My time in Prison - Supermax Pelican Bay

So this time last week I was traveling back from Crescent City, California, after 3 intense, beautiful and powerful days in a SUPER maximum security prison, Pelican Bay (the only super max prison in California ) 

Now if you google Pelican Bay you may wonder what the hell I was doing there - especially voluntarily. You would see it is one of the 5 worst prisons in the entire country here In America. 

It houses some of the US’s biggest gang leaders, violent offenders & people who society has and does deem ‘the worst of the worst’.

Many men we met have spent decades in solitary confinement (I was so grateful to be able to be one of 20 who spent the afternoon with 20 men in the solitary confinement unit) 

Yet  my Experience of these men was nothing close to this. My experience was uplifting, connecting, full of love and friendship. 

The men we got to spend our time with over the three days, some who are never getting out, some who have been in there for decades, some who haven’t had a visitor in years- were some of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met.

We were there as part of a program called Hustle 2.0 that organizes rehabilitation and entrepreneurial training for incarcerated men. We were there providing hope, coaching, fun & connection to these men. 

It’s so hard to put into words what we experienced, and soon I’ll have a lot more to show you- because we are putting a documentary together of our time there, so you too, can experience the transformation that was created, not just for the men incarcerated, but for the volunteers like me, who attended also. 

To look in someone’s face, who has been in and out of prison his whole life, on death row 2 x with only 5 days to live, and who will spend the rest of his life in prison ... and then to find out he was taken to his first crime (a murder), by his dad, when he was 4, and hear the array of other horrendous circumstances that led him down his path of crime and prison... 

And to see 90% of the 100 men each day step to the line to say they grew up in and out of foster care, saw immediate family members get murdered, lost loved ones to gang violence, grew up with excessive gun shots In their neighbourhood, were arrested for the first time before age 10...

That gangs were the only place they could go to be accepted and find family. 

You start to see a new picture & narrative take shape. 

A picture that shows you there’s so much more to be story than we could ever know.

And this is what this work we are doing, and this trip, was really about.

About highlighting the humanity of these men. 

Highlighting the deep need for more humanity on society and all of our lives. 

And don’t get me wrong, for many- this time in Prison is necessary and deserved.

And what I am saying here, is, so is understanding. And so is forgiveness.

Because we haven’t landed where we are in the world from TOO MUCH forgiveness, that much I know to be true.

More empathy.

More connection.

More justice. 

More compassion.

More hope.

A couple of Friends and I here In LA recently formed an impact group - as we are so committed to creating change with the privilege, influence and power that we do have. We know that to be of service is a responsibility calling at our hearts - and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by other men and women hearing and acting on that call. After spending s powerful day in prison earlier this year, this imitative was on my heart and so Hustle 2.0 became our first  project to get behind.

I’m so excited to share more with you, and for now I would love for you to Check out the photos by our awesome photographer Tom Kubik, here. 

I hope here you will see the humanity of these men. The innocent boy who was never told he was loved. Was never told someone was proud of him. Was never shown any other way of living. 

There’s so much more on my heart to share- and I have a podcast I recorded with a friend Corey I met through this work that will be coming out soon- and keep your eyes out for when we have some more footage to share. Your support and openness to this work means the world.

If you have any questions I am here and more than happy to hear and answer them.

In love, servitude and compassion.

Em x