I met Kevin in September of 2006, soon after coming to the California Men's Colony. At that time Kevin and a group of positive black men were meeting in the bleachers every Saturday and calling it the Kwanzaa Workshop.
It was immediately obvious to me that Kevin had a sharp mind and a good spirit. We became friends. A year later we became cellmates and true spiritual brothers. Over the course of the two years we shared a cell we made it a place for enrichment and learned a lot from each other.
At that time Kevin was working as a clerk and lead facilitator for the Inmate Peer Education Program (IPEP). It offered monthly workshops on HIV and Hepatitis Awareness Training. When those weren't being held, the IPEP office was often used to train inmates taking part in the CMC Hospice Program.
Part of the hospice training is comprised of watching videos and reading books from various cultural perspectives which helps the men be more sensitive and supportive to their clients as they keep them company during their last hours of life. After the hospice volunteers finish their regular training sessions, they return to the IPEP library whatever books they used for their training. Kevin had access to that IPEP library. As an avid reader, he read a lot of them and shared with me everything he found profound about them.
Meanwhile, I was working in a much less prestigious job: in the dining hall, serving food. The good thing about that job was they only called me in to serve during mealtimes, which turned out to be just three hours a day. That gave me ample free time to focus on my real goals. At the time I was enrolled in Ashworth University, beginning to write Redemption Story, and was avidly reading self-help books.
Like Kevin, I'm the type of guy who likes to share profound truths when I find them. Putting us both in the same cell was providential, because it helped both of our development. We squeezed a lot out of the time, by exposing each other to the best of whatever we were reading, and through the conversations about our lives which sprang out of the new insights we were learning.
In prison, when ideal growth conditions are set up like that, you know they won't last forever so you've got to make the most of it. Fortunately we did.
The two years passed quickly. At the end of it, Kevin got transferred to another prison closer to LA. I didn't think that I would see him again in prison. I was pleasantly surprised when he returned to CMC four years later as a certified drug and alcohol counselor and began putting his skills to use for the LTOPP.
With LTOPP, Kevin's full-time job is helping lifers who've been denied parole to find insight. It's my pleasure to be able to share some of his insights with you. Check out his first guest post just a month ago, and keep an eye out for more guest posts from him in the future.