It’s not just amazing art that’s being produced on San Quentin’s death row, there is also some insightful, thought-provoking literature and poetry being written as well.
One example can be found at the website Sacred Eye of the Falcon, which features the work of Steve Champion. He’s been on death row since 1981, and since that time, he has immersed himself in studying African history, philosophy, political science, and comparative religion.
In a recent piece, “Death Penalty Makes Redemption Impossible,” which is an excerpt from his memoir, Champion writes, “Executing the condemned is not viewed the same as killing a human — it is chalked up to society’s attempt to rid itself of its toxic waste. . . . Proponents of capital punishment freeze condemned-to-die criminals at the worst moments of their lives; to justify their execution, they must be barred from redemption. But history is full of individuals who have made major mistakes but manage to turn their lives around and make significant contributions to humanity.”
The website (created by UK artist Nicola White) is beautiful, and Champion is a real writer — articulate, clear, and sharp-eyed. It’s remarkable work, even more so because he is entirely self-taught, and grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where he was a member of the notorious Crips gang.
Champion is right that the death penalty makes redemption impossible, but the art he is creating proves just the opposite.