why.” Her exact answer, “You look like a troublemaker and like you’re ready to fight.” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was the biggest load of crap I had ever heard. I was nothing but a good person and a great worker. I had changed my mind set and was humbled. But people who didn’t know me, didn’t know that. After a couple of months and having others protest for me, I was given the chance. Even when I was doing my training, she expressed her opinion and thoughts about me. How wrong she was. A month and a half later, she called me into her office and apologized. She had a false sense of who I was and I proved her wrong. I ended up being one of her best employees. I couldn’t believe it. She was apologizing but that happens when you judge a book by its cover. What she didn’t know, I’m a nice, humble person that made some horrible choices. Friends judged me as well. All my good friends thought of me differently at one point. It’s not until they got to know me, that their perception of me changed. I remember one incident the best. I was at the yard one night when one of my friends came over and started a conversation. We have never truly had a meaningful conversation. I told him that I was going to the parole board soon and asked his advice. Up until then, he thought I was a typical gang banger and didn’t have insight as to what led me here. I explained how everything in my life connected to my crime. I shared why my father was abusive. He told me his perception of me was wrong. Till this day, our conversations and respect for one another are deeper. The point – don’t just assume about us. There are a lot of people that look bad who really are but there are a lot of us as well. People who are good, loyal, loving, happy, humble and great, but just made bad choices. Take it from me, I have experienced both the good and the bad aspects of having face tattoos. If you see us, trying to apply for a good job, getting groceries and trying our best, please don’t judge us. I hope you see us differently. Ask my wife. She thought I was going to break her heart and play with her mind and emotions. She’ll tell you how wrong she was and that I’m the most different person she knows. I love you, babe. But who knows, maybe when I see someone, I’ll judge them and start walking far from them, act more cautious and hold my personal belongings tighter. I just wonder how they would feel?

Christopher, 57

Meet Christopher…

I came to San Quentin with my bag of hate and prejudices fully intact. Not really thinking of change. I’m not saying Moe is solely responsible for opening my eyes, but he became part of the solution, not the problem. Moe became my best friend and I am still blessed by his presence.

Incarcerated: 21 years
There have been many ups and downs and too many faces for my limited memory. However, there was one gentleman who got past my concrete exterior and took up residence in my heart. Mr. Darnell “Moe” Washington. I’m not a person who uses words like ‘friend’ freely. I have two friends counting Moe, and I am not easily impressed. He was easy to see in a world of back-stabbing cut-throats, a man speaking from his heart, humbly offering to shake my hand. I was impressed. I came to San Quentin with my bag of hate and prejudices fully intact. Not really thinking of change. I’m not saying Moe is solely responsible for opening my eyes, but he became part of the solution, not the problem. Moe became my best friend and I am still blessed by his presence. After reading Moe’s posting, he once again inspired me to write to you. I have been resisting in writing to you with the belief I deserve more. I am constantly challenged by my own inadequacies and the feelings that surface. I’ve been in a funk. I would like to make a small gesture – with one hand I connect to my heart and with the other I reach out to the world. To all who can find at least one thing, about themselves, no matter how big or small, that you can be proud of. I send you my gratitude. Through you I aspire to be better.

Billy, 58

Meet Billy…

I chose to lead a sober life and finally found my higher power. My higher power spoke to me, saying – I still love you.

Incarcerated: 17 years
Housed: California State Prison, Corcoran

Until I started committing crimes and got strung out on drugs, I had a good life. I didn’t care about anything. I got with different women, sex, drugs and the high life was my way. Once my wife started to have my children, I thought my high life would cool down. Unfortunately, my wife and I loved drugs more. I got a life sentence after my third strike. My life became a nightmare when I was forced to dry out, no drugs, no alcohol, the party life was over. I chose to lead a sober life and finally found my higher power. My higher power spoke to me, saying – I still love you. That night I cried, I needed the Lord. Ten years later I’m still in prison but the Lord is still in my heart.

Christopher, 28

Christopher, 28

Meet Christopher…

I’m now very considerate and learning a lot from these classes on how to be a good man with integrity. I want my freedom after I get these skills. I have a lot to live for. I have a lot of self-worth and dignity that I haven’t had before.

Incarcerated: 2 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

She’s the most generous and loving woman in my life. It’s a privilege to call her my mom. She struggled, but kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. She worked in the food service industry for 36 years. She’s my best friend, but on August 24, 2021 she left us. She passed away. I wasn’t there to be with her and that was really hard. I was in San Quentin. She went to see her other son and daughter before she passed, but I know she wanted to see me. I got to talk to her every single day before she passed. She was my angel. She struggled with her own habits. It was really hard losing her.

My son is Christopher Jr and he’s eight. He’s about a year old in this picture. It’s one of three photos I have of him. It’s the last time I was with him before I came to prison. He’s with his mother now. Between my son and my mom, they are my anchor. I thought if I lost either one of them, I’d lose control. But, I’ve lost both and stayed balanced. I try to call my son all the time, but only get through about once a month. When he was one year old, he had more toys than a ten-year-old. I try to spoil him as much as I can. He was getting spoiled before he knew what being spoiled is.

Freya is my dog, she’s half Pomeranian and Chihuahua and was the size of my fist when I got her. Freya would put her head on Chris’s stomach and lay there like she was protecting him. Ever since she was a puppy, she’d lay in this position and plop back. She was spoiled too – getting her nails and hair done. I spoiled all my family. I did the best to support them and make a better life, because it was a real struggle for me growing up.

We went to a dog adoption in Stockton and got Baldur. He’s a purebred American Bulldog, raised as a fighter and rescued from a raid. We were walking around and Baldur was just staring at us with that same sad face in this picture. I knew he was the dog for us. You’d never know that he was a fighter until you saw the scars on his head. We were worried at first, having little Christopher. But when Baldur was with him, he got attached just like Freya. They’d be on either side of him, protecting him. For a long time, we were a normal family going out, going to movies, the beach, San Francisco, peaceful and happy. Now both dogs went to a rescue. I don’t have my wife or mom. But it’s the memories I hold on to. I’m learning day by day to come to terms with the passing of my mom as well as losing things. Even though I’ve lost all these things while being in here I respond in a positive way, not negative. I think it’s my mom’s spirit driving me. I’m in the GED program getting 98s and 99s in science and reading and social studies. I didn’t apply myself in high school, but I attribute what I’m doing now to my mom, because that’s what she’d want me to do. All the programs I’m taking I hope that it’ll keep me doing right. I’m done doing wrong. While I was doing wrong, I was missing my family and everything that makes these pictures meaningful. I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want to be in a place like this when a loved one is passing. I don’t want to ever hurt anyone or hurt myself from being selfish. I’m now very considerate and learning a lot in school on how to be a good man with integrity. I want my freedom after I get these skills. I have a lot to live for. I have a lot of self-worth and dignity that I didn’t have before.

Steve, 49

Steve, 49

Meet Steve…

I want people to know that being in prison you can stay lost or you can allow it to rehabilitate you. Me, I chose to let it rehabilitate me and that’s when I found myself. I began to smile. I felt good inside. Going to church, participating in self-help programs.

Meet Steve…

I want people to know that being in prison you can stay lost or you can allow it to rehabilitate you. Me, I chose to let it rehabilitate me and that’s when I found myself. I began to smile. I felt good inside. Going to church, participating in self-help programs.