My name is Daniel Wozniak and if you’re reading this blog, then you obviously know a great deal about me already.
However, it’s been brought to my attention that there are still some curious minds out there inquiring about my day to day life behind bars since being sentenced six months ago.
I understand that for the majority of readers out there, many of you think me to be a heartless, uncaring sociopathic monster who have reserved feelings for not giving a damn about anything concerning my life (other than how soon you wish for it to end). I’m not trying to, nor do I feel I can, take away the pain and hurt I’ve caused you to feel and all I can offer to you is a sincere apology for my actions. I know it will not do much (if anything) to ease the hatred you have for me, but it truly is all I can do at this stage.
The truth is there are no words I can say, or actions that I can perform that will change how you feel, and I’m not trying to rob you of those feelings because I know you need them to help you cope and deal with the pain you’re experiencing.
This letter is not my way of trying to justify my past because nothing on Earth can erase what’s been done. This is merely a response to certain individuals who for some reason or another are curious about life in prison in general. With the overflow of inquiries my friend (the author of this blog) is receiving, I thought writing this might be a way to help answer those questions being regularly asked.
I’ve been given the death penalty and not a day goes by that I don’t feel all the painful thoughts and angry wishes directed my way by so many people. I know in what some of you would consider to be a perfect world, I would have already been put to death, but sadly that’s not the reality of the present.
So what options do I have? I could sit around all day in a small cage doing absolutely nothing but watching the clock hands tick on by… OR… I could actually try to do something with the time I do have left to make SOME form of a positive difference around me.
The majority of my day is spent in the confines of a cell measuring roughly 11′ x 4.5‘ (about 50 sq. feet). I live somewhat akin to a new-age monk. My cell consists of a bed, a toilet, a sink and 2 storage shelves – nothing else. The walls are bare and painted taupe in color; and my cell front consists of an open, metal bar door through which to enter and exit (as well as listen to about 500 other inmates housed around me in this section of Death Row).
My only means of seeing anything in the outside world is by the use of a TV or radio. I also get access to the telephone a couple times during the week to which I’ll get timed fifteen minute calls. I’ll mostly reach out to my blog-writer friend who will keep me posted on current events, and will also touch base with family, other friends and lawyers.
My day starts each morning at around 5 AM, when I wake up and do my daily prayer/study and meditation that I’ve done since being at County. Breakfast arrives between 6-7 AM to our cells on trays (none of us walk to a typical “chow-hall”). The trays are then collected about thirty minutes later and then program within the facility begins.
Depending on the day of the week I’m either going to yard or going to class. San Quentin has seven recreational yards for this section of Death Row. I’m placed on Yard #6 (which has roughly 50 – 100 other inmates classified to be out there with me). All the yards have concrete floor (no grass) and are separated from one another by a gap and chain-link fence. Each yard has a couple stainless-steel-top tables with attached seats, a basketball hoop, a set of dip bars, push up bars and pull up bars (and surprisingly a punching bag).
The yard here is not like most other prisons which are generally racially segregated and for the most part everyone integrates quite well with one another. (We haven’t had a violent incident on our yard for the last 8 years now). Some inmates will play dominos, others will play cards or chess, others will work out and/or lead routines and some guys will just walk laps talking with another inmate as they walk.
Then you have individuals who are more cerebral and will have / lead discussions ranging from topics of law, politics, theology, random jeopardy trivia, etc. I usually tend to try my hand at a little bit of everything, as do most of the other inmates on the yard (not many stick to doing just one thing). I think because all of us are in the same boat of being under a death sentence, there’s not as much friction or problems experienced elsewhere. (Surprisingly San Quentin statistically has one of the lowest rates of violent activity on the yards in comparison to other California prisons.)
On other days, I attend classes ranging in subject matter. There are several programs made available, but I personally try to focus my field of study to those educational and therapeutic in nature. (Critical Thinking, Nutrition and Meditation, Yoga, etc.). It’s helped me find whatever meaning still remains in this life and with the knowledge under my belt I feel I can pass it on to others. That’s what a great deal of my time is centered on: helping others find meaning and purpose in their own lives.
I know some of you categorize “criminals” as outcasts who don’t deserve another chance at life, but that’s where some others vary in their opinions (including myself). In the many years of my incarceration, I’ve encountered individuals who have given up on themselves to the point of not even wanting to continue living. I guess a part of me feels that if I can help them find that “meaning” that is seriously lacking in their lives, that I can justify my continued existence on this planet while awaiting my execution.
I’m also still very much active in staying up on the ongoing judicial issues. I subscribe to several publications (Prison Legal News, Prison Focus, etc.) and have submitted a couple articles for their consideration. It’s a battle I feel that’s very much worth fighting for. I’m an avid believer of Crime and Punishment as long as it’s legal, but so many issues continue to present themselves with the same win-at-all-costs mentality that continues to plague the justice system. There’s a reason why 70% of death penalty cases have been overturned and / or modified, and why only thirteen people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in California! (And sadly, the public isn’t told the REAL reasons as to why.)
Again, I want to voice this is not ME saying I shouldn’t be here – but there are (and have been) so many people given this sentence who truthfully do not deserve it legally. Not to mention the countless others who have already died unjustly here of natural causes; people who technically should never have been here in the first place.
Those who ‘legally’ shouldn’t be here aren’t being punished by death… they’re being murdered! (Think about it!)
Spirituality also plays a crucial role in my life, as well as in the lives of other inmates at San Quentin. The prison offers several religious services (Catholic, Protestant, Judaism, Islam, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon Latter-Day Saints and Native American Indian Tribal Councils). Due to the large number of inmates and a limited number of seats in the chapel area, sometimes you only get called out for service once a month. The television, however, provides an excellent array of broadcast services that you can tune into everyday, which is very nice.
I’m currently also enrolled in a couple of Bible Colleges that I do via correspondence through the mail in addition to keeping in contact with various chaplains I’ve met over the years and still keep in touch with. The yard also provides an excellent means in which to learn, minister, teach and study with so many interested individuals from so many different backgrounds. Everyone comes together and shares their faith and testimonies of how their “path” has brought them some form of inner peace and it reassures fellow believers that faith is a powerful tool which can save and improve so many lives in various ways.
I never thought I’d ever see the day where so many people from different religions and cultures aren’t as hostile and dominant in defending their religion, but rather share, add to and grow the unity of everyone around. There’s so much to learn!
The final thing to mention is handcuffs. Every time you leave your cell for ANY kind of movement, you are placed in handcuffs. You are then either escorted to wherever your destination is with a Correctional Officer escorting you the whole way or you walk alone to said destination, cuffed with your hands behind you back. You’re even handcuffed when going to the shower. It’s a shared community shower stall (that’s twice the size of your cell) and you get showers every other day. However, most everyone here has ways to shower creatively in their cells so we can shower every day, anytime we want.
After showers, the final action of the day before final lockdown is mail pickup and drop-off. This occurs at around 6:30 – 7:00 PM, Monday – Friday. The C.O. will hand us the mail we receive, then pick up our outgoing mail. Next he will apply a secondary lock on the cell door for added security each evening. (This is called “dropping the bar”). From 8:OO PM – 7:00 AM, everyone is locked inside and there is no movement ANYWHERE within the building and it’s “lights out.” Then the cycle repeats each and every day, very much like the film, Groundhog Day.
I hope this helps answer the questions some of you have been asking and that you all have a closer look into the prison that has now become my life. I wish you all well and hope this ‘view into prison’ helps answer your inquiries. Have a nice day.