San Quentin’s Catholic Chapel was filled with hope for about 60 prisoners when independent reporter Nancy Mullane spoke to them about how newly released lifers are having positive effects on their home communities.
Her book, “Life after Murder,” chronicles the journeys of five convicted murderers before, during and after their release from prison.
Mullane followed the inmates from the time the California parole board found them suitable for release, to the 150-day period that the governor has to approve or reverse the board’s decision, to their actual release and adjustment to freedom after decades behind bars.
“Why don’t we know about these people?” Mullane asked the San Quentin group. “Why don’t we know what they’ve become? People on the outside want to know, but they don’t know who to ask. That’s what I see myself as the person who gathers the information about you and gives it to the public.”
The audience for Mullane’s talk was an inmate activity group named Hope For Strikers.
In 2010, San Quentin inmates created Hope For Strikers for inmates sentenced under California’s Three Strike Law.
The group meets weekly to address lifestyle addictions that led to criminal behaviors and to pursue meaningful methods of mitigating those behaviors.
Hope For Strikers developed a 12-step recovery process that examines the root causes of recidivism. Its curriculum teaches individuals how to identify triggers to impulsive reactions, and provides them with coping techniques to minimize destructive thinking.
“Why don’t we know about these people?”
One of Mullane’s observations was that self-improvement programs helped the men in her book readjust to society, and now the men share those concepts with juvenile offenders.
“The youth counselors were able to see positive changes in the juveniles from the impact the men had on them,” Mullane said. “The counselors were amazed.”
Mullane’s message encouraged San Quentin inmates to continue with self-improvement programs, said Julius “Kimya” Humphreys, a member of Hope For Strikers.
“These programs give us the opportunity to show the public that we have changed, and we are no longer dangerous,” Humphreys said.
According to Mullane, the negative impression of prisoners was developed by the public through a process called “othering.” Othering occurs when people in a society dehumanize other groups of people by not seeing and understanding the groups’ position in life, she said.
“I have hope that, as a reporter, I can stop the public from othering you by talking and writing about your development and contributions to the community.”
Mullane has a new FM radio show on KALW 91.7 called “Life of the Law,” in which she discusses prisoners’ access to courts to challenge their convictions. Her latest project tracks the lives of three men who benefit from the change in the state’s Three Strike’s Law.