Links from San Quentin’s Death Row

From time to time I will add links to items that I believe will continue to emphasize the humanity and expression of some of the men on Death Row. As a chaplain, it is not my job to judge or even have an opinion about legal matters. My focus is on the incredible strength of spirit that can survive living on The Row, day after day, year after year, decade after decade.


It is my hope that you will find interest in these books, stories, podcasts and art posted here. Please check back on occasion. Thank you for caring!


Recent Podcasts: This is an excerpt of the Dear Governor podcast featuring me talking about starting the Buddhist Sangha on Death Row. The entire podcast is about the struggle of Jarvis Masters in finding his freedom. Every episode is gripping.


Books, Art, Accomplishments, Etc. 

Albert ‘Ru-al’ Jones is one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met. His books give a very clear description of the incredible arc of a spiritual journey, full of challenges few people ever encounter in their magnitude.


David Sheff’s beautiful portrait of Jarvis Jay Masters, Buddhist practitioner and really, the co-founder of the Buddhist Sangha in San Quentin’s Death Row. David is a dear, sweet man, a great writer, and a Bodhisattva of the written word on all counts.

Jarvis Jay Masters: These two books of Jarvis’s are heartbreakingly beautiful-I read these at the beginning of my prison ministry, before I met Jarvis-his writing voice is so akin to talking with him face to face. You won’t be the same after reading them.


This is Jarvis’ website:


 Maurice “Moe” Harris

Moe is a devout Buddhist in the SGI tradition. He tireless fights for the rights of inmates, and has had a lot of success in his legal undertakings. His latest: Fighting to get ‘tablets’ for inmates on several grounds, one being religious-arguing that the tablets allow for greater study of one’s faith tradition due to the minimal allowances of goods inmates can have-and how much space books take up.  As you will see by these articles the use of tablets is advocated by the prisons as well for some well-grounded reasons.
His blog is called Ashoka Speaks:

(San Quentin, California)

Timothy James YoungArticles, Poems and “About” 

I knew Mr. Young from our Death Row Buddhist Sangha too. His presence was striking- regal, accomplished. Check out what the Innocence Project has to say about him too.


Susan Shannon, M. Div, BCC, Buddhist Chaplain

Here are some of my own stories about being on Death Row. 

Death Row Dharma

This is story shows how Eco-Chaplaincy is alive and well on San Quentin’s Death Row-And what friendship can bring even in the darkest places. 

This story shows how dimensional the Dharma can be especially when someone so yearns for inner and outer transformation. Our Death Row Sangha grew in leaps and bounds in this way, from a sangha of 1 to 64. 

Read how one man dedicates his daily activities to all sentient beings-everything from getting dressed, to his workouts. Though he identifies as Christian, he so beautifully expresses the powerful and transformational Buddhist prayers of Dedication. 

Finding one’s own inner truth and wisdom is often a lifetime journey. One this particular night, a group of men talked about what it feels like to glimpse their own Buddhanature.