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Oakland Man Determined To Find A Way Home After 21 Years In San Quentin

Publication Date: 
January 02, 2011
The Peninsula Press
Lauren Wilson

Professor Joan Petersilia is quoted by Lauren Wilson in the Penninsula Press on the subject of inmates, sentenced to life, who get released from prison.

On April 8, 2009, Harrison Seuga stepped outside of San Quentin State Prison’s black metal gates for the first time in 21 years. He was wearier and more wrinkled than the rebellious teen who threw his future off-course all those years ago.

Two decades is a long time to dwell on the past, enough to cripple your sanity if your life is peppered with as many what-ifs as Seuga’s. What if he’d never left Hawaii at age 13 with his father? What if they’d moved anywhere but LA? What if he’d stayed home at the projects that cold January night, instead of running out with gang member friends when he heard another friend was in trouble? And perhaps most importantly, what if he’d shot the Uzi into the air?


“Very few lifers get out of California prisons,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford law professor and expert on prisoner reentry into society. “Only 100 people sentenced to life get out each year, so it’s a very, very small sample. And they usually do quite well because they’re usually quite older and have sort of aged out of crime.”


“Lifers haven’t traditionally been much of the reentry movement,” said Petersilia. “They’re likely to be older. Their family connections are likely to have been severed. Their work skills will be out-of-date and their institutionalization and imprisonment will have been much lengthier.”