A room full of San Quentin prisoners, an independent reporter, and an Alcatraz park ranger came together to talk about how the public views
life-term prisoners years after they’ve been incarcerated behind bars.
“Who are they decades later?” asked independent reporter/producer Nancy Mullane. “Why do we make laws that sentence people one day, and then never ask who they are today?”
“It’s possible to turn lives around after incarceration,” said National Park Service ranger Dan Unger, who was a volunteer for the San Quentin college program years ago. “I’ve been able to see the change in inmates after going through the Prison University Project.”
For the past 13 years, Unger has been giving presentations on Alcatraz about its colorful history as a military base and federal prison.
Mullane and Unger were guests at a meeting of New Leaf on Life, a San Quentin self-help group designed by lifers to prepare themselves for parole board hearings.
Unger said after hearing Don Cronk’s story, “A Long Shot,” on National Public Radio, he sought and met Nancy Mullane, the author of Life After Murder.
The book chronicles fi ve convicted murderers, during and after incarceration, one of which was Don Cronk.
“After meeting the men in Nancy Mullane’s book, I had the opportunity to meet the men who turned their lives around.”
Unger said. He reported their stories inspired him to include the fi ve men into his presentation about “The Rock.”
He told the San Quentin prisoners that the “larger than life” portraits of the fi ve men hanging on Alcatraz walls are a big attraction and they generate positive visitor comments on the storyboard.
Here are a couple of comments:
“Nothing good comes from being bad. But it is never too late to change.”
“People can learn to regret what they did and they will if you give them a chance. If you keep someone locked up forever, you will never know what good they are capable of doing.”
Mullane’s latest project is a new radio program called Life of the Law, which discusses how prisoners access the courts.