In prison, there are many ways to pass time. Staying busy is one way to redirect the boredom of incarceration into something that leads to peace of mind. There is one person at San Quentin who exemplifies utilizing hard work and a strong resolve to overcome the dullness and din of a prison setting. Michael Endres is that person.
Endres is serving time as a “second-striker” and received a seven-to-life sentence. He has been incarcerated for fifteen years. Beginning his time at Calipatria State Prison and CSP-Ironwood in southern California, Endres arrived at San Quentin eight years ago.
“As ironic as it may sound, I was glad to come to San Quentin where there are so many more programs to occupy your time. I can’t sit around doing nothing; it just don’t make sense to me,” said Endres.
Endres spends some of his time searching for projects around the prison that need attention, such as cleaning, polishing, buffing, carrying, lifting, recycling, delivering, painting, and unloading. The list is long. He recently painted and laid tile, remodeling the upper yard shack adjacent to the main canteen. From trimming windows, detailing baseboards, and laying an intricate tiled floor, Endres can restore any dull location into something brighter.
Endres worked for several years with no pay number and has never complained. He is a “firm believer in God” who he said has always provided for him. When Endres’s new supervisor learned he did not have a pay number, he sought to establish one. Endres would like to be able to use the small amount of money he might make to send pictures to his elderly mother who he hopes to care for after his return to society.
“There’s more to keeping something looking good than what meets the eye”
“I recently became interested in the old, brass fire hydrants scattered all around the inside of San Quentin. They looked very old, some weighing more than one hundred pounds,” said Endres.
San Quentin’s firehouse personnel and maintenance supervisors don’t have records revealing when the hydrants were installed, but a consensus based on photos and stories date them at about 60 to seventy years old.
San Quentin’s fire hydrants are solid brass. Most of them were dull in color; lacking the original luster they had decades ago when they were put into service. Endres wanted to restore the hydrants to their original appearance, or as close as he could get to that appearance.
Endres sought permission to have them removed from their mountings in order to clean them properly. He spent long hours using a lot of good ol’ elbow grease to bring out the original, bright patina from the historic fireplugs.
“There is always work to be found around San Quentin,” said Endres. “I spent this past summer painting the north chow hall wall and the beams under the old canopy that covers the upper yard, the canteen façade, and the yellow caution lines along the upper yard drainage system.”
Every now and then, Endres seeks help from friends to lend a hand. “Joseph Thureson and K. Augustine have often assisted me.”
Endres also maintains the solid brass memorial plaque located in San Quentin’s plaza area near the inside front entrance gate. “There’s more to keeping something looking good than what meets the eye,” said Endres. “I know that memorial means a lot to many people. Visitors entering San Quentin should be able to see that memorial in its pristine state—the way it was intended. I do what I can to keep it that way.”
Some people call Endres a habitual volunteer. Endres calls it, “Staying busy,” with a smile.