Larry Vickers has been inside since he was 16 years old – another Black man who came of age behind bars in California. You’d expect him to be angry, a product of this often violent, traumatic environment. You’d expect him to be resigned to a dead-end existence, institutionalized, conditioned. You wouldn’t be blamed for these expectations; but they would prove that you did not know Larry Vickers.
In this conversation from 2019, before COVID, Larry Vickers discusses his decades-long journey from the San Joaquin Valley to Pelican Bay and beyond with A Yard’s Abdul Hafiz. From the rough ’90s through the Ending of Hostilities, Larry’s story is set against the backdrop of truly transformative times in California’s prison/judicial system; as he works through the legislative possibilities now available to him, Larry’s story also typifies the struggle so common among men incarcerated before they became men.
Abdul Hafiz introduces the interview from his new home – for now – at Solano.
What Does It All Mean? Written by Barry Woods and read by the A Yard Crew kicks off the episode.
David Nguyen walked out of Pelican Bay one day back in February, into the arms of his family – a free man. While incarcerated, David made the most of the programming available. He helped establish the inmate newspaper. He graduated from college, one of the first two inmates to do so at The Bay, and the first in his family. He’s a positive, upbeat guy. And now he’s a free man. End of story, right? Time served…
For ever person who is released from prison, an entirely new chapter of life begins, one fraught with as many pitfalls and challenges as prison itself. Finding work. Re-growing relationships. Even facing the dizzying sensory overload of the bread aisle in the supermarket.
In this episode, we explore what it means to get out, and what the newly-formerly incarcerated need to thrive in their new lives on the outside. First, we check in with David as he emerges from quarantine in Southern California. Then we talk with Brian Yang, former Pelican Bay inmate, about the struggles he’s faced since his release in 2019. And last comes Mark Taylor, Hope and Redemption Life Coach for the Anti Recidivism Coalition, who wraps it all up by sharing his personal experience getting out and the work he’s doing now to help others surmount the challenges of being free.
All three interviews that comprise this episode can be heard in their entirety on the Sidebars page; you can also check out the video of David’s first morning as a free man.
Alfred Sandoval has been in prison since the mid ’80s. More than three decades. In that time – time mostly spent in the SHU – he’s seen a lot of changes and taken part in history. Alfred was on the Short Corridor at Pelican Bay for the hunger strikes and court cases, for The Awakening. He’s one of the original signers of The Agreement to End Hostilities.
Alfred’s personal journey has taken him from the streets to Death Row, and then back to the main line. In many ways, this OG of OGs, this worst of the worst, has lived the changes that have happened in California’s prisons; and in some very specific ways, he’s played a pivotal role in bringing about those very changes.
In this episode of UNLOCKED, Alfred talks with B Yard’s Mike Swanigan about how prison has and hasn’t changed over the years and about how Alfred’s personal growth and experiences mirror the larger challenges facing both inmates and staff inside The Bay.
You can hear a wider-ranging group discussion with the B Yard Crew and Alfred on the Sidebars page.
Calls from prison are always poignant. You do what you can to dispel the distance and connect with the thin, tinny voice coming at you over institutional wires. You share lives and days and hopes and fears – even laughter – all within the temporal confines of a 15 minute telephone call. Hopefully, you are able to say what you need before the sixty-second end-of-call warning…there are few things as lonesome as finishing a thought into a disconnected line.
This episode of UNLOCKED is made up entirely of just such calls. As COVID rages and the world outside prison spins like a wobbly top, we hear from Barry Woods, Abdul Hafiz, and Kunlyna Tauch about the scene inside during the pandemic, as well as their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and the fiery protests that shook the nation this summer.
At the time of recording this UNLOCKED, there were 30 active cases of COVID 19 in Pelican Bay. By the time of this posting (a week later), there are 82. You can track the incidence of COVID in the California prison population HERE.
These are tough times. In the months ahead, they will probably get tougher. That’s why we’re calling this episode World On Fire. If you need to hear a message of resilience and hope, click PLAY…
What have you been doing since 1989? Did you graduate school? Get married? Your kids grow up and begin lives of their own? Maybe you weren’t even born in 1989…maybe your entire life has transpired in those three intervening decades between then and now.
Barry Duane Woods has been inside California State Prisons since 1989. A founding father of the Crips in Sacramento, Barry has spent those years on a deeply personal journey, along the way experiencing all that prison has to offer. Violence. Racism. Privation. The SHU.
This episode is Barry’s story, from an interview we did in the A Yard gym one sunny morning back before COVID. In it, Barry takes us from the halcyon days on the streets in the ’80s, days that had once promised a different future, to various Ag-Segs and SHUs in the ’90s, where his life was transformed into little more than a struggle to simply survive.
This is the story of Barry’s survival. And with it, we begin the tale this podcast was created to tell: The Awakening – how inmates at Pelican Bay sparked a movement that has changed the culture in California’s prisons. To understand what is happening today inside institutions like Pelican Bay, we must understand what it was like inside before…
And for that, we need to hear from someone who was there. Someone with the scars to prove it.
We started this episode back in March, then, well, you know…but while COVID ONE NINE might have locked everything down, it only caused a pause in the production of UNLOCKED.
In Episode 2, B Yard’s Mike Swanigan, with an assist from Kunlyna Tauch, takes you to the Criminals and Gang Members Anonymous Graduation ceremony in B Yard Visitation; he gets some prime time with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition’s CEO Sam Lewis, as well as other key voices in the ARC. Then, kicking it over to A Yard, the crew interviews Mark Taylor, a member of the ARC’s Hope and Redemption Team, about how the ARC helped him get free, and what it took for him to start giving back.
Marco Garcia from A Yard talks with Andrew Winn and Gunner Johnson of Project Rebound, an organization that strives to connect inmates and parolees with higher education in the CSU system. (For FIFTY years!) Then Barry Woods and Henry Ruiz hit the Talent Showcase put on by the College of the Redwoods Pelican Bay Scholars, interviewing some of the presenters and guests. We also get a taste of the Showcase. (You can catch the Pelican Bay Scholars Talent Showcase in its entirety on the Sidebars page. Same with Big Mike’s ARC interviews and A Yard’s conversation with Mark Taylor.)
Imagine you are in prison and someone tells you that a new inmate on your tier is from your hometown, and it turns out that the new guy is also a member of your victims’ family. This is the story of Audio Journalism student Marcel Buggs and a face from his past: Capone. The dialogue they share in this episode encompasses more than the particulars of their collective history, it also addresses the nature of recrimination, retribution, responsibility, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Along the way, we also hear from other UNLOCKED voices about the Victim Offender Education Group, the unforeseen, self-inflicted consequences of crime, and the acceptance and transcendence of past trauma. Tracks: 1. Dreams – cold-open poem by Kunlyna Tauch 2. Intro – written and voiced by Mike Swanigan 3. Capone 1 – Marcel Buggs and Antwan Johnson (Capone) get into their story 4. VOEG – Henry Ruiz on the Victim Offender Education Group 5. Capone 2 6. Don’t Cry For Me – spoken word from Barry Woods 7. Ripples – Daniel Noriega shares a sad story of unexpected consequences 8. Capone 3 9. House Training – Abdul Hafiz (Otis Crawford) on forgiveness and trauma 10. Wholeness In Body – rap written and performed by Ayodele Patterson over Not The Cypher from Benjamin Banger 11. Capone 4 12. Outro – Abdul Hafiz
All the music used in this episode was the result of several online searches for “license-free low-fi chill jams.” Thanks to the artists that just put their stuff out there for the world to use!
Fifteen men currently incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison, each with a story and a desire to express their personal transformations behind bars. In this Introduction, each member of the production team gets his turn at the mic to introduce himself; interspersed are excerpts from one-on-one interviews and panel discussions. Subsequent episodes will deal with different aspects of incarceration, but Episode 0 is simply about the guys.
Much LOVE and MANY THANKS to BenJamin Banger for letting us use his tracks throughout this entire episode! We found him on Free Music Archive; you can follow him on Instagram HERE! Also, love to Checkie Brown for use of Yesterday Night (CB 012) for Barry’s intro. Find more Checkie Brown at www.musikbrause.de. Creative Commons License (by-nc-nd) for the copyrights lawyers!