Long-term San Quentin basketball program volunteer Mark Stapp announced to a Lower Yard crowd that he has been elected to the Santa Rosa City Council.
He then helped the Prison Sports Ministry team beat the home team San Quentin Kings, 82-77.
“Coming into a correctional facility for over a decade has confirmed the value of the human beings here,” Stapp, 48, said after the Nov. 12 game. “San Quentin is part of our community and it’s the job of the government. My job is to make sure every voice is included.”
Stapp first started visiting San Quentin 11 years ago with Ted Salveit, a teacher who organized a basketball team to play against incarcerated people.
“I was playing for a team in San Francisco called the Bittermen,” Stapp said. “Ted got us together for what we thought would be one game at San Quentin.”
Stapp continued to come into the prison and has even brought his wife in to enjoy a game. Additionally, he became a brown-card holder, (a pass to come in and out of the prison without needing an escort). His brown-card also allows him to get people cleared and escort them into San Quentin. He has also visited Vacaville State Prison.
“Mark cares for the community,” said Derrell Davis, a new San Quentin resident. “He believes a man can change and he brings communities close through basketball.”
Davis normally plays for the San Quentin Warriors but this day he started for the Kings. Meanwhile Stapp, who sponsors the Bittermen team, suited up with the Prison Sports Ministry’s Green Team.
The weekly events include moments to bond, including a pre-game, halftime, and post-game circle around mid-court where different people share bits of their lives, pray for each other, and end with all hands in the middle with a chant of “family.”
At half-time, Stapp surprised the crowd with his election announcement.
“Santa Rosa has a county jail and some transitional houses,” Stapp said. “Local government needs to make sure we are providing support for them. San Quentin has shown we can effectively provide men leaving prison assistance for them to have pathways to give back to their community.”
To supplement the City Council job, Stapp has kept his position raising funds for Sonoma State University.
“City Council is like a full-time volunteer position — a lot of time for not a significant salary,” Stapp said. “It’s our way of giving back to the city my wife and I love. With our job schedules, we can make it work.”
Stapp said running for City Council stemmed from his interest in public policy and human beings.
“I had been getting more and more involved with the city board,” Stapp said. “This was a natural extension of that.”
At San Quentin, the basketball game came down to the wire. The Kings were down three points with 15 seconds in the fourth quarter. Marvin Cosby, a great shooter, launched a potential three-pointer from the left-hand corner that hit the side of the backboard.
The Kings got the rebound and Tommy, the North Block three-point champion, air-balled another attempt from behind the arc. The rebound went to King Jamal “Do it All” Harrison, who tied Davis with 16 for Kings leading scorer. He had a wide open look but the shot clanked off the rim.
“It was too much pressure,” Harrison said. “I had to hit it, but the sun was in my eyes. I knew it was off ‘cause the ball left my hand wrong.” The Green Team snagged the rebound and the Kings fouled to stop the clock.
Former overseas pro Ted Haahs sealed the game from the free-throw line, making both shots. The towering Haahs led the Green Team with 20 points, followed by first-year teammate Sam Shapiro with 18. Point guard David Liss added 14.
“Good game,” Shapiro said. Under a clear blue sky, the teams circled around half-court and expressed their gratitude before parting ways. “This is the best place I’ve ever been,” said Nashwan Batta, a 50-year-old King who arrived at San Quentin a few months ago.