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“I feel like a Newborn.”

Released in March 2021, Ronald Sky Carter survived the COVID-19 outbreak in San Quentin that took the lives of 28 inmates and one custody officer.

“I was one of the lucky ones to get a medical release because of COVID-19”, said Carter.

As for freedom, “I feel like a newborn.  It seems like people can’t do anything without a smartphone — we were still using music cassettes when I went down–this complete world is new and I’m still trying to catch up with it,” said Carter.

Not that freedom was easy, Carter was released to the infamous 111 Taylor St. facility in San Francisco [The Taylor Street Parolee Services Center, a residential reentry center in San Francisco is managed by a for-profit corporation, the GEO GROUP) and the subject of the documentary One Eleven Taylor (During a Pandemic)].

“I’m talking to guys in prison and providing advice. First, don’t go to GEO in San Francisco if you can avoid it,” said Carter.

Many of those promised release by the state are soon swept up by the jail system.  “They drop us in the middle of the street life–full of trauma and misery every day.  What do they expect people to do? Said Carter.

“Bonafide? Well, David (Cowan co-founder of Bonafide) met me at the gate. He took me to the best breakfast I’ve had, and gave me a backpack full of hygiene, snacks, and stuff.  The biggest deal was the smartphone.”

“Like I was telling David, I’ll happily take people from jail here in SF and take them around the city and learn about how to get around.  I mean the phone gives you the instructions, but I’ll show them how to use it.”

As for a job, Carter is now working at Urban Alchemy.  

We believe that calling the police shouldn’t be the default answer to poverty and desperation. Our society can’t address trauma, addiction and mental illness with the same approach we use to tackle crime.

When asked how he was giving back, Sky said, I believe in our motto “We are a compassionate and peaceful presence that restores safety and cleanliness in the streets.”  

“It’s not just about cleaning up and public safety.  Urban Alchemy gives us NARCAN just in case we come across someone overdosing. The most amazing thing since my release was using a dose of NARCAN to bring back someone.”

Bonafide met Carter at the gate and prepared him for the challenges with his housing and gave him a community (he learned how to use his smartphone by participating in the Critical Adventures program offered by Bonafide (Critical Adventures teach critical life skills while building friendships and community on a fun adventure around town).

As for his final words, Carter said “I’ve told guys to contact David [before they are released].