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Long Journey Home

They made me serve 24 years for something for which a person normally gets only 18 months! I walked out of the courtroom both stunned and in disbelief… They’ll never allow this three-strikes to stay as law. And year after year, I watched and hoped that there would be some change – a twist in the reality that would show people the devastation this brought about. It came close, the vote was looking good in 2004, only to see Governor Schwarzenegger step in at the last moment wrongly claiming it would result in the release of some of the worst. I was crushed, but I had my songwriting and music, and I did service.

I did “The Work,” a book about self-inquiry, written by Bryon Katie, and facilitated by Kathleen Harris. It taught introspection, and I believed in the idea that self-honesty would bring its own form of freedom. So I did my job in the North Block taking care of the housing unit, doing my part to assure we lived in a clean place, and the rest of my day was spent practicing yoga, tennis, music, and teaching those around me the same values.

I was in the Catholic choir singing gospel and loving Jesus even if I didn’t call myself a Christian. And I waited. Time passed, I stayed true, and it came to my turn to go before the Parole Board. The first one didn’t go well, and I was disappointed, but more and more people were going home, and I was told to return in another three years.

And then the 3 turned into 18 months to my next hearing, and I worked with others, preparing those who didn’t understand what was being asked of them by the Board and helping them to see what they had to do to parole. And it was only on the day of my hearing that I found myself anxious and worried about what was about to happen.

Because I had so many people tell me, because of my clean prison record, that I was a “lock” in being found suitable, it had made it easier to move forward, and then on January 31 of 2021, I walked out with a second chance. They handed me $200, and wished me well…

But, I have a support system, where I had someone who was going to direct me and guide me in the right direction. San Quentin was like being banished to the desert, and there would have been no welcome there for me if it had not been for Bonafide. David Cowan and Kathy Harris picked me up. Rather than having to carry all my belongings in plastic bags, they gave me luggage and took me shopping for clothes. 

They handed me the first cell phone I had ever used and began showing me how to use it (it took me about a week to figure it out). They told me to call them if I needed support. We ate, and I had a chance to laugh and just enjoy the moment. And afterward, I was placed on a train for the trip down to Los Angeles. There were pangs of separation, but in my heart, I believed that these people got me, they’re going to make sure I’m okay.

Once I had gotten to my place of parole, they have continued to reach out to me, and I have felt loved, empowered, and encouraged by them. I still had some feelings of being an outcast, but they were much weaker, and it raised my sense of self-worth that I was welcomed. So I’ve landed in a great place, and life is great. I’m grateful for the community, I’m so grateful for the smooth transition.