Michael, 33

Michael, 33

Meet Michael..

I am forever grateful for finding the strength to shift my perspective by finding opportunities in unfortunate situations and turn that pain into the desire to be successful.”

Michael, 33

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: California State Prison – Solano, Vacaville

Being away from family, familiar faces, physical touch, and outside communication have not happened intentionally. Despite growing up behind these electric and barbed wire fences, being in prison has forced me to become a respectable man, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I have a ten-year-old son I love beyond his physical appearance. I have enrolled in parenting classes to sharpen the tools I will need for this beautiful creature I created. Throughout these eight years, I have lost ten family members to overdoses, heart conditions, and a suicide. How do I cope with continuous tragedy locked in a concrete box with no visits because my family is too far away? I have had not one visit since my incarceration. When is there time for healing? Shutting down felt like the only logical thing to do, I cut off everyone I knew. The people I grew up with, females included. I felt like everything, and everyone was a distraction to me. I closed that door to companionship while focusing on self-development, proper etiquette, and financial freedom, which is imperative for my future success. I took the initiative of getting forklift certified while incarcerated. I still and currently enjoy the Solano Community College Rush Scholars program, majoring in business and technology, I graduated from Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute and was accepted into a chef program upon release. Being alone has its rewards. I am forever grateful for finding the strength to shift my perspective by finding opportunities in unfortunate situations and turning  pain into the desire to be successful. Now, that door to all beautiful things has opened for me once again, and this time, I am ready to walk through it with grace and confidence.

 

Marques, 43

Marques, 43

Meet Marques..

“I currently practice self-control with incarcerated self-awareness, and I’m able to remain calm in the heat of the moment so I don’t let temporary feelings cause permanent damage.”

Marques, 43

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: California State Prison, Solano

What have I learned about myself in prison?

Since my conviction, my life has changed in so many significant ways. I am no longer the same person that I once was before coming to prison,

When I committed this crime, I was impulsive and acted first and thought later. Now, I know better than to do that. I’ve learned to think first before reacting. I currently practice self-control with incarcerated self-awareness, and I’m able to remain calm in the heat of the moment so I don’t let temporary feelings cause permanent damage. At the time, addressing violence with superiors seemed like the right way to handle the situation, but it wasn’t. I have identified my internal and external triggers such as feeling insecure, powerless, ashamed, unheard, vulnerable, and sometimes fearful. I was being ridiculed or threatened by people around me, being called a liar, being insulted, being yelled at, and called weak. I’ve also developed healthy coping mechanisms that prevent me from returning to criminal behavior whenever I’m tempted to do so. Some coping mechanisms include but are not limited to: 

1) Positive self-talk. When feeling insecure, I remind myself I am not a negative thought or feeling. I am more than my past, and I am learning while growing. 

2) No matter what is said, I stop personally taking people’s words or actions. 

3) I pause to observe and process my situation, feelings, and my body’s reaction (heart rate increases, breathing quickens) to remain calm and avoid reacting impulsively. 

4) Breathing: when I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I pause to take deep breaths and meditate. 

5) Listening with understanding and empathy when others express their thoughts or feelings. 

6) Taking the necessary time to assess different opinions or conflicts in a given situation. 

7) Things I’ve learned in self-help groups also work for me: Thought stopping, thought replacement, walking away, speaking calmly, and exercising.

I’ve matured in areas of the utmost importance when it comes to my conduct and behavior. By completing several self-help classes, I’ve acquired the necessary tools to modify my behavior and rebuild my life from the ground up. I took the time to dig deep within and was able to identify my many weaknesses, turning them into strengths; rather than being problem-focused, I’ve become solution-minded.

Today, I’ve learned to identify the root causes of my choices to be violent and to trace back the origin of my criminal thinking, which was that violence and committing crimes were the best ways to address whatever external problems I was facing. I have learned to recognize my feelings and thought patterns, and by doing that, I’ve learned to control the impulses that triggered my violent behavior.

I’ve been incarcerated now for almost ten years; the last five years have been disciplinary-free. I’m housed here at CSP Solano in the programming facility yard, where I can participate in various programs and receive certificates of completion. They teach me life skills and how to cope with life on life’s terms. I do my very best and let God do the rest. I was baptized here at the prison chapel, where I confessed my sins, asking God for forgiveness. I attend service regularly, where I help mentor the youth by using my own life story and my trials and tribulations to serve as a living testimony to those younger men who look up to me. It helps keep them out of trouble and brings them closer to God, our creator. I take a correspondence course called PREP Turning Point that teaches me anger management, parenting, conflict resolution, listening, critical thinking skills, and more.I completed a yoga class where I learned breathing techniques and how to remain calm while always in control. I was also taught how to meditate and relax my body and mind. By thinking clearly before reacting, I can make better decisions.

I’ve been a married man for the last four years, and I get to attend overnight family visits with my wife and children, bond and socialize with them, maintain my family ties, and spend quality time with those I love most. I have a lovely home to return to and plenty of love and family support. It’s very important to have housing, reliable transportation, and financial support upon release. I have that. I also have a post-release plan of action that will help solidify my successful reentry into the community. I recently graduated from the DJ program at CSP Solano called Uncuffed and I created an hour-long radio set from start to finish. My completed set aired on KALW 91.7 FM in September 2023. The Radio station provided a platform for us to be heard beyond these prison walls, and I used it to become a voice for the voiceless. This was a huge accomplishment for me and has given me the confidence to pursue a career in audio engineering. When my family and friends heard my creation on the Radio, they were so proud of me. I’m currently enrolled in the Solano Community College program, where I’m pursuing an associate’s degree in sociology and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Now that I’ve acquired the necessary skills, knowledge, and tools to be a positive, productive, and proactive member of our society, all that’s left is for me to be afforded the opportunity to do so!

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.

Logan, 35

Meet Logan…

My last relationship blessed me with a boy and girl. Through the years Mariah is the one person who stuck with me.

Logan, 35
Incarcerated: 4 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

My dad spent time with me on weekends and whenever he could. But I was always closer to my mom. I was a mama’s boy. My oldest daughter Mariah has always been close to my parents. For years I was a single father and my parents helped raise her. She has a good relationship with her stepmother. My father has really gone out of his way to be the father I can’t be while incarcerated. My mother passed away, so my dad is a single father. Being a retired heavy equipment operator he would normally be enjoying his retirement. I feel he has sacrificed his retirement. He has never complained and I know he loves his granddaughter very much. Still, I know it must be challenging even though she’s a good kid. At 16, she is going through a time that can affect the rest of her life. Dad takes her to appointments, buys her things, and everything that comes with supporting a teenager. Not because he feels like he has to, but because he loves her. I’m thankful for the person he is. I look up to him and wish I was half the father he is.

I am also proud of my daughter. She has become a product of her struggles. I admire the way she has dealt so well with the obstacles in her life. She was by my side from the day she was born to the day of my incarceration. She is my “Road Dawg” as some might say. I left her mother when Mariah was two. My last relationship blessed me with a boy and girl. Through the years Mariah is the one person who stuck with me. She was with me at work when she wasn’t with my parents or at school. I learned it takes a village to raise a child. We lived in a very small community. My employer, who was like a second mother to me, people from work, and friends helped me support her by giving her clothes, gifts, and they remembered her birthday. Looking back I admire her ability to make the best with what we had. She never complained or gave me a hard time. If she cried, was upset, or sad I knew it was serious. I always received compliments on how well behaved she was. Being a single father was tiring, but she made it easy. I still carry those precious memories to this day. I am amazed and proud of the young lady she has become. 

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