Christopher, 28

Christopher, 28

Meet Christopher…

I’m now very considerate and learning a lot from these classes on how to be a good man with integrity. I want my freedom after I get these skills. I have a lot to live for. I have a lot of self-worth and dignity that I haven’t had before.

Incarcerated: 2 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

She’s the most generous and loving woman in my life. It’s a privilege to call her my mom. She struggled, but kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. She worked in the food service industry for 36 years. She’s my best friend, but on August 24, 2021 she left us. She passed away. I wasn’t there to be with her and that was really hard. I was in San Quentin. She went to see her other son and daughter before she passed, but I know she wanted to see me. I got to talk to her every single day before she passed. She was my angel. She struggled with her own habits. It was really hard losing her.

My son is Christopher Jr and he’s eight. He’s about a year old in this picture. It’s one of three photos I have of him. It’s the last time I was with him before I came to prison. He’s with his mother now. Between my son and my mom, they are my anchor. I thought if I lost either one of them, I’d lose control. But, I’ve lost both and stayed balanced. I try to call my son all the time, but only get through about once a month. When he was one year old, he had more toys than a ten-year-old. I try to spoil him as much as I can. He was getting spoiled before he knew what being spoiled is.

Freya is my dog, she’s half Pomeranian and Chihuahua and was the size of my fist when I got her. Freya would put her head on Chris’s stomach and lay there like she was protecting him. Ever since she was a puppy, she’d lay in this position and plop back. She was spoiled too – getting her nails and hair done. I spoiled all my family. I did the best to support them and make a better life, because it was a real struggle for me growing up.

We went to a dog adoption in Stockton and got Baldur. He’s a purebred American Bulldog, raised as a fighter and rescued from a raid. We were walking around and Baldur was just staring at us with that same sad face in this picture. I knew he was the dog for us. You’d never know that he was a fighter until you saw the scars on his head. We were worried at first, having little Christopher. But when Baldur was with him, he got attached just like Freya. They’d be on either side of him, protecting him. For a long time, we were a normal family going out, going to movies, the beach, San Francisco, peaceful and happy. Now both dogs went to a rescue. I don’t have my wife or mom. But it’s the memories I hold on to. I’m learning day by day to come to terms with the passing of my mom as well as losing things. Even though I’ve lost all these things while being in here I respond in a positive way, not negative. I think it’s my mom’s spirit driving me. I’m in the GED program getting 98s and 99s in science and reading and social studies. I didn’t apply myself in high school, but I attribute what I’m doing now to my mom, because that’s what she’d want me to do. All the programs I’m taking I hope that it’ll keep me doing right. I’m done doing wrong. While I was doing wrong, I was missing my family and everything that makes these pictures meaningful. I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want to be in a place like this when a loved one is passing. I don’t want to ever hurt anyone or hurt myself from being selfish. I’m now very considerate and learning a lot in school on how to be a good man with integrity. I want my freedom after I get these skills. I have a lot to live for. I have a lot of self-worth and dignity that I didn’t have before.

Davion, 23

Meet Davion…

Growing up, I never thought I would end up in jail. My brothers and sisters never went to jail. I never witnessed anyone close to me go to jail. I ended up being the youngest and the first one in my family to go to prison. I’d tell myself, “Don’t do it. For sure don’t do it.”

Incarcerated: 2 years

I’ve had a decade of violence from friends and family being killed by gun fire. The first time I saw a gun, I was 12. Thirteen of my friends have been killed by gun violence. More than 20 of my family members have died. I got my first gun at 14. At 15, I was wild with it, everyone around me had a gun, it was the thing to do if you didn’t want to get caught slippin.’ You defended yourself to survive. This drew me to prison. I was doing good otherwise, playing sports in school, trying to do something with my life and I wanted to go to college, but it was that gun. Guns make you do something stupid, like point it at someone to get money. Guns for my generation are huge. I even got them tatted on my hands. It was like buying Jordans when they were in, we’d wait in line for guns, clips and magazines. I wouldn’t say it’s the gun’s fault because someone controls the gun. It’s people’s fault. People like power. What’s the answer? Phew, wow…if they really wanted to stop gun violence, I truly believe they’d boost the age of owning a firearm, but there’s already so many guns out there. Taking away the Second Amendment so that no one has the right to bear arms, other than police to prevent robberies and crimes would do it. If people were to get ten plus years for having a gun, that would have kept me from getting a gun. It would have definitely saved me. If I knew my cousin got all that time for a gun, instead of 63 years to life for murder, it would have saved me. If only I could tell my 12 year old self what the future held. Growing up, I never thought I would end up in jail. My brothers and sisters never went to jail. I never witnessed anyone close to me go to jail. I ended up being the youngest and the first one in my family to go to prison. I’d tell myself, “Don’t do it. For sure don’t do it.

James, 73

James, 73

Meet James…

I was saved by the bell. The chow hall bell, signaling that dinner was ready. As soon as our door opened, he bull rushed toward his former cellie. He angrily tried to pick a fight with him.

Jim, 73
Incarcerated: 21 years

I held a position on the trash pick-up crew. I was relatively happy and making good progress through therapy and medication in moderating my bi-polar condition. I was sitting at a table in the visiting room with my aunt when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice say, “You have to move to Three Yard.” Three Yard is a b**ch. Guys can be brutal. Approximately 850 prisoners cram into a tiny yard for air. It’s no wonder that officers and prisoners were persistently grouchy. I asked, “Is there a library?” “Not an official library.” “Well, is there an unofficial place to borrow books?” Mr. Mahon, in the library, seemed to be a kind teacher, rare in my prison experience. I heard him say, “I’m trying to use my limited supply of books to put together a real library. You want a book, go to the back room. No pay, of course.” I went into the “back room” where I saw about 100 books in boxes. I also found an older prisoner who asked, “You looking for a job?” That’s how I got my strictly unofficial job at the temporary unofficial library. One advantage of this job was to have priority on books received. The cellies were generally much younger than me. A few of them were polite, but most were rude. I can’t remember any of them except for one – a 30-something thug from the San Joaquin Valley. We didn’t like each other from the outset, and we only lasted three weeks. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was when I caught him making prison wine called Pruno, hidden under my bunk. “You can’t do that in here. If you get caught, I’ll get in trouble too!” “F*** you, asshole. I’ll do what I want.” By that time, I had enough of Three Yard. I hadn’t met with my mental health clinician in over a year. When I asked to meet with him, amazingly my request was granted. He was a good guy. He promptly greased the admin wheels so I could return to One Yard. I was installed on the top bunk with a young, bald tattooed brother who refused to allow me to put my property under the lower bunk. I had to sleep with my boxes, while he studied German out loud all night…with the light on. Oh well. Here we go again.

Robert, 66

Robert, 66

Meet Robert…

I can’t always articulate what I want to say or put my feelings into words. But as soon as I grab a pen or dip my hands into the pain my emotions flow on to the paper or canvas.

Incarcerated: 25 years

I can’t always articulate what I want to say or put my feelings into words. But as soon as I grab a pen or dip my hands into the pain my emotions flow on to the paper or canvas. I don’t use brushes when I paint my Hope Not characters. I love art in all its forms and mediums. Art has been a constant companion throughout most of my time in the system. It is more than just a hobby or something to do to pass the time. Art is the air I breathe, and the sea I swim. I’ve cultivated empathy and reconnected with humanity as a result of practicing art, and honing my skills. Once I realized my ability to create I developed a sense of self-worth and confidence I never had. Arts In Corrections has been a vital part of my rehabilitation. There was a time when it was shut down and canceled across the state, so for more than a few miserable years California prisons did have any art programs. Then in 2013-14 I was at RJ Donovan prison in San Diego and volunteers from San Diego University began a pilot program called Project Paint. The workshops and classes I was allowed to participate in have been some of my best memories in prison. All artists were welcomed and appreciated. Along with drawing and painting techniques I also learned 3D art. I started making Hope Not dolls in RJ Donovan. Each one is unique with recycled materials, its own mask, usually a gas mask or sugar skull. If you’re interested in making a donation to Cystic Fibrosis or Autism charity in exchange for a Hope Not painting or doll, Humans of San Quentin has my contact information. Even though I’m sentenced to life in prison, art has given me freedom.

Greg, 60

Greg, 60

Meet Greg…

“Two weeks after the robbery she picked me out of a lineup. I went to trial. I had a good lawyer, yet I was found guilty. I was given three years to life. I felt like I died that day.”

Incarcerated: 24 years

It was a cold clear day on January 20th I was on parole and was just released three months prior. I was staying with my brother Mike. I needed a car and a place for my girlfriend Debbie and I. I was selling small amounts of dope. Business was slow and my habit was getting bigger every day. I was at the point where I wasn’t going to be able to sustain. I needed money badly. There was a bank a stone’s throw away from the house. It’s in the perfect location. I rode my mountain bike. I parked behind the bank on the other side of the fence. I was higher than a kite, so I didn’t care if I got caught. I waited my turn in line. I didn’t have a weapon. I handed the nice teller a note, she read it and started putting money on the counter, $5,600. I put the money in my jacket pockets and walked out of the bank. I rode that two miles back to my brother’s house in well under five minutes. I bought a car, rented an apartment, and bought a TV and stereo. Nobody saw anything at the bank except the one bank teller. Two weeks after the robbery she picked me out of a lineup. I went to trial. I had a good lawyer, yet I was found guilty. I was given 32 years to life. I felt like I died that day.