Eat and sleep here

I was asked in what ways can a cell be home. A cage for me in no way can ever be home. It is a structure designed to humiliate and to keep you inhuman, hard, and frustrated. The caged bird, or any imprisoned animal, does not sing because he thinks of his cage as home. It is just the opposite. If I could even imagine this cell as home, that would mean I accept the hanging and wasting of hearts and souls. That would mean I accept the inhumane treatment, the bars, the slavery, the politics, the walls and electric fences as home.
Some people say home is where your heart is and my heart has never been in or at home in prison. My spirit has never been encased in concrete and steel. My dreams have never been harnessed like oxen.
I would rather live as a spiritual hobo or bum, or live in silence, never to speak or write another word, before I would allow this prison system to be my home. Death would be better.

I only eat and sleep here. Yes, I can sit and drink a cup of coffee, read, and ponder things, and look at the backside of another cell block or, if I am lucky, see a distant tree or a far away mountain. Yet that does not make a cage home. This cell could never be home where I can meet people, fellow artists in an art room, and call ourselves friends or even family. And yet, because I am transferred, we can no longer exist or be friends, can no longer continue to nurture a flow. We cannot be human with each other because of rules set to keep prisoners inhuman. Any rule, no matter where set in motion, just to keep a human being from being human is not a good rule or one to believe in.
All the things that make one human, that connect me to humanity everywhere, is not in this cell but in my heart, spirit and soul.
Even now, in the past, in the art room at New Folsom with guests from the free world sharing poetry, songs, and music, that magic took me away from prison to Sweden, Alaska, or some other place beyond walls. Doing “Waiting for Godot” back in San Quentin, where I played Pozzo, freed me from the confines of prison and allowed me only to eat and sleep here.
I don’t think in impossibilities much because I am often an idealistic fool. For me it is impossible to think of a cage as home. Home is where humanity is nurtured and encouraged.

First published in the SJRA Advocate Oct 2013 issue



Twice in the last few days I've been hit in the head, heart and spirit with the fact that no prisoner have ever had an LWOP (Life without the possibility of parole) sentence pardoned in California. Pointed out over and over again that it's a hundred percent negative trail, a vast waste land and dust bowl. No one in the history of commutation has accomplished that task. An answer of no even before the petition has been filed or read. Like a publisher sending back form letters for unsolicited manuscripts.
I have always known that no LWOP have ever received commutation in the history and me being a black man I have even less chance of getting a pardon. Why am I even writing down my thoughts, my in-custody history and my self rehabilitation process. How I on my journey have shared and created realness wherever my heart has travelled beyond walls. How I have changed from that crazy ass youngster who took a life in the late 1970's, if all I am going to receive back is a form response letter of no!

There is no path maker in the government willing to go against the grain and blaze, a new trail and reduce an LWOP sentence to something humane and hopeful. A governor punching a hole in the tradition of not reducing LWOP sentences would disrupt the entire system of that LWOP means LWOP. It would take a governor with the soul of an artist or poet.
The Death penalty opponents want all people on Death row to have LWOP instead, a living death sentence. The whole premise of the system is that LWOP means Life in prison without the possibility of parole. Just like about fifteen years ago a counsellor at CMC prison made a point of reminding me, after I had told him I had gone to the board after twelve years, that no matter how much I had changed or what I had accomplished or who I am this moment, day, year and century, LWOP means LWOP and you are not getting out of prison. The counsellor had a fat cat grin on his face. I can see the Death penalty people smiling beside that counsellor fifteen year ago.
One of the creeds of the Death penalty opponents is that no governor has granted clemency to an LWOP prisoner. Their point being that it's the one reason they don't need Death row. LWOP is living death. A political issue you can kick around like a soccer ball. Do the Death penalty people really think they are saving lives and doing someone a favor? Do they really believe swapping one kind of death for another is a just and moral cause? Where are the lawyers on the LWOP side? We need you.

Attorneys say the cost to represent me would be steep, and the journey insurmountable, that I have a better chance at walking to the moon than to get a stay of LWOP execution. A guy on Death row has a better chance than a LWOP of getting their sentence reduced. LWOP prisoners are in the land of limbo, living dead and that is their reprieve, life and punishment, no rehabilitation, but of course the lawyer will take your money. There is no self rehab steps an LWOP can take to redeem themselves.

Why am I wasting my time getting realness friends and family to write letters on my behalf? Perhaps, I’ll be allowed to go back to the board or am I just scribbling out the journey of my heart, soul and spirit for over thirty-six years when all I will get in return is a form letter.
Justice, morality, understanding, forgiveness and humanity not even pondered because the people of power never read the requests in commutation petitions and only stamp and trash file them. My commutation package is nearly done and people have poured their realness into letters of support on my behalf. So I will finish the process and send the papers to Sacramento.


Dear family, friends and realness people – loved ones across Mother Earth!

I may be just whistling or playing my flute in the dark, where no one else can hear me, but I am asking you to write a letter on my behalf to the honorable governor of California Jerry Brown asking him to commute my LWOP sentence. No LWOP has ever been granted commutation or given a second chance. Thus even if the little light or wave we can create may be like spitting in a pond. Who am I to request a physical second chance? I really don't like waiting to hear back from a government, a group of people in Sacramento who really don't know me, and have them decide my fate. Yet, some friends and fellow artists say I must try. So here I am. With basically no expectations, but realness in my heart and walk.
Either way I will keep flowing and keep realness alive even after my last breath. Peace and realness.

Please address your letter to:
Spoon Jackson B-92377 
CSP - LAC A2-231
P.O. Box 4430 Lancaster
CA 93539-4430 



I'm now here at Lancaster prison. The mail system is horrible. Mail can take over a month to reach me. I know my mail sits in the mail room and has been there for weeks. There are no lockdowns here, but also not many jobs. There's a lot of yard time and some programs that I may check out but I don't have a teaching job yet, nor any offer to teach. A couple of fellow prisoners, native brothers, said I should start a flute class as well as a writing class. I sit out on the yard playing my flute. Here I must play in public because, unlike the art room at New Folsom where people could hear me but not see me, here's no such secluded place. For the most people are awed and amazed to see my flutes and hear me play. The food is a tiny bit better than in New Folsom. I miss my gosling families and the art room.

I see ravens from a distance, some sparrows, starlings and of course pigeons and cotton tail rabbits now and then. No real nature theatre out the cell window like before. The sun has been really generous, my skin is even darker now.

I now have a column in POPS (Pain Of the Prison System) called a Spoon-ful of Wisdom. Having no class to teach I'll see what each moment and day will bring and I keep playing my flute.


I was advising another prisoner who said he wants his GED and was having problems with his essay writing. I suggested him to get books particularly on writing essays, which he did and seemed inspired for a moment. Yet not self motivated which is the key. So I tried to inspire him by saying; “look I'm writing an essay.” For an excuse he says; “I'm not competing with you”, which was true and I told him; “you're only competing with yourself to do better.”
For me competition is making myself better moment by moment, growing and pondering in ways to enlighten myself in positive ways. Always competing with myself each day which hopefully gives me something new to ponder... I compete with myself in a non materialistic sense, I strive to let go and be a deeper flute player each day.


POPS – Pain Of the Prison System

I just want to give a shout out to the young folk, teachers and artists involved in the ground breaking of POPS where I now have a column called “Spoon-ful of Wisdom”. Do check out POPS and lets have it grow across California, USA, Sweden and perhaps the world. I hope educators in Sweden will check out the site and feel the realness coming from there!



Unnatural desert - The end of Arts-In-Corrections

Daily Life 



This morning the theatre window opened with a new geese family and four fresh goslings on the backside of the cell block. I had my poetry class today and did silent poetry writing for most of the class. It has been twelve weeks since I last ran it. A free poet came in and did a twelve week pilot program on a grant from William James Association to show how positive Arts-in-Corrections can be if allowed back inside California prisons. It went well. After silent writing I let my students read their poems. However it has been a frustrating day. Sometimes it seems like I have very high highs and and very low lows only moments apart. I get edgy and verbally mean, or silently, and don’t answer even when spoken to — yes, I know that’s rude. I don’t like being that way, but sometimes the feelings of darkness is so thick and sad, I must go silent, and in that silence, get away for a moment.

For the first time allergies has hit me and the last few nights has been restless. Sometimes I wake up at 2:30 am and stay up the rest of the morning. I went to the doctor yesterday for a long overdue diabetic report on my sugar level and it was high to 7.4. Today I will start back jogging. I had cereals and coffee this morning for breakfast. The window theatre opened and it opened my heart and spirit to see something of Mother Earth. Soon the mother turkeys will be bringing their turkey chicks down the turkey trail to the feeding grounds. I ponder: do the wild turkeys grow as fast as the goslings? I jogged today and denied myself a soup which turns into sugar and is bad for my diabetics. I have been eating soup every day. The prison food is horrible and a pouch of sardines or mackerel is exquisite in comparison.
Sad days in the art room. Three weeks ago Marco, our art room clerk, Rock-’n-Roller equipment man was transferred, which only leaves Ken, the blues man, Marty, the man of many talents and myself as teaching artists. Marty ran the visual arts, music theory classes and was also featured in the film “At Night I Fly”. He was a mainstay in all the art room bands. There was a lot of other little things Marty did to keep the art room running, flowing and real. The last day Marty was here we played the “One Soul” CD. We did Mother’s Day cards and felt our one soul.
Jim Carlson, our brother in the arts and old AIC boss, I remember whenever outside guests came inside the art room, Jim would have Marty play his guitar and sing his original songs and I would do my poetry readings. Most often the visiting guest artists and other people from the outside world would get hooked on our art programs and come back again and again. Now there is only art boss Kari and my co-worker artist Ken left in the art room. Soon Ken will be gone too, and I will also. We will all be scattered on different beaches. Marty will be around here a little longer but on another yard. I’ll be down at Lancaster prison (LAC) teaching. Perhaps “One Soul” will see Marty again. I hope I’ll get e-mails or letters from “One Soul” once I’m gone from New Folsom. If not, stay real “One Soul”!

The End of Arts-in-Corrections

I am just a prisoner, a poet decades incarcerated, looking at the world from the inside out. But even I have noticed the benefits of the art programs, especially in these slim economic times and how arts everywhere have not been supported as we need them to be. I have been involved in AIC for over 25 years of its 30 years existence. I have seen how the arts program have grown tremendously and how these programs have changed lives for better. All the time costing the state nearly nothing, because the core of Arts-in-Corrections program are volunteer-based. People from the free world and prisoners inside the prisons mentor, teach and inspire from the heart and soul. How can AIC be cut when it takes only one staff member to run it and the Arts-in-Corrections facilitator makes less than correctional officers and teachers?
I started in a poetry class in AIC at San Quentin, where I sat silent and shy and listened for over a year as my heart and soul opened up like a natural desert filled with hidden life. I have never read, studied or pondered poetry before. I became a silent private poet, at first keeping all of my text to myself. Poetry led me to play POZZO in 1988′s production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” at San Quentin, with Samuel Beckett’s blessing and advice. We played to international attention and glowing reviews.
I have gone from someone lost, who knew nothing about the world, the arts and how it can fill, touch and embrace lives and open you up to yourself, others and the world, to a writer who’s won four PEN writing awards, an actor who mentored others, a poet whose work has been the subject of short film, short plays, used for character setting and the text of two musical works, a teaching artist of both poetry, and prose classes for Arts-in-Corrections here in New Folsom where I am currently housed.
I invited one of my prose students to a poetry class and I did a poetry lesson, a choice of two questions; what does forgiveness smell like? He wrote his first poem and his eyes and face was afire with the inspiration he uncovered inside himself to create his first poem. It was like he found a missing part of his soul.
Arts-in-Corrections programs here at New Folsom run by free staff Jim Carlson was adopted by KVMR 89.5, radio station, Nevada City and their radio personality Cheri Snook who taped poetry shows and provided us with guest artists, poets, singers, writers, and musicians from California to Alaska. They all shared their skills, time, wisdom and art for free. Directors, actors, conductors and film makers came from Sweden and France to film and do workshops free of charge. A 40 piece choir came from Sweden to perform a suite of songs inspired by a prisoner at New Folsom and paid their own way.
We had the internationally known performer Michael Franti and Spearhead come into New Folsom to do a show right after he had performed at Muhammad Ali’s Library dedication. No cost to the state.
We had the smooth, powerful singer/poet/musician and rising star Melissa Mitchell (who recently opened for singer/poet Jewel) and her artist friends from Alaska come into New Folsom and did a final show for Arts-in-Corrections after hearing it will be shut down. Melissa and the other artists did concerts, writing and music sessions and workshops for six days and they all paid their own passage.
Arts-in-Corrections has been cut as of January 2010, and with it goes a history of self rehabilitation and restoration, with it goes a history of deep change and realness from within. How do we heal without the arts? There is no garden if it only contains weeds. With the destruction of Arts-in-Corrections, what’s left behind is an unnatural desert and no forum for the hearts and souls of people trying to heal. A desert with no hidden life.


Life Without Parole – Limbo

Today I ponder LWOP—life without parole—and the death penalty, how LWOP is the only sentence forever in limbo. People are battling to do away with the death penalty and to bring dates to non-LWOP lifers, and that is all a most worthy fight and cause. Yet, there is virtually no one other than brother Ken Hartman and The Other Death Penalty Project fighting from inside prison to end this travesty of injustice and inhumanity, and the hopes of bringing light and change to LWOP sentences, especially the ones imposed on youth under 21 or even 25 years old.

In most civilized countries a life sentence is ten to twenty years at the most, especially for youth or first time offenders. For LWOPs there is nothing, even though there are numerous credible ways to measure the deep changes that occur inside a LWOP prisoner. Lifers as a whole have the lowest recidivism rates; hardly any come back into prison for a capital crime, petty crime if anything. Most lifers, especially the older LWOPs, just want to live a little before they die. I am speaking of LWOPs with 30 or 40 years in prison.

I have served the equivalent of three life sentences in most civilized countries, especially for a youth and first termer. I just want to get out and die in old age peacefully.

Yet, I sit here with dashed hopes and dreams buried in a pit. Longing for a life, for female companionship, to see where my mum, dad, grandma and other family members and friends are buried. No one choose to share this LWOP endless path with me. My hope fades from many directions. After so many years in prison the hope, that deep spring well of magic, could bring someone to commune with on this journey is now a distant dream. How do I leave this shadow that seems only to be getting darker? I don’t know. At this moment I feel too unworthy to even consider to ask someone to share this narrow path of LWOP with me. A path with fire on one side and a pit on the other. No matter how deep the longing and pain grows. Yes, I can do this alone, because it gets harder to tap the realness pool inside. It will be better tomorrow and perhaps tomorrow is another life. My heart and soul is like browned grasses in a field right now.


Gosling part 4

Day 24
My gosling buddy was all wet and happy flapping its sparrow size wings, enjoying its first rain storm. The gosling tried to lick up water from the concrete side walk and the geese did their sky dance.
I hung out with my geese family in the rain for an hour or so. My little buddy now has tiny feathers on its back and wings that seemed only to have come about since last night.
Back in the cell, looking out the slit of a window at a dark cloudy rich sky, I spot two turkey vultures in the boulder field, near the boulder tree. Too far away to see if they have found food, but quickly the birds jump into the sky.
I watch the uneven grasses, yellow flowers, tiny purple flowers and wild orange poppy flowers swaying naturally, uncut by man. Uneven grasses and wild-flowers growing as they please are more real than altered rubber looking flowers controlled by man.

Week 5
Nearly all of my little buddy's yellow dark brown fur is gone. Now his wings not yet at full bloom fits its body, tail and wing feathers are coming in, in symmetry. My little buddy is five weeks and two days old and looks just like its parents, but half their size. So amazing how he or she has grown so quickly. Unfortunately, two mean yard workers chased the gosling around again today trying to separate it from the parents. I'll be happy when my little buddy can fly up and out of this prison yard where it does not belong. Hopefully, never to return. One of the mean yard workers who chased the gosling later that day got in a fist fight, and ended up with a black eye. One must strive to put love, peace, harmony, respect and realness out into the universe, for something may come back around, and never forget thoughts are one of the most powerful states in the universe.

Read the whole Gosling story on the Bird Blog



Photo from the documentary At Night I Fly
Prison takes people away from our society, presumably to “protect” those of you not in a physical prison. The effect is we are kidnapped from one another, leaving no path of return. No oasis in the desert of punishment to water our souls and hearts to reconnect and redeem ourselves. We were stolen away and encouraged to continue to sink and destroy what humanity we have left. Everything the body, mind and souls yearns for is discouraged and forbidden. We are afforded no light in darkness, unless we each create it ourselves. We are stolen away from dreams, hope, love, sex, peace and understanding. Stolen away from hugs and kisses, good food, family, parks and travel. We are on Mars with no air.
I know you are pondering, who cares about you who took a life? Think of the worst act or wrong you ever did or condoned, consciously or unconsciously. Is that all you are or ever will be? That one moment or few seconds in time. Does that define who you are forever? Over and over again.
I am not a broken record or repeating video or news reel that keeps committing murder. It happened once, in another life time, 35 years ago and I took responsibility then, broke down and rebuilt myself. Don’t keep pouncing or harping on the fact that I took a life. It happened 35 years ago to an unenlightened, ignorant youngster, not one moment ago. Find some real reason to hate me. You do not know me now. You don’t know how deep and broadly I have suffered. Come look me in the eyes, heart and soul, then tell me I’m a murderer. This life—my struggle—is not TV, a movie, or a computer game.
I am a human being not unlike yourself. You could be me and I could be you, with one foot in darkness and one foot in the light. Yes, I killed, I was a murderer, and that one sad fact took only moments, and at that moment I was a murderer. Yet, that does not define who and what I am forever. If it did, every second I would be taking a life, every day, eternally.
The tragic deed broke my heart, spirit, and soul, and sent me tumbling. There is no pleasure or honor in the loss of life. Thick fog is forever dwelling in my heart and soul. I was broken, and felt every emotion and state one feels who has done a grave wrong. I experienced deep painful remorse, guilt, shame and sadness. I had to let go. Otherwise, I would have killed myself, by committing suicide to get from under this LWOP death sentence.
This unjust sentence serves no purpose for my victim or for me. Yet, some force inside me told me that to kill myself would be wrong and grave, as well. I wanted to live and pay my debt to society, if there truly was such a thing. I wanted to live and serve others and also forgive myself and others. To be of service was the only way to honor the life I took, and heal what can be healed. Let me out of prison or don’t let me out: no one can take that realness, connection, and truth away. No one can take away the healing I created with Mother Earth and the universe.
Your heart and soul know that people change, grow and learn how to balance their walk in shadow and in light. As time rolls on we learn to keep both darkness and light peaceful. No one must forgive me or my deed. It was hard to forgive myself for what I did. Yet, I forgive you for however deep or shallow your wrong was. I forgive you for not forgiving me. What heals best in the universe is forgiveness and love. You cannot love one another by hating. Forgiveness is a healing force, that is often stolen from us by politics, economics, hate, and revenge. You don’t condone a killing by forgiving and allowing second chances. Forgiveness is expansive and inclusive.
What have I been doing for most of my 35 years in prison? I am a mentor and teaching artist. I am a native flute player, poet, writer, and actor. Look into my eyes, heart and soul this moment and ask me about me, and not about that broken moment. I cannot bring my victim back or make things whole or right by dying in prison. I cannot twist time like silly putty, no more than you can fix the hurt I caused. I am who and what I am now, this moment. Love me, forgive me or hate me, even hang me. Hang that part of me in you that you despise so much.
You want me to suffer and when I have for over 35 years, that is not enough. Would my death be enough for you? Does anyone truly know what he or she will do at any given moment? Nothing human is foreign to any one. Look with your realness. If I have forgiven myself, who are you to not forgive me?
I am truly sorry for what I did. I am trying not to rant here, but to engage in dialogue. There must be a path, a way to exchange ideas and growth across and beyond walls. We must be able to reconnect and together inspire others, particularly youth. We must inspire them not to be stolen away from one another, family and friends and society. There must be a way back home.


Daily life in prison

April 29
At dusk, after a 90 degrees day, I looked out of the three inch by three feet tall window. My natural theatre and TV, my view of the outside world. I see a deer near the boulder tree in the tall browning grasses, already ripe for fire. I wonder, have all the geese behind the cell block flown away? I have not seen any for a while. I ponder my day, and we have no program in the art room. They cancelled everything but the last yard. They used to have the check arms after the TB testing they did this past Friday. They purposely delay and make things harder than they really are. The arm checks barely took an hour. Friday there was no program because the nurses had to count every needle used in TB testing. How hard can that be when they secure each needle in hazardous waste bins and no prisoner touches the needles, so if any needles are missing, who's fault is that? I bet if they were counting money from their fat pay checks they would not miss a cent, and no needles are missing, just an excuse to have no prisoner programs.
I started reading a poetry anthology, called Good Poems. I had forgotten how inspiring introductions to books can be, especially poetry or short story/essay books. Sometimes the introduction can be better than the contents of the book. It is like a movie trailer where the best scene is the preview. Anyways, I am inspired again to tap into my own pools of realness.
The lone deer is still outside the window in the boulder field feasting on tall grasses. As dusk darkened into night, the little spider is at rest in the window sill. Two jackrabbits play tag up the dirt road. The light over the razor electric fences forbids me from seeing the field and boulder tree full of green again.

April 30
I arose before dawn and did my six pack work out, although I don't have a six pack. I have some kind of pack. I also did my curls from the bunk and back arms. I do my stomach work as soon as I through my blanket off. As the sun came up and my tiny theatre window awakened, a lone male turkey walks up the paved prison road beside the fencing, and across from the reborn boulder tree. I brushed my teeth and washed up and made a cup of instant coffee. I sat at the window and waited to be released for work. It is Tuesday and the tower cop on this day is one who hates prisoner programs and don't like letting me out of the cell on time for work. I must wait until our art room supervisor Kari calls. So I continued to focus on the theatre and the turkeys are no longer rushing about these days. The turkey hens are sitting on nests somewhere. So the gobblers have slowed their show-boating and swagger down. It's close to mid spring now. I understand how the gobblers are missing the females. I see them here, but no courting allowed, it's torture. Moving on. I went to work and on the yard there was a fight between two gang members. No one hurt. I didn't play my flute at all today. I heard native flute playing is for courting women. I barely hung out with the Gosling Five. They are acting to grown now.

May 1
Theatre window is opened. I got up a little late this morning, so I did no work out. Actually I need to get back to jogging and walking. My heart yearns for cardio exercise. I have told myself to wait until I'm at my next prison. I'll probably do my stomach, my core work later today. The wind is blowing and gusting in places, the grasses, weeds, yellow and purple tiny weed flowers and orange poppies are swaying to the winds like listening to old blues songs. I have my prose class today and a couple of new students. Hopefully, my writing-side manners wont run them off. I can be abrupt at times. There is one deer eating something in the tall grasses. I'll do this daily log for a while, as a way to free up some realness and give folks a taste of what New Folsom prison life is like.


New book

A new book with Spoon's poems has just been released in Germany! It's number 11 in a poem series called "Versensporn", published by "Edition Poesie Schmeckt Gut, Jena". It contains both material that has not been published before and poems from "Longer Ago".
Each copy includes a DVD with Michel Wenzer's short film "Three Poems by Spoon Jackson".
It can be ordered here: www.poesieschmecktgut.de


Inspiration wanes

I have been playing long spring tunes on my flute and the deep signs have brought the Gosling Five, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, sparrows and people by to listen. My heart longing for a spring hug.
For over three weeks maybe more my inspiration, like a fading rainbow or fading light in the sky, had waned. Although I have endless pools of realness inside to bring forth. I needed a push to open the gates of that realness.
Today it happened, three youngsters approached me as I walked up the hill to the cell block and one said; “Are you Spoon Jackson?”
I said; “You don't know that.”
I heard you play the flute.”
How do you know that is me?”
I read it in an article in the Bayviews.”
Before I could answer another youngster pointed to my flute that I was carrying in my folder.
You have the flute with you.”
We all laughed and I had to confess. The young folks' interest and questions were real.
A student in my poetry class approached me at our last blues/rock country concert and said an older poet he is in contact with on the streets, who used to come into San Quentin in the late 1980's said he knew me and knows my work, and that I was a master at what I do. That bubbled my inspiration up even more.
Finally my geese family, The Gosling Five helped open the pools of realness, and I'm writing again. I am never without poems songs articles or stories to tell. Sometimes I feel so low and I must go deeper inside to tap into that realness, and bring forth the text. The manuscripts inside my poet's heart and writer's soul. It is like a rainforest full of undiscovered creatures and plants in tune and in flow with Mother Earth. Sometimes a long journey must occur.


Important campaign message from TODPP

The Other Death Penalty Project's anthology, "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough," (an anthology of writings by life without parole prisoners and others) will raise awareness nationwide that life without parole sentences are the death penalty and must be abolished. They need to raise $10,000 by May 25, 2013.

Read more and contribute...

"Funds raised through this campaign will allow us to print copies of this remarkable book to be placed on the desks of at least 1,000 death penalty abolitionist groups (who support LWOP as a “reasonable alternative” to lethal injection), policymakers, thought leaders, and others of influence nationwide. 

A sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is a death sentence.  Worse, it is a long, slow, dissipating death sentence without any of the legal or administrative safeguards rightly awarded to those condemned to traditional forms of execution.  It exposes and caters to that segment of our society that believes redemption and personal transformation are not possible for all human beings, and that it is reasonable and just to forever define an individual by his or her worst act.  LWOP is wrong and should be abolished.

The Other Death Penalty Project (TODPP) is a true grassroots organizing campaign comprised wholly of men and women sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the purpose of which is to end this practice of sentencing tens of thousands to a slow and painful execution in this nation’s maximum-security prisons through a peaceful, well-orchestrated and thought-out plan to change hearts and minds. TODPP’s ultimate goal is to see the permanent end to the use of this form of state-sanctioned execution (along with all other forms), resulting in all life term prisoners having, at least, the possibility of earning parole.

We need $10,000 to pay for printing, postage, and mailing costs for 1,000 books, as well as for targeted advertisements and book contest entry fees.  It costs $4 to print each book ($4,000), an average of $3 per book in postage ($3,000), and approximately $800 in office supply costs (mailing envelopes, paper, tape, etc.).  The remaining $2,200 will be used to place targeted ads in print and other media and enter “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” in writing contests which will garner additional publicity for our cause..." Read more and contribute...


Morning Parade

Just before dawn, light barely trickling in over the ridge, I saw on the prisondirt road, three jack rabbits hopping and circling, and doing their spring dance. There is something sweet and robust in the air that brings hidden and sleeping spirits to light and life.
Walking down the outer razor fence line, in the boulder field near the prison road are about twenty turkey hens. Displaying their spring prance on the sides and behind them are about ten gobblers.
Right in the middle of the turkey parade is buck deer with horns. The gobblers are all decked out, candy-apple read heads, dipped in powder blue, their tails brownish, red, tan and orange.
Their long feather breeds dangling from their upper chests, as the gobblers spread their tail feathers like peacocks. Like courting knights or native tribal dancers, embellishing the chase beauty and life spring brings. The hens seemingly not paying attention to any of the gobblers. They continue to peck the ground.
Suddenly all the gobblers run off down the fence line leaving the hens, necks stretched gazing over at the prison. One hen turns and strolls back up the fence line, followed by three gobblers who had chased off two other male turkeys. Just as I was about to put my pen to rest three geese families with goslings of various ages appeared behind the cell block, all healthy, vibrant and fat from the sweet grasses and weeds.
A jack rabbit late for the spring dance bolts up the fence line. My window is a natural theatre.
A red winged blackbird, fluffs out the red little feathers on it's wings and it looks like little poppy flowers, dancing and fluffing. I did not know the bird had that kind of red feathers. Surely like all other beings they are bringing in new life each in their own way. Each being including humans have their spring dance, though long forgotten due to side walks, screens and tall buildings that don't lend themselves to any aboriginal flow. I feel my heart, soul and spirit lonely for a spring hug and Earth Mother kiss.


To Watch TV or Not

Long lockdowns, and the lack of programs and activities for prisoners, have steered even the most prolific readers to watch TV. But, after hours of reading, I feel productive, like I have planted some seeds, while after hours of television, I feel wasted, as if I have no spirit or life inside, as if I have wasted time I don’t have to lose.
I must admit I like watching sports, nature, Discovery, some PBS, and not-made-in-USA shows. Also some cooking programs if I have some real food to eat myself. But even PBS has turned bland and succumbed to some Government and big-business pressure.

The shows nowadays on so called “free TV” are 99 percent garbage, especially network shows, news, and talk show programs. Reality shows with no reality. The programs worth watching — like Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, Nova, art and live sports — have all been moved to cable or satellite, and are hidden from our view. We are left with the dumbest dumbed down reality shows and the most unrealistic cop shows that indoctrinate their audiences with false justice and false rights of criminals in some magical land where poor people receive good and real lawyers and all the judges and law enforcement officials are angels, heroes, and good people, people who have never spat on the sidewalk and are only down here from heaven to make sure poor people and people of color get justice.
All the stuff you see in law enforcement shows is only true for TV. More often than not, people of color and the poor are not getting good lawyers or real justice. No judge or prosecutors care about an accused receiving healthy court representation. That’s a myth, as is the one about justice being color-blind in the USA which has always been a myth.

TV was not allowed into prisons in California until the late 1970s when the Department of Corrections figured out that TV could dumb down and pacify the masses of prisoners through lifeless, vicarious living. Even the prison videos they show are mainly violent with no redeeming value.

I remember when I came to prison in the late ‘70s that TV still had not become like crazy glue. TV was still not yet paramount in prisoners’ lives; had not totally paralyzed and chilled the minds, hearts, and soul; and had not turned off our ability to learn, grow, and come together to promote deeper and higher education, positive change, and civil and human rights.

Now the first thing one does in the morning is turn on the TV, like a drink of water. I don’t think TV can be a learning tool because it lulls and forces the mind and imagination to sleep and makes the creative spirit lazy.

Knowledge, heart, wisdom, and change used to bounce off, through and beyond these walls, when prison was a positive change university recognized around the world for imparting positive consciousness-raising and awareness that lifted prisoners’ spirits and hope and which acted as a catalyst for positive social change regarding human rights and the rights of the poor. When I turn the TV off, time flows better and minutes and hours become enriched and enlightened. This morning, before I knew it, I had read seventy pages of a new book. Suddenly, it was dinner time and my mind, heart, and spirit were busy pondering ideas beyond prisons of any kind.

First published in the SJRA Advocate March 2013 issue


Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough

Spoon had an essay and some poems in a very important forthcoming anthology about Life Without the Possibility of Parole, Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough. You can read more about the project and contribute to the campaign to get this book out to California legislators and policy makers by going here: http://www.igg.me/at/todpp.com


Gosling Part 3

Read the third part about the new gosling on the Bird Blog!

Day 17
Another guard approached me today, and told me the geese family waited patiently at the gate of the rotunda to return to the small yard. The geese family know they are special here on this yard. Unfortunately though an ignorant yard worker decided he wanted to hold the gosling, so he chased it around the small yard and sought to separate it from its parents. Parents that screamed in horror with their beaks open. The gosling's security and peace, my little buddy's freedom to grow was shattered. The yard worker bird hater finally stopped harassing the bird.
At the end of my day I sat on the milk-crate outside the art room playing my flute. The geese were not in sight, but when I looked to the side and opened my eyes, I saw my little buddy and its parents, some black birds, cowbirds and a couple of seagulls and pigeons listening to me play. My day was made.

Read it all here...



It is almost impossible for any human being to be incarcerated ten or more years and not have some kind of mental health problems. Prison life is not a natural or healthy environment, particularly inside California prisons.
The soul, heart, mental, and spiritual torture are often unrelenting. Pain unending for the prisoner and his family and friends. Some short term mental health dilemmas can be handled in the heart or soul through self-help meditative and communication groups, through letter-writing and art programs. Sometimes outside help is required, especially if one is suffering through long lockdowns or isolation. These long lock-downs caused me some depression, sadness, and deep pain. The lockdowns only illuminated my stress, especially after 35 years of incarceration and mostly good programming.

Despite the 35 years, I have never adjusted to being caged. During the last long lockdown, I missed visits from Sweden and lost my Swedish girlfriend. I missed playing my native flute and teaching my prose and poetry classes.
I had not been on such a long lockdown in dec-ades. This 9 month lockdown came almost on the heals of a 4 month lockdown. These super-modern, race-based, lockdowns are ridiculous and unjust and dampened my heart and spirit some.
I needed to get away and have time to myself to contemplate my prison future. I was stressed out and burnt out on these race-based lockdowns. My soul and heart needed some alone time to heal. So, instead of hurting myself or others, I went to the hole on a mental health break and to, hopefully, be transferred to an institution not prone to lockdowns.

I was sent to the stand-alone hole with its dirty skyline and nothing else. No books except the bible, if you knew to ask for it. The cell a cave structure that looked like the cages the Quakers created in Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadel-phia which opened in 1829 and closed in the 1970s.
I was in the hole for only a little while, and when I went back to the mainline yard, the lockdown had been lifted. But only for a moment. The next day we were back on the race-based lockdown.
I had decided to check out the mental health department, but after six months waiting, I saw the psych for 10 minutes total. Like the health care people, the mental health department here seems to be more concerned with custody issues than with a prisoner’s mental state. The mental health program at New Folsom is a joke, and they don’t bother to hide that fact, especially when there is a lockdown. They have the nerve to come and talk with you at your cell door where there is no privacy.
After 35 years I’ve developed my own ways of dealing with sadness and depression, but I am open to new ideas. I like to think we all have our own keys to our hearts and souls — sanity and insanity. Yet I know one must be as open as the sky and a forever student in life during the most trying times.

First published in the SJRA Advocate March 2013
Reprinted with permission of Barbara Brooks, SJRA Advocate monthly prison newsletter.

Gosling Part Two

Bird Blog news!
Day 9
This morning I went to work and sitting in front of art room I look out on the small yard for my geese family. I could not see them so I went out on the small yard to check for the birds, still they were nowhere in sight. So, I asked the native American brother had he seen them. He told me the birds had gone... continue reading on the Bird Blog


The new gosling

One of the nesting pair of geese eggs on the small yard finally hatched despite the constant harassment from a few yard workers. The gosling came into the world last Saturday and is now a week old and already her or his parents have brought it up to the art room fence to meet me and I've shared tiny bits of bread with the young bird, who is is already copying its father and mother chasing greeting pigeons off. It's funny to see him or her wobble around, flapping its tiny nobs of wings covered in yellow like cotton down, no feathers yet. It is already bigger than the cow birds and black birds. There were more eggs but I imagine the geese, particularly the mama goose was so agitated by the constant harassment of the yard workers and also there was missing eggs that they decided to take the one hatching from the nest and stay moving. By next Saturday the gosling will have doubled in size. What a splendid sight. Continue on the Bird Blog


The Process

Like for a bird, being in the sky is the most important aspect of flying, the process is the most important part in creating art. As a poet, an artist and writer the act of writing is what frees the art, the soul, spirit and heart to flow.
I believe art is waiting to come out when allowed the room to flow up. We can only verbalize just the tip of the iceberg. It is the state of putting pencil to paper that sometimes even when you think you have nothing to say you find or create a flow, a process and clear the way for stories, songs, poems, plays and even acting or whatever to come out and allow the muses to come forth.


The U.S. premiere of At Night I Fly is at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 20th!
The screening at MoMA will be followed by a discussion with director Michel Wenzer and producer Tobias Janson.

From the program: "Most of the prisoners at New Folsom, a maximum-security prison in Sacramento, California, are serving life sentences, and they must cope on a daily basis not only with the crimes they committed but also with prison's punishing isolation, hopelessness, and violence. To that end, participants in New Folsom's Arts in Correction Facilitation program learn to express themselves through poetry readings, gospel choirs, playing musical instruments, and discussion groups. Survival, however, is a deeply personal process that each must chart for himself. Eschewing a simple narration of redemption, Wenzler assembles a complex portrait of prison life. At Night I Fly won the Swedish Guldbagge Award in 2011 for best documentary."


At Night I Fly to New York

At Night I Fly has been selected for the Museum of Modern Art in New York's prestigious Documentary Fortnight!
This will be the film's U.S. premiere.

Director Michel Wenzer will be attending the screenings. The festival is organized by MoMA Film and is held from February 15th to March 4th 2013.


Writing From the Inside Out

Spoon writes for The Good Men Project: 
What is a good man to me?

A good man walks in his own shoes, and as a human being seek to balance in a nonviolent way his one foot in darkness and one foot in light. Some of us, bad like myself, had to transform into good, and you can imagine how hard it can be when in prison. I walked in darkness as a youngster and as a result I encountered deep life changing darkness. I could have enveloped myself in this darkness and become worse, but I chose to balance the darkness with light and love and realness. I chose to walk in my own shoes.
It took a deep fall for me to see the light about myself and share the realness and talents inside me. (I speak about my journey in my memoir book By Heart and in my poetry book Longer Ago)
I had to be real and not allow myself to hurt or destroy lives, but to build up lives with wisdom, love, peace, understanding and shared struggles.
I have been incarcerated now for 36 years, and transformed from a young troublemaker to someone who cares for and mentors young folks. I encourage them to to know themselves and to walk in their own shoes and....Read the whole article at The Good Men Project



By Spoon Jackson

The call for racial peace came from Pelican Bay SHU - the hole - and I read about it in the San Francisco Bay View, where my poem “Go On” was published. I think that was a brave, human, and needed call for racial harmony. Since I’m a believer in peace and realness - one people, one race - I must echo their cry and add my voice to the chorus. I think it is a call all peace groups around the world, inside and outside of prisons would welcome.
I always tell my creative writing classes that you must stand up for what is human, true, and real. You must stand up for how we want our children, parents, grandparents, and spouses to live. Who would want loved ones to live in violence anywhere on the planet? It is a call to peace, love, growth, truth, and harmony. No one wants to see their sons or daughters in a bloody pool on the side walk or in someone’s back or front yard, or in some prison yard or cell.
We must pay the peace call forward. We must call for racial peace among all prisons, not only in California, but around the world. It is said you know society by its prisons, and if are a microcosm of society, it is time to make harmonious change inside, and perhaps peace will spill over to the free world. We can hold peace and love in our hearts like a sunset, ocean breeze, or soft bird song.
In my family, there are many colors and cultures. One of my grandmothers was half Caddo Indian. I have brothers married to Asian, Mexican, White, Native American, and Black. I appreciate them all and I am happy my family is like it is.
I have shared the call for peace article with blacks, browns, and whites. I’ll share some of their words in this article. This call may translate to the streets, if only to affect a few people, a few youngsters. It is time to embrace, each moment, and repeat what Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and John Lennon said about unconditional peace. I cannot sit idle as a poet and artist, while brothers of all colors in the hole call for racial peace and not echo those thoughts, vibes, hopes, and wishes.
We are all human beings and something that affects one of us touches all of us. Nothing human is foreign to any of us.

The Way Light Breaks Apart
By Marty Williams

I don’t believe for a moment that someone doesn’t see race. It looks back at me like a mirror image of everything I’m not sure of within myself. I clique, I flock, I herd, and the struggle to do otherwise makes me dizzy with anxiety. My phony holiness says, “There is no race,” but if that were true, the history of the world would be much different, and chains would mean something else entirely. But here I am, and my liberal guilt wants to prove to you how very inclusive I am, while the truth is I don’t know enough about how deep my own racial preference is buried. So what I want is first to just know what I’m missing, to know the depth of someone else’s difference, and the depth of where we are the same. First meet me on the field, and then I’ll deserve to live with you, and you with me. Not in harmony (another phony holy ideal), but in human beingness, that needs us to be different, the way light breaks apart into colors. One light. We are just colors.

Our Struggle
by O.G. Woody, Watts (Solid & True)

I’m Brown, he’s Black, you’re White, so what?
The question is not why, the question is how. How did we let ourselves become so divided, so narrow-minded, to where we can’t see the pain that we’ve caused ourselves in our own struggle? Racism is the wall that blocks our vision to a future vast and beautiful.
Wake up! Open your eyes! This struggle is real. The pain that you have inside is the same pain that I feel. This is our struggle; our struggle is real. What will it take for our kids not to have to go through this pain that we face? What will it take for us to be just one human race? This is a battle that we can’t afford to lose.
A better future is what we choose. How grand will this world be if you would only look past my color and see me? Get to know me, know who I am, and look into my heart. All I’m asking for is just a start. Though I’ll continue to try, I know I can’t do this alone. But I’m doing my part here within this poem. So stand at my side, every color and creed, open your minds so that we may succeed.

How Do You Improve Race Relations?
By Soto

Race relations are quite difficult to come to a successful outcome where everybody is
respectful and loving. I have always said that in order to resolve a problem, one must conduct an inner examination, come to terms with its causes.
As a society and young country, it would benefit us to learn about our dealings with Asians, Native Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics. The learning of culture should be done not only as current events. The study should go as far as the very foundation of this great nation. Although it would be extremely difficult to be objective when learning about racism, genocide, injustice, and straight out executions, this step of acknowledgement must be taken as soon as a young mind is able to comprehend the paths between right and wrong. Once the true history of races is known, the second step should be a quick course of culture learning. This course would involve a study of any given race’s religion, music, spiritually, costume, dances, sports, etc.
Without a true knowledge of other races, costumes, and habits, a peaceful and understanding relation among different races would be impossible.

How Do You Improve Race Relations?
By Joseph Ennis

Well, this is a big issue, bigger than one could imagine, though not so big that we can overlook or ignore it. In my opinion, to im-prove race relations you first must find common ground between two open-minded people. The ways of growing up are all similar, even if in a different place or street. Relations can be built on real life events and experiences, and what I may find in common, three can, then five can, and so forth.
Change is the most fearful thing one can experience. I know ‘cause I’m a walking testimony. That’s what it’s all about though, not being afraid of change, positive change. Just think of the doors that can open through having a good relationship with someone not from your own race. Why shut those doors? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I don’t know it all. And if the next person knows more, or even less, that’s someone I could learn from, no matter the race.

Simply Saying Good Morning
By V. Tapia

Racism has its periods and changes of heart. I guess some people just need a key moment or to hear words of gratification to make them feel at peace with a different race. My moments of peace, while riots were occurring in prison, came through words of gratification expressed through the vent in my cell, directed towards my neighbours. These were a simple good morning or good night. And my moment of peace was when my neighbour put the trust in me to lend me a book, even though tensions were high between our two races. We found the key mo-ment and words to look past our difference and vibe together.
That’s what it’s about, coming together and sharing. Whether it’s a moment of your time or simply saying good morning or good night.


Reststops, Death

Our bodies are reststops on spaceless voyages beyond doom. Speaking with one of my best friends about death she brought up how “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” is almost like a bible to many Buddhists. She speaks on (bardo) transition between the moment of death up until 49 days later, where you are supposed to have another existence. If you did good and knew how to act, you may be reborn into a realm for the good. Otherwise, you may enter terrible realms where suffering is legio. I told her it does sound like the Christian views of heaven and hell. For me death is a transition, and can appear at the strangest times. Even a seemingly healthy person riding a bicycle everyday may drop dead. I suppose we will all find out in our own ways and collectively by and by what or if anything comes in the hereafter. We will then find out the true phase after we pass, die or transition beyond the body.
When I think of the hereafter, about death and passing, it must be a beautiful state and place without the body. An unencumbered place of unlimited space, growth, expansion, flying, loving and realness. I cannot imagine ugly unenlightening states or things there like hate, racism, sexism, revenge or violence. All those states and conditions will be left in the physical realm. I cannot see the madness of this physical realm carried over to a bodyless world. I cannot see this madness as a part of a spiritual realm, a place without a body.


Before dawn

I did my sit ups, curls, push ups, back arms and leg work. Made a cup of coffee, with cream and sugar-free chocolate. Looking out the thin thick window I see does... deer under the boulder tree, nibbling around in the extra dry brown grasses and weeds, mingling in the long leaves of the tree. The deer are unimpressed by the prison trucks and cars that pass by. Autumn with a late spring sun. I haven't seen any bucks around the does under the tree. Perhaps all three are young deer and their sex is not yet expressed.