Ten days before Christmas, San Quentin News went to the visiting room where prisoners’ children received gifts collected by the Vietnam Veteran’s Group of San Quentin. The SQN asked visitors about the impact visits have on their lives. For more quotes, go to www.facebook.com/sanquentinnews:
Pam Schuhmacher: I’ve (visited my brother) every year for the past 12 years he’s spent in prison for Christmas. I try not to leave him alone for the holidays. My Christmas wish is for my brother to get out of here.
Gloria McPeters: I love being here with my son. I’m going to be here every Christmas, and every birthday for my son. My Christmas wish is for him to come home and the world to stop all of this violence, corruption and poverty.
Theresa Allen: I think the kids need more than just one day to visit with their fathers in prison.
Denise Abbott: Fortunately, I get to visit a lot. The reason I visit so much is the reception I receive from the staff. They are so friendly and warm. I visited Joe at Solano State Prison. It was a much different experience. The staff there was very impersonal. The San Quentin staff promotes visitation.
Sarah Dias: I drove (a long way to see) Chris. It’s enlightening to see the people who come here and visit their loved ones. It is crowded, but that means people are loved, wanted and needed. The toy drive is good, because a lot of families can’t afford it.
Chris Deragon: It keeps me grounded to have (my wife) around. It gives me a sense of reality – that I can have a future beyond these walls. It’s hope. The quickest thing we lose is hope. Yet to have this gives me hope that I can have a future with her.
Penny LaFerme: It’s a joy to be able to see my nephew today. It’s special. His brother Dan is visiting from out of town. San Quentin can be intimidating to some people, but I rush to get here to be with my nephew, who I love.
“Just seeing a child’s face light up when they get a gift is great”
Tierra Gaines: It’s good today. I’d rather have my husband home. I don’t like coming here, but I’m happy when I see him.
Vickisha Gaines: There’s no place I’d like to be than by my husband’s side. I feel thankful I can at least see him. There are so many people who no longer have their loved ones.
Mrs. Polley: It’s always a blessing to be together with someone you love, no matter what season. It’s been 20 years. I learn something new from my husband every time I come here. The love is still there.
Ernestine Lennear: It’s hard not having my son home for any occasion, but it’s harder for his kids. The best gift would be to have him walk through the front door and say Merry Christmas.
Donna Paciocco: Here at San Quentin, it’s a good experience. We have good officers like Tynes and Lt. Evans. He’s here on this day to make sure the kids get Christmas gifts.
Trecee Paciocco: It feels good to visit my uncle. I think it’s really nice that the lieutenant is helping out with the gifts. It’s special.
Jazmean Martin: I love coming here to see my uncle. It’s important to me. I can’t wait ‘til he comes home.
Maverick Harrison: The fact that I have someone come in here to visit me gives me something to fight for. It makes me feel human and alive.
LeMar Harrison Jr.: It feels a little bit better because I’m closer to my family. It’s great to see my father and I get presents.
Catherine Harrison: You have to work with what you have. Unfortunately, this is the situation we have to deal with. Even though this is not the Christmas we want, we are together. That’s what matters.
Dennis Pratt: My wife (Barbara) gives me a lot of love and joy.
D’andra Esparza: It’s really fun coming here. I get to spend time with my uncle. I love the presents. It’s really sweet, their giving presents to the kids.
Livia Esparza: I just want my uncle to come home for Christmas.
Sonja Hill: It’s a good feeling to come in here and share the holidays with my husband. I get inspired by the guys who aren’t able to be with their children on Christmas, but through the gift exchange they still have that bond.
Darnell Hill: It does matter who gives the gifts. A gift from dad is an intimate opportunity to connect with children emotionally and psychologically.
Carmen Garcia: I only get to see my dad twice a month. It just makes me happy to see him.
Monica Garcia: I take him with me in my heart when I have to leave, as I have done for the past 23 years. He’s the love of my life. I look forward to the next weekend, the next weekend, and the next.
Amy Smith: It’s amazing, hard, sad, and wonderful. I try to enjoy every moment in here. I look forward to the next one. I try to stay in the moment. The person I visit grounds me.
Adam Garcia: I think it’s nice that we can come in here and see our father, so he’s not alone on Christmas. I was four when I learned my dad was in prison. Every wish I’ve ever had is for him to come home.
San Quentin’s Lt. Evans: This is my fifth year with VVGSQ toy give-away. What these guys do benefits the community. It makes me feel good that I’m not only helping the inmate, but we’re helping the family of the inmates too. I believe the staff feels this way too.
“I think it’s nice that we can come in here and see our father”
Joe Petitti: I’ve been with the VVGSQ for eight years. I’m a retired correctional officer and I worked with the department for 25 years. I get a charge out what these guys do for the kids. It’s something they don’t get to do all the time. I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Barry Spillman: Petitti is our biggest supporter. We just hope the administration continues to see what we’re doing. It should be known that 95 percent of the Toys for Tots came from the U.S. Marine Corps in San Mateo.
Stan Baer: I’m a veteran. I love being in the VVGSQ and being a part of the toy drive. We had help from Ern Morgan at Alliance for Change. Ern actually brought the toys here. Charlie Spence’s mom donated funds for the truck that brought the toys here.
Greg Sanders: As a member of VVGSQ, and the toy drive , it’s an honor and a privilege to give back to society and make amends. It’s a form of contrition we failed to exhibit prior to our incarceration.
Lawson Beavers: I’ve been a member of VVGSQ for two and half years. It’s an awesome feeling to see the expression the kid’s faces. It’s very satisfying to see that.
Gary Cooper: I served in the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. I’ve been with the VVGSQ for almost a year. There’s no program like this at other prisons. Just seeing a child’s face light up when they get a gift is great. We had a lady tell us that for one child, this will probably be the only Christmas gift he gets.
From John Parratt to Shaylin: You are a lady with pure integrity. Thank you for bringing peace to my heart. May 2013 be our year. Love – Yah Ya.