Arnulfo Garcia, former editor in chief of the newspaper at California’s San Quentin State Prison, has died in a traffic accident at 65, the Los Angeles Times reports. Garcia entered prison as a heroin addict and “transformed himself over more than 16 years into a beloved leader and living, breathing symbol of hope and redemption,” the Times says. At the prison, they called him jefe because he ran the San Quentin News.
Garcia was a three-striker whose sentence was cut for good behavior from 65 years to 16. He used to tell men serving decades for robberies, assaults and murders to focus not on getting out of the infamous penitentiary but on becoming better men — men who moved forward and thought big. They had faith in his goals, no matter how grandiose — to reform the criminal justice system, to end gang violence, to turn a fledgling newspaper into an award-winning publication. In an old laundry room turned newsroom, Garcia led a mix of men whose sole focus was telling stories and putting out the paper. Richard Richardson, serving time for home robbery, took over as editor after Garcia was released in July. The two were best friends, he said. “He taught me how to be a man, how to be a father, to be responsible and accountable for my actions.”