March 31, 2017
Incarcerated for the past twenty years, stacked on a dusty shelf, and still I shine. Over a decade caged in death row’s double dungeon, San Quentin State Prison. As I compose my barbed wire reflections I can feel cold years dripping down my dark brown face. I’m 48 years old going on eternity. Drinking deep thoughts from a single-person prison cell surrounded by seconds, I notice the hollowed faces of fellow inmates passing by. Can you wrap your life around that? My unconquerable dreams infuse me with hope.
Embers of a former life. On the other side of these dirty green walls I had a beautiful life before death row. Experiencing the births of my two daughters was the essence of life for me. I watched them grow from infants into gorgeous independent young ladies. My only real family. I did everything possible for them. They don’t need me now, yet I’m motivated by their spirit of resilience– I need them.
I worked my entire life. Preteen newspaper routes. I was picking flower bulbs in the summer fields of Washington State at just eleven years of age. I worked as a courtesy clerk for a grocery store while in high school and added summer jobs to that. One summer I was employed as a life guard. I’ve always been fascinated with bodies of water. Retaining the memories of walking on warm, salty beaches, fishing in cool indigo lakes and swimming in cloudy irrigation canals, a living dream.
As an adolescent, no matter how well I did, I was still targeted by police. Instruments to enslave. Stalked and frisked for walking or driving while black. And I believed I was free. Nothing prevented me from being snatched from society and smeared with a wrongful conviction. In your silence was the sentence.
Directly out of high school I matriculated for higher learning. Looking back on my daily grind at a computer factory in Southern California, my job was relatively easy. I filled orders by weighing various computer components to a requested number. After I bagged, labeled and boxed the separate components, one order was complete. For a time I delivered material to tire builders at a large international tire plant. My most enjoyable occupation was auto body and paint. Staying productive, that’s what keeps me focused.
Effects of the 08 November 2016 elections are lingering, embedded within me. Nationally the U.S.A. selected Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, exposing core values and true beliefs of half the country. Before my stomach could settle I was greeted with the passage of Proposition 66, which speeds up the executions in California. I ardently advocated for Proposition 62, which would have abolished capital punishment while converting all death sentences to Life Without the Possibility of Parole- it failed.
Fortunately the California Supreme Court stayed Prop 62 on 22 December 2016. The court is currently weighing the constitutionality of Prop 66 based upon the challenges presented by the ACLU and the John Kamp/Ron Briggs petitions.
I struggled to abolish capital punishment in California via the ballot box in 2012 and 2016. As a protector of human life I simply do not want any executions on my clock. I’m striving to save lives. The people of California voted for death. Ironically, the ‘Campaign to End the Death Penalty’ urged their audience to vote no on Prop 62, the measure to End the Death Penalty. Followers without understanding. Sadly, the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper coupled with the Socialist Viewpoint Publication asked their subscribers to use their votes to keep the death penalty intact. Nothing revolutionary about that. A Trump presidency left me even more disillusioned.
Surviving through lock downs, medical quarantines, and solitary confinement, I decided to make music with my tears. I voraciously read, study and write at this time. I exercise daily and explore art. In my minds eye I envision creating family consisting of friends. I venture beyond these walls with your eyes and ears. Always open to the free flow of communication. In discovering what you feel and see, I find life. Fresh energy. Connecting with the world inspires me to stretch for more.
With my associates in arts and paralegal degrees I help litigate in the California Supreme Court for exoneration. Working on my freedom. Innocence trapped within the Jim Crow prison industrial complex. Sometimes the system gets it wrong, my situation is not unique.
Times on death row can change coal into diamonds or dust. Unchain the mind. In my walk I chose to become protector of human rights. I’m one with the earth, water and human life protectors. While I’m not able to physically be there with you now, I find ways to sacrifice, resist and struggle. I exist with you. Writing to you on Women’s Day, sitting on a short bucket, hunched over a rusty bunk, I understand a day without women is a day without breath. Overcoming all forms of oppression is my end goal. Allied minds, partners in protecting, come talk with me.
Donald Ray Young
P.O. Box E-78474
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974
February 4, 2017
Under no circumstances did I care about prisoners on death row, until I was forced to pay a visit. Life is constantly upside down. An invisible society beneath the ‘WARNING NO WARNING SHOT‘ gun towers. we are marginalized behind torturous walls, desperately resisting, refusing to fall.
San Quentin is a dilapidated death camp overlooking the Bay. Ancient granite-rock, diseased high-risers touch the sky, while those of us whom reside within these walls pet a thumb-sized glimpse of the expanse above. Five rusty tiers are stacked high with animal cages on both sides of this distorted gulag. Sixty kennels are set in place on each concrete tier, trapping 750 faceless captives. Unnoticed by most, single—person solitary confinement enclosures trap us for 23 hours per day.
Recycled human waste, more sewage than water is provided exclusively to us, for our nourishment and cleansing. In contrast, prison staff only access Mountain-Fresh bottled water, avoiding the streams of tainted bacteria that decimates the human body. Within each cell, a shiny grey toilet flushes no more than twice an hour. Next to it, a matching mini sink which is attached to a faded two-tone crumbling beige wall. Large chips of lead paint splitting off like dry leaves in autumn dust the floors, along side of the thin slab of corroded metal called a sleeping bunk.
This grimy gulag called San Quentin is as much a mental institution as it is a prison. Loud, delusional conversations blast over five tiers allowing the insane asylum to dominate. This weighs heavy on my mind as I struggle to think. Grossly incompetent medical staff coupled with overpaid, abusive guards bring nothing positive to this grueling and debilitating atmosphere. Trivial announcements explode from loud speakers strategically placed for maximum sensory deprivation, inside the dingy walls of purgatory. The only temporary escape from the ever-sounding madness are tiny earplugs, bringing back a false sense of silent peace.
Living, dying, and existing while breathing this tainted air along with the rest…. I can definitely see death row detainees as regular people for the very first time. Human, we are all human; the good, the bad and the dysfunctional. Society’s trash is a microcosm of itself. This poverty stricken, under-educated, under-caste portion of our society needs a protector against the oppressive powers that be. There are no rich people caged on death row. Donald Trump doesn’t exist here. Suicides outpace executions. Natural causes are the leading reasons assigned to deaths assigned to deaths. What is natural about waiting to die like frightened cows being led to the slaughter house?
I would rather give my life, before allowing another human being to he executed on my watch. My essence, something embedded in me is speaking truth to a corrupt power. I’m an activist for the oppressed peoples’ of the earth, despite being of the oppressed class. As Colin Kaepernik kneels For equality, what are you kneeling for or against? My life is dedicated to this struggle. How can you truly care about something you don’t really see? You might be locked in the gulag of corruption in high places and xenophobia. Maybe you‘re caught inside the forgotten prison of the mind, racism, hate, or irrational fear. How many of you dwell within the prison of poverty? Living check to check or unemployment, maybe even homelessness? Some good people fall into the dungeon of class and caste. There are so many poisonous prisons to be snared in. which one houses you?
When the world starts caring about prisoners the invisible society will be seen. Keep in mind that when Black Lives Matter, all lives matter. Speaking from the inside-out, I know better so I must do better. whatever your toxic prison, you are not invisible. I see you very clearly. Now, if you could just visualize me…
I appreciate your time and thoughts. I would enjoy hearing from you in this new year. Connect with me directly via the lost art of writing. I’ll respond, allowing our friendship to begin. I look forward to engaging in uplifting dialogue with you.
Donald Pay Young
P.O. Box E-78474
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974
September 13, 2016
Yes, I would like to see Prop 62, the Justice that Works Act, passed this 08 November 2016. Prop 62 will eradicate capital punishment in California. All death sentences will be converted to Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP). The appeals process will remain an option to challenge wrongful convictions. This is our last chance to abolish capital punishment in California at the ballot box.
There are innocent people languishing in California’s golden gulag- actually innocent, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, victims of a dysfunctional system. “The state of California may be about to execute an innocent man,” wrote Judge William A. Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Fletcher might have been describing my situation, but in this case he was speaking of Kevin Cooper. LWOP will halt the next execution of an innocent person. Capital punishment is perfectly final yet fatally flawed.
In November of 2012 a Yes vote on Prop 34, the Savings Accountability and Full Enforcement Act, would have abolished capital punishment in California permanently. Prop 34 failed by a narrow 52%-48% split. We missed that opportunity. Lessons were learned; this is our time.
We can’t get the years back, but at least leave us a semblance of life. As an abolitionist I stand against government sponsored executions, strapped in a death chamber or in our streets at the hands of corrupt police. If all lives really do matter let us abolish capital punishment. Imagine a world where the government does not kill it’s people. I also believe other states will follow our lead. This momentous proposition has global ramifications. This is the right step along our human rights struggle.
The people of California voted in the current death penalty, Prop 7, on November 7th, 1978. It’s past time to vote it out. California will be the first state to abolish capital punishment at the ballot box. Vote Yes on Prop 62 if you want to start spending more on educating our youth than on the prison-industrial complex. Yes on 62 if you’re truly pro-life and anti-death. Yes on 62.
Replacing the death penalty with LWOP takes state-sponsored lynching off the table. Prop 62 will preserve human life. Death is final. With life possibilities remain. California has the largest death-row population in the nation, hovering at 750 people. Not much of a life versus no life at all–choose life every time. Once we stop barbaric executions, we can join the struggle to abolish LWOP, sometimes referred to as ‘the other death penalty.’
Included on the ballot will be Prop 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act. This proposition will gut constitutional safeguards while rushing through state-sponsored torturous lynchings. If we allow this killing machine to resuscitate under Prop 66, prepare for the quick human-assembly-line draconian executions of the 750-and-counting death-row prisoners. We are battling to put an end to the mindset that would execute an innocent person. They race towards death while dilatorily walking to life. Conscious California voters will not slip into this insanity of legal lynching. Not this time.
Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in his concurring opinion in Furman v. Georgia, the case that abolished the death penalty in the United States in 1972, “If people were familiar with the truth about the death penalty they would ant to abolish it.”
In this election we will literally be voting for life— Prop 62, the Justice that Works Act, and death– Prop 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act. One of these propositions will surely pass. If both pass, the one with the most votes will become law. We need every vote, your vote. Inspire someone to register and vote who otherwise wouldn’t. Vote for those of us without a voice.
The American Law Institute (ALI) has over 4,000 members consisting of judges, law professors and lawyers- America’s preeminent legal minds. The ALI drafted the model statute for the death penalty 56 years ago to ensure a fair death sentence. Even though their model statute for the death penalty is being practiced today, seven years ago the ALI withdrew their support from the very law they created. Before you finalize your position on capital punishment consider the words of the ALI. The ALI stated that the system they fashioned does not work and cannot be fixed. They all further determined that we cannot devise a death penalty system that will ensure fairness in process or outcome or even that innocent people will not be executed.
We are fighting to abolish capital punishment because it is ethically, socially, and even economically reprehensible. No one has the right to murder, including the government. Our justice system is riddled with mistakes, corruption and racism. No space for mistakes, corruption or racism. It is not humane for the government to murder prisoners on death row. The criminal justice system must be absolutely faultless in all respects of litigation and law prior to state-sponsored lynchings. Nothing concerning humankind has ever been flawless.
The influence of passion and prejudice manipulated by corruption in high places are the main ingredients to ensure an innocent person’s death sentence. I have been held captive at San Quentin, California’s death row for over ten years. Unity in our common cause is essential. I will continue the ardent struggle from the inside out as you protest the abolition of the death penalty from the outside in. We will intersect in success. VOTE YES ON PROP 62 AND NO ON PROP 66.
Donald Ray Young
P.O. Box E-78474
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974
September 18, 2015
I’ll be sitting in death row
until the day that I die,
because they don’t give a damn
So when you see me cry,
to ask why
They don’t give a damn
Only they know
the reasons why
our young children
are afraid to try
the instructions to fly
They don’t give a damn
Older and elderly
the world on my shoulders
Lawyers disgust me
begging me to trust them
they’re the cause
of this disease
from this sickness
Open your eyes
They don’t give a damn
just another paycheck
they put us to rest
at the bright side
the mom, Chevy
and apple pie side
The turn the other cheek
and docile side
the real side
the rise up out of oppression
with pride side
The I will never give up
and keep fighting side
July 20, 2015
When the subject of systemic racism is mentioned, some of my well intentioned Caucasian friends would rather we not have that conversation. Analysis of this established societal pattern apparently gives way to pause, creating feelings of discomfort. Unfortunately, when the truth brings feelings of discomfort, I say “be uncomfortable.” Systemic racism saturates our lives daily.
The Black community continues to repair itself from the cultural, psychological and economic effects of slavery and Jim Crow. Today we have overseer brutality, and mass incarceration, embodied in systemic racism. Change your ways when bitter truth makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t ask truth to tell you a sweeter story. Every system within our society has been infected with racism. With this racism, have come crimes against humanity. These crimes must never be forgotten. The wounds are still open to infection. They have not been allowed to fully heal. When the day arrives and BLACKLIVESMATTER, all lives will truly matter. Selective amnesia is not the cure.
This country was founded, with overseers exterminating innocent Black and Brown lives; all with impunity. They were far too quiet and comfortable, when unarmed Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till were assassinated by systemic racism. Quieter still, the powers that be, sat motionless, when systemic racism recently stole the lives of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott and Andy Lopez. Some have the audacity to suggest that assassinations, such as those of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Andy Lopez are largely exaggerated. In the United States of America, a human life is exterminated by overseers, every 8 hours, yet silence is the action that is taken.
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Counciler or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order”, than to justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
– – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
April 16, 1963
Black and Brown citizens are disproportionately fed into the ‘Prison Industrial Complex, as the populace remains mute. To close our eyes to systemic racism, as some do, would be lacking in empathy and in wisdom. Discourse leads to solutions. Silence leads to perpetuation. This malignant cancer, complicit with an abrupt silence, is decimating humanity! There cannot be a cure, without acknowledgment of the truth. In order to correct this White Supremacist mindset, which has attained a position of comfort, we must analyze this historic problem. At what point does global systemic genocide take precedence over the oppressors’ need for comfort?
Those who fail to resist the clouded glare of White privilege have erroneously identified with our oppressors. Some have even become apologist for police terrorism. Their uncomfortable feeling is referred to as cognitive dissonance. This means that they are conscious of the atrocities of systemic racism, but choose to ignore them. Regrettably, they imagine themselves to be color-blind. They do not understand, nor do they suffer from the systemic racism that destroys lives daily. On the contrary, they unknowingly benefit from it, in large proportion. Aware of this oppression, they ask that we stop speaking ill of our oppressors. They are not necessarily the enemy. We consider many to be friends. Therefore, it is imperative that we enlighten, instruct, and hopefully reach their hearts and minds. Directing their paths into the higher self of human evolution is imperative, if we are to see honest unity.
As we ‘Know Thyself’, we must understand our common enemy. White Supremacy is much more than a single person. It is a system that has been ingrained into every single aspect of society. It is the evil psyche and the destructive root from which ‘Manifest Destiny,’ colonialism, and systemic racism has evolved. Misguided Black and Brown people have refused to stand up to this permeating force that dominates society. Traveling the cowardly course of least resistance, they are susceptible to self-hate and to the divide and conquer tactics, employed by our oppressors. This combination of variables has the potential to lead to a fratricide, capable of weakening any chance of forward momentum. We must acknowledge these challenges, as we move forward.
Systemic racism is a global issue that must be conquered. As oppressed people of the earth, we must connect the dots, in order to bind and strengthen our forward journey. We make up the majority of the population, worldwide. In this 21st century, there is a desperate need for major, revolutionary change. The battle is ongoing, and may take many generations to fulfill, but we must begin with steps; steps that will lead to humanity.
Revolution: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system. Revolution: a great, far-reaching change. While the chosen method remains undetermined, a definite choice must be made. Without action, there can be no change. We are positioned, standing in the ‘belly of the beast’, and speaking truth to imperialism. These words are written with love for the people, and love for the struggle. Our oppressors’ will have no peace, until our people are free. In 2015, we must think global, while taking revolutionary steps. One Love.
/ / / / / / /
Donald Ray Young is an innocent man, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to San Quentin’s death row, in 2006. Mr. Young is a certified paralegal, with an Associates of Arts degree in Sociology. He is pursuing additional education, including a law degree, which will assist him in seeking exoneration. His memoir will be published this year.
DONALD RAY YOUNG
E – 78474 (5 – EB – 106)
CSP San Quentin
San Quentin, CA 94974
May 15, 2015
By Donald Ray Young
Allow me to introduce you to the Tulare County District Attorney’s star witness against me–at trial– the male who played a central role in my housing arrangement on California’s death row at San Quentin State Prison. A 320-pound, 6’1″ Caucasian male, with thin, balding, dirty-blond hair and blue eyes, Anthony Lee Wolfe is just one of his names. False testimony in a capital case comes easily to this well-known pedophile and psychopath.
Let’s consider the character and behavior of the source: Lewd and lascivious acts on a child, or felony child molestation pursuant to California Penal Code section 388(a), would be an appropriate place to start. The trial judge, Ronn M. Couillard, stated that it would be prejudicial for the jury to know that the prosecution’s star witness, Anthony Lee Wolfe, repeatedly raped and molested Brandy Wright, his seven-year old sister. I knew that it would…
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May 15, 2015
Soaring through the light blue and white sky. I don’t know what bird of prey this is, maybe a hawk? She looks like an oversized crow with the majestic flight of the eagle. This rapture is strong and confident as she flies over San Quentin State Prison. If I could fly I’d pass right over the prison too– without a pause. This bird has captured the wind and made a vehicle of it. Where is this bird going? Where did she come from? How far has she traveled today? The wing span must be more than four feet. This view would make a wonderful picture or reference photo for a painting. I would love to paint this bird in its glorious glide. This is freedom. This bird knows true freedom, something that has eluded me for the past 17 years and then four years before that. If I could change…
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