In your April 2019 (Edition 115) issue of the SQ News ran an article about my having been found suitable for parole after nearly 50 years of imprisonment.
Now, ordinarily I would’ve felt honored that the editorial staff of SQ News had taken an interest in my situation. I have long admired the [organization’s] efforts around humanizing prisoners, promoting a higher level of understanding between citizens in the greater community and incarcerated population.
To begin with, the title. The unfortunate placement of an apostrophe (Manson’s Follower) makes it seem as if I were the only follower Manson had – when in fact I was never at any time a follower of his. While I was an associate of Charles Manson and his so-called family, I was not a resident member of the group or a follower of Manson. Since then, or until recently, I have usually been referred to as an associate or former associate, terms, I don’t much mind being used in that context.
I can and do forgive the editorial staff for failing to preserve journalistic integrity in this case.
Enclosed is a copy of an open letter I wrote to my family and friends a few weeks later.
A few weeks have lurched by since I received a letter from Gov. Gavin Newsom informing me that the parole board’s decision to grant my parole had been rescinded by his office. Since then I have been sitting with my thoughts and assessing my feelings around this development.
There is the profound disappointment of being confronted by yet another setback, attended by a lot of other emotions. Certainly, I share many of these feelings with all the people who care about me, who have been let down by this outcome as well.
From a place of experiencing it firsthand, my heart goes out to the thousands of men and women, and their families and friends, who have been subjected to this specific kind of treatment. It is a cruel system that holds out the promise of a second chance after decades of imprisonment only to snatch it back at the last minute. I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I said it doesn’t hurt.
In this desperately confused and fearful era we’re living in, too many people are retreat- ing to their respective tribal camps, building the walls around them higher and higher while painting others thought to be outside of them with brushes loaded with shades of stark black and white, fingers twitching over the butts of their weapons just in case someone crosses a line. Too few people are willing to listen to a point of view that may be at some odds with their own; too few are willing to forgive wrongful or insulting behaviors they perceive in the other.
Nelson Mandela – a man who suffered greatly while imprisoned by the state for his stance against tyranny – famously said that the withholding of forgiveness is a poison one takes while hoping someone else will die. My arrival at this understanding comes out of having experienced both sides of the equation.
As politicians come, Gavin Newsom is a good one. I continue to believe he will do many good things for the people. For this very reason, he is attracting quite a lot of opposition to his policies and decisions, and some of it is uncompromisingly hostile. This early in his governor- ship he must be cautious in deciding what battles he will take on. My case presents some extra challenges due to its being associated with crimes that garner a lot of public fascination and the greater scrutiny this may bring to decisions relating to it. Some who are in opposition to my parole have chosen to politicize the process by exploiting this.
There is no blame here; at least not aimed at anyone outside of myself. This is just another thing I must bear in consequence to some terrible failures in my youth. I alone own responsibility for my past failings. Unfortunately, not all the consequences are borne by me alone. To everyone who feels hurt or shame or sadness as a result of this current setback and the attention around it, I am truly sorry.
My release on parole will be reviewed again in a year. In the meantime, I will continue to plan and prepare for my eventual release from prison as I have been since the parole grant in January, because it would be foolish to wait until the decision becomes final before making these preparations.
To all those kind-hearted souls who have advocated for my release, know that I continue to draw encouragement from your support. I express my gratitude in my resolve to carry on in my fight for the simple dignity of redemption and reconciliation. God gave me this ground to stand on, and by God I will stand on it.
In peace and serenity, love holding at the center, trusting to the supreme intelligence at the foundation of all existence.
California Medical Facility October 2019
Worthy of Their Sacrifices
I had been incarcerated for almost seven years. I coasted through the system, took a large
amount of classes just for show and tried to avoid the everyday drama of prison yard politics. I continued to blame my victim (my wife Renee) for the crime I am responsible for, took no accountability, and just didn’t “get it.” I only wanted to falsely fill the empty voids in my life and get out of prison as soon as possible. Then, on February 17, 2018, I was called to the property room and my life was forever changed.
I knew I hadn’t ordered any items and really didn’t want to depart my weekend TV shows. I reluctantly got dressed and went to property, where I had to wait in line, outside, during winter in the Midwest. I made it to the window, signed the yellow property receipt, and received a book with some papers attached. The book looked cool with the face of a soldier on the front and was titled Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan. I read the letter of support that was heartfelt and filled with compassion, knowledge and direction. It was from Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee. Her son, Marc Lee, was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq: Aug. 2, 2006 – Battle for Ramadi. I remembered Marc’s death due to the fact I was attending combat medic school and preparing for war that year.
As I started to turn the pages of my new found treasure, I noticed a handwritten message on the dedication page. I studied those monumental words, written in red ink, and it felt like a prize fighter had punched me in my solar plexus. My breathing paused, I felt my pulse bounding, eyes glossed over, and my pupils narrowed as I experienced a visual osmosis of the message. Several deceased soldiers, my friends, flashed before my eyes. I saw it, and by God, I felt it. The message: “Shon, live your life worthy of their sacrifices.” – Debbie Lee
My emotions and thoughts went into a thousand directions as if a hand grenade went off inside my head. My past dishonesty, lack of moral courage and integrity, those I harmed, my suicide attempts, and chaos I created needs to be addressed. I wanted to save the world right now – at this moment. I needed to make things right for my family, community, veterans and God.
Accompanying the book and letter from Mrs. Lee was a copy of Marc’s last letter home – before this death. Marc’s Glory Letter emphasized “purity, morals and kindness.” I realized I first needed to bring closure to my crime – if there ever can be – by telling the truth, exposing my faults, and hoping that others can start to heal.
The first step was to admit all of my offenses, to the best of my memory, since alcohol was a contributor. I started by writing down the turmoil I put my family through. I compiled those events into a 10-page essay titled Demobilization. I needed to tell the story and bring my wife back to life. Not only was she a teacher at a college of nursing, she worked in an emergency room on weekends. I’m a numbers guy. With Renee’s untimely death, caused by me, there is a ripple effect in the universe. I have to account for every nurse she may have taught in her classes that would have gone on to save lives. Not only that, but also those she would have directly affected by working in the ER. Those are some big numbers. Her passion was helping others. I have to carry on her life’s purpose. I can’t work in the medical field due to the felony conviction, but I will share the story in hopes of preventing other families from pain and destruction. So I called up a television station and agreed to admit to what I did on the air. I had previously told many lies about my wife in an attempt to justify my crime. I needed to start being a man and “worthy of their sacrifices” for our country.
As my passion and zeal shot out of the gate like a bull, I’m still a work in progress. I recon- struct my personal identity by showing love through service to others. I have to reorient my identity significantly with the limitations of being a felon. That message, in my heart, came from a multitude of sources – Debbie Lee, Marc Lee, Renee and God.
I now have a purpose, a mission and a lot of work to do.
Moberly Correctional Center
Salutations! Peace be upon you. I have read many issues now of your paper, and it has been very informative, useful and productive to my situation, something that I have come to truly enjoy reading. So, today, I have decided to reach out, write this brief note, and enclose these stamps to receive an issue or two of your paper. I appreciate it. Please look up my loca- tion and forward to me wherever I may be, due to me being in the process of relocating. Thank you and God bless!
Reginald Howard Corcoran State Prison
Hey guys, what’s going on there? Enclosed are a couple of fairly recent Mule Creek Posts. We always enjoy getting the new SQN; you all are awe- some. We especially like the Spring Wall City; the stories and photos are impressive. WP. Drummond’s edito- rial is something we have quoted and referenced in several aspects. Looking forward to the next one. Till next time, keep up the good work.
All our best,
D. Razor Babb, Editor-in-Chief Mule Creek Post