He was a drug addict, a burglar and a fugitive, but Arnulfo Garcia is remembered by those who knew him best as a mentor and a teacher.
The San Jose, California native had a troubled early life. He became a heroin addict at an early age and was convicted for robbery after breaking into a home. At one point he fled to Mexico to avoid jail time, and eventually found himself facing 65-to-life because of a "three strikes" law.
During his 16 years in the California prison system, Garcia experienced a dramatic transformation. He sobered up, and started working with the San Quentin News, America's only newspaper written and edited by inmates.
When Garcia started work at the paper it was located in an old mobile classroom, and they made do with almost no supplies. By the time he left jail as the paper's editor in chief this year, the News had dozens of employees and almost 30,000 subscribers in 35 prisons across California.
The News had even launched a new magazine for prisoners called Wall City. Amazingly, Garcia and his team accomplished all this without an internet connection. As one of Garcia's coworkers remembers, "He taught me how to be a man, how to be a father, to be responsible and accountable for my actions."�
And Garcia had even bigger plans for his release from prison...
Because of good behavior, Garcia was set free this July after serving 16 of the 65 years in his sentence.
The 65-year-old planned to continue helping his newsroom by raising money for them, and was building a halfway home to give parolees like himself a jump-start once they left prison. But sadly those dreams were cut short just two months after his parole.
While traveling to the planned site of the halfway house, Garcia and his sister were struck by a driver who passed through a stop sign and both of them were killed in the accident. As their sister Carmelita Vargas says, "Arnulfo had a second chance at life, unfortunately, it got taken too quick."
Arnulfo was remembered at a number of ceremonies across the California prison system, but also by some unlikely friends. Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that Garcia "not only changed his life, but helped other men to change theirs." Rosen met Garcia at educational conferences organized by the inmate.
Garcia's family says they will carry on his legacy by finishing construction on his halfway house and raising money to support the San Quentin News. While it ended too soon, Garcia's inspiration is a reminder to us all that we can always change for the better.
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