Ron, 60

Meet Ron…

“I learned…to give love unconditionally, because you need to understand that love goes both ways.”

Ron, 60

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla. California

As a child dealing with years of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, I managed the courage to run away from home at 14. I slept with friends and on the street. I began to deal weed so that I could get an apartment. Hollywood and San Fernando were the worst places for a child to be alone. I was managing my life, working day labor with side jobs at the studios. I made it to 16 before I got in trouble, then arrested for having a concealed weapon. I ended up getting released with time served because it was a misdemeanor. I had my mom sign for me to go into the Army. I was placed into violent situations all the time and got the attitude, ‘if you’re not on my team, then you are nothing more than a bag of meat’, and that was how I treated everyone. To say the very least, I was very angry and expertly trained to be a heartless and cruel person, and along with all the alcohol abuse, I truly enjoyed it all. Surprisingly, after my time was up, I was honorably discharged. I was arrested for a high speed chase and sentenced to 25 to life under the three strikes law. Now with a PTSD disability, readjustment disorder, years of jail and prison, the hate in my heart needed to change.This time in prison I found myself in an unlikely place: the prison’s hospice care unit. As I was being trained by Nancy Alexander, a team member of Elizabeth Kublar-Ross I found the change that I desperately needed. I learned to be a human again. I spent countless hours training, I sat hundreds of hours of vigil bed side with strangers. In doing this I learned to better understand how to care for someone on a level that can only be human. To give love unconditionally, because you need to understand that love goes both ways. You have to give as well as receive. I have learned that all the journeys we take in life end in the same way, in death. So keep in mind that death is as big a part of life as being born. And it will change the hardest of hearts.. respectfully.

Anthony, 61

Anthony, 61

Meet Anthony…

“I stole for her, robbed for her, lied for her, deceived and manipulated family and friends for her, and I even committed murder just for her.”

Anthony, 61

Incarcerated: 37 years

Housed: Valley State Prison – Chowchilla,  California

My ex-girlfriend CC was a white girl. She was the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world and I sincerely loved her with every single breath, my heart and my soul. She was like a God to me, I worshiped her. It was like she brainwashed me and had me under her magical spell. I put her first before my family and everybody else. I did whatever I needed to do because I was a loyal, dedicated, and committed slave to her. I stole for her, robbed for her, lied for her, deceived and manipulated family and friends for her, and I even committed murder just for her. My ex-girlfriends name was Crack Cocaine and she destroyed my life too. I am an African American male and I am serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for a murder, burglary, and robbery conviction. I was 24 years old when I was arrested for murder, burglary, and robbery on April 23, 1986. Thanks to the nonprofit, Legacy Alliance and its founder Mr. Michael Baldwin, I found my purpose and calling in life. I am a mentor to men and women and a peer support specialist. From Legacy Alliance and Tarzana Treatment Center College, I discovered shared understanding, respect, and mutual empowerment. I am now able to help others enter and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse. People battling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma, I have learned by listening, being compassionate and having empathy, affects them emotionally. “He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it,” a Turkish proverb. I enjoy just being a friend to a person who needs a friend to talk to about their PTSD and/or trauma.

Derrick, 46

Derrick, 46

Meet Derrick…

It took 15 years of incarceration and the death of my daughter for me to come to the reality that I was heading down the wrong path.

Derrick, 46
Incarcerated: 31 years
Housed: Hughes Unit, Gatesville, Texas

It took 15 years of incarceration and the death of my daughter for me to come to the reality that I was heading down the wrong path. I was raised by a single mother in a drug-gang infested environment. At 12 I joined a gang, started running the streets and becoming rebellious and selfish. I spent time in and out of juvenile detentions centers, reform schools and finally in prison. Entering prison at 18, all I wanted to do was fight and prove that I could hold my own without the homies. 15 years in- I started to be productive and wrote a book, which I’m trying to get published.

In the midst of me doing 28 years, I’ve lost various family members. It has left me extremely lonely and depressed which drove me to try to commit suicide. Society does not understand prison is a place of loneliness, broken promises and shattered dreams. It’s very depressing when you never receive mail during mail-call. We now have tablets with access to e-messages and a phone, yet what good is that when you have no one to communicate with? Today, I’m praying to the lord that he will provide me with someone. One of the things I regret the most, besides committing murder and breaking my family’s heart, is getting my whole body tatted up. I’m talking Travis Barker and Kevin Gates tatted up. I wish I could get them removed, they attract too much unwanted attention.

Thanks for reading my testimony, but most of all- a special thanks to Humans of San Quentin’s for giving those incarcerated the opportunity to share their stories and perspective. Thanks!

Michael, 43

Michael, 43

Meet Michael…

After turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out.

Michael, 43
Incarcerated: 14 yrs
Housed: Alfred D. Hughes Unit, Gatesville, Texas

Months after turning 19 in prison, I was sick of trying to understand the wrongs I was witnessing. So I cut my throat on both sides so deep that I blacked out. By some miracle, I was barely breathing when they found me. After getting 16 stitches on both sides of my neck, I was sent for a mental evaluation. Back at my unit, I wanted to cry. I’ve never been suicidal! Looking at myself in a mirror, I realized I needed help. I’ve been raised up in the church, and that never got my attention. I’ve had homeboys and money, but still got into trouble. There were girlfriends in my life, but still something wasn’t right. I’ve gangbanged, been to parties and clubs, yet still I’ve had no peace. I’ve talked to doctors and counselors, still nothing good connected. Coming to prison, I’ve tried Islam, and my heart still felt troubled. It’s like I’ve done it all, and yet, nothing helps. In my desperate time of need, I felt hopeless.

Suddenly I felt an urge to pray. I didn’t know why, praying never done anything for me before. However, this urge seemed different. I fell to my knees in the middle of that cell and said, “If there’s really a God of all things, then I ask you Almighty God to help me understand the good and evil I’m going through, and I will give my life to you.” After saying amen, I got up not expecting anything to happen. Looking around my cell for some entertainment, my eyes landed on the Holy Bible and something led me to pick it up. I don’t know why, because I could barely read it. I’ve never understood it before. After picking it up, it fell open and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – there was a small image of a lightning display. It was just hovering between the pages. I assumed I was just hallucinating. So I closed my eyes and reopened them, and sure enough, it was still there. That’s when a notion came over me to attempt to touch it. So I led my left finger towards it in the hopes of feeling it, but to my surprise, it began to fade away. The urge came over me to go to the beginning of the Bible where I was led to read Genesis chapter one, two, and stopped at three. I hadn’t noticed how easy it was for me to read it as I’ve never done before until that moment. It truly scared me wondrously. My body didn’t feel the same. Something was happening.

I began to pray a new prayer. I said, “In Jesus’ name I pray, if you are real, then I’m asking you to help me beat my charges I’m indicted with. If you let me go home, I ask that you give me a son whom I will give to you. If you allow me to have a wife, please allow her to be someone you would come for, don’t let her be someone to impress the world with, and please let her believe in you. Then, give me a sign to know it’s her because I don’t want to be confused! Let our love join us together and take her away from the undeserving pain she’s receiving from perhaps her family, friends, or loved ones. In your mighty name I pray, Amen. I made it home. My brother Eric hooked me up with this Black girl days later. She became pregnant with my child, and we set a day to get married. But she went against the agreement once that day arrived, so I broke off from her, and told her I’d be there for my son when he arrived, but I couldn’t stand her lies. Days later, I met this Mexican chick who just out of nowhere came up to me and said, “I think you’d like my homegirl Scooter.” But she didn’t tell me what she looked like, or give me her number. Then she walked away. I didn’t dwell too much on it at the time. But three days later, I met a girl at my aunt’s place, and that whisper said, “She’s the one.” Me and the girl fell in love, then later I realized her a.k.a. was Scooter. The name was God’s sign to me. Then I found out that she’s not being loved by her family on her mom’s side, because her mom was full Mexican and her dad was a White guy. Scooter was only five years old when somebody in her family pushed her mom in front of a car and killed her because they were mad at her being with a White guy. It was hard for me to believe this at first until I met her family. Before, Scooter had told me how her Mexican grandmother had taken her into custody along with her two sisters and brother. She was not completely loved due to her being mixed. She said her grandmother allowed her mom’s brother to molest her. Then she told me that we had to elope if we wanted to get married. So we did! After getting married and God showed me he was behind our union, and finding out that she believed in Christ, I told her I was gonna take care of her problems, but she didn’t want me to go back to prison.

Now I’m doing 60 years. Sadly, Scooter is no longer with me, she has passed away due to being brokenhearted. My family thinks someone killed her, or perhaps she killed herself. And I’m wondering if I’ll ever know the truth.

Juan, 58

Juan, 58

Meet Juan…

I shot two men in a Jack in the Box in Waikiki to defend her with the pistol she used to try to save our lives. I’m schizophrenic and my English is not good, but I’m thankful for you.

Juan, 58
Incarcerated: 33 years
Housed: Halawa Correctional Facility, Aiea, Hawaii

I shot two men in a Jack in the Box in Waikiki to defend her with the pistol she used to try to save our lives. I’m schizophrenic and my English is not good, but I’m thankful for you. Throughout all these years, I haven’t gotten a single write-up. Here, they consider me a model prisoner, but unfortunately, they attacked me, broke my teeth and I’m currently suffering in my liver, heart and kidneys. I work in the chapel Monday to Friday, but for no reason, I have more enemies than friends. However, most of the staff and prisoners appreciate me a lot. May God bless and be with you. 

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