San Quentin To Saved: Chris Schuhmacher’s Last Mile To Redemption

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“I knew I had to take ownership of what I did and regardless of the circumstances, I was going to try and become somebody different.”

Chris Schuhmacher


This is a story of mistakes made. Of penance served. And the hard wrought path to atonement, self-forgiveness, and ultimately redemption.

It begins with a young, standout volleyball player. A smart guy who later joins the Air Force, spending nearly two years at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA studying Korean.

His career looked bright. But it wasn’t long before Chris Schuhmacher started making some bad decisions. A laundry list of errant decisions, in fact, that deposited him into a dark, hard partying crowd in Hollywood. Decisions that led to dealing weed to support that lifestyle. And decisions that ultimately culminated in a suitcase of drugs under his dispatch being stolen from him.

In a drug and alcohol fueled rage, desperate and fearing the consequences should he be unable to retrieve the contraband, Chris took another manʼs life. And for that offense he was sentenced to sixteen to life.

Well aware that he might never see another day outside San Quentin, inmate number T31014 nonetheless committed to taking responsibility for his actions. Searching for spiritual purpose and meaning, he got sober — and stayed that way. He made amends for his crime, began running and earned a college degree. He even studied software engineering, developing a promising app called Fitness Monkey under the tutelage of The Last Mile, a non-profit program that trains incarcerated individuals for successful reentry,

All told, Chris transformed himself into the kind of person he always knew he could be.

Then came the impossible. In 2017, after serving 17 years, a parole board granted him his freedom. 

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Re-entry hasn’t be easy for Chris. But he has emerged from the experience a better man. Now a productive member of society reunited with his family and gainfully employed, he is intent on sharing his cautionary tale in service of others.

I had the privilege of hearing Chris speak at The Nantucket Project last year. In a time where prisons and prisoners are mostly forgotten, I was deeply moved by his story of change, rehabilitation and improvement from the lowest points. And I was compelled to use this platform to better understand both his humanity and the current state of our prison industrial complex.

There is no “un-doing” what Chris did. There can be no sufficient apology for taking a life. And yet there are lessons to be gleaned –both profound and instructive — from his deep dive into self-examination. The support he leveraged to reinvent himself wholesale. And the innovations afoot that can better rehabilitate the current and future incarcerated among us.

Indeed, this is a story of drugs, alcohol, addiction, betrayal, anger, and tragically, murder. It’s about what currently ails our prison industrial complex. And it’s about how society can do better.

But at its core, this conversation is about atonement. It’s about second chances. And it’s about empathy.

With that, I urge that you entertain Chris’ testimony with an open mind and even more open heart.

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

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Thanks to Moby for this week’s interstitial track: “xxxx“, Jason Camiolo for audio engineering, production and show notes. Video, editing by Blake Curtis and Margo Lubin. Graphics by Jessica Miranda.Theme music by Ana Leimma.

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