139: Release Day [Rebroadcast] & Special Announcement
Is more than the policemen on the corner more than the courthouse where our laws enforced more than the jail where law breakers are punny. In your whole community, there are customs and moral code which guide your actions, what social controls affect you. I'm gonna call right now. I'm looking at the prison right now. I'm looking at San Quinton. This is life of the law. I'm Nancy Mullane. We have some really exciting news for you here at life of the law were looking to the future. And part of that future is a change. The changes I am stepping down as executive director of life of the law and Tony Gannon who you know as the senior producer is taking on the helm of life of the law and leading this project into the future. We're going to celebrate this change by going back into the archives and sharing episode. That was one of my favorite with you. The episode is called release day and it's the day that a man I met inside San Quentin actually was released and I'm there the morning. He's standing on the curb and we go together into the first hours of freedom. This is released day and I wanna thank everyone who has supported life of the law over the past six years, I've been D. And I wanna thank you all, forgiving, Tony, Gannon, all of you. Support as you go forward into the future together. Thank you. In nineteen Ninety-four voters in my state of California passed the three strikes law after that any person who had committed more than two felonies could get sentenced to twenty five years to life in prison over the years at packed, the state's prison system. But in November of two thousand twelve voters changed the law. Now, some of the prisoners sentenced under three strikes could petition to get out for time served. This isn't the story of all that this is the story of one inmate I met while reporting on all these changes to the three strikes law. And it's the story of one very important day for him. Well, Nancy, this is Curtis is calling on. Let you know that the I just got out about, I guess, ten minutes ago and that's San Rafael transit. I was hoping I could get in touch with you trying to get to the airport. So take your talk to you later. So go, give me your name. I'd met Curtis pen months earlier inside San Quentin, and we'd stayed in touch. He had no idea when or if he was getting out under the new law. In nineteen ninety six. He was sentenced to twenty nine years to life for commercial burglary seventeen years later on April fourth, two thousand thirteen. He was free. Time. Share the moment with you depend. I have to get the first of a man who's free. It's strange because after all these years I thought that I would be somewhat. Nervous, but I'm not nervous. I thought that would be some anxiety that how they assistant calm about me. All the inmates being released from San Quentin. We're putting a big van that morning and dropped off the local bus station. When I drive up Curtis, the standing on the curb, he's dressed in lycra sweats, he's got a big smile on his face, but he also looks stunned to be out in the real world this morning at five o'clock in morning. I was in my sale and and the officer walked by and just said, pin go, Yep, she goes Parolin quickly, kept walking and my Sally was like the sheet. Did I just hear what she just said? I said, I think so. All Curtis has with him as a crate. One of those plastic crates like milk carriers use, it holds everything. He owns in the world, got one bucks. I have my book bag. Bible in the air. I also have a lot of socks hair, grease, hairbrush, toothpaste, toothbrush, and eat about to face. I left my two-year a note about airports, and then I got some some school works. Hebrew brought back with me because I was studying Hebrew. That's it. That's your whole life. I don't own anything else. Yeah, it's kind of sad. It's simple. Yeah. I mean, you don't have a lot to carry. No, I do not. I do not have lots of care. You're you're right. I mean, you don't have to move a lot of stuff. You're free. I'm free. I could go anywhere in the world right now. Yeah, anywhere. But all Curtis has for an ideas, a flimsy, handwritten card with his name on it. This card, it's ticket charge card kept in your possession. The California prison system has an fell in New York prohibited from certain activities. The back. He's got that and a little cash. After all these years, they give you two hundred dollars to fifties. First time I touched the twenty money. Two years. That's all I have. If it was the fall out of my pocket, I had a hold on my pocket draw. It would change the whole dynamics of the situation without this money in my pocket. I made that feel much different than than that individual. I was homeless. The first thing Curtis forced to do when we get on the road is check in with his dad one. I don't. Yeah. The Curtis doesn't know how to use a cell phone. No, you don't have to listen. It's come through the earphones talk. Can you hear. Cellphones, how're you doing. No, actually a friend of mine pick me up. I just on that too. Failed transit. I'm in the car right now that. What she's taking me to get a duffel bag. This gonna take out the breakfast. I'm looking at the prison right now. I'm looking at San Quentin. We drive from Marin county where San Quentin is over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. There's so much to talk about so much to see what do you see standing here looking out. Obviously the vehicles I see the clouds, the trees and and. I just see fresh air. I see not stifled rust in bars and Bob wire. I see diversity, see people of different ages and different ethnicities and sizes and gender. You know, in prison, you see primarily males and primarily blackmails and I welcomed the diversity. I welcome the. Change. I see paternity. I see lots of opportunity every building. I see. And in stabbing, you know what I mean? I sit in myself opportunity for job somebody you can work there when I see trucks come by place, who knows? I may be working there sometime you know what I mean? Unloaded trucks or driving trucks or cabs, you know, just Sea World of opportunity. Sure. We pull up to a beach near the marina district. It just seems like the right thing to do. Give me the simple stuff. You know, we can just take. Take. Pleasure. Mongan you shoes. Look at that. Just beautiful. Like the fact that got out the first place I come to. It's the beach. Swimming in the beach all the time. Seaming. All that simple. I was thinking to just be alone for a minute. You haven't had any time? Yeah, it was. I was alone for about two hours. I care. What did you like to be alone? Right now, I don't care what you going to do. I'm just going to go sit over there. Just let you to yourself. You wanna do that just take five minutes or so I'll just sit over there. You just okay. Okay. Around a bit or what is going to be over there? All right. Watching Curtis walk alone on the Bay. I decide to forget about all the of the things I have to do. I've been following Curtis his case for five months today. He's free free, not even on parole, and I just wanna be here for him. These few hours. Thank you. Good. So what do you want do now? What are some breakfast? Yeah, that'd be great. I get a duffel bag. Yeah. All right. I hope that preventive being all. Take up your whole morning, very blessed. I was thinking we could go get you. Pair of jacket or something. If you. Breakfast. Yeah, where we go because I only work with so much money. I don't want to really spend too well. I can actually. Front you enough front, I could pay per pair of pants and a shirt really get on the bus. Looking? Yeah. What do you wanna do? It's up to you hungry. I'm let you decide. Really are you hungry? I'm not hungry. We can just hoping the coffee men go over their house that, okay, get a, get yourself a copy out. We just this is just a coffee shop. It's not a okay. I think you should probably eat a big meal right now. There's a lot happening fixed data. Toast good piece of good toast. I mean, really, you don't like. Water. Okay. You can have data. We go to cafe in San Francisco called the mill Curtis's very self conscious. He keeps worrying that people are looking at them after all guards have been looking at him for seventeen years, but no one here is looking at Curtis, they're all staring at their cell phones and computers. We still have a half hour to go before. Yes, to be at the airport. We go to upscale thrift shop. Curtis has to wear right now are gray sweats, hurry. Now. We literally a half an hour to get you close this on wall. This is on us. This is okay. You gonna pay you back. This is on me is just one of those things that gives me so much pleasure. They're no, we go, go ahead, just go and cross the street, go inside and find the men's departments. Okay, I'll be right there. I talked to put this. When Curtis comes out of the dressing room, he's changed. He shed the baggy sweats for charcoal grey wolf pants, and he's picked out a green sweater and businesslike leather jacket. He looks sharp. We drive to the airport, but when we get to the ticket counter, the attendant says his flight is booked for the next day. Curtis's dad made a mistake. I look at Curtis and he looks terrified. This is a big glitch when you're in prison for that long, when something goes wrong, anything goes wrong, you're in trouble. Curtis hands is discharged card to the airline employees. It's not the kind of ID card. They see every day. She stands in front of her computer typing for what seems like forever. Then she prints out a ticket and hands it to Curtis. He's on the flighty wanted. I don't know what else to say. Feel blessed. It is strange because it's like this is mitt to be. The set of the system is set up for you to be afraid to be fearful of the unknown. You know, coming out really assistant doesn't want people to help you. In which it get you two hundred dollars go back to the community in which you. Custom to and. Back to the same behavior. I called courtesy other day, eight months after the day he was released. I wanna hear everything that is happening in your life. Okay. I have found employment. I work now in Berkeley at a machine operator stealing options, transitional housing. They asked me to be a house manager, so place where I manage. Man, different sorters and whatnot. Able to in school districts, I was able to complete that was able to visit my children of thanksgiving. My children and my father. That's pretty much it for the most part. Hundreds of inmates like Curtis released from prison in California every day with two hundred dollars and flimsy, ID cards. Those first few hours after they're released are crucial. Who's able to offer them kindness, a Cup of coffee change of clothes. I'm lucky I could do it for just one guy, and I think a lot about that airline employees who got Curtis on the flight he needed. And what she said is he headed for the plane. Have a nice life. The law. I'm Nancy Mullane. This episode was edited by Julia Martin and produced by Caitlyn pressed a Lisa raw, Shannon, Heffernan, Jillian Weinberger, Katie Barnett, and Nancy Mullane music by Kyle Kaplan. Matthew Dr Todd MacDonald. This episode was produced with funding from the open society foundation special, thanks to Tom hill being. Hey listeners, we are still in high eighties as we put together our next episodes, we will be coming back to you with our newsletter and occasional audio update. In the meantime, if you have a story idea, comment Email us at connect at life of the law dot org, and you can sign up for newsletter at our website WWW dot life of the law dot ORG. You can also donate on our website. Just click support in the upper right hand corner to make a one time monthly or quarterly donation. Any amount helps nonprofit project of the tide center. Everything you go toward production of our stories. I am Tony Gannon. Thank you for listening.