From a TLM Learner in SQ to Volunteer

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Based on my experience, prison volunteers are people from all walks of life who believe in inmates’ rehabilitation, and that everybody deserves a second chance.  There have been some instances where first time volunteers have came in with a preconceived notion about prisoners, thinking that all inmates are just as bad as they have been portrayed in prison movies. Nonetheless, once they get to know the human side of the inmates, any fear and skepticism disappears.

Volunteers are safe in prison because the majority of inmates understand that volunteers come into prison to help us better ourselves. Many of us have been incarcerated in isolated prisons (i.e., Pelican Bay, Calipatria, Centinela, etc.) where the only contact with the outside world is through the correctional guards or family members, if you have them. In these remote prisons located in the middle of California’s deserts and away from civilization, I have experienced -first  hand – the abandonment, disownment, and rejection by society. This hurts. Therefore, being in a place, like San Quentin, where volunteers are able to interact with inmates and make us feel that we still matter, gives me hope, purpose, and a sense of belonging, which I cherish and clung to with all my might.

I understand how tedious it is for the volunteers to go out of their way, and the many sacrifices they have to make. They deprive their love ones of their time and presence just to bring me their help to better myself.  For me, this is priceless and highly appreciated. I know many other inmates feel the same way. So to even entertain the idea of harming someone whose only intention is to give us a helping hand would be abhorrent. And in any event that an inmate might think of putting a volunteer in a harms way, that insolent poor little dude would have to face the wrath of the entire incarcerated population. A thing no inmate would like to experience.

For inmates, like myself, who are eager to better themselves, volunteers are sacred. Volunteers can come into prison and be safe, because without their knowledge, they can count on hundreds of inmate “bodyguards” whom, gladly, would take a bullet or a shank for them at any given time.