Nowhere But Barstow And Prison

                I must speak loud quietly, so that the entire tier does not hear my conversation. I stand in the prison day room right next to the bone-crushing metal door, speaking on an old black-handed phone from the 1960s. This one is embedded in cement and steel.
                I ask, “Judith, what makes a poem classic?” I am soaked in sweat from a non-desert sticky heat that bubbles up on the skin – and off the windowless foot-thick concrete walls – like moss. “No Beauty in Cell Bars” and “Beauty in Cell Bars” have been published and republished for over twenty years. Are my poems classics?
                Silence fills the phone lines. Silence like watching the great Bill Irwin do one of his wordless skits on Broadway. Silence like the late Richard Pryor  smiling after one of his jokes that shocked an audience at the Apollo Theatre.
                Then I hear Judith's voice, one of the few voices that causes me to pause, ponder, listen, and sniff the air like a big cat. ”Spoon...” Judith's stuttering speech searches for the most lucid and wise words to impart her vision. I imagine the tickled look on her face. She's probably turning her head to the sky, eyes bright with drama, there in her apartment.
                “I mean” I say “who decides what makes a piece of writing a classic? Is     there a board or something?”
                “Spoon...” Still giddy, Judith's voice flows up and down like a brook.
                “Judith, I'm serious. You know I've been nowhere but Barstow and               prison.”
                More silence and then “Wow!” which caught me off guard. I was waiting for Judith's answer to my question about classics but instead she says, “Man, that would make a great country song title.”
                “What would?”
                “Nowhere but Barstow and prison.”
And there she goes again, sending me down another path that eventually only brings more questions. I put the phone down and stroll back to the cell, pondering how Judith seem able to inspire magic phrases that have me creating poems, essays, and songs.

                My life had no meaning, no pulse, before prison. I was ignorant about all prison ways. I came from Barstow California, the heart of the high desert, the natural world – purple and red clay mountains, open spaces – and found nothing natural about cells. Even the air was tainted and twisted with unrealness, fleeting hope, and violent unrest. I was naïve and also unconnected to any inner spirit.
                During my trial, my mom and dad came to visit me. I was twenty years old and sat across the table looking at my parents. The environment did not fit them any more than it suited cattle to live in trees. My dad said one of the longest sentences I'd ever heard him speak: “Boy, you better pray!”
                My trial was quick for a death penalty trial and I was sentenced to life in prison. Trying to grasp a life without parole sentence at age twenty was like trying to hold a forest fire in my hands or an ocean in a tea cup.

Pre-prison, my life had never been one of words. I could barely read, add or subtract, and I spoke as my father did to me, in one word sentences. I sat stunned during my trial by all the words the DA, my lawyer, and the judge used. I had no idea what those words meant. I told myself then that I would never again let unknown words trap me and I started studying the dictionary.
                Once at San Quentin, I checked out all the books I could get from the prison library and education department. In one notebook I wrote down definitions. I used my favorite words in sentences in another notebook. I became enraptured with words and reading. I said certain words aloud many times and pondered a word in the way I thought of the garden in front of the prison chapel, or a sparrow singing in the tree by the captain's porch. I learned a few words each day and each one brought a geyser erupting inside my mind and soul. The more words I read and studied, the clearer life became.
I became richer and deeper inside. I could see, taste, feel and touch the growth taking shape inside me and understood things I had never understood before. It was like I walked down an endless hallway full of dark rooms and each room I passed, a light came on and I learned something new. I had to choose to grow, which meant to get to know myself and find my niche, bliss, and myth in life. I had to till the endless gardens in my mind, heart and soul.

                On a whim, I signed up for a poetry class. Judith was the teacher and her patience and belief in me, even before she knew me, inspired me. I sat for a year in her class in silence. Judith's trust in me, along with the power of art to heal, brought my silent desert life and world to paper like fresh rains in Death Valley.
                Judith had known as a child that she would be a writer. I had no indication of my fate when I was a boy. As a kid, I failed all my classes. I did not believe I could learn anything. I had accepted that I would dwell and die in the heart of the high desert, on Crooks Street, surrounded by those purple and red clay mountains that appeared to be the whole world.
                As a boy and a young man I mainly saw the destructive aspect of myself, but for eight years after I came to prison I read, studied, debunked, and peeled off layers of false history propaganda that had clogged my vision and dreams – those misguided histories I had been force-fed like a motherless lamb. For eight years I stayed to myself at San Quentin and avoided crowds. Although my heart, mind, and soul burned with thoughts, vibes and feelings, I let none surface and stepped over wounded, dying or dead bodies as everyone else did.
                In the poetry class, I began to see the unconditional beauty and love in myself that mothers see in their sons. Judith inspired me to reach into the empty pockets inside myself to bring forth treasures of realness. She validated what I did not know I believed in: the magic of words to heal and free, like the sun validates a seed.
                I began to see this magic shape my fate as my poems began to be published, as doors opened to other arts when I played Pozzo in the 1988 San Quentin production of Waiting for Godot, as I heard of miracles like Samuel Beckett reading my poems. Despite the fact that I'd been in prison for a decade at that point, this magic gave my life a purpose.

                Now I've been behind bars for over three decades and I know all too well making a life of meaning can make being in prison harder or easier. Living with meaning is harder when I don't get to travel, meet people, sit out in nature, give poetry readings, promote the books or CD's I've been part of creating, or meet with other artists and publishers. A life of meaning is easier when I get to mentor young people, give back, and be of service to people. It is especially pleasing to be able to detour and inspire a youngster to stop and ponder a bad choice and not stroll down a dark path to prison. We always have choices and it's just that often we are not conscious of that fact. I think that being a bard allows me to touch young people in the way only poets can. I can relate to failing, being unloved, abused, lost, violent and biased on so many levels because I lived that life. I can assure youngsters that we are all eating from the same bowl of soup.
                I know how sometimes, the older kids become, the more life can seem like a prison. Friendships that were once free, kind, fun and real become cruel, complicated, empty and heavy. All of a sudden reasons for not liking, and even hating, other people appear like new mountains. Color of skin issues arise. We find trouble outside and inside ourselves. It's like being chin deep in an endless pond, where you must keep your head up and not allow the water to seep into your nose and mouth.
                But at some point in most of our journeys, we want to redeem or restore ourselves. Each of us must explore and restore our own inner heart and soul. Rehabilitation is always self-rehabilitation. My journey led me to Judith and her poetry class. I could have gone on serving this life sentence in silence, longing only for the deeper silence of a raindrop falling gently to earth, but Judith saved me from that fate. She helped introduce me to the voice inside me, wanting to come out. I learned how to poet and write mainly because Judith believed in me and trusted me, even in my silence. This is very important for teaching artists to understand: because Judith knew how to listen, the silent language of the soul gave my pen wings.
                Yes, at first, I saw Judith as the good looking, splendidly weird woman coming into San Quentin. But after awhile, I saw the person, the poet, the teaching artist, the human, the brilliant light – a brave woman who came into our dungeon class room to teach poetry. A woman who became my mentor, my friend, and my big sis. I found out that I could share a relationship with a woman not based on sex, but on a deep, powerful, soulful, and enlightening friendship that can last lifetimes.

                Despite the fact that Judith is a small, Jewish, white woman, and I am a sturdy black man over six feet tall and a decade younger than she is, some people may think: Oh Judith must be another one of those goody two-shoes liberal white women rescuing an ignorant black man from sinking further into the abyss of San Quentin. In fact, though, we both understood that human beings must rescue themselves. Still we can be there for each other and believe in each other, as Judith believed in me and I believed in her. Because we shared our two different lives and backgrounds – putting ourselves out there, heart first – we enriched each other and forged a friendship based on realness, respect, art, trust, uncommon and common ground, and love. My weakness may have been her strengths and my strengths her weaknesses. Like wolves that know they are howling at the moon in common, Judith and I have always known that we have humanity in common. This truth led me to my undiscovered self, to a heart of bonding with Judith, to finding that I am a writer and to the realness that can mend or heal all things wrong or wounded.

Ani DiFranco composed music to a poem by Spoon with the same name as this essay.


Paint The Congress

I imagine I’m the last person that should be speaking on politics in America. Because when I came of voting age I was already in prison.

I long to be part of other countries like Sweden, Norway, Canada or France. Yet I have loved ones and family in USA that believe in this country. If the Republicans are elected I hope folks will heed Ani Di Franco’s tour to paint the Congress blue. 


LWOP and the BOARD

When I came to prison in 1978, ten days into 20 years old, a naïve kid from the heart of the high deseret, I wanted to pay for the wrong I had done. I was given Life Without the Possibility of Parole. I thought that could not mean forever and there must be a route to a second chance.  My paperwork said I would go to the Board after 12 years, so that would be 1990, beause my time actually started in 1977.  In the meantime, I started to grow up and know myself and evolve into a full human being with an understanding that all life mattered.  I was on my selfrehabilitation journey.  The year 1990 came around and I went to the Board and the Deputy Commissioner of the Board said the proceedings will be run like a regular board hearing. He complimented me on my art work and in particular, my writing accomplishments. He said the reason he is not recommending me for parole, pardon or clemency was because I did not have enough time in yet. He also said I should write my way out of prison. He said I would be summoned back to the Board oin 1993.   The Board never called me and supposedly repealed that LWOP Board law taking effect in 1994.  By my not being summoned back to the Board as contracted and by law, is a continuing violation of the 6th, 8th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Ex Post Facto laws.  My crime happened  in September, 1977, commencing July 1, 1977. During 1981-1982, all life prisoners were entitled to annual hearings. Watson,866F.2d@1094;p.c.§3041.5(b)(2). It should be duly noted that on July 1, 1977, the state legislature enacted the California Determinate Sentence Law (“DSL”). Under this enactment, prisoners serving Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) were statutorily entitled t o p a r o l e c o n s i d e r a t i o n . C h a t m a n , 7 5 4 F 2 d 1 5 3 1 33,p.c.§2100etseq.,2245-2292,2300.  I am a LWOP, and likewise, I am entitled (866F.2d1093,9thcir.1989). I therefore have a state created vested liberty interest same ascertains. Stanworth@786-787;p.c.§3041(a).    CDCR continues to ascertain that parole law was  repealed in 1994. There was no legislative action to repeal that law. Furthermore, it should be noted that in accordance to clearly established state and federal laws appertaining to this matter, notwithstanding the 1993 repealer Title15ccr§2817et.seq.,register93,no.52 or the revisions to BPT [BPH] rule2817,operative date January 19, 1994, eliminating the requirement of the Board to schedule and conduct LWOP reviews, I still have “a vested state created liberty interest” which entitles me to parole considerations. In re Stanworth, 187 Cal.Rptr. 783, 786-787 (1982); per C§3041 (a); Weaver v Graham, 450 US 24 (1981).  My crime was committed in 1977, therefore under California Determinate Sentencing law (DSL). Under this enactment, prisoners serving LWOP were statutorily entitled to parole consideration. Chatman v Marquez, 754 F. 2d 1531-33 (9th Cir. 1985).  To reduce prison population, sensible parole for prisoners who have been incarcerated for decades should be considered. Continuing violation of a prisoner’s 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments, U.S. Constitution and Ex Post Facto is not justice, but is injustice.  


Cancel eachother out

The honorable California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned 91 people just before Christmas. We hoped he would include commuting my sentence to “Life with Parole”. Still I doubt that his office and his people ever allowed my commutation papers and all the support letters to reach the Governor’s hands.
My friend and amazing artist Ani Di Franco sent the most recent support letter to the Governor in my behalf, which was splendid. I doubt he received the letter.
The Governor’s office says LWOP’s must apply to the Board of Prison Terms/Hearings for commutation, but the Board says LWOP’s must apply directly to the Governor. They cancel eachother out, not taking responsibility to hear or read commutation pleas.

I sit here with my heart and my art still full of realness. I will continue the realness struggles.


Still waiting

Still waiting to hear from Federal Court on the California Penal Code 1385 (Habeas Corpus) petition. I have awaited a yes or no answer from the court if the California State Attorney General will be ordered to proceed and respond to my petition to strike the special circumstances [of my sentence] based partly on my in-custody behaviour. We have been waiting for that issue since August 2015. Apparently, the court feels that a prisoner isn’t going anywhere, so they just set the appeal aside and have no time line. I have two other issues now in the State courts and hope an attorney will take over those issues.


Support Letter - Case number

To everyone that wants to wrote a support letter to the California Governor Jerry Brown regarding Spoon's petition for commutation, please include the commutation application case number:
COM - 2009 - 14
And use Spoon's given name:
Stanley Jackson

Send your letter to:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814


Help stop strip searching of prison visitors!

Message from Kenneth E Hartman:

Dear Friends & Colleagues:
As you may already know, the CDCR has implemented a new screening system for visitors that includes the use of Ion Scanners and dogs.  The upshot of this is visitors, and only visitors, if found positive by either of these highly inaccurate methods, are required to submit to a strip search in order to have a contact visit. (For the details of what constitutes a strip search, please see my opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hartman-prison-strip-search-visitors-20150406-story.html), dated April 6, 2015.)  Over the past few weeks, at this prison alone, a 77-year old woman with a recent knee replacement was ordered to squat naked, another woman who refused to submit to the humiliation of a strip search was denied contact visits, but when she reluctantly agreed the following weekend she was forced to strip search twice as punishment, and multiple other visitors were placed on noncontact visiting status for not surrendering their dignity.

The goal of all of this is clear.  The CDCR wants to do away with contact visiting. They are heaping their own failure to control the drug problem in the prisons onto the backs of the visitors.  It's a terrible thing we all have to fight back against now before it's too late, before we're all on noncontact visiting status forever.

As a starting point to this campaign, there's an online petition called "Stop Strip Searching My Mom." It's located at Change.org. (https://www.change.org/p/california-governor-stop-strip-searching-my-mom).  I encourage all of you to sign the petition and get everyone you know to sign the petition.  Further, please forward this to all your contacts and ask them to do the same thing.  We need 100,000 signers before we send it to the governor.  Let's get to work!

And there will be more to this campaign, so please get ready to participate again when we press for legislative help and seek legal help in the not too distant future.
Thank you in advance for your help in defeating these unreasonable policies.
Take the best of care and strive to be happy. Peace...

Kenneth E. Hartman

(This is being forwarded to you by one of our free world supporters, who has transcribed Ken's message from a phone call or a letter mailed out through regular mail. He does not have email access.)


Hope In Hopelessness

Can you imagine a rope around your neck and a tree and still have faith – hope? Where there is a dove or bird of any kind, even a wounded one, there is always hope. 
What is hope? Hope in a hopeless situation is what LWOP is. Emily Dickinson spoke of Hope being a bird perched in the soul. Hope is a thing that reveals itself on lockdown, hole time, Death Row or Life Without Parole. Here all hope seems gone. 
The bird pops up and you have no idea where it comes from or why it’s even there in such hopeless situations. How hope found you and keeps you alive and keeps the wonder and awe alive is a mystery. When death seems more inviting and more logical.  
The California prison system does everything it can to kill hope, to shoot the condor in the heart or blast the ravens, sparrows, rock doves from the trees. 
Yet, where there are birds of any kind, even wounded ones, there is always hope. Even though you cannot touch it or know how hope works. Why hope when it seems like quicksand that sinks all that you are, were or long to be? I don’t know where that bird of hope comes from. I only know it keeps you alive when hope is hopeless. 
Every prison I’ve been in I’ve always found out where the birds are and commune with them on some level. Sometimes when on lockdown, with no access to the birds, hope vanishes. I still have it, but won’t know it because hope has become hopeless. I know sometimes things like hope can be hard to grasp, when you have no way to be in that place or state of survival to experience it.  
Can you imagine having a rope around your neck or a ton of bricks chained around your ankle and still having hope? How does a seed that has no eyes and no ears know which way is up? How does a root that has no nose know which way the water flows.  


PAWS For Life (Original)

This article was originally posted on SacBee after they had edited it. The original article contained a couple of numerical errors which the prison department pointed out as inaccurate. The article was rewritten to correct the errors, but other parts was also removed. Here is the original - with the necessary numerical corrections in Place.

Waking up to the smell, sound and sight of the dogs and their wagging tails in the morning, was like holding hands with a long time friend, walking down the dry Mojave river and being licked by sunshine on the face, after a long stay in solitary confinement.
I could not believe it; they marched in five dogs under the barbed razor and electric fencing, across the prison yard and into cell block five which had been re-fitted for the hounds.
Once the hole, I helped transform the cell block into mainline and dog building. There were freshly scrubbed floors, walls and doors; scented with new paint.  I cleaned out the 20 play pens on the back of the cell block for the dogs. Each pen two times the size of a cell. We polished the bars and door handles, and revitalized the dead grasses in front of the building.
Paws For Life, Karma Rescue have come into the prison to train inmates to care for once condemned hounds. I conversed with a prospective dog trainer weeks before the dogs arrived.
“You are one of those dog people… the chosen few, huh?” I inquired.
“Yeah that’s a good thing” he responded.
My curiosity was not sated. “What were you doing at the work center?”
“Making dog beds.”
“Will the beds be in the cells?”
“No” he states very matter of fact.
“Why not?”
“The SPCA, Peta… one of the animal rights groups said legally the cells are too small for the dogs.”
Wow, don’t get me wrong, because I am not hating on the dogs. They must have the proper space to be a dog… to bark, wag and howl when needed.
I grew up with dogs in the free world, and raised greyhounds for rabbit hunting. In the high desert, some semi wild dogs were my best friends. I ran with a pack of them up and down the dry river. We greeted like wolves at dawn and howled at the moon at dusk. They nurtured the poet and beast inside me, when I did not know I was a poet. They gave me purpose when I had none.
You should have seen Campy, Buddy and Big Sister run down jack rabbits, no less elegant than cheetahs running down gazelles on the African plains; tragically beautiful.
Sometimes the rabbits ran back towards me, sweaty long ears and fur soaked like it just hopped out of a foamy pool. I’d see the fear in the jack rabbit’s marble eyes. The catch was like when two stars clashed and melted into one, becoming a black hole; sorrowful and lovely at the same time.
Some folks here are hating on the dog program, due to and all the love and pampering the hounds receive. Jealous of the huge play pens, cotton blankets and soft throw rugs. Hating on the high priced meat/vegetable logs, which are of a higher quality than the food prisoners eat. The high grade mackerel and other real meat products. The hounds do get a lot of wonderful treats, different kinds of cheese, jerky and peanut butter. The meat logs that are twice the size of frozen cookie dough look good enough to eat.
The dogs were to live in the cells with the inmates that train them, but again the cells are too small for a dog, but okay for housing two human beings.
I know the dogs have not broken any laws and are not lifers. Still, how can a space be large enough for two people, but not big enough for one dog, and not be an animal rights violation or cruel and unusual punishment or something animal rights activists would have a fit and picket governments, governors, prisons, wardens even God… if a dog was forced to live in a space too small and with other dogs that it did not get along with.
The dogs have their own exercise yard and playpens outside and inside lounging. Inside the dog area they have large swamp cooler like fans to chill in. Some hounds roll over on their back, legs in air, head turned to the side. A lovely sight.
I cleaned up the 24 play pens and scrubbed the toilets extra clean because I thought the hounds would drink from the little pool, no longer used as a toilet. Instead, each dog had its own water trough, next to a sleeping cot, and their own igloo and little swimming pool. They bathed in a bath tub big enough for a human.
I watched the dogs and inmate trainers picking up steaming pooh. Something I am certain none of the trainers saw themselves doing when they were on the streets starting criminal or gangster careers. The dogs would dance around like little kids proud to have gone potty in the right spot.
I am not hating on the dogs. Although, the dog food and treats looked and smelled way more tasty than the substance prisoners eat. I think the dogs deserve all the treats, high quality food and perks. It is paid for from an outside organization.
The dogs are like rock stars and deservedly so. Yet, I was a bit reluctant to want to see my fellow dog beings locked up in cages. I had not been around dogs in decades.
To save lives is always a worthy cause, and I support and believe in the dog program fully. The program reminds me of The Reading for the Blind program we had back in the days at San Quentin.
If allowed to I would be the official flute player and poet for the hounds to help them rest and sleep. I think the PAWS for Life, Karma Rescue dog program, here at Lancaster State Prison, is a worthy cause.
The dogs were days from death from being executed when rescued and sent to prison. The first batch of dogs has already graduated and was adopted out of prison. Stay free my friends.


A Commutation Support Letter

As you may know Spoon has started legal process trying to get the "Special Cicumstances" removed from his life sentence. You may also be aware of the fundraising to pay his attorney.

Spoon has also sent a petition to the Governor of California requesting to have his sentence commuted. A number of support letters were sent in together with it.
Everyone who wants can still send support letters to the Governor on behalf of Spoon.

Here is a recent one that says it all (however very long for official use):

"Dear Governor Brown

I wanted to write you today on behalf of a man who has emerged in my life as a personal source of inspiration and a deeply admired friend, who I passionately believe deserves a second chance to contribute his gifts as an integrated member of society. From within the confines of the prison walls that have surrounded him for the majority of his life, he has unwaveringly continued to transmit a message of hope and redemption through his poetry, prose and letters, and despite being limited to the written word, his voice has been able to radiate as a beacon of positive energy for the many lives he has touched.

Stanley “Spoon” Jackson has been incarcerated since 1977, for an act of homicide he committed as a teenager. Although my belief is that he has earned the privilege and dignity of at least being considered for the possibility of a commuted sentence based solely on the merit of his behaviour and accomplishments over the course of his time served, I do feel it is pertinent to draw to life a few details surrounding his case. His sentence of Life Without Parole was originally passed down based upon the questionable assertion of Special Circumstances being involved in the context of criminal allegations, which implied evidence of attempted rape and attempted burglary, of which there was in fact none; with Mr Jackson firmly denying these additional accusations and never having pled guilty to them. However the inclusion of these assumed circumstances was the basis for the level of sentencing received, which prohibits him from ever appealing his case.

Yet even so, of Mr Jackson’s sentencing, there were in fact conditions in place that granted prisoners with his degree of life sentence the opportunity of parole hearings. He was even commended for his in custody behaviour before the Board of Prison Terms in 1990, but at that point lacked the number of years served to be considered for a possible commutation, and was scheduled to return for a follow-up hearing in 1993. But just before the date he was to appear, the legislation was changed so that those with life sentences could no longer be considered for any possibility of parole, and the conditions he was expressly sentenced under were no longer honoured. On top of this, compounding the frustration of losing the ability to have his case reviewed, has been his experience of watching other prisoners over the years, who in some cases were carrying multiple Life Without Parole sentences with less time served, being given the chance to have the Special Circumstances struck from their sentence on the basis of age, time served, custody behaviour, and program participation, and thus being granted commuted sentences that opened the door for their eventual release.

Despite these factors, which could have easily fostered hardened resentment and cynicism, he has done nothing but exhibit exemplary behaviour; taking the initiative to better himself, and growing to thrive as a writer, poet, actor, musician and teacher during his incarceration. He writes, “I had to change, which meant to get to know myself and find my niche, bliss and myth in life. I had to till the endless gardens I my mind, heart and soul. I had to become anew, despite being in prison.”

Arriving with no background or training in the arts, he discovered his voice as a writer after participating in a four-year poetry workshop, and has since published two acclaimed books, earning praise from the likes of Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem. His poetry has won him four awards from PEN American Center and has been the basis of films (“At Night I Fly” and “Three Poems by Spoon Jackson” directed by Michel Wenzer) and a classical music suite (“Words of Realness” by Swedish composer Stefan Säfsten). In addition to the plays, poetry, novels, short stories, essays and memoir he has written, he received international attention for his acting work in the 1988 production of Waiting for Godot directed by Jan Jonson. He has seized every opportunity to constructively participate in the programs made available to him, and now offers his artistry and leadership as a poetry teacher and mentor for his fellow inmates, while continuing to independently write and reach out as a contributor to various prison advocacy programs and support networks.

With all due respect, I understand that the reality of presiding over a constituency numbering the millions probably makes your individual ability to directly address each of the countless requests submitted to your office next to impossible. Without casting any judgement, I acknowledge that you have an incredibly difficult job being asked to mitigate the numerous pressing issues constantly emerging across a state which has experienced more than its share of economic hardship and civil upheaval throughout the past decade , and I know that the fate of one prisoner whose future has been all but sealed on paper does not register as a very significant priority for your office, and in all likelihood this letter will probably never be read or taken into consideration by you personally. But in the possibility that it has reached your desk and its content been given a chance to be weighed with an open mind and heart, I hope you are able to recognize the unique opportunity that stands before you to exercise your voice toward the resolution of one man’s case, and in doing so make a singular action that would resonate positively far beyond its immediate effect. In opening the door for the commutation of Mr. Jackson’s sentence, not only would you be offering him the ability to enjoy the last few decades of his life as the reborn human being he is today, free to spread his message of hope, compassion and empowerment, at last unbound by the physical barriers and social isolation which he has gracefully endured for nearly four decades, but you would be allowing all those whose lives have been touched by prisons, both of internal and external construction, to benefit from the active, vocal presence of his uplifting spirit and healing message on a socially engaged and directly accessible level. He has already touched so many lives for the better, but has the potential to touch so many more.

If you harbour any question about what truly lies at the depth of his character, simply listen to his own words. Through a forum facilitated by Pain Of the Prison System, a school-based program for families coping with the absence of loved ones who are in prison, in response to the question of what the worst part about prison is for him, asked to single out one aspect from all the struggles he has experienced and described over the course of an entire adulthood spent in prison, he expressed, “(It) is not being able to go back and erase the pain and tears I caused people who loved me and the people I hurt”. This is a truly loving, penitent man, who only seeks to connect with and enliven the educational aspirations and courage of others. My sincere belief is that he will be more effectively able to continue paying the debt to society, which he will never cease to bear, through his undying dedication to empowerment and betterment of his fellow human, when it is allowed to thrive freely and take flight outside a prison cell.

With utmost appreciation for your time and consideration,
L. McA."

Send your support letter to:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814




After 38 years in prison Spoon Jackson has filed a Habeas Corpus petition to the courts to have ”Special Circumstances” removed from his Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentence. A Habeas Corpus gives a court the option to strike Special Circumstances from a sentence in the interest of justice based on a prisoner's age, in custody behaviour and good programming. If granted, it would change Spoon’s sentence from Life Without Parole to Life With Parole and this could lead to his release from prison!
Spoon was overcharged in an error-ridden, racist trial in 1977. There was no evidence of the special circumstances he was charged with. Those charges were fabricated and added to the case by the court. Without them Spoon could not have been given a LWOP sentence. But there is no way to appeal such a sentence - only in custody behaviour.

The (Habeas Corpus) petitions have been denied in California State Courts. Spoon now has an attorney who has appealed to Federal Court. The first payment has also been sent to the attorney.

Spoon's friends have asked SJRA Sentencing and Justice Reform Advocacy, a verified non profit organisation, for help and an account to receive donations has been set up for Spoon's attorney expenses.

Checks: SJRA (Sentencing and Justice Reform Advocacy) P.O. Box 71, Olivehurst, CA 95961 All checks or money orders must be made payable only to: SJRA.
YOU MUST WRITE: “Spoon Jackson” in the MEMO area located in lower left-hand corner of the check!
Donations are not tax deductible!

If you're in Sweden, read this:
Vänner i Sverige kan fortfarande skicka pengar till samma pg som tidigare. Kontot tillhör: Kista kyrkokör Järva Röster och heter Network of Realness, postgiro 432393-7 OBS! Skriv "Spoon" som meddelande.


Philosophy Imprisoned

Spoon is one of the contributors to this new anthology "Philosophy Imprisoned, The Love of Wisdom
in the Age of Mass Incarceration" edited by Sarah Tyson and Joshua M. Hall

"Western philosophy’s relationship with prisons stretches from Plato’s own incarceration to the modern era of mass incarceration. Philosophy Imprisoned: The Love of Wisdom in the Age of Mass Incarceration draws together a broad range of philosophical thinkers, from both inside and outside prison walls, in the United States and beyond, who draw on a variety of critical perspectives (including phenomenology, deconstruction, and feminist theory) and historical and contemporary figures in philosophy (including Kant, Hegel, Foucault, and Angela Davis) to think about prisons in this new historical era. All of these contributors have experiences within prison walls: some are or have been incarcerated, some have taught or are teaching in prisons, and all have been students of both philosophy and the carceral system. The powerful testimonials and theoretical arguments are appropriate reading not only for philosophers and prison theorists generally, but also for prison reformers and abolitionists." Read more

Get at Amazon


What does it say if dogs get better treatment than inmates?

Photo from Paws For Life website

Spoon's latest article is published in The Sacramento Bee:
"The dogs marched under the barbed razor and electric fencing, across the prison yard and into Cellblock Five. Paws for Life, a program of Karma Rescue and the state Department of Corrections..."   Read the article here 

Karma Rescue/Paws For Life - See video

Their barks and wags
In the mornings
Eased my mind
And hugged my heart

Each morning I smiled
Instead of frowned
The dogs were two days from death
When rescued, and sent to prison
To start their lives over

There was Oreo
Who I always loved from a distance
I did not know how to get closer

There was Eddie
The spotted dude
Who looked like he smiled
Whenever he looked at you

There was Chewy
Bold and semi-bow legged walk
And white nose
Who sometimes loved to bark
To let you know he was alive

Then there was Shelby
Little princess, smooth
Beaded black fur

Don't get it twisted
She had the energy of the sun
Who never stopped
Playing and loved water
As much as air
Who softened everyone's heart
Even old poets

Finally, there was Randall
Regal and witty
He was my buddy
From the start, a philosopher
Cool and calm

They all left today
And as I look out of my cell
At the five vacant sheds that housed them
I am that emptiness
© Spoon Jackson


The Confined Arts - Gallery Opening

Art work by incarcerated artists. Gallery opening  Friday 19th in Harlem. Spoon will be reading poems over the phone.


Unnatural Desert II

First, there was a war on crime, then a war on drugs and then a war on war. Now there is a war on education, the poor, the hungry and the artists, a war against schools, colleges, uneducated, prisoners, musicians, poets, writers, actors, dancers, composers, painters and singers. There are wars against being real and living your truth. There is an unnatural desert being foraged across Mother Earth.
Yes, I am just a prisoner, a poet that has been locked up for decades, looking at the world from the inside out. But even I behind concrete and steel can see the devastating war being waged against the art world, the educational world and against teachers and peace makers. No matter how freeing, engaging, positive and growthful such programs have been, the programs are looked upon as a cancer, when such programs are life savers.
 Where will this war end? Mother Earth is calling us artists in individually and as collective consciousness to rise up and keep the peace and realness flowing. We must keep mentoring peace and creativity. We must push back with peace and release our collective energies as one. If I can feel this peace power through concrete and steel, surely you out there can feel it! We can meet in that collective space of solidarity that is beyond walls, governments and war makers. I am particularly speaking to teachers, you teaching artists and conductors. If you loose your jobs, you must continue to mentor and not loose your heart and soul, your spirit to love and create.

When your light is not shining bright, there is something clogged inside you that does not allow You to connect with Mother Earth. To re-connect may be as simple as smiling to a flower, a silent walk or a long look into the sky. Truly listening to bird song or seeing a flock in the sky. It may be as simple as dipping your toes in sweet waters or soft sands or feeding pigeons and sparrows from your hand.
Stay Real!


If I become a free man again...

Drawing by Spoon
Technology I’m sure would blow me away and yet I’d be more interested in connecting with lakes, deserts, mountains, parks, plants and animals and being grounded by them.
I’d be taken away by deep conversations, especially romantic conversations, and by meeting tons of relatives and friends here in the USA and Sweden. They were young or infants when I last saw them and are now grown.
I’d be blown away by playing my flute by a stream, under a bridge or tree and see what birds would come around. I would be taken away by playing my flute for a woman on the beach, or at sunset, moonrise or sunrise. To play my flute in a band.
I would float to teach a poetry class and do poetry readings and see a poem touch hearts and souls.
I would take a plane or ship for the first time to live in Sweden and France.
In peace and realness.


Commutation - Support

I have been told that the Governor looks at a few commutation applications a year and that he does not have to look at or respond to any commutation paperwork at all.

Therefore, support letters to the Governor's office in my behalf can bring light to my commutation application. So please, if you feel from the heart and realness, write letters to Governor Jerry Brown's office in my behalf. let him know why you believe my sentence should be commuted.

Every support letter is very appreciated and a great help.

Thank you!
Send your support letter to:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814


Paws For Life

Their barks and wags
In the mornings
Eased my mind
And hugged my heart

Each morning I smiled
Instead of frowned
The dogs were two days from death
When rescued, and sent to prison
To start their lives over

There was Oreo
Who I always loved from a distance
I did not know how to get closer

There was Eddie
The spotted dude
Who looked like he smiled
Whenever he looked at you

There was Chewy
Bold and semi-bow legged walk
And white nose
Who sometimes loved to bark
To let you know he was alive

Then there was Shelby
Little princess, smooth
Beaded black fur

Don't get it twisted
She had the energy of the sun
Who never stopped
Playing and loved water
As much as air
Who softened everyone's heart
Even old poets

Finally, there was Randall
Regal and witty
He was my buddy
From the start, a philosopher
Cool and calm

They all left today
And as I look out of my cell
At the five vacant sheds that housed them
I am that emptiness
Spoon Jackson

Karma Rescue



Secret policy

The laws and courts system, particularly in California seem to be insane, racist, and bias. They apply them any way they want without set standards and then blame ordinary people who don't know the law and the computer game like rules the lawyers and judges create that only they themselves understand and the utter ignorance of the law is not an exuse.
So regular people are penalized for not being a lawyer or educated in the secret policy of games, laws and rules they create to keep the public ignorant and lost in the woods. You see something straight forward like a blue sky and it's not blue in the eyes and ways of the court who create new waves and interpretation of the laws whenever they see fit without standards.


My legal status

As you may know I have two issues before the State Courts at the moment. A Writ of Mandate on having taken me to the Board of Prison Terms* in 1990 and commended me on my in custody behavior, but said I did not have enough time in for parole or commutation in 1990. I was supposed to return to the Board of Prison Terms in 1993. They never called me back and repealed the law in December 31, 1993. Both the Superior Court and Appellate Court have now denied my petition under Prima Facia* which is absurd. So I will take the issue to California Supreme Court next.

I have filed a Habeas Corpus on Penal Code 1385 which gives the Trial Court the option to strike Special Cicumstances** from a sentence in the interest of justice based on a prisoner's age, in custody behavior and good programming. Well, there was this white guy on the Honor Yard here at Lancaster State Prison who had three Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP)*** sentences! Based on his age, in custody behavior, time in prison and being on this Honor Yard, the court stroke all of his Special Circumstances from the three LWOP's and gave him one 25 to Life**** sentence and in that same breath took him to the Board and released him. He did not even have 25 years in prison. I have  1 LWOP and 38 years in. I have a great in custody behavior record and accomplishments and I'm on the Honor Yard.
The Superior Court denied my Habeas Corpus, but the judge commended me on my productive and great behavior in prison. He said it was out of his jurisdiction to strike the Special Circumstances. The Appellant Court also denied my Habeas Corpus with no explanation. So I am poised to take both issues to California Supreme Court. There is no time bar to 1385 Penal Code.

*A background to the appeal to The Board of Prison Terms:
Prima facie may be used as an adjective meaning "sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved.
It means more or less that Spoon is asking the Court to 'mandate' an agency to restore parole hearings for those prisoners who were sentenced during a time when even LWOP prisoners received parole hearings.
California sentencing laws, at one time included 'all' prisoners going before the board once they had hit the bottom of their matrix (years they must serve before they could be considered for parole). When LWOP was first instituted in California in the '70s, it seems like no one actually believed that it would really mean 'never ever ever getting out' would the person have a chance at release. Instead, California moved to an even more barbaric sentencing structure and began sentencing people to years beyond their natural life, even when they weren't sentenced to LWOP. 100, 200 years or even more.

Basically it is society saying "were mad, we're in charge, and we are going to show you how mad we are" and the Judge going along with it. It could be called revenge sentencing. It serves no purpose if the point of sentencing is to create some balance between societies safety and incentive to rehabilitate.

So Spoon has been denied by the Court, his request for them to review CDCR's (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) change in policy, and ordering them to restore it - no longer giving parole hearings to the conditions he was actually sentenced under at the time of sentencing. The Court denied it saying it didn't state a prima facie claim, or in other words, on its face, the claim of what he was asking wasn't a cognizable claim or wasn't apparent.

 While it was still CDC (California Department of Corrections), they were so backed up in parole hearings for prisoners who actually had a shot at parole, they made an administrative decision to stop doing parole hearings for prisoners who they see as the walking dead. They still got further behind as the level of incarceration in CA boomed larger and larger each year.

Then came Marcy's Law, an initiative which passed by the people and said something like if there is no chance of the person being parole eligible under the Board's determination, they could deny you up to 15 years at a time (prior it was 3 maximum).

All that history is to say that Spoon's case/claim is very interesting because, in the case of Marcy's Law, there was a class action filed on behalf of the prisoners that said exactly what he is saying but on this issue - if we were sentenced to a term that gave us a parole hearing every three years - you can't mid sentence change the terms of our sentence - it is ex post facto which is illegal. They won, and anyone who was sentenced prior to Marcy's Law being passed, once again is under the regular term of hearings at 1, 2, or 3 years maximum.
Background summary by Christine Thomas

** The Special Circumstances in Spoon's case were fabricated by the court only because the District Attorney (who in many jurisdictions in the US, represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses) wanted Spoon on Death Row. The Special Circumstances were attempted rape and attempted burglary. There was no evidence of either one, it was only based on findings of unidentified finger print smudges on a window sill, but without this the court could not have sentenced Spoon to LWOP. He did not comit the special circumstances nor plead guilty of them. But this fact does not give him any chance to appeal the sentence itself, only his behavior and accomplishments in prison.

*** Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) Wikipedia

**** ”25 to life” generally means a life sentence with parole possibilities after 25 years.


The Gosling Five Week 11

One of the Gosling Five was missing! I imagined it had flown away on its own. When I went to the small yard there were only four goslings left. I looked around for dead bodies or missing feathers. The Gosling Five have no more baby fur and perhaps it's a good thing he or the is gone. If I could fly I'd fly far away from this place too. Yet, I ponder did some mean humans that control the rotunda on the weekend separate the Gosling Five, one from the rest of the family? There are some hateful correctional cops around that don't like any prisoner programs or even positive interaction with what nature we prisoners can find. However I discovered a much greater tragedy, I found out that someone had gone and smashed one of the remaining eggs in the corner nest and it was not infested with maggots. The mother goose had taken off. An Indian brother had cleaned up the nest in the hope that the mother goose would return and sit on the three eggs that remained and she did.

Back in the cell. A fat moth is in the window sill seeking shade from the ninety degree sunlight. The moth had been there since noon.

This is the last chapter of The Gosling Five.


The Gosling Five Week 10

I found my geese family on the big yard this morning, and so, I herded them towards the gates and corridor that lead back to the small yard where the Gosling Five were born and are safer. They were all a little reluctant to move today. All five look grown now and only slighter smaller than their parents. With a little help from a cool yard worker my geese family strolled through the corridor without dropping a turd on the concrete, that I would have to clean up. I went around my business and did my bar work and ran a few laps and then took some bread to the Gosling Five. They were at the top of the yard near cell block five and six. The geese took to the sky flying as if they had been doing so all of their lives and landed right in front of me and we did our geese greetings. I wondered why they allowed me to herd them through that walled and gated corridor in front of the art room, since they all are expert fliers. I squatted down on one knee and placed some bread on and near my leg and the goslings came and rubbed up against my leg as they ate. The parents always stand back and let them eat.

Not a good day for the mother goose sitting on her eggs in the corner of the small yard. Another egg was stolen, now it has gone from seven down to four eggs. I wish the rest of the eggs will hatch quickly to avoid anymore hatred by whoever it is that stole the gosling filled eggs.
The Gosling Five seem to have decided to stay here and partake of my company longer and continue to share space and bread.


The Gosling Five Week 9

The Gosling Five are still here, and all of the baby fur is gone. They are healthy and bulky now and making adult sounds. Yet they have not flown away. Today some huge back of the cell block geese appeared on the small yard. Four young geese and their parents. They have seen more of the world, and there was another family of three that tags along with the new family. I remember seeing them through the cell window as they grew. This is one of the first times the Gosling Five had direct geese company. I fed them some bread. At first the Gosling Five were hiding on the tiny hill among plants. By noon they were out socializing and doing their geese thing. It was cool to see all the geese but not what they left behind.


I went out on the small yard to check on my five kids and I found them huddled up in a corner with their parents. Two local bully geese had intimidated them until they saw me approach. The bully geese backed up, but not too far and tried to come back and pick on the Gosling Five as I sat there feeding the young ones. I chased the bullies away and again and again they came back acting like King and Queen geese on the yard. Again I chased the bullies away, but this time the Gosling Five family joined me and flew about twenty feet. I walked away and called to my geese family and they again flew to me. They flew to me three or four times. I didn't know I knew geese talk. Suddenly they all flew low about forty yards to the lower part of the yard. The first time I saw the Gosling Five fly!


This morning I went to the small yard for my gosling meditation and again found my Gosling Five family stuck in the corner with the bully pair of geese not allowing them to move about. The bully geese saw me coming and took off. One bully goose came back and attacked a gosling and the gosling flew thirty or forty yards to get away. So the goslings can fly skillfully. After I chased off the bullies I started watering the grass and one gosling came near me. I turned the water hose on him and he enjoyed the shower and pruned his feathers. Soon two other goslings came over for the shower. It inspired me to go water the egg sitting mother goose in the corner of the yard. She loved it and even stood up as I showered her. She sipped the water from her feathers. I counted her eggs and two were gone. Somebody had stolen two of her eggs. It saddened my heart.


The Gosling Five Week 8

Well, the Gosling Five except for a few stings of baby fur looks grown and even have big chest and neck flesh now and stroll slowly now making a statement to the other geese. I did my gosling meditation today and spent over an hour with them and listened to their roars and to the facet water. I played my flute and it soothed them. They closed their eyes and took a nap. They have all of their feathers now. I believe they can fly. All five look healthy. What a surprise the world will be looking down from the sky. When high looking down on lakes, valleys, trees and hills. I won't be able to tell them apart from the other geese soon.


The Gosling Five Week 7

The Gosling Five started their seventh week. Their wings and bellies are bigger and almost fit their bodies. The baby fur is just left on their necks and lightly on their backs. I can see the deeper colors of their black and white neck and head. They are young adults now and practice flapping their wings every chance they get. They have layers of adult feathers. The birds have no idea what is in the sky and beyond the cell blocks. Two of the goslings have huge feet, bigger than their parents. I wonder if it's like with wolf pups with big paws, does it mean the goslings will be large geese?

I did not hang out much with the Gosling Five today. I called them over to the fence beside the art room (you can see that fence on the cover of my poetry book "Longer Ago") and fed them. They are young adults and are acting more distant.


The Gosling Five Week 6

Due to TB tests today, I got out of the cell late, and I went directly to check on the Gosling Five. Of course the biggest and most aggressive gosling nipped my finger before poking hard for the bread. He also has the largest head. The other goslings are more gentle when they take food from my hands. Over night another layer of feathers appeared on the birds and the blues stemmed wing feathers for flying are much larger. Today a guard who has watched the geese said in about two weeks the goslings will fly away. It's too early I said, that will only be week seven and I think they at least must be eight weeks old. That is how old my Gosling Buddy was when he flew away.

Although the Gosling Five are acting more distant now and think they are more grown up sometimes teenagers think they are grown up too soon. Sometimes the goslings, especially the finger nipper leads the family around. They have attitude changes, sometimes when I call them they barely look at me. It's sad sometimes how soon we grow up or think we do. I'm sure they will fly away in a couple or a few weeks. It doesn't matter, still they will be gone.


The Gosling Five Week Five

Wow they are so big now, the Gosling Five starting their fifth week with more and more attitude and antics. I was feeding two brave goslings and one napped my finger on purpose. It didn't hurt though. So cool to have them eating grass and food from my hand as I sit next to them. This past week tiny tail and wing feathers, plus belly and back feathers are replacing the baby fur at a rapid pace. They have enough tail feathers to swash in the air now. The blue stemmed wing feathers are growing like weed and their wings are as big as pigeon wings. The goslings are the size of ducks, maybe a bit bigger.

I sat at the tiny pond and did my gosling meditation, while my gosling family played in the pond and in the currents of the water facet. The pond is a five feet circle about four to six inches deep, but it's heaven for the Gosling Five and a meeting place for the black birds, cow birds, pigeons and red-winged black birds.

I know the goslings are only one month and a couple of days old. Yet they are teenagers already and my other Gosling Buddy flew away after only two months. They are already at moments acting grown up. They are changing a lot each day. It sees like over night their wing and tail feathers have grown a couple of inches. Week five is a heavy transitional week for them. They are feeling their wings and tails. Today I flapped my arms and jumped around and the Gosling Five ran towards me.


Today my Gosling Five family returned to the little trench in the grass where they took their first drink and waded in the water. The first or second day of their lives after weeks of drinking the yolk in the eggs. They were not bigger than chicks at the time. But today they are more than twenty times that size. When I turned the water on in the tiny trench, they had to sit on its shore and sip water and catch the bread crumbs I sent down the stream. The goslings are twice as big as a seagull, and their underbelly feathers are like their parents. Their wing stems are like blue ink fillers. It's like the grasses they eat are treated with Miracle Gro and it makes the goslings flourish. They are getting their second layer of feathers on their back, chest, tail and wings. Still there is some yellow baby fur on their heads and other parts of their bodies. I can now see the black and white colors underneath their yellow down on their heads and neck. Week six starts in a few days. The biggest and most curious of the Gosling Five makes sure he naps my finger once as I offer him food.


The Gosling Five Week Four

Tuesday the Gosling Five will be a month old and yesterday an today the two most adventurous goslings took bread from my hands with attitude. It was cool. The other three ate too, but stood back and were more shy. I fed my crow friend that I shared food with when it was a young bird before the last long race based lock down. It came down from the roof to take cake crumbs always conscious of its surroundings. The loud sea gulls he must contest with that often fill the skies have gone somewhere to nest. Looking out of the cell window this morning I saw a squirrel on this side of the razor/electric fencing. It was too far away to see what he was doing in the grass. I assumed he was eating seeds or insects.

I made a cup of coffee and came back to the window and I saw a jackrabbit circle around near the boulder tree, and under the tree I saw two young deer bouncing around. Then just outside the window, not ten feet away there was the squirrel, standing on its hind legs with its mouth full of straw. It was building a nest near the fencing inside the prison grounds. I watched him vanish into a hole some thirty or forty yards away from the cell block. A hole in the open grassy field not six yards from the lethal fence. I pondered is it safe from ground attack, from coyotes, foxes or other ground predators. Yet, the skies soars with red-tailed hawks.
The Gosling Five came running as I ran towards them, they flapped their wings and I flapped my arms. People looked on in amazement.


The Gosling Five Week Three

I sat out on the little hill near the tiny pond and fed the Gosling Five. I was now totally accepted by the mother and father goose. The goslings nearly eat off my boot, and their parents trust me so much they left me with the Gosling Five as they frolicked and bathed n the pool and sipped the sweet waters.

Finally the babies realized their parents were down the hill and scooted off to join them. Moments later I did my goose call and the most adventurous gosling Brave one, came running followed by its brothers and sisters. I sat there surrounded by the Gosling Five for nearly an hour. A part of a goose family enjoying Mother Earth's flow, on a slightly windy spring day.


The Gosling Five's personalities are coming out even more. I keep giving them nicknames that I'll probably forget. The independent gosling is even more of an adventurer running to walk beside me and to ask for food on its own, or just to go off and eat grass by itself. They all have ”red-winged black bird”-size wings now.


The Gosling Five Week Two

Now bigger than pigeons, today the Gosling Five became fourteen days old. It's so great I can call them from across the small yard and they come running with their parents behind them. It trips guards, free staff and other prisoners out how the Gosling Five family has accepted me. I have a calm pensive, peaceful sharing contact with both parents of the gosling five. They seem as curious about me as I about them, so we share precious space and air. We share the sun, wind and sky, we share the honor of watching over the goslings.