Introducing Ernesto: A Christian Perspective

AshlyErnesto "Christian teacher"

Ernesto is a prisoner in Pelican Bay prison in California, where he took part in a long hunger strike to protest prison conditions. He was in isolation for over a year. He committed his offense when he was in his early 20s. A California law passed in 2015 allows for an early parole hearing for model prisoners with long sentences given when they were young. Because of this new law and Ernesto being a model prisoner, his sentence is likely to be reduced by 17 years with release coming in the next year or two.  The reason for the Ernesto blog is that he started his own ‘pay it forward’ project that I then described to my prisoner friends in Arkansas. I asked them to comment on its relevance to our mindfulness and kindness project.

[Ernesto wrote:] Doug, you successfully raised two girls and now they are contributing towards society in an extremely positive way. I, on the other hand, did not successfully raise my two daughters. I failed miserably and I have a chip on my shoulder, a piercing wound in my heart that hurts in a way that makes it my personal mission, duty, to do what I will do upon my release: Adopt a child. Or, marry a woman with children. Work with at risk children and troubled youth for the remainder of my life. It will be my life’s work, all in an attempt to redeem having failed my daughters.

I found a way to begin my life’s work now. There is one guy in here who I worked on for a while now. So I broke through to him to seek his education. So he is now working on his GED. My next step was to get him to start thinking about his future, to find another way of living that is a positive way in our society. He is going home in less than a year. So I broke through that wall also. He is going to get certified as a licensed plumber when he is released. So I’ve been speaking with him of why I am in college, and my plans to work with troubled youth upon my release. Finally, I asked him if he was willing to find one troubled kid when he is released and do with him what I did with him – push him to seek an education, change his life, and choose a positive path in life – to choose a positive way of living. This trend can continue on when the young man he helps can also find another troubled youth. It is a commitment. Absolutely follow through, no matter how rough it may become. This guy absolutely gave me his word that he will do this task. So now it got me thinking. When I am in general population, how many people can I potentially find that are close to going home? And how many can I influence to start this trend? The implication here can grow into a significant difference in reaching out into our youth, our troubled youth out there in society that have to find direction in life. So you see, Doug, I have found a way to begin my life’s work!


[Ernesto wrote several months later:] Do you remember one of the guys I inspired to seek his education and earn his GED and learn a new, positive, productive way to live upon his release? The one I inspired to adopt a troubled kid upon his release to help that kid transcend his/her bad situation? Well, he is parolling in two months. However, he is a little nervous because he does not have a stable support system of family and friends. So something as simple as his release dress outs is up in the air. So I gave him my shoes, the ones Leah and you bought me in my package, and I told him I would ask you if you could help him out with dress outs to look presentable to be hired at a job as soon as he is released. He has shoes now so all he would need is a pair of pants, a belt, a pair of socks, and a pair of boxers, an undershirt and a long sleeve shirt. He asked him mom Joann a couple of months ago. However, as I said, he does not have a stable support system so his mom is not reliable. Could you help this young man out? His name is Eddie and I will give you his mom’s phone number. There you can speak to her about if she will be able to help Eddie out with his dress outs. And don’t worry about me not having shoes at the moment. It was for a good cause and I should get a new pair with the package form I sent my mom. This act is bigger than me, and what I need. If this guy succeeds, I will be part of helping a troubled kid off the street!” [Doug spoke twice to Eddie’s mother, explaining what clothing Eddie needed and how she could send it. She was very grateful because she did not know that she could send clothes to Eddie while he was in prison.]”

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