San Quentin workers donated more than $7,000 of their paychecks to two non- profit organizations selected by Warden Ron Davis that serve young people in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“I took so much from society. Now I can give back,” said Ronald Bruce Carter at the Oct. 15 check presentation.
Tracy Herrmann said, “It’s a big difference from the past, when I’d take.”
Paul Huyck added, “It’s a good thing to donate money to help society.”
The three men are part of the Joint Venture Program, which was set up by prison administrators to coordinate local business with inmate labor. The local business, Big Dawg, builds refrigeration fan units for commercial refrigeration and freezers. Big Dawg pays prisoners industry-based wages for their labor. Prison officials manage the money.
• 20% pays for the worker’s room and board
• 20% goes to pay off the worker’s restitution or to victim’s compensation
• 20% goes for family support, such as child support
• 20% goes to the worker’s savings account
• 20% goes to the worker’s inmate trust account for discretionary spending Carter said the job allows him to do something constructive.
“I take pride in everything I do,” Carter said. “Build- ing something from scratch that could go anywhere in the world—from something I did.”
Tracy Herrmann said the job “keeps my mind occupied and being productive. Plus, I’m giving back to society.”
Paul Huyck said, “It gives us a chance to put money in the bank and have a better chance of making it.”
Misssey serves sexually exploited girls and women between the ages of 12 and 24 with personal development training and how to create life goals. The organization also provides clients a safe place and daily lunches.
“It’s a place for the girls to talk about trauma and bad experiences,” representative Destiny Webster said. “It’s a place where they could be honest.”
In regards to receiving money from people who might be responsible for some of the harm, Webster said, “There should always be a place to start over. You are proving a resource to help us to do our work. I’m honored to be here and see the people who’ve made these donations.”
Webster, born and raised in Oakland, said it was her first time inside San Quentin. “Walking through the courtyard, it looks so much like my community,” she said. “It’s a humbling experience. I believe that everyone should be offered multiple chances.”
Seneca Family of Agencies serves young people with mental health issues who suffered trauma or were negatively affected by the foster care system. The organization collaborates with local schools that have students with disabilities or have been impacted by trauma, abuse or neglect.
“The goal is for students to fully access their educational goals and thrive in school,” said Representative Harben Porter. “We strive to close the achievement gap in California.”
Seneca representative Caleb Hervey said that he joined the organization because of his personal experiences and seeing people disenfranchised in his family and the larger community.
“I wanted to be someone who gave back,” Porter said. “My values line up with the family values of Seneca.”
While receiving the check, Porter said to the workers, “A lot of people are just one choice from a life change.”
He then thanked the prisoners for the donation, adding that the money would go toward “providing education, mental health care that is family centered, with a goal of getting rid of the intergenerational problem of people having to go through the prison system.
“The contribution will move beyond our organization to those in our network—the money will be well used. You are providing healing in our community,” Porter said.