Need for lifelong self-development

From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters

I am California state prisoner Jesse Perez. I write to forward a financial contribution to your organization, and share a bit of background.

Last November, an epic decade-long and multi-suit litigation effort—specifically challenging my 10-year placement and retention in solitary confinement—culminated in a Federal jury trial in San Francisco. (See “Prisoner beats legal odds to win guard retaliation suit,” January-February 2016 News & Letters.)

The jury found the defendants, all guards employed by California’s correctional agency, guilty of unconstitutional retaliation aimed at keeping me in solitary confinement indefinitely. The Jury verdict included a modest damage award.

Protest against solitary confinement in California prisons

Protest against solitary confinement in California prisons. Photo: Gabriel J. Sanchez

“…Not any concern (about) the mis-impression…that Mr. Perez is a saint or something like that…” was the court’s partial attempt to focus the attorney’s tactical debate on whether to inform the jury about the omission of my past acts. Considering the case, the court’s remark was as denotative as any—but it stood with me.

Dressed in my trial suit while shackled with waist and ankle chains, I sat alone in a cold cell awaiting a verdict. In that moment, the court’s comment about me and my past reverberated in my mind—and still does. I can remember thinking, as I do now, that I am indeed a flawed person.

I also believe, however, that individual flaws do not define who we are as persons. And that the project of developing ourselves is lifelong. We have but one life to make it count for something, and that something I choose is balance.

I’d like to be able to look back and know with certainty that I also contributed positively to the lives of others. And so my aim is clear.

Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices on behalf of others. Please accept this minor contribution in the service of the same.

Pleasant days, health and expansion to the spirit.

—Jesse Perez

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