Maurice, 45

Maurice, 45

Meet Maurice…

“With the help of finding myself I had to understand that I needed to work on the way I perceived things. I must find something positive in every situation.”

Maurice, 45

Incarcerated: 6 years

Housed: Thumb Correctional Facility, Lapeer, Michigan.

I am from Detroit and have been in and out of prison and jail throughout my life. I am finishing my last three credits for my AA degree from Mott Community College and majoring in social work. Since I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve mentored young adults and teenagers. I have been allowed to teach an art class based on my curriculum, teaching the basic fundamentals of drawing. I am in the process of creating a nonprofit for at-risk youth in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The nonprofit is based on self-expression through the creation of art. I’ve learned that daily art will improve one’s focus and vision. In creating art, one will generate positive thinking. The process is a form of meditation and expression, resulting in self-improvement. I don’t look at incarceration from a one-sided perspective. I use my time to build a better me and to prepare me for the future. Prison can either be a university of self-education or a dungeon of deterioration. People are anxious to improve their circumstances but unwilling to improve themselves. With the help of finding myself, I had to understand that I needed to work on how I perceived things. I must find something positive in every situation. I like to say I am the director and producer of my play. This prison journey is close to being over. I have acquired everything I need to live a positive and productive life. The prison will give birth to the new me. Thank you for allowing me to express myself and hopefully be a light to someone else’s dark path. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to stand on this platform you’ve built for us to express ourselves and to be noticed.

Tam, 43

Tam, 43

Meet Tam…

Mr. Brown never judged me.”

Tam, 43

Incarcerated: 20 years

Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California.

I met Mr. Brown at the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. He was a correctional officer. He turned out to be one of the most positively influential male figures in my life. Mr. Brown was my work supervisor at the prison clinic. He was an older African American with a deep southern drawl from Texas. Somehow, he’d held onto that accent even after over 30 years in California. He was a charming, funny, inviting person who always smiled warmly for staff and the incarcerated alike. Still, he especially had a soft spot for the young female nurses. He was a huge flirt. For the first few months after meeting him, we had a cordial and professional relationship, talking mostly as a courtesy and to get work done. One night, he worked overtime in my housing unit. As he was doing the inmate count to make sure no one had escaped, he stopped in front of my door, looking into my tiny cell through the glass window in the door, and listened to me playing guitar and singing a song. He tapped on my window, catching my attention, and asked what song I was singing. I answered that it was something I had written. The next day at work, Mr. Brown initiated a more personal conversation than usual. We started talking about music we liked. He expressed that he enjoyed hearing me sing and was surprised that an Asian loved R&B and soul music. (Apparently, he thought Asians only listened to bamboo flute music from a kung fu movie.) It turned out that despite differences in race and being on different sides of the wall, an officer and a prisoner, we both loved Al Green, Albert King (the best King) and, of course, Marvin Gaye! Over the next few years, he shared about his life with me. I learned that he grew up in Texas, joined the Navy, and about his wife, Gail, and his kids. I shared with him my experiences of growing up in a domestically violent home, my mother abandoning me when I was 8, joining a gang to have a place to sleep, as well as the irrational reasons I had for attempting to take another young man’s life when I was 22 years old.

Mr. Brown never judged me. He encouraged and guided me by sharing his experiences of the good and bad choices he’d made as a young man and songs and lyrics he felt were relevant to how I was feeling. I looked forward to talking and laughing every day with this Ol’Man. I eventually dropped enough points to get transferred to a lower-level security prison. Mr. Brown retired shortly after. Whenever I hear Bobby Blue Bland, Mr. Brown’s favorite singer, or a Marvin Gaye song, I think about Mr. Brown. I am still surprised and eternally grateful for music opening the door to this unlikely friendship that influenced my maturity during one of the most difficult times of my life. 

Side note: The name of the song Mr. Brown heard me sing that night was “Wish You Knew”. I also wrote another song, Brutal Love, about Mr. Brown and his wife. Both songs can be found on my album titled “I’ll Write Myself a Love Song”, which is available on SoundCloud or Spotify. My other Album, “Over The Phone”, is also available on both platforms.

https://open.spotify.com/album/2T4aCI8szxPZBzw2L5NEZm?si=1lnx8X09RZ-XiKHg5W4A5Q

https://on.soundcloud.com/w4Wgi

https://open.spotify.com/album/7hHmH8x31K4OrdmH8Ie1AT?si=SlkmmyhCRhimCbTZYmjaDA

Jared, 40

Jared, 40

Meet Jared and Artemis..

“Introducing dogs into an environment that, at times, could be incredibly depressing and hopeless has brought about a transformative change in our community. Simply put, it has brought us all a touch of humanity.”

Jared, 40

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: San Quentin

Canine Companions is a non-profit that has been providing service dogs to people in need at no charge to them. These highly trained service dogs will help their lucky recipient navigate their life by performing many tasks, including retrieving dropped items off the floor, hitting elevator buttons, turning on and off lights, or simply being there to wake them up during a nightmare. We receive these dogs for training at 16 weeks old and have them for one year. My dog was one of the first puppies here, and his name is Artemis. Artemis will leave me for professional training in April of this year. While at San Quentin, we teach the puppies 32 commands and proper social etiquette, including house manners and how to greet people and other animals. We also train them to walk correctly on a leash, even in a wheelchair. The impact these puppies have had on not only the ones directly involved but the population as a whole is staggering. Introducing dogs into an environment that, at times, could be incredibly depressing and hopeless has brought about a transformative change in our community. Simply put, it has brought us all a touch of humanity. We started with two dogs in April of 2023 and have since grown to six dogs. I am so grateful to be a part of this life-changing program and hope others get involved. We are behind these walls for the crimes we have committed, and I am awarded this opportunity to give back in an enormous way.

 

Chase, 28

Chase, 28

Meet Chase and Wendel..

“He is changing so many lives in here, he has definitely changed mine, and I can’t wait until he changes somebody’s life out there as a service dog.”

Chase, 28

Incarcerated: 9 years

Housed: San Quentin

Wendel is a 13-month-old black Lab Golden Retriever mix. He is a service dog in training with an organization called Canine Companions. I am one of Wendel’s San Quentin Puppy Program puppy raisers. We received Wendel when he was a four-month-old puppy and were tasked with caring for, socializing, and training him on fundamental cues. We are also paired with outside puppy raisers that give Wendel the socialization we can not provide behind these walls—things like going on car rides or to the grocery store. So far, Wendel has done excellent in the program and brought so much positivity to the incarcerated population and the staff here at San Quentin. He is changing so many lives here; he has definitely changed mine, and I can’t wait until he changes somebody’s life out there as a service dog. Wendel brings humanity to many lives, and his journey is just beginning.

 

Travis, 33

Travis, 33

Meet Travis and Wendel..

“It is softening my heart in a hard place.”

Travis “Milkbone”, 33

Incarcerated: 11 years

I’ve been at San Quentin for three years, and since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the dog program. My dog, Wendel, is one of the first to arrive here. Although I haven’t been training him since he first came here, I definitely care about him and his future as a service dog. Many inmates in this program have their reasons for wanting to be a part of this program. As for me, I have a nephew who is mentally disabled and in foster care because of his parent’s battle with addiction. Since I’m a replacement trainer, it’s more like Wendel is teaching me. I usually just reinforce what he already knows and bond with him. It is softening my heart in a hard place. He graduates on April 5th and then goes on to professional training. It’ll be sad, but I know he is going to help a person like my nephew, and I helped play a part in that. Thank you to Canine Companions for bringing their program here.

 

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