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Beneath The Surface of Baby Red

by Michael D. Johnson

My name is Michael Dwayne Johnson and I am a thirty-six year old man incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations. My convictions are first degree murder and second degree robbery and my crime is gang-related. I’ve been in prison since I was sixteen years old and I have served a total of twenty years and five months.  That’s approximately seven thousand four hundred fifty days of hell and a whole lot of thinking, crying and begging God for mercy. However, this whole experience has taught me a few things;

1) The gang lifestyle isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

2) No one deserves to be subjected to the abnormal behavior of gang members and no one deserves to lose his/her life nor property by the negative actions of gang members.

3) The gang wasn’t worth one bit of my time nor was it worth my devotion. read more

Welcome to 2015! Volume 20.01/02

Our first issue of the new year.

Please contact Lisa Lavaysse if you would like to purchase the full PDF or a printed copy of this latest issue.

Counselor’s Corner

Wake Up

by Ms. M.
Wake up and listen to me.
Stop following dead end streets.
So dark light can’t be seen so cold tears sliding down your cheeks freeze. The blind leading the blind
Going nowhere fast
Bumping into brick walls and stepping on shattered glass.
Wake up and listen to me.
Stop following dead end streets,
Selling death to your people in sheep’s clothing
With crooked smiles and sharp teeth.
Tearing down your brother with words.
Hating traveling faster than the speed of sound,

Consuming your thoughts and blackening your heart. Don’t you want to make it?
Don’t you want to be free?
Free to soar high so high you can see the mountain peaks. Where the sun shines bright and the stars twinkle at night. Where there is no end and no beginning in sight. Wake up and listen to me.
Stop following dead end streets.
Where death consumes anyone it meets.
I urge you to live in the love and life of Christ.
You will make it through.
Start showing compassion
and live with a purpose and keep pressing through.
At the end of the day, it’s a choice you will have to make. I’m living my life now it’s time to live yours.
If you traveling towards a dead end street
You might want to consider making a U-turn. read more

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Hello all,

We are honored that our friends over at The Crime Report have posted and have featured a wonderful and an important read from our publication.  What a wonderful way to end the year with this must read…  On behalf of The Beat Within we thank you for your support and friendship.

Read and share…

Happy New Years! See you in 2015!

Volume 19.49/50 – 2014 year end issue!

From that one little night,
Lives were changed.
Decisions were made,
And there was no going back.
Thought people could be loyal,
Held them at standards far too royal.
Then the whole things started to foil.
Got into a position you’d never be.
Thought, “No way can’t happen to me!”
But you couldn’t have been more wrong,
This isn’t a movie or song.
Things aren’t so simple.
So now you’re stuck with what you have.
Your situation is real bad,
But it could be worse.
What made you make the decisions you did?

-Conner, San Francisco

Please contact Lisa Lavaysse if you would like to purchase the full PDF or a printed copy of this latest issue.

The San Quentin News

Hello all,

We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Kid CAT – the juvenile lifers housed at SQSP.  We had our initial workshop back in October and just recently our workshop was featured in the San Quentin News. Take a look at the link or the attachments. We are thrilled to include these important voices in The Beat Within. We will resume workshops in early 2015.


The Beat inside The Crime Report

Here’s a fantastic piece that came out of our weekly writing and conversation workshops. To our surprise the piece was picked up by The Crime Report, based in NYC.

Source: The Crime Report

The Signs

By Miguel Quezada

Seventeen years ago, at the age of sixteen, I sat in a juvenile hall holding cell waiting to be booked in on first-degree murder charges, three attempted murders, a gun charge and gang enhancement.

In writing this, I had to think about how I ended up in that holding cell.  What advice could I give that would help you avoid some of the mistakes I made? How could I put into words the destruction I caused in so little time to myself and so many other people in a way that could be lesson?

I asked myself, what went wrong?  What did I miss?  Why did no one stop me?  What I realized is the people did try to stop me.  Things did happen that were the lessons I needed to put my life back on track to avoid that holding cell.  There was plenty of advice but I did not care to hear or see them for what they were.  They were signs telling me to slow down, to stop, that I was moving too fast.  So I will sum up my life lesson, using the signs I missed along the road. read more

Volume 19.47/48

I woke up this mornin’

To their wake up calls Of this depressin’ Juvenile Hall.

I get up and get dressed

And wash my face

What I wouldn’t give

-Pencyke, Alameda
Please contact Lisa Lavaysse if you would like to purchase the full PDF or a printed copy of this latest issue.

The Beat Within Fundraiser

Update: We Did It! Our Booster campaign has closed.Thank you all!

You’re in luck! In honor of the holiday season, The Beat Within has launched its SECOND t-shirt fundraiser! Our first fundraiser was an incredible success thanks to the loyalty of our supporters. Due to a high demand for t-shirts after the fundraiser’s closing date, The Beat has decided to re-launch! Donations will go directly towards the printing and distributing of our publication (which comes out twice a month). By donating, you will help insure that each young person who participates in our weekly writing workshop receives our 60 page publication. Help these youth and spread the holiday love by getting yourself and your loved ones a t-shirt for the holidays. Buy one here.