Patrick Fletcher, 57, appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings a half dozen times before he was found suitable for release this fall. Ten years into his sentence he had an epiphany, but in total it took him 37 years of incarceration before he found freedom.
“Fletch,” as he is known to many, was smiling before he left San Quentin. He was simply ready to go. Asked about doing another interview, he said, “Go ahead and write what you want.”
Four years ago, Fletcher was interviewed for a story about his sojourn from “The Town” to prison. The Prodigal Son, was written about the Oakland, Calif. native, and appears only on the San Quentin News website.
Excerpts from that story are used to conclude the carceral chapter of Fletcher’s life; a story about the redemption of a 19-year-old who committed murder in West Oakland in 1984.
Fletcher, a third-generation Oaklander, survived the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin. Before prison, he navigated around the city’s Falcon Boys, AC Mob, Broadway Hustlers, 69 VILLE, Acorn Projects and Sobrante Park—now distant memories.
Gone too is “the code” of the streets where hidden rules apply. Like so many young Black males growing up in America, Fletcher did not envision opportunities or a productive future. Admittedly, he squandered them before he realized they existed.
“At the end of the day, even though these were codes, the thoughts in my mind were amplified by who I thought I was,” said Fletcher.
The cycle of violence continued in his absence. “My own son was killed,” said Fletcher. “Thirty years later, 18 days apart” from his victim. “While I’m in prison raising everyone else’s sons who were coming to prison, I couldn’t even be there for my own son.” Both young men were Black, and from Oakland.
When Fletcher was arrested, Jerry Brown was leaving the governor’s office the first time. Back then Apple’s personal computer had just debuted. The Internet wasn’t commercially viable, and cellphones were the size of a brick. But technology and “the code” marched on without him.
If a 19-year-old follows in Fletcher’s footsteps today, he will not see freedom again until the year 2058.
Fletcher described “sobriety” in the context of “not living by the code.” Instead, he turned to his early teachings. “I didn’t attach myself to values and principles until I matured,” he said. “By then I was in prison for about 10 years.”
Part of Fletcher’s rehabilitation came when he earned his GED, learned Microsoft, carpentry, electronics, welding, janitorial work, and how to drive a forklift. In addition to work in self-help programs, he was also a peer health educator.
“I watched him evolve,” said Timothy Hicks, 50, who is also from Oakland. “We arrived at San Quentin about a week apart.” The two met years earlier at California State Prison Solano.
“I remember seeing Fletch taking advantage of the opportunities here, said Hicks. “He told me out of his own mouth that he’s going home…that he’s ‘going to parole from San Quentin’ and he did it.”
Fletcher works and lives with his wife in northern California.