Luis G., also known as Suave, was only 17 when he was charged with first degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole and has been incarcerated for 27 years. In prison he was reckless, angry and frequently cited as a problem by authorities–a charge that landed him in solitary confinement and ultimately forced him to transfer prisons. All of that changed when he met Maria Hinojosa, who unknowingly inspired him to get a proper education, start reading, and focus his life on helping others.
The U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated. Of those who are incarcerated, between 60,000 and 70,000 are juveniles. Suave, as part of a small group of dedicated men all serving life sentences in Graterford state prison in Pennsylvania, is now committed to fighting those numbers. He and his friends have set up initiatives like a fully inmate-funded college scholarship called Education Over Incarceration and a fatherhood workshop called FACT (Fathers and Children Together) that aims to reconnect incarcerated fathers with their children.
Maria Hinojosa and producer Michael Simon Johnson visited Suave at Graterford to find out how he turned his life around, and how he and his fellow lifers have found meaning in the work they do every day.
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Michael Simon Johnson spend most of his childhood making music and groaning when his parents put on NPR in the car. So naturally he graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Sound Design, moved to New York and made his way into public radio. As an engineer, he has worked for Afropop Worldwide, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He commits much of his time to working on radio and multimedia projects but can often be found playing the bass, rock climbing, and traveling.