John, 64

John, 64

Meet John…

My fear is that I will not get a second chance to use all I know after prison.

John, 64
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

I thought I was going to be a great father. Turns out I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I was a great provider for my wife and two kids. I kept a roof over their heads. They got everything they needed, except for me. I had a great job, but it required me to work overtime, not just a few hours a week but sixteen hour shifts four to five days a week. I enrolled in a carpenters apprenticeship school and learned the trade at 18. I worked as a pipefitter during the winter months. I learned a great deal about pipefitting and plumbing. With some instructions from other welders, I became a state certified welder. That was a big day for me!

I believe if I had grown up with a fathers guidance, it would have turned out totally different. Life was hard growing up. I was abused by different men and women that my mom would bring home from time to time. I was lost. All I wanted to do was get away as soon as possible. I’m sorry to say it was no different for my older sisters. I left home at the age of 16. I worked odd jobs here and there with my uncle. I got married at 18. How did I get through all these hours? I got turned on to meth. It was at that moment my life changed forever. I became a different person. It led to all my troubles. When I fell, I fell hard.

I’ve been incarcerated for 28 years now. I’ve often thought about paroling and what I would do. My greatest fear and why I’m writing is to share my fears about life after prison. With all my skills and knowledge about pipefitting, carpentry, plumbing, welding and general supervision. I fear there won’t be anyone out there to hire me. I have a lot to contribute to someone that would give me a second chance. Who out there would want to hire a 67 year old parolee?

Erik, 52

Meet Erik…

Even though I considered myself a cis-gender male, I helped many members of the LGBTQ+ community gain acceptance and understanding from other inmates that, quite often, embraced preconceived bias toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Erik, 52
Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Blythe, California

In the three years I spent fighting my case, I was the Head Trustee in the county jail dorm where I was housed. I was always doing my best for my fellow inmates and the jail staff alike, always letting my Hasidic beliefs guide me. Whenever a dispute arose, I would do all I could to bring the various sides together and help resolve differences. Through my actions, I gained respect, regardless of race, gender identity or creed. Even though I considered myself a cis-gender male, I helped many members of the LGBTQ+ community gain acceptance and understanding from other inmates that, quite often, embraced preconceived bias toward the LGBTQ+ community. One of my most profound interventions was when two inmates were preparing to fight. I brought the various groups rallying around their friends together and made a statement I know they will never forget, “You should settle this like men.” They took it as I imagined they would, thinking that I was promoting violence. After a dramatic pause I continued, “by talking it out.” I went on to explain the civilized way to settle differences is not through violence but dialogue. In their shock and awe many of those around stated they had never heard that phrase used like that before. I knew I had changed perceptions, minds and hearts for the better. I am happy to have contributed to a peaceful environment.

Before I became a trustee, there were fights every weekend in that dorm. After my appointment, we had roughly one fight per year in my two and a half years. I have found that by doing our best for ourselves and those around us we can make the world a better place, even while incarcerated.


A Love Everlasting

Passing through the realm of thought and action physical beings find a mutual attraction

Ride upon the pinnacle of sensuality, a culmination of geniality and rhapsody

Sense alive, pressed together, two bodies strive
Natural reaction to the spirit of Love inside
Eternity – a moment experienced at the same time

Protean movement, the climax they bring
Sentient emotions, desire and pleasure the well-spring

Souls born to this Earth at the right place and time
A euphoric, carnal connection
Their impassioned essence infinitely entwined


For the Sake of Love

If I look deep into those sky blue eyes. I can see the reflection of a dawning sunrise.

A brand new day to replenish our ways. A reprieve from what drew us apart.

The tumultuous road we found ourselves on. Past grievances and hurtful wrongs.

Our salvation knowing each other’s hearts. Find solace in casting aside the frivolous parts.

I go to her now to hold her hand. Fingers interwoven, like soft and lacy silk strands.

Bound together, our eternal true love.
A passionate kiss, two bodies pressed sung.


Remember the Night

In the heat of passion, bare skin glowing in the moon lit night.
Cool air and bright stars passing by, lost to the senses out of sight.

Skin soft and warm, supple to the touch. Eyes flash and shine tussles of hair lightly brush.

Every movement in unison and precise. Develop into feelings of mutual device.

Arms wrapped in a tangle of the love you both share.
Happy to use it all up, not a drop to spare.

The efficacious result a memory in time.
Renewed in the heart on a lonely, moon lit night.


Riding the Storm

On the shore of a raging sea
My thoughts are only of thee

As the tempest gains its strength
I hope for affection and peace, a love that shall never cease

In its height, crashing waves, high winds
can’t hear a sound
My voice so soft and timid, lost in the din, never found

Churning tides, whirlpool spin, icebergs collide
If only I could know the thoughts and feelings you hide

Boats capsize, lives gone by, breakers 100 feet high
Although you ignore me I still have to try

As the storm subsides, the clouds part, waters calm, the sun shines
Our love everlasting, overcome conflict and adversity all in due time

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.

Leon, 45

Leon, 45

Meet Leon…

 We are both successful service dog trainers and recruited to be featured in fundraising videos, which have had thousands of views on YouTube. It was the sibling rivalry that ignited our ongoing competition…

Leon, 45
Incarcerated: 18 years
Housed: Monroe Correctional Complex, Washington

It was in the depths of hardship and struggle when our unlikely friendship formed. Since 2007 we have lived, learned, grown, failed, and celebrated many successes together behind the fences of several different prison facilities. Most incarcerated people hold the philosophy that, “I came to prison alone,  I’m going to leave alone, and I’m not here to make friends.” We also felt that way, but over the years, we developed a brotherly bond as well as what you could describe as a sibling rivalry. We are both successful service dog trainers and were recruited to be featured in fundraising videos, which have had thousands of views on YouTube. It was the sibling rivalry that ignited our ongoing competition that led us to our current bet for which one of our videos will be the first to reach 20,000.

It became a daily taunting match. Mine has been out since 2016, so it had a significant number of views by 2018 when Randy’s was posted. Cleverly, Randy contacted a very popular dog rescue company in 2019, and they shared his video through their network. Randy’s video shot up to 9,950 views by 2020, while mine hovered at around 6,400. Calculating the current rate,  it will take Randy 21 years to reach the goal, but I will reach it in a little over 14 years. Randy still has some tricks up his sleeve and I have become wise. It is doubtful that our video views will continue to grow at the current rate, but what will remain the same is the unlikely friendship that we formed through commiseration during hard times. In addition, the competitive rivalry of our brotherhood will likely be with us for life. Therefore, the bet is on and the competition is unbending. To see the videos for yourself, go to Summit Assistance Dogs Monroe Partnership on YouTube.  (Leo’s is 2016, Randy’s is 2018)

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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