By Boston Woodard
My being released from prison story is complicated; I don’t even know where to begin. I was supposed to have been released March 20, 2017. On that date, I was picked up by two federal marshalls and turtled across the United States on a six-week prisoner transportation nightmare. I was wanted in Massachusetts for a 45-year-old probation violation they say I committed when I was a teenager—I’m now 65. (See “Immigrant Detainees: What Happens After Arrest” in the June 15, 2018, Community Alliance.)
On Nov. 5, 2018, I was released from custody in Massachusetts and returned to California Nov. 8 to finish the remainder of my parole—about 14 months. The state of California threatened to send me back to prison if I did not report to the parole office in San Jose on Nov. 8 two and a half days after I was released. My older brother secured a plane ticket from Boston to San Francisco for me. It was California’s responsibility to provide funds for my return; it did not.
Upon my return to California, after spending nearly four decades in prison, I received little help from the state of California regarding my transition back into society. I reported to the parole office and was then driven to an area where several hotels were.
I was dropped off on “The Alameda” (a boulevard-type street in San Jose) with everything I owned stuffed in a backpack and a duffle bag. I was told I could “probably find a place to stay” there. The law dictates prisoners released from prison are to return to the county of their commitment where resources are supposed to be available as part of the transition. Because I had nowhere to live in San Jose, no funds, no friends or relatives in Santa Clara County, I was effectively homeless.
With help from my sister in Massachusetts, my brother in Texas, my friends in other parts of the California—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pleasanton, Oakland, Fresno—and as far away as San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato Mexico, it was possible for me to stay at several hotels, an expensive but safe alternative to living on the streets. My friends Marvin and his wife Debra from San Francisco orchestrated a plan to keep me off the streets by reserving hotel rooms for me at a couple locations and at least four BnBs (bed and breakfast) throughout Santa Clara County. Packing and unpacking my several bags of belongings became a weekly routine for nearly two months.
After several weeks of jumping from one temporary place to another, and with the help of Erika, a rehabilitative counselor with the County of Santa Clara’s Office of Supportive Housing, I was able to move into an SLE (sober living environment) home. Several other men live at the house who are in various stages of drug or alcohol recovery. Because I do not use drugs or alcohol, I was actually grateful to get a jump-start into freedom being around clean and sober people. There’s a lot more to this story but because I’m still on parole—do the math.
The only writing I’ve been able to do since my freedom has been on a book project I began a couple years ago while I was in prison. I managed to write a few articles for the Community Alliance in 2018, not nearly as many as I would have liked to. But with the out-of-state extradition and dealing with lawyers and courts for more than a year and a half, I’m finally, sort of, settled into a permanent address. Now that I have a place to stay in San Jose and a laptop, I hope to begin sending articles to the Community Alliance on a regular basis. I truly missed writing for the paper.
My first article to the Community Alliance was in April 2005 about the death penalty and pending execution of death row prisoner Stanley “Tookie” Williams, co-founder of the Los Angeles–based street gang, the “CRIPS” (Community Revolution in Progress). Ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to show his strength to his conservative party and he was quick to order the execution of Williams, even after he became an author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Williams’ books helped hundreds of inner-city kids.
Former Community Alliance editor and co-founder Mike Rhodes published my article, one of several I’ve written about the death penalty over the past 14 years for the Community Alliance. My book, Inside the Broken California Prison System (www.brokencaliforniaprison.com/), is a compilation of my articles printed in the Community Alliance during my first 10 years contributing to the paper.
I plan on coming to Fresno on Feb. 23 for a visit. Details about this event are in a box on this page. I am so looking forward to meeting not only the Community Alliance staff and board members but also some of the Community Alliance readers. Over the past 14 years, I’ve learned a lot about Fresno from the pages of the Community Alliance. I can’t wait to meet you guys, can’t wait to see Fresno.
Boston Woodard is a freelance journalist and author of Inside the Broken California Prison System. He is currently working on his second book and will continue to contribute articles to the Community Alliance. Boston was released from prison on Nov. 5, 2018, after serving 38 years behind bars. Contact Boston at email@example.com.