San Quentin Visiting program administrators have hosted another successful Fourth of July celebration.
Visitors and residents were treated to an extraordinary day of visiting thanks to the contributions of visitor donations and the arrival of two very special guests.
On the day of Independence, decorations of bright red, white and blue hung from all over the visiting room. No matter where you looked there was a United States flag proudly on display.
If these were not enough to change the mood of the room, the live music struck the right chord.
“The music definitely changes the vibe,” said resident Luis Light, who didn’t seem to stop smiling once during the visit. “The whole energy is better.”
The live music was courtesy of residents Lee Jaspar on guitar, John Zeretzke on violin, Brian Conroy on upright bass, and Gordon “Flash” Kimbrough on Percussion.
Kimbrough discussed in an interview with SQNews that the band’s goal was to create an ambiance without being overinvolved.
“Music brings out emotions, positivity and tranquility,” he said. “To be able to provide my service to the community, inside or out, makes me happy. It inspires me to inspire others.”
Despite the day beginning with news that the pizza could not be obtained, due to COSTCO being closed—and an artist couldn’t be found last second for the face-painting, all was soon forgotten with the arrival of two very special guests.
Chief Deputy Warden Oak Smith and his wife Michelle surprised all in attendance when they entered the visiting room wheeling in their familiar cotton candy and popcorn machines.
In similar fashion to the Easter Spectacular event this past April, the well-known couple showed up on their day off and stood side-by-side to make and serve the snacks to all. Michelle’s characteristic smile could be seen from across the room as she greeted the young children who asked for some of the colorful cotton candy.
As part of the festivities, families and loved ones were able to take photos with Fourth of July-themed frames, which were donated by the Inmate Family Council volunteer.
Resident Jonathan Raridon, proudly bragged to SQNews about his wife, Samantha, donating not just the frames but also $100 for the decorating of the visiting room.
One of the three volunteers that make up San Quentin’s IFC , Samantha, a combat veteran, values the connection between family and their incarcerated loved one.
“It’s difficult to be married yet live completely separate lives,” she said in an interview. “Visits like this mean a lot. Hopefully, we see more like it with the new California Model.”
The prison received up to $350 in private donations from visitors contributing to make the event special. SQ’s Community Resource Manager, Lieutenant Gardea, and Sergeant Ramirez personally went shopping for the event’s supplies and for the items in the goodie bags kids were able to take home after the visit.
On this year’s Day of Independence, the Visiting room was filled with happy, smiling families by noon, yet no one was asked to leave to make space for walk-ins. All who came were able to enjoy the festivities and partake in honoring freedom in the most unlikely of places.
One resident in particular, who had seen his daughter that day, was happy to share his appreciation with SQNews.
“Out of the six prisons I’ve been to, I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Jarrod Williams in a later interview. “For the IFC, prison administration, and incarcerated people to go through all that trouble is incredible,” he said. “It was the best visit I’ve ever had. So, thank you. It couldn’t have been more perfect … Unless I could have set off some fireworks.”