Juan, 23

Juan, 23

Meet Juan…

“Fitness is an escape within these walls, it helps me deal with everyday situations and I get to stay healthy.”

Juan, 23

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, California

My favorite song is called “Meet Me Halfway” by the Black Eyed Peas. Fitness is an escape within these walls, it helps me deal with everyday situations and I get to stay healthy. Faith in my higher power, it will always be a part of my recovery. My favorite verse is Jeremiah chapter 29:11. College has connected me to a greater community, “Reach one Teach one” as they say.  In three months, I’ll be blessed to be going home to begin a new chapter in my life. 

Roy Lee, 68

Roy Lee, 68

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Meet Roy Lee…

The powers that be, have no idea all the good teachings Stacy did for people.

Roy Lee, 68
Incarcerated: 45 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I met a lady pushing a shopping cart through Quentin. It was full of art supplies, she stopped at all the cells and asked if I’d like to draw. From that point on she’d stop by every week and give me pointers. Twenty some years and three prisons later, I met with Stacy Hay, five days a week, in her classroom in the Arts in Corrections building and learned something new. She taught me that after three days of beating Mulberry bark with wooden hammers I could make paper. She taught me how to make hard back books from scratch. I learn mosaic art for a number of mascot projects for nearby schools. I sat with her for hours talking and watching her paint. Her paintings were beautiful, she could keep up with the best of them, she taught me momo printing. The flier I added was of a momo print I did of celtic knot work.

You draw out what you want, cut them out, ink them up, place them on a sheet of fiberglass, with a sheet of damp printing paper over it and run it through a press. She was one of the main driving forces in my life that has kept me upright. I brought music to her to copy for her shop, she was like an old hippy from the early 70’s, I brought Alanis Morissette. Her first CD was kind of racy. One day her husband was a visiting artist and he asked as he was sweating me, “Why do you give my ol lady stuff like that to play?” I remember telling him, it’s time to come out of the 60’s and move forward. It hurt to be moved from that prison. I heard right after I left they shut down the Arts in Corrections program. The powers that be, have no idea all the good teachings Stacy did for people. I’ve spent many years trying to give back, but with this system, it is sort of like the old west, once you are put in one spot, that is it! Like the old gunfighters who are not allowed to hang up your guns, but I will keep pushing forward with hope in my heart and peace in my soul.

Charlie, 47

Meet Charlie…

I share these snippets to say, you never stop being a dad. My girls are grown now, but they will always be ‘daddy’s girls’. I may not be with them, but I’m always here for them.

Charlie, 47
Incarcerated: 15
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

There are some memories you don’t forget. Mine happens to be of my girls. They say you never stop being a dad and I follow that idea as best as I can. My babies are the only thing I wake up for, they are my reasons for pushing on, I may not be able to hold and kiss them, but I’m always here for them.

When I was 19, my oldest was still in her mother’s tummy. I was forced to make a decision in my hometown where there weren’t many jobs straight out of high school. Knowing I had this little one coming, I needed to do something. So I gave up my life to the US Army to give a life to my unborn daughter. I didn’t think twice and I didn’t blink, it was all for my daughter and my budding family. That choice paved the way for my oldest to see other states and countries. My sacrifice gave her clothes, food, and shelter. It also introduced her to different cultures, places, foods, and a whole score of experiences. On the other hand, she gave me motivation, strength, and desire to be all I could be. If I needed one more push to go one more mile, all I had to do was to think about my baby girl.

Fast forward a few years, I had left the army behind, and was in a new relationship and expecting my second child. When my youngest was born I wanted nothing more than to hold her and do better for her. I drove a cube van and delivered furniture from sun up to sun down in Toronto. I didn’t care if it was all for my little angel.

The two best memories I have are of my girls. I was a real big fan of the singer, Eminem. One day I had the song, My Dad’s Gone Crazy, playing. I noticed my daughter was smiling and singing along, so I turned down the radio and my daughter didn’t skip a beat. She kept singing, “I think my dad has gone crazy!” I smiled like a Cheshire cat that day.

The other memory is of my youngest, we were going to Walmart to get her picture taken in her first easter dress. She would sit there, but she wouldn’t smile. It didn’t matter if it was the photographer with her toys, her mother, or her brother making funny faces. She would only smile when I stood behind the camera after the picture was taken. Then, she jumped into my arms and wouldn’t let go. I still have that picture with me now.

I share these snippets to say, you never stop being a dad. My girls are grown now, but they will always be “daddy’s girls.” I may not be with them, but I’m always here for them. One day I’ll see them again and I just hope they can forgive me for not being there. They are my life.

Doraine, 66

Doraine, 66

Meet Doraine…

Prison is not designed to change a person; only you have the power to change yourself; you have to want to succeed.

Doraine, 66
Incarcerated: 5 years
York Correctional Institution, Niantic, Connecticut

I am a gospel singer behind the walls with locked doors and razor wires. Here I became the executive-producer of a gospel CD titled, “Raise the Praise, Live In Concert.” Our gospel group have been nominated seven times by Holla Back Gospel Music Awards with CEO Mr. Jerry Green. I have won several music awards including the McDonald Gospelfest Music Guinness Award by the legendary, Cece Houston, the late music icon, Whitney Houston’s mother.

I am not defined by my accused crime, I am not a number. I have learned I can prosper in the worst conditions; I am a survivor! Mary K. Blige’s producer, Edwin Ramos, assisted in building a recording studio behind these prison walls. Prison is not designed to change a person; only you have the power to change yourself; you have to want to succeed. You can be liberated and succeed and never forget where there is hope, there is purpose. To every reader, never give up!

Anthony, 38

Anthony, 38

Meet Anthony…

She told me I was a great writer and that my pen would get me out of the… pen.

Anthony, 38
Incarcerated: 20 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison Death Row, San Quentin, California

I wrote and recorded my first song at 11. From there, I became passionate about my goal of one day being the best rapper. I worked hard to achieve that title, but I also worked  harder at the “gangster” half of the gangster rapper. It eventually ended my life as I knew it. I was in jail facing the death penalty at 25. There was a lot to unpack and adjust to. I had been arrested a lot, but never had to do a lot of time. The thought of having to go through a trial that was expected to take a few years was a lot. I had the pressure of having thrown my whole life and career away and the frustration of not being able to be the best father I could. I was just a young angry person with an F the world attitude.I met a guy who had been in jail since before I was born and was on appeal from death row. He helped me see that getting into it with the police all the time would only make my time harder. As he got me to calm down, we got to know each other and I would let him hear my raps. We would talk about life but he was the one who pushed me to get started on  writing my book. My paralegal who came to visit every week offered to make a copy for me. Instead of returning it, she gave it to my lawyers who decided, although it was fiction, there was too much of a criminal element which could possibly hurt me in trial. It took me two years to get the pages back. It took me forever to get back into the story and dive back into the characters and emotion. I finally finished the first draft, but that was only half the battle.

By this time, I had been sentenced to death and was at San Quentin. Publishing the book has been as hard as it was to write it, if not harder. It’s been a blessing in disguise because I got to learn this business. When I began this project it seemed like I was alone. I knew it would be a special someone that would help me execute this plan. Not long after I finished that first draft I met the lady who would later become my wife. She has been that special someone to help me with anything and everything, like making phone calls, copies, emails…Things that may seem insignificant until you need them done and don’t have any way to do it. I am extremely grateful to have her by my side every step of the way. Unfortunately tragedy has been the driving force to push me across the finish line. In 2020 I lost my great grandmother who was very dear to me and implored to continue writing. She told me I was a great writer, and that my pen would get me out of the… pen. I never could have imagined I would one day write a book. Recently. I lost my big cousin who was influential to me. She was a teacher and librarian and I know she would be very proud of me. I dedicate this to you.

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