If you have ever harbored interest in learning about prison life, here is your chance to do so through the online and on-air creative workings of an inmate doing 25 to life for conspiracy to commit murder.
Prisoner David, a 37-year-old former inmate at the California Mens Colony, describes himself as a comedy sketch writer. He has already served around 14 years of his sentence, according to a letter he wrote to the Mustang Daily. At the time of his arrest, he was host and producer of a weekly cable television and radio show, “Hollywood Haze,” and had attended Long Beach State as a marketing and broadcasting major for three years.
He is now incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, Calif. While he maintains his innocence and attempts to prove it through research he conducts at the prison library, he has learned to channel his frustration with the prison and legal systems through online postings, including articles, drawings and radio segments.
His Web site, prisonerdavid.com, is his way of showing every aspect of prison life, from the humor of pranks to the horror of prison violence. He promotes himself as the cartoon character “Prisoner David” in order to spread his message most effectively.
“Prisoners are human beings,” Prisoner David said. “A lot of prisoners don’t belong here and have received draconian sentences. I figured by creating ‘Prisoner David,’ a cartoon character, the message could be spread to the masses, whereas by putting a face behind the character, people would judge the prisoner because of his skin color, race or looks.”
He was inspired to create prisonerdavid.com after seeing the success of inmate.com, the inmate matchmaking Web site he co-founded in 1996 that still gets a million hits a month.
“I have seen hundreds of prisoners form relationships with women. . The site has given many prisoners hope,” he said. “Every prisoner loves to get mail from the outside, and meeting someone new is always fresh and exciting.”
The main page of prisonerdavid.com includes an introduction to the site and provides easy access and links to the latest radio segment, video, articles, news feeds and featured inmates.
The Characters section of the Web site includes biographies of “prisoner personalities” and a prison terms glossary, complete with personal information and images. Visitors can insert captions for hand-drawn cartoons, including some featuring “Dr. Sanchez” and “Officer Jackson.”
The Web site even features profiles and works of other inmates, including Robert, an eight-year prisoner who taught himself to play the fiddle during his incarceration, and Joseph Mitchell, who creates designs for Outrider Jewelry from behind bars.
Prisoner David’s profile page includes a link to his MySpace page and a form for visitors to submit guestbook comments, many of which include requests for David to tell an inmate “Hi” or “We’re thinking of you.”
Prisoner David has been featured in segments on “The Adam Carolla Show,” a weekday morning radio program hosted by the co-creator and co-star of TV’s “The Man Show” and syndicated throughout the West Coast.
A close friend, who wished to remain anonymous, said he helped Prisoner David acquire a segment on the show by writing a letter for him to the show in 2006, along with a demo tape made in prison.
“I didn’t think they’d have him as a character on the show,” the friend said. “It’s amazing that they would feature a prisoner.”
Recordings of these segments can be found on the Web site, along with audio commentaries Prisoner David created concerning issues facing California prison inmates. According to the Official Adam Carolla Show Blog, Prisoner David may be scheduled for recordings but is unable to come in due to lock-downs at the CTF.
The Articles page has links to a number of writings that are more like anecdotes or diary entries. Each work is titled, dated and separated in parts. “Suicidal Tendencies” chronicles the process behind a fellow inmate’s suicide, while “Sleepless in Soledad” detailed Prisoner Dave’s intense interests in female radio personalities, including “Alison” of Cal Poly’s own KCPR.
Prisoner David has had plenty of writing experience himself. He has written monthly short stories for the past two years for the Rogue Voice, a literary journal based in Cayucos. His column “Life in the Cage” includes stories “about the comedy of doing time,” he said. In October 2006, a feature titled “Inside for Life” was included in the Rogue Voice about Prisoner David, detailing his imprisonment and his life before incarceration. The publication called him “a rising star in the radio world until he was sent to prison for conspiracy to commit murder.”
His journalism experience began in 2000, when Cal Poly professor Kevin Sites gave him the opportunity to write for the New Times with his series “Prison Diaries.”
Interestingly enough, Prisoner David is not allowed Internet access. Jesse McGowan, a lawyer and former Cal Poly student, assists in maintaining and running prisonerdavid.com for him.
McGowan has known Prisoner David since McGowan was a student at Cal Poly, and said he is “impressed by how persistent he is.”
“A lot of people in his shoes would find some ways to forget about it and watch TV with their time,” he said. “All of the things he’s involved in are positive.”
Needless to say, prisonerdavid.com whips up the controversy of sympathizing with a criminal. Various online forums, including “Opinions on Prisoner David” at Forumer.com, include posts decrying his online and on-air presences; audience members are shocked and outraged that an “evil” convict is given frequent chances to express his opinions. Some think it’s the mystery of prison life that makes him, along with television shows like “Prison Break” and “Locked Up,” popular. Even Paris Hilton has sent replies to his Web site.
However, some appreciate the glances into life behind bars, a place where injustice has been proven to occur on certain occasions. On the main page, Prisoner David has posted a sort of exposé on the water within the prison that sometimes requires checks by the Health Department.
Despite what visitors may believe, much of the content is compelling and believable, and probably includes information with which most of us are unfamiliar.
“The audience (of his Web site and radio segments) wants to be entertained, and he’s good at that,” McGowan said. “He’s a natural.”
McGowan recognizes that Prisoner David writes and records radio segments as “an outlet, a way to be creative” since he’s been incarcerated.
“The funny thing about him is that he’s still stuck in the ’90s,” McGowan said. “He still talks about rave bands and other things because that’s what was around when he was free. . It’s funny but sad at the same time.”
In the meantime, while his appeal rests at the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, Prisoner David wishes to evade the spotlight until he is granted a new trial.
“I don’t want to become a celebrity while I am in prison,” he said. “The radio show has the opportunity for that kind of exposure, but I don’t want it at this time.”