Richard Rael lives in an apartment in Newark, less than a mile from his parents’ house. He is working for his brother’s company installing windows in businesses and residences. In the evening he likes to work in the vegetable garden in his small backyard and play his guitar. On the weekend he spends time with his family and attends the early Sunday services at the Catholic church across the street from his apartment. At a recent high school reunion, Richie met and fell in love with April, a classmate from the fourth grade. They had their first kiss the very next day, sitting together in the stands of the Oakland sports arena watching the Raiders make their first touchdown. Chatting at the Fairmont Hotel under blinking Christmas lights, the nurse and mother of two says, “He’s a good man. He isn’t his past. I had to wait twenty-seven years to find a man like him.” Richie smiles and holds her hand.
Eddie and Lupe live in Sunnyvale with their dog, Spunky. Eddie finished five years of training to become a journeyman sheet-metal worker. But the recession has meant fewer full-time opportunities. Over the summer of 2011, Eddie joined the IMPACT program, going into the same juvenile facilities he was locked up in more than a quarter of a century ago, only now, counseling the young men who committed crimes. “This is what the twenty-three years was for: for this! These kids need to hear this as they begin their journey. A lot of time I drive home crying because of the conversations I’ve had with them. I see me in them.” After years at a local public school, Lupe is taking a less stressful position as an administrator. Now that Eddie has been released from parole, they take frequent trips to spend time with Eddie’s two sisters and relatives, to Sacramento to be with Lupe’s son and grandsons, and to Los Angeles to care for Lupe’s aging mother and father and see her other son. One day they’ll go to Hawaii for their honeymoon.
Donald and Kathleen are living together in San Anselmo. Donald is enrolled in his second semester at the College of Marin in a computer technology program. When done, he’ll have a Microsoft A+ certification. Kathleen is officially retired but works a few hours each week as a travel agent. When her boss offers them his season tickets, they attend the San Francisco Symphony and Giants baseball games. On the weekend, Don and Kathleen have family and friends over for dinner, and on Sunday morning attend the local church. After nearly twenty years in love, Don and Kathleen are happy together.
Jesse lives in his own apartment in Oakland, about a mile from his family. He works for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with the IMPACT program, traveling more than a hundred miles, five days a week to counsel incarcerated young men in the state’s youth facility in Stockton. On the weekend, he sings second tenor with a Christian gospel group, the Redemption Band. The band members originally met inside San Quentin, where they sang “God’s praises” every Sunday morning. On May 21, 2010, Jesse became the first former inmate to graduate with a diploma in Christian ministries from the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s contextualized leadership development program, after beginning his studies inside San Quentin in 2006. To use some of the janitorial and maintenance experience he learned inside, Jesse opened his own company, Jess-Clean Maintenance: “For a smart clean, call Jess-Clean.” Jesse says his parole agent has told him he will be released from parole in 2014. Jesse plans to celebrate by taking a trip, somewhere beautiful.
Phillip is working full-time with a construction company in south San Francisco, and volunteering with Insight-Out, a nonprofit program working with at-risk youth in Bay Area high schools. After being released from prison, Phillip’s older son, Phillip Jr., is in a drug rehab program. Phillip’s younger son, Anthony, is still in prison. Over pancakes one Sunday in December, I noticed Desiree was again wearing her sparkling engagement ring. “We’re back together,” they announced, “and we’re getting married. We realize we belong together.” On Friday evenings, when the wind is up and the workweek is over, Phillip joins my husband and neighborhood friends for a sail on the San Francisco Bay.