by Marcus Bedford
On January 17, 2019, I paroled. I would like to say that it was a smooth transition, but it wasn’t. I would like to say I was happy, but I can’t.
I did 8,829 days in prison, and as of April 17, I had 90 days under my belt in the free world. So, it’s not my desire to try and catch up with friends and family members that have never been to prison. However, I am on a mission to catch and surpass that 8,829 days in the free world while being productive and an asset to the community.
When I walked out of the office near the entrance of California Men’s Colony (CMC), I saw my parents waiting in the car. It was a gloomy morning, and the fog delayed court, which in turn delayed my release time. So, I was already filled with anxiety and fear.
As I approached my parents’ car, my father stepped out to greet me, and at that moment, I didn’t feel happiness. I felt love and relief. It’s hard to feel happy when so much is at stake and freedom is not a given commodity.
When you have paid your debt to society, by enduring your time and having a full understanding of how past behavior effects others, the slate should be wiped clean – but in reality, it’s not, and in some instances it never will be.
My first night out was spent at my parents’ house. The strangest thing was, I felt like a stranger in the very house I called home. All those years spent in prison, I could never bring myself to call a “cell” home, because it wasn’t. In my mind, I was just passing through, which is what I would tell myself as a way to keep hope alive and fuel my motivation.
The next day, my parole officer personally escorted me to the transitional housing where I would be staying for the next six months, the Canon Human Services Center. It was a rough few days; it was like I traded one form of incarceration for another.
But as I began to adjust and listen to the message that the program had to offer, I began to see the benefits of living in a transitional housing program after doing over 20 years in prison. The staff would always say, “Use this time to get yourself together, by building a solid foundation on positive behavioral change and sobriety. Set goals and be active towards your steps of recovery.”
One day while reading a prison newsletter, I came across a cartoon comic about some sort of prison life antic, created by an artist who had never been in prison. I could tell by the way it was worded that he got his information from a one-sided news source, and that bothered me.
Feeling the need to do something about it, I began looking at the newspaper comic section daily, and saw nothing positive or informative about the life I was living. But the prison industry is such a big part of the economy in California and across the world – it’s being traded on Wall Street. However, prison has become a joke to the masses and a watered down punchline for comedians.
My artistic career was born from the seed of misrepresentation, bringing life to Cali*Carceration. Seeing Cali*Carceration comics in different publications and art galleries sparked a hunger in me to do more, because I saw how my thoughts and imagination resonated with other people.
What is Cali*Carceration? It is the prison state known as California. “Everybody knows somebody” in prison, parole, probation or on paperwork (immigrants). Don’t be fooled – everyone eventually can be affected by this; one wrong move and it might be you.
In Cali, we are held in bondage to the grind of getting in no matter what. The lifestyle of a Californian is complicated to those on the outside, but it also intrigues and influences the ones who live it. From brothas in the trap house to mothers committing money fraud just to get their children into college – that too is Cali*Carceration!
I took my grind of bringing awareness about prison life from paper to the streets and on t-shirts. Because of the confidence given to me by being in the Canon Human Services Center, I had the opportunity to set goals and actively pursue them without stress or pressure. To be continued!
To order Cali*Carceration t-shirts and comic books, contact me at Marcus.firstname.lastname@example.org. T-shirts are $18.00, plus $4.99 shipping and handling. Comic books are $5.00, plus $1.99 shipping and handling. Mail money order or payment to: M.A. Questini Trust, P.O. Box 10, Artesia, California 90702.