Mark’s Gallery

Mark’s Gallery

I have enclosed a picture of me / my artwork in the making. It’s a portrait of a husband / wife done in my signature style called “stippling” (dots). It takes some time to do but is so-o-o detailed.

I have enclosed a picture of me/my artwork in the making. It’s a portrait of a husband/wife done in my signature style called “stippling” (dots). It takes some time to do but is so-o-o detailed.

Artist Mark, 66

Incarcerated: 37 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

I was on the front lines moving incarcerated people into isolated housing when COVID hit us hard. Some of the guys I helped are no longer with us due to Covid. That makes me sad, yet, I honor their lives by staying strong and faithful to God, in Christ’s name. And gaining joy by giving back through my artwork

 

Patrick “Jimmy’s” Gallery

Patrick “Jimmy’s” Gallery

 

Artist Jimmy, 36

Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

I began my journey into art first as a means to create gifts for my friends and family, a tangible showing of how much I care and appreciate their love and continued support as I fare this life sentence. I continue to demonstrate this through my beadwork. My inspiration is a chaotic mix of my Native American culture, my love of all things Steampunk and Star Wars. It took me a long time to grow and change to be able to accept me as I am. It was at times a painful process in prison. Through my beading and my constant drive to be a better me, I changed and grew into the man I am today. I am ready to take the next step in my journey of growth and hopefully earn my freedom from the parole board on July 29th, 2022. I share my art because it is the spiritual expression of love and hope. I believe art only has meaning if shared.

Douglas, 58

Douglas, 58

Meet Douglas…

Who were you then and who are you now?
I am a survivor and my hope and my prayer is that in telling my story, someone will hear it and know that they are not alone. This is something that we deal with as child survivors. We feel that we are alone and have no one to turn to – especially behind these walls.

Incarcerated: 30 years

I am an artist, a woodworker, a cabinet maker and a bead-work 

I didn’t find out I was Native American until I was a teen. My father wouldn’t recognize it. As far as he was concerned, my mother’s heritage was Scottish and Irish, not Blackfoot Indian. 

It wasn’t until I reached a point in my healing where I could talk to my father again. It took me 36 years. October 1982 was our last fight. I was home on leave. A situation came up where he was bent out of shape and tried to take it out on my brother, Len. I wasn’t going for it. My father became violent and we got into a fistfight. My mom turned around with a skillet in her hand and said we wouldn’t fight in HER kitchen and we needed to take it outside. 

How did your relationship with your father impact you? 

I lived in absolute terror of my father. You need to understand that my father was abusive on all possible levels. He molested me when I was seven. It’s something that I’ve learned to handle with a lot of work. I couldn’t live locked away anymore. In my father’s household, boys don’t cry and don’t show emotion, so I shut down. The only emotion acceptable to my father was anger. 

How did this abuse impact you once you enlisted? 

I enlisted in the Navy at 17. I wanted to visit places around the world I hadn’t seen. Our family summer vacations were on average a month-long and my parents would load up the camper and we’d go camping. We went to Alabama, Arkansas, and by the time I was 17, I had been in all of the lower 48 states. I wanted to go overseas and the Navy gave me that opportunity. By 21, I had a first-class education in Aviation Electronics.  I got to travel overseas, all over the Pacific Rim, see countries and places that most people only dream of, got paid to do it, and had an absolute blast. In the military I learned the way my father raised me was set in stone. At home my job in life was to protect my younger brothers and sisters. By the time I got out of the service, between my training and the way that I was raised, I didn’t see Scott as a person, when I took his life, he was a target. I emasculated him because of my childhood trauma of being harmed and my anger towards all sex offenders and child molesters. I didn’t have the tools I have now to deal with someone hurting the girls. If someone hurt them they answered to me. It was like flipping a switch, especially after I found out he raped my friend’s wife. 

Who were you then and who are you now? 

I am a survivor and my hope and my prayer is that in telling my story, someone will hear it and know that they are not alone. This is something that we deal with as child survivors. We feel that we are alone and have no one to turn to – especially behind these walls. I’m working on accepting how empty I was of empathy, compassion, and feelings. The Victim Offender Education Group and the Veteran’s Healing Veterans Program laid the groundwork for the trauma and healing. They helped me deal with my criminal thinking, how I wrongly took the law into my own hands. I had to learn that contrary to how I was raised, taking an action like that is not my responsibility. I am not the law. It’s helped to tell my story and to be able to walk side by side with my sister on our path of healing. She’s the one that got me to understand that forgiving my father was not for him, but for myself.  

What would you tell your dad if he was alive right now? 

I was able to tell him for the first time in 45 years that I loved him. “I’m not going to mourn your death, we will celebrate the other side because you’re going to begin the next stage of your journey.” The only thing I ask is that when you see Grandpa, you do it with a smile on your face and peace in your heart.” 

After 35 years, what would you tell Scott if he was here now?  

I’d love to be able to tell him that I am so sorry for what I did to him because he didn’t deserve to have his life taken away. There is no possibel way I can make amends to his family for what I took from him and them, all those birthdays and special events missed because of my actions.  I ask myself now, “Who did I think I was to take him away from his family? What right did I have to take his life?” None. There’s no excuse or justification for my actions. With the work that I’ve done, you would think it would get easier to talk about, but it gets harder because I’m not shutting anything down inside myself. 

Do you forgive your father, do you forgive Scott? 

Scott has nothing for me to forgive him for, it’s the other way around. Whether he did what was said or not, or what I believed at that time. Fast forward a lifetime, I understand that it doesn’t matter what he did or didn’t do. What I did, doesn’t change it. I’ve come to terms and I’m at peace with the fact that I may spend the rest of my life in prison. Would I like to spend time with my sister,  daughter and grandkids? Yeah, I’d love to be able to do that, but the bottom line is: there’s a price to pay and I’m okay with paying that price. I accept the consequences. 

📸 Dougles’

🎤Interviewed by Edwin and Miguel, our inside West Block Correspondents  

Richard (Rock), 53

Richard (Rock), 53

Meet Rock…

…people have different perceptions in their head about people and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  

Richard “Rock” 53

Incarcerated: 30 years

At nine, I was short and had a stance, so they called ‘lil Rock.’ When I got bigger, it became Rock, I was a gang member from Southern California, was never jumped and had no gang activity in prison. 

You say you’re hard-nosed and a hard ass, but you’re a big teddy bear, right?

Yeah, I love to help people, I have a soft spot for others in-need. I learned it from my mother, Vilma. One day she was working at the food bank and was given her favorite food, chili cheese pastrami fries. An individual asked her for some and she said, “No, here’s five dollars, go get your own.” That’s my mom, she’s always helped people no matter what. 

How long did it take to get your first visit in prison? 

28 years. He was my AA counselor, but since Covid, he hasn’t been able to come back. 

How do you feel about having a visit? 

I was nervous and excited at the same time. The visiting room felt like freedom, women’s perfumes, babies running around, ladies laughing and crying with their families, you didn’t have that funky feet smell. It was like Thanksgiving dinner, with chips and pies, women and babies. It was a different and beautiful atmosphere. Even though it took me almost 30 years to get a visit, I thought I’d never get a visit in prison, I thought, wow, someone is taking time out of their life to come and see me in prison. I almost cried. 

Why did you decide to go to school?

Two years after I came to prison, I was involved in a riot. It was the same year my mom passed away. She sent me her last letter saying, keep your head up and stay strong and don’t let anyone tell you differently. It inspired me to get my high school diploma. It took me 17 tries until I passed.  One of my teachers, Joy Aechebocker, told me if I passed, she would put me in the junior college program. It took me four years to get an AA degree. I got hooked on education. 

How does it make you feel to be there for others? 

When I started to let things in, I had to do this to let out my feelings. It feels better than survival. I felt way better. Helping people. I started having my soul flourishing, instead of having my face wrinkled like “Mean mugging” people all day. 

I get emotional. It helps me let my feelings in. It feels like my soul is fourishing. I noticed I change how I hold my face, I’ve stopped wrinkling it and ‘mean mugging’ people all day.   I’ve had six guys die on me. One had swastikas on him, he said to me, “I thought they were going to call a white guy to help me.” I said “You can call me all kinds of niggers if you want, but I’m the one taking you to the hospital.” When he was finished with his appointment, we both started crying. I asked, “How much better do you feel?” he said, “ I thought I’d never feel this way, but thank you.” That’s the way it’s supposed to be, people have different perceptions in their head about people and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  

Why do you isolate yourself in spite of how much you help people? 

 Well, all my life I have been distant. As a kid I chose my friends because I wanted to be sure to be included, but now as a man I see it for what it is. If they want to be my friend, they will. In prison, I don’t think it’s good to be friends with everyone, but it’s good to respect everyone. 

You’ve seen a lot of people suffer. what would you tell the families of those that passed away? 

The person you saw was no longer the person you would have seen. Pain takes a toll.  

Tell us about your job.

I am the Enforcer of Love. I think you gave up the right to sit and die when you come to prison,  when you’ve committed a crime. What I’m doing in trying to help. One time, I was taking a shower next to a guy, who suddenly,  on the spot, his vision was closing like blinds over a window. I said “Where’s your ID?” and took it to the officer’s station and got a wheelchair. I took him over to the Prison Hospital and the next day he passed away. I cried when I heard. I had to stay on track, I was taking care of Rick Colding who had testicular cancer. He wouldn’t eat. He had four days worth of food on his bed. I had to tell the sergeant. Every time nurses came by he would say he was good. He didn’t want to be taken from his cell and away from the fellas. You could smell him before you got to him, death, feces, vomit. He didn’t want anyone looking after him. He wanted to take care of himself,  “What are you a doctor?”  “I don’t care what you’re talking about, but you need help man.” We tricked him to get him to the hospital by telling him it was for a Covid test. They took him to hospice. He saw his family and kids via video before he passed away. My compassion comes from my mother. When I get into something I go all the way to the limit. I’m happy that I got this job because it allows people to see the other part of me instead of just being frigid. I like the person I am today, instead of who I was when I first came to prison. “Then they allow me to take them to the hospital, they see more compassion in me than I see in myself and this is one of the biggest reasons that I do the job to the best of my abilities.” 

You are determined to do this job regardless of the risk to your own health and life? 

Yes. During the Covid outbreak here I sat in my cell for 72 days before they asked me to move down to the first tier. I sat with no electrolytes or treatment. Both Sgt. Polanco and I took the Covid test the same day, only he passed away and I didn’t. Then, I started working again. I believe God called me to do this job. I’ve cleaned up blood, feces, and vomit. If I have the ability to move around, I’m going to still work, even if it means I could die. Ain’t no reason to stop now.  

🎤 Interviewed by Edwin and Miguel, our inside West Block Correspondents

🎧 Ear hustle episode Gold Coats and OG’s

Daniel, 42

Daniel, 42

Meet Daniel…

It’s not easy to come to the point where you want to change your mindset. It can be a mentally painful process. I still have a lot of fine-tuning to do. It comes in increments, when it does, it feels good. My heart and mind feel nourished.

Incarcerated: 23 years

I was a gang banger with little fear of death. I had little respect for people, their belongings and especially their lives. Including my family members, my baby’s mommas. I never took heed to their messages, concerns or pleas. Anxiety attacks led to violence, blackouts, feelings I was an outcast. Depression led to hatred. I didn’t have ways to cope. I fell in love with the street life, where I found happiness. Chasing all sorts of women, mastering the art of mackin, I began to overcome anxiety and shyness. My father missed a big portion of my childhood, I didn’t know how to turn to him. My mother was busy working, paying bills and didn’t know how to help. She raised us alone. We were the roughest, toughest boy pair. If our attitude and temperament weren’t so much like hers, she probably would’ve given us up for adoption. I hit California’s Pelican Bay’s level four at 18. I had never worked a job or gone to school due to gang affiliations. I started going to church and school, self help groups and conflict management. I was forced to shift gears in my rehabilitation path. I began to get yard and participate in recreation. Convict politics on the yard was abundant. People handled their problems by stabbing each other. My last year went without incident and I transferred to a level three. It was lovely and quiet. I felt like I was at rehab rather than prison. You could see the mountains. We were surrounded by hundreds of trees. The correctional officers weren’t yelling all the time, they talked to us like human beings. We could walk into a self-help group and get a crash course. One time I fell asleep on the yard and had no worries about it. I reconditioned my thought process there. This really flipped my wig. I could see why I was in prison for 37 years. I was misguided, had no positive inspiration or motivation. So many lives could have been saved. It’s not easy to come to the point where you want to change your mindset. It can be a mentally painful process. I still have a lot of fine-tuning to do. It comes in increments, when it does, it feels good. My heart and mind feel nourished. 📸 Daniel’s