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.

Carlos, 38

Meet Carlos…

Carlos, 38
Incarcerated: 16 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, California

Prison has a strength like no other, and it’s not even the guards who enslave us. Everything about prison is designed to break the very essence of a human person. From its mind, to its heart, to its spirit and aspirations. To any notion of having an existence beyond these walls. You arrive broken, shattered by the judicial system that prides itself on its near “perfect” system. And then, you’re left to fend for yourself. All those rules and regulations are but another facade created by the perfect system, to give everyone peace of mind, but they’re just words our governing authorities barely comprehend. So, there you are, in a cell. Trying to figure out what to do and who to trust, while you endure and try to survive what’s taking place in front of you. Time is vital to our existence, yet seconds determine who you’ll be in this walled off society. And just like your society out there, we’re still trying to be heard and dignified, as we’re plagued by injustices. So I thank my loved ones, my Sonni Rose, who reached in and pulled me out of my abyss, you taught me how to love. She gave me strength to overcome my confinement and raise my voice so you guys know that there are human beings in here. And I am, but one of many needing to be recognized as such. So, thank you my beloved, Sonja Dahler. I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I’m grateful I have the chance to thank the people who helped me.

Dale, 51

Dale, 51

Meet Dale…

Last year I helped over 90,000 Californians and I’m on track for over 100,000 this year. I focus on those people. Not following the rules got me in prison but what better thing could I be doing.

Dale, 51

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed: Valley State Prison, California

I work in a Prison Industry Authority optical factory. It produces thousands of pairs of glasses each week. After my parole violation was extended for a 5th time in 2021, I was a bit despondent and depressed. Shortly after I was approached by my correctional counselor and asked if I would be interested in a job in optical. At first I hesitated for a couple reasons: one, people who have done nothing wrong had been fired for the actions of others. Second, it required getting up very early, for an eight hour a day, 5 days a week, for a fraction of a dollar per hour. I had become accustomed to no such obligation, and I had become lazy. I didn’t take the application, but immediately something nagged me. I decided to approach the counselor. During the interview I told the supervisor my concerns, and said all I hoped for was: not to be held accountable for anyone else’s behavior and acknowledged for the job I do. I did my best. I started to notice the many different frames and styles. It occurred to me that each represented a different person. Women, men, boys, girls and infants.

I started having this joy of imagining different people. My considerations and thoughts kept going to the Californians behind these frames waiting for their prescriptions. I often hear complaints: the hours, the pennies for pay, the cops, but all I could think about are the people behind the frames who didn’t know or need to know me. But I get to be a help to each of them! After several months my work ethic put me in a position to run a department. It was here I started counting how many Californians I helped each day. When other guys complain, or I get ridiculed for hard work, I’d walk up, grab a pair of frames and state, “This may not be your sister, brother, daughter or son, but it’s someone’s and I work because people need their glasses.” Last year I helped over 90,000 Californians and I’m on track for over 100,000 this year. I focus on those people. Not following the rules got me in prison but what better thing could I be doing. The value I get is the great feeling that no matter what past mistake I made, I am helping people. 

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