Kevin, 58

Kevin, 58


Meet Kevin…

I enjoyed every smile and assumed joy that another human being received as they came upon a free Sunday newspaper on top of the newsstand.

Kevin, 58
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA

Years ago, I was stationed at Ft. Meyer Virginia, the Army base where the Arlington National Cemetery is. I was discovering who I was and what I believe in. Honor, duty, service, big ideas. I was absorbing many views of life from those around me. One of my friends and fellow soldiers turned me on to the concept of Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). I really appreciated Cindy’s kindness and outlook on life. I started to apply this concept to my life.

My new modus operandi for RAK in 1986 became: buy one Sunday paper and leave one Sunday paper, on top of the newspaper box. I left them in the sun. I left them in the snow. I left them in the dark of night. I started the journey when newspapers were $1.25 a paper and ended when they were $2.50. Buy one/leave one, that was my motto. The Sunday ritual of reading the paper was made even sweeter by RAK. I also recognized that my RAK moments of joy were on the sufferance of the newspaper company. I admit that over the years my joy has been tempered by a wee bit of guilt.

I started this journey in Virginia and took it on the road. Washington D.C., Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, Washington, and California where the story ends. In the intervening years, my wives, all three were witnesses and participants in my RAK spree across the US. I enjoyed every smile and assumed joy that another human being received as they came upon a free Sunday newspaper on top of the newsstand.

One morning, with the kids off to school, Ashley, my partner and I were ready for the bill day. First stop, Summit City, the town where the workers lived who built the Shasta Dam, and the post office. The unspoken anticipation of our shared RAK moment about to happen. We arrive, Ashley hops out with a handful of quarters, and troops to the newspaper stand. She turns and is running back full of glee and shouting my name, “Kevin, Kevin, come quick, there’s a newspaper on top of the box.” As I stood there and gazed at that paper, that glorious paper, I felt the rush of the years pass through me, and warmth spread to my heart and all points in between. My secret wish was finally fulfilled. A random stranger had loved me back.

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!

Bryce, 55

Meet Bryce…

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change.

Bryce, 55
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla, CA

I look forward to connecting with people who won’t judge me for my past criminal behaviors and choices, and who will support me in my recovery from criminal thinking, drug addiction, and sexual compulsions. I grew up in Orange County, was in foster care for 2 ½ years, and lived in Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, and Lake Forest California, before my incarceration. The beaches, pools, and malls were my second home, and I loved camping, riding dirtbikes, and Disneyland. It was my dream to be a drummer in an original rock band or work in the entertainment industry. Instead, I worked in fast food restaurants, machine shops, and construction type jobs. My favorite past-times are either watching movies (too many favorites to mention) or listening to music, especially the 80’s. I love songs that are inspiring and like everything from Journey to sia, disco to jazz, and love-songs to country. Queen’s “Under Pressure” is a favorite.

While incarcerated, I have taken responsibility for all the damage I caused to innocent people, my family, the communities, and the world as a whole. I have become a victim advocate in stopping the harm, abuse, and violence, by participating in victim impact, domestic violence, and anger management type groups. I have also taught other inmates and facilitated the Prison of Peace (PoP) program that covers restorative justice ideas, effective listening skills, peace circles, problem solving techniques, how to make mutual agreements, and the mediation process.

I have learned that no one ever deserves to be harmed, abused, or violated under any circumstance, especially children, and it is never too late to change. Through self-introspection and faith in my higher power, I have gained insight to my causative factors and have developed empathy and compassion for others and myself.

Today, I live a healthier, spiritually driven life-style, based on a life-long commitment to recovery and giving back. I am a 12-step member, I have a support network of people who care about my health and recovery, and I live with purpose.

Todd, 60

Todd, 60

Meet Todd…

Education and my desire to be a better man became my saving grace. It allowed me to continue to foster a solid foundation with my daughters.

Todd “Silk”, 60
Incarcerated: 25 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA

Upon receiving a life sentence, I thought my life was over. When I got arrested I had four daughters ages 5, 7, 8, and 11. My greatest fear was that my girls would grow up hating me. After all, it was my selfish acts and irresponsible decisions that took me out of their lives. How would I be able to convince them of my love, after putting so many other things ahead of them?

In my journey of self-discovery, I found the one avenue that allowed me to build that connection with my girls, education. I always wondered why people volunteer and I chalked it up to ulterior motives. I decided to assist someone with their math homework. It was that day I understood the joy and fulfillment of giving back to someone, expecting nothing in return. I’d always been a whiz at math, so I immersed myself into tutoring others in the subject. I then became one of the founding members of a group solely dedicated to helping incarcerated men earn their high school diploma. I continued to preach the importance of education in my letters to my daughters. Somehow I knew just mere words would not be enough.

I got back into college myself, while working as a tutor. I now had three daughters in college and one soon to enter. We began a healthy competition amongst us when it came to college grades. I was earning A’s and B’s and challenged them to do the same. My girls were able to see I was striving to be a better person regardless of my circumstances. I watched my daughters excel in college as I beamed with pride. Little did I know they too beamed with pride at my accomplishments. It was education that kept me connected to my daughters.

I had one younger sister that was my best friend and biggest supporter. She was proud of my accomplishments, not only in education but as a person. She attended my very first college graduation here at the prison, and passed away shortly after in her battle with cancer. My heart was broken, as this was the fourth member of my family I had lost while incarcerated- grandmother, father, mother and sister. My hurdles seemed insurmountable but I refused to give up. To date I have earned four associates degrees.

Education and my desire to be a better man became my saving grace. It allowed me to continue to foster a solid foundation with my daughters. All my hard work paid off and I was found suitable for parole and will be released in September, 2023. Education and my determination allowed me to hold onto the love of my daughters and they look forward to meeting me at the gate, my day of release. Upon release, I will continue to make my life one of service and helping others because these very things returned me to the man I was meant to be, my authentic self.

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.

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