San Quentin Inmates Share Life Lessons From Prison


san quentin prison inmate california

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Marvin Caldwell, 63, who said he was imprisoned for 20 years under the three strikes law for possession and sale of methamphetamine, looks out of his cell at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California, June 8, 2012.

A recent Quora post asked the question: What is the most important life lesson you've learned up to this point?


Inmates at California's San Quentin State Prison - who certainly have a lot of time to think about life - responded to the question through volunteers with a program called The Last Mile.

That program aims to help ex-cons re-enter society by connecting them with internship programs in Silicon Valley.

Here are some highlights:

Jorge Heredia, a 37-year-old who's serving a life sentence for attempted murder, noted that happiness comes from within.


"'Do you want to stop being disappointed and miserable by not feeling happy? Then quit expecting happiness to come from external sources, and become your own source of happiness,' said my anger management instructor when I took her class in 1999. Her words made me realize that in spite of the hardships in life, life is what I choose it to be. Complaining about mental, physical, or emotional hardships is counterproductive, psychologically toxic and impedes your growth. "

Damon Cooke, a 46-year-old who's serving seven years to life for attempted murder, said it is important to know yourself.

"The most important life lesson I've learned to this point is that everyone has pain and if you learn to release that bondage, it's much easier to become conscious of who you are and what you feel. Too often we hide our true selves instead of looking within for answers and directions, hidden behind mechanical relations that will never allow us to be our own master. We are on autopilot until we release those things that keep our attention distracted. We are possessed by fears and desires, fantasies and associations that lead nowhere while constantly keeping us out of touch with our deeper self."

Keith Wroten, a 41-year-old who is serving 26 years to life for first-degree murder, said you should get rid of preconceived notions.

"The preconceived notion I had developed about prison (and prisoners) from the way it's portrayed in books, on television, and in movies. The ones where the young lad (or lass) are emotionally broken in some form due to being involuntarily born into a dysfunctional home to parents whom were also victims in this recurring cycle of a home filled with contempt and resentment for an unwanted child, not giving the proper warmth, tenderness, and love afforded to this innocent soul for many years before the young adult is forced to seek this closeness he or she pines for outside of this broken home from peers, also from broken homes, collectively supporting each other with bad causes leading this naïve soul to be caught by authorities, place into the system, and thrown into prison."