Call To Action '19
I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Michael. I am a fifty-something former landscape contractor from San Diego - a man whose broad commitment to family, community, and tradition stands oddly comforted against the sentence of death I remain faced with here at San Quentin State Prison. I am condemned to die for my alleged role in the mid-2000 murder conspiracy of my (then) live-in girlfriend, Tamra.
Once accepting of this grim scenario, it became far less difficult to accept "who" I am - equally significant however, was discovering some semblance of purpose, and the ever-poignant "why?"
Lung cancer ended my father's precious life in 2016. His battle was short but no less painful or profound. In our last earthly chat, his strained voice whispered, "A man can preach a much better sermon with his life than with his lips."
Still ever-brilliant and fearless through death, he explained that our tolerant humanity regularly takes fate for granted - that we must live for today, plan for tomorrow, and remember yesterday. By design, we should find a way to leave our mark upon this world, however slight. My fate and plight are ones which society tends to ignore. While pursuing the "why," I had become tasked with the equally humble question of, "how?"
Lost in certain of my daily reading, I stumbled upon some unique legal statistics that swirled around in my brain like an errant tornado for days. As it turns out, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for housing a tiny 10+/-% of the national prison population. The other 90+/-% of prisoners in America are spread across the country (in state custody).
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (Feds) have a time-tested and well-oiled protocol in place which permits federal prisoners (that tiny 10+/-% of the nation's prison population) to donate living vital organs, tissue, and bone marrow to biological matchworthy immediate family members in need of life-saving transplants. Who knew that an inducement-free living organ donation policy for prisoners to save a family member's life might be a good idea?
Let me tell you who doesn't know. Every state prison system - including California. Are you sitting down? The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has assembled what they refer to as the Advanced Health Care Directive. It is made available to California state prisoners by the medical department at each facility upon request. There are nearly 40 (forty) prisons in California.
Part III of said medical directive pertains to inmate organ donation. At no time are any California state prisoners permitted to donate living vital organs or tissues. In fact, Part III specifies quite clearly that all donations will be made posthumously. Meaning, that a prisoner may only donate an organ in the event of his/her death.
How this apathetic oversight purports to serve the nation's citizenry is beyond me. The ironic absurdity is that our states take life, labor, income, and time from the imprisoned while emphasizing that every prisoner "rehabilitate" themselves. The very world "rehabilitation" is in the prison system's title. To what end?
I argue that many prisoners share in the sentiment where the rationale for incarceration stems from a responsibility to repay (our) debts to society through restitution, rehabilitation, and punishment.
My great angst with all of this is in having discovered that if California had been remotely willing to simply create a protocol modelled after the existing Federal Bureau of Prison's living inmate organ donation policy for immediate family members, my father would still be alive today. I would have given him one of my lungs - no questions asked.
That said, upwards of 25 Americans die each day while awaiting the gift of a life-saving transplant when, no doubt, more than ample resources exist. Is this how our government answers the call when protecting its citizens?
Fast forward several years. One of my letters would ring within the ears of State Senator Cathleen Galgiani. Senate Bill SB1419 would soon follow and find success up through the first three layers of Senate consideration. Unfortunately, SB1419 was not written quite the way the FEDS have their protocol. When SB1419 reached the Appropriations Committee, there was very little breath left in it. The CDCR had simply refused to implement, nor fund, such an effort while real lives hang in the balance.
My hope is to reopen the narrative with people like you. To evoke visceral, vocal, and visible participation from families, activists, academic, and legal circles - people ready to replace destruction with life. A galvanization of sorts.
I want to dispel the myth whereby prisoners are without redemptive value - devoid of civic responsibility through social action and political awareness. I would truly like to get beyond the conversation's obvious impasse where so many have claimed to be torn between, "keep me posted," and "keep it to yourself."
Not long ago, we met with "60 Minutes" and interviewed for a segment on this subject. There are a couple of outdated, yet still available, on-line venues you might peek at. Please listen to out audio project scope and/or follow our Twitter page.
But for this project's promise and potential, we may never have learned of the judicial fallibilities and hurdles which stand in the way while the sick (our family members) languish in numbers that far outstrip national supply for matchworthy living donors.
The closer we all are to death, the harder we cling to life.
I welcome advice, comments, suggestions, and participation on every front. Postage permitting, this snailmail campaign prevails. Thank you.
San Quentin, CA 94964
Senate Bill: tinyurl.com/sb1419
60 Minutes: www.bit.ly/2dOm2hS
2020 jun 19
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