Adrien, 29

Meet Adrien…

Make peace with the parts of your life. Making peace makes life easier.

Adrien, 29
Incarcerated: 1 year
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California

I was sitting in Reception, waiting to hear which prison I would go to, hearing what other guys were planning on doing when they got released. The last time I was arrested, I turned my life around: got my high school and medical assistant diploma, and worked for three and a half years in the medical field. I enjoy working in clinics, urgent care, primary care, giving injections, taking care of people. It made me proud, too. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to work in the medical field for a while, but I brought this on myself. Once I get out I will start looking and going back to school. I told them, “Anything and everything is possible. You just can’t doubt yourself.”

I was born on a reservation in Montana, in and out of country jail since I was 18. When I had my first child, a daughter, I wanted to show up for her. She inspired me. I wanted to be a father, different from other fathers who aren’t in their children’s lives. My dad didn’t. He was in and out of prison, not there. I was motivated to do it differently. I have siblings, younger than me. I didn’t have someone to push me to be a better father or a better son. I only had myself and I learned from my mistakes. When I was 10, I had to do that for my siblings when no one else did. It prepared me for being a dad. I didn’t have a childhood. And that made me the father and son I am today. People ask me, “Why do you talk to your dad? If he wasn’t there for you.” But I say, “Why not? Why be petty? I have to be the bigger man, even though he wasn’t there for me, he can be there for his grandchildren.” Make peace with the parts of your life. Making peace makes life easier. When I was going to school I was tatted up, looking just like another gangster. I wanted to prove them wrong. It was a good motivator.

When I first got to San Quentin in December, they thought I was Mexican not Native American. White Eagle, one of my elders, brought me closer to my native roots. I’m his cellie now. I’m proud to be Native American, being here made me connect with my inner roots. I know how to help people now. When one of my four kids is hurt, they come to me. “Dad, what’s wrong? Make it better.” With Covid I helped them not be afraid of testing, of getting sick. I talked with my daughter, my oldest, and told her, “Don’t grow up too fast. Don’t worry. Just be a kid.” I’m getting out in 12 days, so I can be there for her and my other kids. I just found out that my mom was in an induced coma after surgery and passed away after the surgery. So maybe I can get partial custody of my younger siblings.

This incarceration has made my relationship stronger with my fiance. I had doubts, but I see she really does care about me. I can’t wait to get married. She really stuck by my side through this all and I am so thankful to have her. I keep believing, anything is possible.

Anthony, 57

Meet Anthony…

The best part was seeing how happy my customers were. I really thrived when customers gave me the freedom to do what I thought was best.

Anthony, 57
Incarcerated: 11 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, California

He brought me this 1990 Corvette. The only good things about it were the motor and the electronics. I spent three months redoing the exterior and interior. The paint job was my favorite part. I love doing custom paint jobs. He wanted a NASCAR-inspired look, so I did some research to avoid trademark issues. He liked it so much that he asked me to sign the car. I took it to a car show in Sacramento and it ended up winning first place. I gave him the trophy. He asked me to do the same design on two other cars. I first started working on cars when I was 12. I enjoy every aspect of it, from fixing transmissions to creating custom paint jobs. For 26 years, I owned my own body shop in Sacramento. I worked almost every day, putting in 16-hour shifts. It was my whole world. The best part was seeing how happy my customers were. I really thrived when customers gave me the freedom to do what I thought was best.

Cars are like life and death to people, so dealing with expensive repairs and delays could be challenging. Sometimes, people would come into my shop and threaten me, but most of them appreciated my work, and I enjoyed working with them. Even when I was in prison in San Diego, some customers would drive all the way from Sacramento to visit me, and we still keep in touch. Some customers even flew to Denver to let my grandmother know I was okay, and that she would be okay too. My grandparents had a big influence on me. They taught me self-confidence and a strong work ethic. They also sparked my interest in Native American spirituality and jewelry. Now, I make Native American jewelry as a creative outlet. Working on cars has been more than just a job for me. It’s been a lifelong passion. I’ve seen how my work can make a difference in people’s lives and create lasting connections. Even behind bars, I continue to pursue my love for cars and hope for a better future.

TaShena, 31

TaShena, 31

Meet TaShena…

In order to stay peaceful, strong, and spiritually centered, I use visualization. I also remember my Native American Culture. I choose to be better. I choose to go home. I choose to be free.

TaShena, 31
Incarcerated: 2 years
Housed: South Idaho Correctional Institution, Boise, Idaho

The most beautiful place on this Earth is my grandma’s reservation. The drive is a long two hours on a single lane highway. It has dangerous winding turns, and free-range live-stock. However, once you hit the clearing there lies a small valley nestled between majestic mountains. The air is fresh and crisp. It’s not something you get in populated towns or cities. It’s so quiet in the valley you can hear the morning dew dripping on the cold hard ground. I can feel the warmth spread across my body. The sun is slowly rising; shadows of night are dancing on the mountain wall, and the valley slowly awakens. I can feel my heart beat faster, chills run throughout my body, and I’m at peace. I’m home. 

Losing focus is easy to do, especially behind bars. The walls around me can be very hard, and I could either change for good or bad. In order to stay peaceful, strong, and spiritually centered, I use visualization. I also remember my Native American Culture. I choose to be better. I choose to go home. I choose to be free.

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