Because of the COVID-19 situation at the prison, the San Quentin News newsroom has been shut down and staff members have been unable to meet to create new issues. The articles in this online issue were written by incarcerated staff members before the shutdown. This online version of the paper was published with the assistance of former San Quentin News incarcerated staff members, who have been released, and long-time volunteers, plus the support of San Quentin Public Information Officer Lt. Sam Robinson. When the emergency relents the paper will resume coverage.
Two teams of young offenders launched their Kid CAT softball festival with smiles and laughter and a 17-4 score. “The same skills used in softball are the same skills applied by the Kid CAT organization, such as when working together planning and organizing events here at San Quentin,” said Kid CAT Chairman Si Dang, 43.
After that, the Junglecat’s offense roared to life, scoring one run in the first inning, four in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth. The defense held the Wildcats scoreless in the first three innings.
The game featured the Jungle cats versus the Wildcats on a breezy evening, with Mt. Tamalpais peeking out from the clouds in the background. The goal: to build community solidarity among the men who committed their crimes as minors.
“Building community and team dynamics of working together as a team,” Dang said. “We have new members coming in. This is an opportunity to connect with them, to bring out their abilities in sports and otherwise at the emotional level and spiritual level. This will really help to empower us as an organization.”
Kid CAT member Ronald Carter, 54, commented, “It’s important to show unity, to show that we can get along with one another and to just have fun.”
The game began with the Jungle cats up to bat. The Wildcats defense appeared to get off to a good start, by getting two easy outs, but things quickly shifted when Riddle-Terrell Brandon hit a line-drive into left field, then scored off an RBI error at first base.
After that, the Junglecat’s offense roared to life, scoring one run in the first inning, four in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth. The defense held the Wildcats scoreless in the first three innings.
The players enacted The Winter’s Tale and Two Gentlemen of Verona
Shakespeare at San Quentin performed The Winter’s Tale and Two Gentlemen of Verona on consecutive Fridays in May in the prison’s Protestant Chapel. Marin Shakespeare Company began its first Shakespeare program at San Quentin in 2003.
Director Suraya Keating of Marin Shakespeare, invited each audience of more than 100 people from the local San Francisco Bay Area community and almost 90 inmates to sit together and enjoy the plays.
About The Winter’s Tale Keating said, “One of the themes is that our minds can either enslave us when we get stuck in negative thoughts, or it could free us.”
In the play, King Leontes heads toward a destructive path when he is hooked on the (false) belief that his wife Hermione is cheating on him with his best friend, King Polixenes. Rather than checking his own thinking, Leontes is set on pointing the finger of blame and punishing those he believes are at fault. As with most thoughtless negative behavior, Leontes’ hurtful actions end up hurting himself in the end.
Regarding Two Gentlemen of Verona she said: “What does love mean to you, and have you experienced love? I want you all to get in groups real quick and talk about this.” It got the audience into the spirit of love.
Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s first play, a story of two best buddies Proteus and Valentine who are infatuated with Sylvia, the daughter of Duke of Milan.
“Theater teaches me to look at other issues besides mine and realize that I need to be empathic with others for the greater whole, to sacrifice for the greater whole,” said inmate Chris Marshall who plays Valentine, a gentleman of Verona. “Valentine is a young gentleman from Vero- na, who is in love with Silvia. However, he is unaware that she loves him; he’s on a quest for friendship. The only problem is that his close friend is also in love with Silvia.”
Keating says giving inmates the chance to perform Shakespearean plays is therapeutic—it’s called Drama Therapy.
Daphne, an outside actor who played the role of Silvia and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Drama Therapy said, “Acting has taught me not to judge; I cannot judge and be real with myself — in one word empathy.”
Raiveon “Ray-Ray” Wooden who played the Duke of Milan said, “It helps me embrace my true self. I’m very animated; Shakespeare gives us a chance to reflect on the characters we play and how we can put those experiences to use in our real lives.”
Wayne Belize Villa Franco, who played Crab, Launce’s dog, said, “I played the dog role because it re- minds me of my past dog Kilo, who loved me, but I didn’t know how to love that dog because of my addiction. I now know how to love. I played this role to say sorry to Kilo for not loving him properly. Acting has taught me empathy and compassion for all life.”
Drama Therapy is another form of rehabilitation, which affects the individual, and helps create social change in the community, according to Keating.
“When I told my friends that I was going to a play within a prison they were somewhat conflicted. How- ever, this was a great experience to see you all in your creative form,” said Cindy, an outside guest during a question and answer period after Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Another audience member, Karen, told the inmate actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, “I believe in social justice theater. You men today have shown us all that you are rehabilitating your- self and breaking down barriers in the process.”
“I have seen Shakespeare all over the world, but I’ve never seen such living theater as I’ve seen here,” commented Vicky, an audience member of The Winter’s Tale.
Another audience member, Nancy, who is a Shakespearean actor, told the inmate actors in The Winter’s Tale, “Your humanity landed in a way I’ve never seen before. I think we can all identify with thinking freely as a community as we break down that fourth wall that’s in our heads.”
Actor Chris Thomas said, “Judging people or situations with a jaded eye can have dire consequences,” regarding his take on acting in The Winter’s Tale.
Actor Angelo Falcone add- ed, “I look not for beauty, nor color of skin, but for a loyal heart, deep within. For beauty will fade, and skin will grow old, but a loyal heart will never go cold.”
To learn skills of using the study and performance of Shakespeare and Drama Therapy to effect individual and social change, visit Marin Shakespeare Company: email@example.com for more information about training workshops.
The Characters in The Winter’s Tale:
King Leontes, King of Si- cilia: Antwan Banks Williams R. Mamillius, son of Leon- tes & Hermione: Adamu Chan
Camillo, Lord & friend to King Leontes: Raiveon “Ray-Ray” Wooden
Paulino, Lord of Sicilia & brother to Antigonus: Richie Morris
Lord 1 of Sicilia: G. Jordan
Cleomenes: Nythell Nate Collins
Oracle of Apollo & Mariner: Rauch Draper
Time: Eric “Maserati-E” Abercrombie
Polixenes, King of Bohemia: Maurice Reese Reed
Florizel, Prince of Bohemia & son of Polixenes: Drew, Jr.
Clown, Shepherd’s son: Philippe “Kells” Kelly
Perdita, daughter of Leontes & Hermione, raised by Shepherd: Suraya Keating
Autolycus, a roguish peddler: Chris Thomas
Hermione, Queen of Sicilia: Sharon
Emilia, friend to Hermione: Losdini
Antigonus, Lord of Sicilia: Ben Tobin
Jailer: Jad Salem
Lord 2 of Sicilia: Belize Villafranco
Dion & Bear: Red Bone Time: John Ray Ervin, Sr. Shepherd: Darwin “tall”
Dorca, a shepherdess:
Music Director: G. Jordan Stage Manager: Brotha Dee
Music & Songs by: Brotha Dee, Chris Thomas, & G. Jordan
The characters in Two Gentlemen of Verona:
Proteus, a gentleman of Verona: Jack Spat
Launce, servant to Proteus: Edmond Richardson
Crab, Launce’s dog: Belize Villafranco
Valentine, a gentleman of Verona: C.R. Marshall Sr.
Speed, servant to Valentine: A.A.
Julia, a lady of Verona (later disguised as Sebatian): Nythell (Nate) Collins
Antonio, father to Proteus: Darwin Tall Billingsley Panthino, cousin to Proteus: Tommy
Lucetta, lady friend to
Duke of Milan: Raygeta Sylvia, daughter to Duke of Milan: Daphne
Thurio, suitor to Silvia:
Maurice “Reese” Reed Eglamour, butler to Sylvia: A.D.A.M.U.
Host: Drew Jr.
Outlaw 1: Jeanne
Outlaw 2: John Ray Ervin, Sr.
Outlaw 3: David Anthony
Strouth Outlaw ensemble: Brotha Dee, Geno, Tall, Tommy Music & Songs: Tommy, David Anthony Strouth,
Blakk Flame Stage Manager: Brotha Dee
–Juan Haines Co-authored this story.
Emily Henderson, on her first visit to San Quentin State Prison to play softball, hit a 300ft home run into left field. She set a record as the first woman to ever hit a home run in softball at The Q.
Henderson, a high school coach, said she came in to the prison because, “Any opportunity I get to play softball, I am there.”
It was the first pitch to Henderson, the second batter in the first inning of the May 5 game against the Hardtimers, whose 28-7 victory was eclipsed by the homer.
Some New York state prisoners have been issued computers that give them limited access to a variety of features including music, movies and emails.
“This program will better prepare incarcerated individuals to return to a society dominated by technology while also increasing social interactions with family and friends,” a prison spokesperson told Bronx Justice News.
The computers are provided free by JPay, but inmates pay for content and services.
The devices were provided initially to general population inmates at three female facilities and two youth facilities as part of a new pilot program, the April 6 story reported.
The tablets can access a variety of e-books, music, movies, videos, computer games, educational materials and news stories. They also allow prisoners to file grievances and make phone calls.
The tablets don’t have Wi- Fi capabilities, and all content access by inmates, must be pre-approved by state authorities, the story reported
“This month we will activate secure messaging, which are messages sent via a secure connection network through a kiosk in each facility and only to members of the pub- lic who have pre-registered to receive messages from specific incarcerated individuals at the pilot facilities,” a corrections spokesperson told the newspaper.
Some content is free, but most comes at a price. The cost of a single email mes- sage on a JPay tablet is 35 cents, with bundle discounts available, officials told Bronx Justice News. In some facilities elsewhere computer games like solitaire cost up to $7.9 and movie rentals and purchases can run from $2 to $25. New York officials said they have negotiated lower costs for their program.
JPay is expected to make nearly $9 million dollars off all content purchases by in- mates and their families and friends in its first five years of the program.
The company has been criticized for what prisoner advocates call exploitative fees, reported Bronx Justice News.
Tablets are expected to be given to the 50,000-plus prisoners within Department of Corrections and Community Supervision by September, corrections officials said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has halted capital punishment in his state until a constitutional method is developed for executions.
“As long as the status quo remains where we don’t have a protocol that has been found to be OK, we certainly cannot have any executions in Ohio,” DeWine told reporters at an Associated Press forum. “That would not be right, at least in my opinion.”
DeWine ordered a review of Ohio’s method of execution in January. He acted after a federal judge ruled that Ohio could execute Warren Henness, because Henness had failed to provide an available alternative method of execution that would avoid needless suffering, by Ohio’s current method of execution.
The governor delayed Henness’ execution while the review is under way, cleveland.com reported.
Earlier this year death penalty opponents and drug manufactures challenged the constitutionality of similar methods of execution in Nevada. shedding light on the length that some states will go through to execute people, reported The New York Times.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom placed an indefinite moratorium on executions in his state.
“California’s death penalty system is unfair, un- just, wasteful protracted and does not make our state safe,” Newsome said. ‘Innocent people have been sentenced to death in California. Moreover, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that as many as one in 25 people sentenced to death in the United States is likely innocent.”
Henness was convicted of murdering his drug-abuse counselor in 1982 but maintain his innocence.
A judge has ordered the federal government to stop force-feeding detainees on a hunger-strike at an El Paso, Tex., immigration processing center.
“This is a win for us,” said Louis Lopez, one of the attorneys representing Malkeet Singh and Jasvir Singh. Both men are seeking political asylum. “They have a First Amendment right to protest,” Lopez told the El Paso Times.
U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama ordered the government to stop force- feeding two of nine detained Indian immigrants known as the “El Paso Nine.” He said it raised several questions, but the judge warned the detainee’s attorneys that if their clients health started to decline, he would reconsider force-feeding.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported the hunger strike began with two detainees on Dec. 30, 2018, with others joining the strike. ICE then obtained court orders in January to be- gin force-feeding the detainees non-consensually.
ICE told the New York Times four other individuals at different detention centers were also on a hunger strike. Since May 2015, Freedom for Immigrants reported 1,396 people on hunger strike in 18 detention centers.
The World Medical Center in a 2006 statement said “the forced feeding of hunger strikers is unethical, and is never justified,” the New York Times reported.
Dr. Michelle Iglesias, the El Paso detention center’s staff physician, testified that force-feeding is implemented to prevent the damage done to the body by prolonged starvation. Iglesias further explained starvation can be very painful.
In a statement to the El Paso Times, ICE said that there were 12 detainees— nine from India and three from Cuba—still on a hunger strike as of Feb. 14. However, none were being force-fed against their will.
The reversal of this practice comes after public pressure by protesters, human rights advocates and the United Nations human rights office, which said that force-feeding of immigrant hunger strikers could violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture, reported the El Paso Times.
The morning of April 11 started with fun and games with participants from Google.org and incarcerated coding students as a way to socialize.
The first game, the circle name game, an icebreaker consisted of everyone yelling out his or her name and that of the person next to them as fast as possible, which was easy to see that the day was going to be relaxed and fun.
The coding program is the brainchild of venture capitalists Beverly Parenti and Chris Redlitz.
This husband and wife team had a “crazy idea” after they met some incarcerated men here at San Quentin in 2010, Parenti said. They wanted to create business opportunities by integrating entrepreneurship with social justice – the result: The Last Mile (TLM). “We wanted to start The Last Mile because of the high recidivism rate, and help influence [lowering] that”, said Parenti.
Four years later, they launched the computer-coding program, Code. 7370.
Half the day consisted of games played in groups of individuals separated by personality types, an idea from coder Isaiah Love who said, “I noticed that identifying your personality builds almost immediate commonality and rapport. In other words it fosters an immediate connection.”
The nine groups were separated based on personality types, such as reformers, helpers, achievers, individualists, investigators, loyalists, enthusiasts, challengers, and peace- makers.
The rest of the day, the tech industry and mass incarceration were discussed.
Parenti spoke about a recent luncheon she had with about 15 TLM and Code.7370 graduates who paroled from prison.
“We talked about our success. Now we’re giving Googlers that same experience,” Parenti said. She told the incarcerated men, “There is no reason for you not to come home with these skills and fit in. You have persevered through the hardest of circumstances. You all inspire us to do more.”
Jason Jones spent more than 13 years in prison, the last five in Code.7370.
He returned to San Quentin to say, “If not for The Last Mile, I would not have known what to do with my life.” He then credited Brain Asey as a mentor who advised him to apply for TLM. Jason also said, “I wouldn’t have come to prison if there were programs like this when I was growing up.”
He added, “When you want to influence or impact people, you have to socialize with them,” turning to the incarcerated men he said, “I encourage all of you when you get out to go back to your communities, your hoods, because they need you they want you. When I went back, they saw the change in me and they wanted to follow that lead.”
It was Googler Megan Wheeler’s first experience inside a prison.
“I have not been more impacted in my life,” Wheeler said. “It’s eye opening. I learned a lot from Jason. He pushed us and made us think about why we came here. I feel that I could better explain how the criminal justice system operates because of this experience.” She added.
“Now, I will be more mindful as to how it plays into my everyday life. It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
Wheeler said that she looks forward to having a conversation with her mother, who works in the juvenile justice system in Arizona, saying “now I have a deeper understanding of her work.”
One of the topics in the group discussion was on “Imposter Syndrome” and of a time that each person felt “othered.”
Googler Justine Steel shared that he felt like an outsider when attending engineering school.
“If you’re feeling othered in tech, you probably need to be there”
“I was in the honors program and was the only one of color in the program,” adding that he, “still feels a lack of connection today at Google.”
Googler Maab Ibrahim said, “If you’re feeling othered in tech, you probably need to be there.”
Nicola Bucci said he “felt looked down on in the past as a blue collar worker in tech… I’m as soft guy who had to put on a front when I first got to prison.”
Harry Hemphill said, “Although prison is a dark place, graduating from the coding program brought me light.” He said that he is ready to go home with confidence and employable skills.
Robert Barnes, who recently finished the final track of the coding program, and is now a teacher’s assistant for the program, said, “It’s a pleasure to be part of Code.7370 I never thought I would be hanging out with Google.org executives. It’s been a blessing just being associated with Beverly Parenti and Chris Redlitz.”
TLM and Code.7370 graduate Sherman K. Newman said, “It’s a great day to get to know these tech folks. This is a great opportunity for us to connect with society, and it’s great for them to see the people behind these walls and see that we can better ourself.”
Googler Jacquelline Fuller asked the “men-in-blue” what assets they would bring to the tech world.
“We have the resilience to overcome obstacles. We have learned coding without internet access,” Hemphill said. “I have the passion and the willingness to help the next person, because we understand.”
Parenti said, “Offering opportunities to at-risk communities keeps dollars out of prison beds and puts money into schools and helps the youth.”
The conversation shifted to prison reform.
Jones said, “Prison is not a good thing, but having programs like The Last Mile inside prison is good. So, I can’t say abolish prisons, but I wouldn’t punish [prisoners] the way we do. What we can do is provide programs like The Last Mile in the community. I joined a gang at 11 because I was looking for a family.”
Then Parenti said, “Meeting with governors throughout the country, I see a shift in our politics, relating to mass incarceration…The best data are the stories about people coming home after these kinds of programs.”
Gregory Morris said, “When I came to prison at 18 I was vulnerable. The worst was that I could have been raped or killed. The best has been the programs that helped me turn my life around. However, in most prisons people spend most of the time in cells and only have programs like AA/ NA. There are people who will never change, but most of us want to change. So, how we look at prisons has to change so that the people who want to help prisoners change have better access.”
Hemphill said, “Prisons are a result of a bigger problem… money needs to be focused on the educational system. We’ve lost focus and need to re-focus on not a bandage solution to a bigger problem.”
The day was a way for Googlers to get to know the inmate population within San Quentin and see that there are many professional and qualified men in the Code. 7370 program and throughout the prison system that have changed their lives and deserve a second chance in society and within the tech industry.
As Googler Gayatri Divekar said, “I think this population is going to be part of the hiring pool in the Bay Area, [it’s] important to get to know the population that will work at Google or other tech companies [in the future]. Google did not look to bring in this type of people in the past… So it’s good for Google to look to this population and get to know them.”
-Juan Haines of the San Quentin News co-authored this story.
Holy Week is the Catholic Church’s most sacred time of the year. It is the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
The celebration at San Quentin’s Catholic Chapel, which was open to all, started with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 18, and ended with Vespers on Easter Sunday.
“This is the high point of the Christian year, and it goes back to the earliest celebration of the Church,” said SQ Catholic Chaplain Father George Williams.
Thursday night’s mass began with the Last Supper celebration. “It continues with the washing of the feet, communion, and the solemn procession of the Eucharist to the altar of repose where the faithful spend time in adoration and prayer,” according to the Inland Catholic Byte.
On Friday there was a noon service for the Stations of the Cross, which commemorates Jesus’ ordeal on the road to Calvary. Later in the day there was also the Good Friday evening service in remembrance of Christ being crucified and buried.
“On Holy Saturday night, in silence and in darkness, we enter into the Easter Vigil… Thanks be to God!” said the Inland Catholic Byte.
The main celebration took place Saturday night—Easter Vigil Mass and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. It included Baptism, Confirmation and Oblate Vows.
Everyone received their own candle upon entering the Catholic Chapel. Before the service began, SQ’s Deacon Matt went around getting all the candles lit.
The lights went out, and candlelight filled the chapel. “The candle is a sign of the light of Christ,” said Deacon Matt.
More than 70 inmates and 20 visitors from the outside had a candle in hand.
“It was a glorious vigil. There had to have been more than 20 visitors from outside of San Quentin,” said inmate Greg Jordan.
Ken Miller, a visitor from San Francisco, said, “I’m a converted Catholic myself, went through confirmation in the 90’s. It’s always a neat experience. I attend the vigil every year. This is my first vigil at San Quentin.”
Later, in the service inmate Eric Rives was baptized, fully submerged under water by Deacon Matt.
Rives said, “I feel the love of Christ.” In explain- ing why he became Catholic and decided to get baptized, said Rives by saying “Simply love, love of God, love of Christ, love of the Holy Spirit, love of the church. I feel loved; deep tender, compassionate love. This love impels me to love others with the depth of God’s love and Christ’s love; to walk in service of others just as Jesus did. I am free.”