Upon first hearing about my plans for P.A.T.H.’s Holiday Fundraising Event (which took place on November 16th) and desire to funnel a percentage of the proceeds to help the victims from the recent tragic Sonoma, Napa and Yuba Counties massive fires that decimated thousands of properties and where precious lives were lost…. Mr. Andrew Valencia (an inmate at Avenal, CA State Prison) spearheaded and galvanized no less than 18 other men also incarcerated there to donate their exquisitely handcrafted beaded jewelry and art.  I was blown away by the generosity of heart (and talent) by these artistic men. 

Numerous drawings and a total of 42 pieces of jewelry: individual necklaces, bracelets, earrings (including complete sets), wristbands and dream catchers, etc. came pouring in the mail.  Aside from their donations, the men also shared their personal “Bios”.  While I don’t have room to share all their “Bios”, please take the time to read comments by both Mr. Valencia and Mr. Rey Aguilar in the pictorial slide show attached. While personal background stories differ, reasons to want to give back are mutually expressed. 

P.A.T.H. wishes to thank the following men for their humanitarian service and artistic talent:

Reynaldo Aguilar; Anthony Alejos; Daniel Ascencio; Emilio Brotherton; Steve Cruz; ; Nicholas Garcia; Robert Guzman; Omar Jacuinde; AndresMaciel; Johnny Mason; Galvan Monte; Danny Niaca; Marcos Ramirez; Steven Reed; Carlos Rivas; Edgardo M. Ruiz; Art Sanchez; Ronald Sanchez; Andrew Valencia


Leslie Lakes, Director



P.A.T.H. Holiday Fundraiser THANKS YOU!

So sorry for those who missed this special fundraising event, as you missed a good time and opportunity to win some amazing prizes.

And, for all those who did venture out to attend  P.A.T.H.’s Holiday Fundraising Event, which took place at the Mill Valley Community Center on November 16th, I wish to give a  heartfelt “Thank You”!  In spite of inclement weather, other possibly competing events that same evening, not to mention so many folks who were home sick in bed with the flu… as one guest commented: Your event was absolutely beautiful, perfectly planned and exquisitely executed".

Regardless, those who came out to support the cause enjoyed themselves.  Even Rafael the Raccoon (San Rafael Chamber of Commerce’s adorable plushie mascot) made a special  appearance. Check him out. Ha!  Ha!

A special "THANK YOU" shout out to Midori Roseberry, Odette Boyd, Terry Bremer, Chana Fitton, Steve Cuvin, Keith A. Harward and my husband, Bill Lakes for their assistance and support.  Special thanks to Mill Valley musician,Matt Lacques and vocalist, Kaye Rodden who donated their wonderful brand of live entertainment. 

No less than 30 fabulous gift basket prizes were made available for raffle purposes.  The event also featured a myriad of artwork, as well as an array of beautifully handcrafted/hand-beaded jewelry specifically created and donated by 17 incarcerated artists from the Avenal State Prison in California in their effort to help raise funds for the fire victims. God bless them!

And, last but not least, A HUGE "THANK YOU" to all the local businesses that so graciously and generously donated Gift Certificates and/or products for raffle, food and entertainment for this event: 



Leslie Lakes, Director


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April 7th, 2016 was an historic day and cause for major celebration for my friend and former sailor, Mr. Keith A. Harward.  Because, on that day he was read the writ of actual innocence by the VA. Supreme Court and released from prison to go home the following day! Keith’s freedom was due in large part by the assistance of the team at the INNOCENCE PROJECT and the SKADDEN LAW FIRM in NYC.  They took on his case and won! 

Tragically, he was wrongly imprisoned for 33 years for the 1982 slaying of a Newport News, VA man and the rape of his wife…based on the testimony of bite mark evidence.

On November 4th, I received an email from Keith as he was about to get ready for a fancy dress up dinner party in London, UK!  Keith has been traveling the U.S. and Europe (currently NYC; London and Newcastle, England; Amsterdam and Italy) with the INNOCENCE PROJECT to speak to Criminal Defense Attorneys, and forensic scientists and dentists about the large margin for error in, as well as advocating for abolishing using dental bite marks as evidence and testimony in criminal trials.

What can I say?  Keith has come a long way from his days and years of incarceration and is in for a ride!  God bless Keith, the INNOCENCE PROJECT and SCADDEN Law Firm!

Leslie Lakes, Director


Keith A. Harward in NYC and Ground Zero Memorial

Keith A. Harward Speaking to Dentists re: Bite Mark Evidence

Keith A. Harward in London, UK

Keith A. Harward in Newcastle, UK

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Wishing you a Happy Halloween and Dios de La Muerte.  While the holidays fall around the very same time of year (Dios de la Muerte starts 10/30 through 11/2 and Halloween traditionally falls on 10/31 with Halloween Eve the night before)...the historical and cultural background for these holidays differ.

Dios de la Muerte is a Mexican multi-day holiday which focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

Halloween is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (those “hallowed”), martyrs and the faithful departed. 

The multi-colored handcrafted mini skulls (measuring approx. 3” x 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”) are made by prison artists and are fashioned out a special “clay mix” using bread and other common materials.  Each are unique and hand-painted. While the finished product is durable and strong, they can still break if dropped.  Personally, I just love them!

Hope you enjoy the related artwork


Leslie Lakes, Director

Description of images:
Dios de la Muerte mini skull handcrafted sculptures by Various Inmate ArtistsHappy Halloween/Dios de la Muerte color pen drawing 9x12 by Adam Flores
Dios de la Muerte pastel and ink drawing 9-3/4 x 12 by Uvaldo Nevarez

Day of the Dead color pen drawing 8x10-1/2 by Rogelio Guillen





Black pen drawing by Robert Lopez.jpg

This beautiful portrait (it makes me smile every time I look at it. So joyous; full of life, beauty and nature) was created by artist Robert Lopez who is currently incarcerated at the Calipatria State Prison in California.   

The original drawing measures 9”x12” and was created using black pen on Bristol paper.

The artist specifically requested that the monies raised from the sale of this piece of art go directly to benefit the Betty Jo McNeece Shelter Home in El Centro, California.  And, that’s exactly what it did!  This is just another among many ways that incarcerated artists are giving back to their communities …through their art!

The Betty Jo McNeece Shelter is responsible for a number of Group homes which serve as residential care homes that assist many types of people. This includes those with drug and alcohol problems who need residential assistance. Group homes also assist other abused or neglected youths, developmentally disabled, those with chronic mental issues, youths with criminal histories, etc.


Leslie Lakes, Director



Homage to J. D. Lewis - Cheetah


This beautiful (somewhat haunting)  portrait of a Cheetah was created by incarcerated artist - Jeremy J. Hammill; FL.   Mr. Hammill specifically created it in his own inimitable style (influenced by Salvador Dali’s surrealism)  as a way of paying homage to wildlife artist, J.D. Lewis old creations.  The original drawing is 9”x12” and was created using pen, ink and graphite on Canson paper.

I contacted Mr. J.D. Lewis with whom I shared Jeremy’s drawing.  Writes Mr. Lewis:

“Thanks for reaching out and your wonderful compliments about my portrait of a Cheetah/art/website.  And, of course, I appreciate Jeremy’s choosing my painting as a way to pay homage to my old creations.  Unfortunately, I am no longer producing wildlife art but AFB  (American Foundation for the Blind) has been fabulous in trying to put me and my website on the map.  My most popular print and note card is the ‘BLIND SPOTS’ print! Far outselling my wildlife about 30 to 1.  I never dreamt it would become so popular”.

You see, Mr. Lewis lost nearly 95% of his eyesight and believes that blindness has served as a catalyst for positive change, thus greatly enriching his life.  He admits that adjusting to blindness was not an easy journey, but nowadays, he feels more at peace and much more empowered through acceptance, learning alternative techniques, such as Braille, typing and computer screen reading software.

Thank you Jeremy!  Thank you Mr. Lewis!  God bless you both! 

P.S. To learn a little about these magnificent big cats, click on “Cheetah”

Enjoy and blessings,

Leslie Lakes, Director



AZTLAN REALISM: Art from Pelican Bay S.H.U.

AZTLAN REALISM: Chicano Revolutionary Art From Pelican Bay S.H.U.  by Jose H. Villarreal 

“Aztlan” refers to the homeland of the ancient Aztec civilization and came out of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in a concerted effort to reclaim a spirit of “self” national identity. This same spirit was expressed through the Mexican muralist art movement with such celebrated artists such as Diego RiveraDavid Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

I first “met” Jose H. Villarreal in September 2014 after I had put out a “Call to Incarcerated Artists” for a special themed art exhibit I was planning to organize, curate and install at Alcatraz.  Jose was one of many men incarcerated in S.H.U. at Pelican Bay State Prison who responded.   Just a year prior to Jose contacting me, he had been involved with the the California Prisoner Hunger Strike to bring attention to the torture of, and to abolish long term S.H.U. (Security Housing Unit, which is basically solitary confinement. A small window-less cell with no contact with other human beings with the exception of the guards and prison staff).  Solitary confinement is a form of torture, and has nothing to do with so called “rehabilitation”…let’s make no mistake about it!

Released from prison the beginning of this year, Jose had been imprisoned for 16 years  - 10 of which were in S.H.U. at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA

“My life has been hard, but it was all a priceless education that I used and continue to use as I move forward in helping those just like me. There were times I struggled with many thoughts that came via my torture, even health issues. The thought of having a medical emergency and no one there to help was terrifying, but I knew deeply the causes of my torture. I read of others being tortured, not just in the U.S., but globally so this gave me strength to know I had a lot of company even though I was physically alone”.

“My studies, writing and art gave me a reason to wake up every morning. A reason to exist and to keep struggling mentally against the offense waged against me (both physically and psychologically) because of my beliefs. My studies allowed my mind to keep working and to fight against mental illness, which is precisely what S.H.U. induces”.

Jose’s book is a compilation of 200 drawings as a record of his S.H.,U. experiences:

“I wanted to show that even within a torture center like the S.H.U. that human beings can rise above any man-made abuse or injustice. That the human condition is good even in the presence of malice, or even death. That art surfaces even when dehumanization becomes the norm”.

Hence, I invite you to check out his book of drawings. They are uniquely Jose’s style of what I would call a combination of Chicano, folk and outsider art.  Each drawing has a story and carries a message...of hope, courage, resilience; a strong voice to tear away the veil and expose the truth.

Copies of his book may be purchased

$50 +$4 S&H = $54 to:


P.O. Box 4186

San Jose, CA 95150

Any questions, please feel free to contact me at 


Leslie Lakes, Director





I just returned home from San Quentin State Prison where I visited a super talented, jazz musician friend of mine named Lee.   We first met several years ago while I was volunteering for a business entrepreneurial program called THE LAST MILE in the same prison – a program which Lee had participated in at the time. I do my best to coordinate a visit with Lee at least once every three months and just wanted to share with you my experiences doing so.

While one can schedule an appt via a CDCR online program, I prefer to simply show up as a “walk-in”.  I usually arrive at the prison by 7:30am with my thermos of hot coffee, a book or magazine, my cell phone, car keys and a transparent gallon size plastic freezer bag in which I have my driver’s license, two $10 rolls of quarters for the vending machines; two single dollar bills to purchase a “ducat” which is the currency to purchase a photo once inside the visiting room.  Only the freezer bag contents are allowed inside; all other items are stored in a locker.

Visitors who have made appts up until 10am are allowed to be processed first. The, the “walk-ins like myself form a queue. But until such time, we all either stand or sit on hard wooden benches that line a long cement outdoor building at the East Gate area.   It’s a busy place with much anticipation and eagerness to enter and not be turned away (due to a possible lock-down situation, or for lack of proper ID or improper clothing attire.  Women greet each other and talk excitedly; women with children keep the little ones occupied, and the men who visit smile quietly and listen to the women talk.

The acrylic painting titled “ANTICIPATION”, which was recently on display at Alcatraz under the auspices of the WILLIAM JAMES ASSOCIATION was created by San Quentin inmate artist, Gerald Morgan.  It’s a piece of art that so aptly conveys the emotional experience of the visitation waiting area.

I’m convinced that most people have a misconception of what it’s like to visit inside a prison …at least at San Quentin.  Once inside, I am always struck by a profound sense of joy of family. It’s a happy place for the time of the visit. There is so much genuine caring, love, respect for others, courtesy, laughter, sharing, sense of community , patience, playing of board games (I love Scrabble), holding of hands, stolen kisses, conversations and catching up…all until 2:30pm when visitors are asked to leave and those who are within the CDCR system line up to be processed back into the mainline. The time passes so quickly, too. Until the next visit. 


Leslie, Director




P.A.T.H. recently became an official member of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and I'm so excited about it.   The very first "Mixer" I attended, I met a lovely man- Eldon Takeda (an Independent LegalShield/IDShield Associate).  Eldon was carrying around with him this adorable rascally raccoon plushie that I originally thought belonged to Eldon.  But, as it turns out Raphael the Raccoon is none other than the Chamber's unique conversation piece and "sure to break the ice when it comes to conversation" mascot. Lucky Raphael gets to spend two weeks with a different member of the SRCOC.  So, guess who Raphael chose to go home with?  That's right! Me!

Check out the pics as Raphael makes the rounds with me during the course of my running non-profit errands: from the Bank of Marin (Raphie got to meet Bank Branch Manager, Kerry Tusup); to the Post Office on East Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley; at my home computer desk where he made friends with our cat, Simone; to the San Francisco courthouse; hanging out in style with me, my husband and artist friend -

Isiah Daniels at the Mill Valley Depot Café (check out Isiah’s artwork here); admiring an original raccoon drawing by formerly incarcerated artist, Joseph Owens...and even a special trip to the island of Alcatraz!  

I will sorely miss Raphael when I have to pass him along to the next SRCOC member.

Enjoy! And, blessings,

Leslie, Director

Photo captions: 

Admiring a raccoon pen drawing by Joseph Owen

Artist, Isiah Daniels in front of his artwork at Alcatraz

On the Alcatraz Cruises Ferry

With National Parks Service Ranger, Eric Stearns and Leslie

At the Mill Valley Bank of Marin with Bank Manager, Kerry Tusup

At the Mill Valley Post Office

At the San Francisco Courthouse

At the Mill Valley Depot Cafe with Bill (L) and artist, Isiah Daniels (R)

Raphie making friends with our cat, Simone



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P.A.T.H. Raises $1K for E.L.M

It is with great pleasure and honor for me to announce that P.A.T.H. recently made a gift to  E.L.M. (Enriching Lives Through Music) of $1K.    This was made possible via P.A.T.H.’s fundraising efforts from the February 1- May 30th, 2017 ANIMALIA  MUSICALE : A Chorus of Critters exhibit that took place in the Redwood Foyer of the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, CA. 

This special fundraising event for E.L.M. would not have been possible without the assistance of the amazing Marin Center staff, in particular: Gabriella Calicchio, Charlie Barboni, Libby Garrison, Ellen Campbell and Wendy Goldberg. Thank you for appreciating and having faith in the artwork, and for providing this prestigious venue for the Spring 2017 season when (and where) so many other worthwhile cultural, music and theatrical events took place.  

Some E.L.M. highlights:

ELM was recently selected to receive a $30K grant from Carnegie Hall's Play USA. ELM joins this network that supports organizations across the country that offer instrumental music education programs to low-income and underserved K–12 students. This grant will fund E.L.M.’s new brass and wind instrument program for students at Venetia Valley School in San Rafael.

One of ELM's 8th grade violinists (see pics) was chosen to participate in the National Take A Stand Festival in LA.

Nine ELM students attended Cazadero Music Camp on full scholarships. 

Click here to watch a video of the E.L.M Limoncito Spring Concert (May 20, 2016), which took place at the Mt. Tam United Methodist Church in Mill Valley with renowned conductor of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra -  Juan Felipe Molano conducting.


Leslie Lakes, P.A.T.H. Director

Photos captions:

E.L.M. new wind instrument students

E.L.M. new wind instrument students

E.L.M. string instrument students

Juan Felipe Molano conducts E.L.M. orchestra at Mt. Tam United Methodist Church

E.L.M. 8th grade violinist (far left) at National Take a Stand Festival

E.L.M. Ukelele music students

E.L.M. music students perform at Marin IJ Lobby Lounge

Young E.L.M. music student

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Andrew Valencia is one of many talented, incarcerated artists who I have the pleasure of corresponding and working with.  Andrew asked if I'd write a letter of recommendation on his behalf to send to the Parole Board and my immediate answer was: "Absolutely! Yes!”

While Andrew was recently transferred back to a California prison awaiting an upcoming parole board hearing, you can read here about his collaborative mural paintings, which inspired many at the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ.

Andrew always puts his heart into art, as seen in his fabulously colorful and detailed pen drawing titled  "The Takeover”.  The Indian occupation of Alcatraz, from 1969 through 1971 was a favorite subject among inmate artists who participated in P.A.T.H.’s recent major and well received "Art Escape at Alcatraz”exhibit (which took place in the Band Practice Room at Alcatraz May-June).    Valencia’s “The Takeover” depicts portraits of occupation leaders, as well as the noble visages of Native American chiefs from the past.

Andrew’s dream is to be an art teacher and to mentor “at risk” youth through the transformative power of art programs once he his finally released on parole. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a successful instructor, mentor and motivator.

Time and time again, art proves to be a valuable redemptive and therapeutic vehicle for men and women in prison. Aside from being an outlet for self-expression and stress relief, it boosts self-esteem, helps connect inmates with family members and others from the outside world. And, last but not least, serves as a way for those behind bars to tangibly give back to the community. 

Please consider making a donation to P.A.T.H. to help us continue to encourage incarcerated artists like Andrew.

Thank you and God bless!

Leslie Lakes, Director


Image Credit: "The Takeover" by Andrew Valencia


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A Splash of Color


I recently met an exceptional young man at LAUNCH’s non-profit event, which took place at the Green Chili Kitchen restaurant in San Rafael a couple of weeks ago. At first I assumed Taalib was in his early-mid 20's due to his mature demeanor and carriage, and was surprised to learn that he's an 18 year old college student. I had the opportunity to share with Taalib some artwork created by incarcerated artist, Jeremy J. Hammill (who paints with coffee and colored pencils and who recently started drawing stunning portraits with black pen).  When I showed Taalib this particular painting by Jeremy (homage to Salvador Dali's 1931 "Persistence of Memory”), Taalib was immediately struck by how closely it aligned with his own poem titled "A Splash of Color", which I'd like to share with you. This is a poem that I plan to share with all incarcerated artists.

Enjoy and be blessed.

Leslie, Director 

Arwork credit: Jeremy J. Hammill; FL (2/13/16)


“A SPLASH OF COLOR" by Taalib Smith, 2017

Einstein said darkness is just the absence of light.

So is sadness the absence of happiness?

Ignorance is bliss and happy to say that I'm not experiencing this.

But tell me what did you really mean by that kiss?

Confusion, without an answer there's no real conclusion.

But confusion is a true fusion of black and white.

Not necessarily right and wrong because who established that white is right and that black is wrong.

Why is white always pure, as good as the perfect contour, and the cure to being insecure?

And black perceived as dangerous, contagiously outrageous and negatively courageous.

What if everything was grey? That's not a place I'd necessarily want to stay.

Yeah no hierarchy, no structure, one color not better than the other because we're all the same. But living in a universe like that wouldn't you feel shame?

See grey is yin and yang mixed together into one, complex but boring and one color is no fun! Metaphorically grey to me is the lack of foresight and creativity.

Why must the spectrum be diminished to the polar opposites, and yes opposites attract, but why must we subtract, the other colors?

The gorgeous greens we see in the trees, the fiery passionate reds, the buzzing yellow bumble bees, the beautiful blues of all these colors there's different hues, blends, opacity, mixtures, textures, and new colors being created in seconds by nonconforming thinkers running free running wild, this trait I have to ingrain in my child.

All colors, new colors, true colors interacting as they may,

Reminding us how we re-envision the world, something like clay.

All the colors flying free, beautiful chaos, just as tranquil as can be;

This is really how I believe the world to be,

And anyone can too,

Just takes a pair of open eyes to see.

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The Art of Redemption

I first came to learn about Nicola White in an article published in the November 2016 issue of the San Quentin News.  Since I didn’t have Nicola’s direct contact info, I initially approached the Greenwich Gallery (UK) mentioned in the article and requested they forward my message to her. Nicola (who gave up her job as a banker to start mudlarking adventures) responded and thus we began to forge a friendship based on mutual interests as professional artists who were passionate about helping to give voice and validation to imprisoned artists.  What makes Nicola’s mission and work so unique is her focus on  death row inmate artists  at San Quentin Prison.  Death row no longer exists in the England prison system (abolished in 1965).

This past mid-March, Nicola made a trip over to Mill Valley, CA and we finally had a chance to hook up in person.  Please enjoy a recent BBC video about Nicola and the talented San Quentin death row artists she represents.

On another note, I absolutely concur with death row inmate artist – Bill Clark - how art provides three powerful benefits: PURPOSE, ACCOMPLISHMENT and PRIDE.   And, I can’t agree more with Nicola’s belief that art transforms and changes lives.  As seen in P.A.TH.’s artist - Oscar Barrascout’s pen drawing titled “Awareness and Change” that was on exhibit at the May-June 2017 Alcatraz exhibit.

“I could only imagine how it must have been to be housed at Alcatraz. In the drawing it is my hand holding the image that I can imagine seeing from the window on the weekends; watching the ferries as they bring the visitors to the island (Alcatraz) to see their loved ones - hoping and waiting that someone may have come to see me.

Note: Where the letter “T” (finger) is touching the heart, I used the color red to represent the changing of the heart: “Awareness and Change”. - Oscar Barrascout


Leslie Lakes, Director

Pics legend:

Nicola White (L) and Leslie Lakes (R) at Illumigarden sculpture garden in Mill Valley (March 2017) 

"Awareness and Change" pen drawing by Oscar Barrascout





While “ART ESCAPE AT ALCATRAZ” – an art exhibit that was on display from May 1st-June 30th - has come to an end, music that was played in the Band Practice Room “gallery” space lives on.

I thought it would be so neat to have live acoustic music performed in that same space as a way to add dimension and richness to the artwork on display, as well as to entertain and draw visitors to the island into the Band Practice Room’s exhibit at the very end of their video tour.

On June 17th, Mill Valley musician – Rand Dobleman (whose day job is master custom motorcycle and Ducati painter) – played solo on his National Style Chrome Guitar, and the following Saturday (6/24),  musician/singers/songwriters -  Dore Coller and Matt Lacques (both Mill Valley based musicians) performed Blues, Blue Grass and old prison songs including “Hard Times”.    Even the National Parks Rangers and Alcatraz Crew wandered into the room to listen to and enjoy the music!

PS  Special thanks to all the Alcatraz Audio Tour Crew who helped alert the public to the show.

Thanks For Listening.


Leslie Lakes, Director


Photo legend:

Rand Dobleman

(L) Dore Coller and (R) Matt Laques

Alcatraz Audio Tour Crew:

(Left to Right): Ira, Matt, Adam, Alex, and Fred

Band Practice Room Panos by Barry Toranto



Tribute to my new friend, Bill Baker

had the pleasure and opportunity to meet Mr. Bill Baker- one of the last surviving prisoners from Alcatraz when it was still serving as a Federal Penitentiary - when I first installed the "Art Escape at Alcatraz" exhibit in  the Band Practice Room at Alcatraz. Before even approaching and speaking to Bill, I happened to pick up a copy of his book - ALCATRAZ - 1259 and flipped to the first sentence of Chapter Nine (page 79) and read:

"How did I wind up in Alcatraz?  Good question.  But I don't know; must have been something I did".

 Well, that clinched it for me.  Loved his tongue in cheek sense of humor and immediately knew that I was not only going to enjoy reading his book, but that if his book honestly reflected the man, I'd like Bill, too!  Personally, I feel that his book should be on the NY TIMES bestsellers list. Such excellent writing that I asked Bill (with all due respect) if he used a ghost writer. "Nope"  "Every word is my own",he responded.  I said "Bill...you missed your calling.  Instead of forging counterfeit checks, you should have been a writer!"

In the interim, I approached a few of the incarcerated artists I work with to create a portrait of Bill and here are three to share with you.

PS  Bill is also an accomplished guitarist.  Here's Bill Baker rockin’ at Alcatraz

PPS  We all grow older and wiser and CHANGE! Enjoy!


Leslie Lakes, Director


Colored Pen Drawing by Trevor Jones; WA


Black Ink Drawing by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL


Portrait of Bill Baker by Phouc Nguyen; TX





P.A.T.H. and all incarcerated artists wish you a very happy safe and fun-filled Fourth of July.  We all value and cherish independence.

Enjoy the drawing by incarcerated artist - Ricky Zepeda; CA   Ricky shares the following which comes from on old Buddhist saying , which is also reflected in the Masonic order regarding a person's character.“Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self, is the greatest of all conquerors.”

A person’s character is but an effect of his own thoughts and set of beliefs; not realizing this makes him a slave of circumstances.  To start a journey that will set him free is to realize this great truth.  A mason is reminded that he travels  in that level of time to that undiscovered country where no traveler ever returns.  He must therefore learn how to conquer himself. 


image caption: Colored pen drawing by Ricky Zepeda; CA




Creating music starts with an idea. 

On June 18th, 2015 a day after I returned home from a vacation in the South of France, I attended the AIC (Arts in Corrections) Conference at SFU.  And, was most fortunate to meet and speak with Sara Lee, Artistic Director  of the London based Irene Taylor Trust “Music in Prisons”

I asked Sara if her group of musicians would be willing to compose original fare (lyrics and music) for the “Art Escape at Alcatraz” exhibit/event (yet to take place).  So, that same month her prison music group was set a challenging task - to write a song about Alcatraz, a place none of them knew much about, or had ever really given much thought. Few of them had even seen the Clint Eastwood film

The music was composed by the group as a whole, and three men contributed lyrics, each of them differing in their response to the task. The first two vocalists opted to use Alcatraz as a metaphor for loneliness and isolation. ‘D’, the first MC opens the account with the lyric "Prison can be lonely, dreamin' of the nights you used to hold me, now I'm prayin' for the day when they parole me". ‘D’ sings of uncertainty (he's on an indeterminate sentence and was turned down for release by probation on the day we recorded this song), loneliness, how his child was born while he was in prison and the hope that his partner will be there for him on release.

‘C’ then assumes up the vocal and his take on the isolation and loneliness of "The Rock"-the metaphor is that no matter how much outside forces try to break him with solitude, he is in fact not alone, and with family support and his faith in a higher power, he will prevail. His chorus: "Oh, wi' de chains an ting, Alcatraz is where dey want me fae live my story, tol', wid me fait' I sing, I'm no island, my strengt' is within."

 The final vocalist ‘DD’ gives an up-tempo 16 bars summarising the story of Alcatraz as a prison, a history lesson personalised by such statements as "Alcatraz is in America but I'm a Cockney".

So, for the first time in history, may I proudly present music and lyrics to:


“Oh, with the chains and things

Alcatraz is where they want me to live my story told

With my faith I sing

I’m no island, my strength is within


Never been robbed but then a rocket could have robbed me

Alcatraz is in America but I’m a cockney

I would have planned to escape but done it properly

Al Capone and Bumpy Johnson had to ride it ** me


They had to deal with times of prohibition

Criminals rich, now to break a mission

Put them on a rock in the ocean and call it prison

Try to break spirit of violence but no-one listens


Nineteen thirty four to nineteen sixty three

It took them twenty nine years before they realised its peak

Government were live baby, sucking on a teat

We’re now a tourist attraction for everyone to see


They should have known from day one it wouldn’t work

Spending all that money man the government got jerked,

Hiring officers, muscles bulging out their shirts,

I’m sure they learned from their mistakes but I doubt it’ll be the first.

© 2016

The Irene Taylor Trust Co.





P.A.T.H. wishes every Dad, far and wide a very HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Father's Day is when Dad can have his candy and eat it, too!  Plus, Dad has every right to take a nap! Enjoy!  Have Fun!  

Leslie Lakes, Director

Art credits: 
"Hard Candy" Coffee painting using tightly rolled up tissues as a paint brush by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL

"Tired Baby" Coffee painting using tightly rolled up tissues as a paint brush by Jeremy J. Hammill; FL



Softening ‘The Rock’

Paul Liberatore and John Cantwell inside Whitey Bulger's old cell

Paul Liberatore and John Cantwell inside Whitey Bulger's old cell


When award-winning  journalist – Paul Liberatore– and freelance photographer – James Cacciatore accompanied me to ‘The Rock’ on Tuesday May 30th, their mission was to conduct an interview and take photos of the current  “Art Escape at Alcatraz” exhibit in the Band Practice Room.  We were treated to a special tour of the prison and island by longtime National Parks Service Ranger, John Cantwell. Before he concluded the tour, we were invited to climb to the tippy top of the Alcatraz Island lighthouse. WOW!  That was ever so thrilling!  I daresay that both Paul and James were tickled pink (and couldn’t have been more boyish) and I was equally up for the challenge and high adventure of a lifetime!

Paul called me again this past Thursday to ask a few more questions before writing his bang up piece “Mill Valley artist goes to 'the Rock' to curate 'Art Escape at Alcatraz’”, which appeared on the...get this... FRONT PAGE of today’s (Sunday, June 11th) “MARIN IJ”.

Woo Hoo!

Ii is superbly well written and I hope it reaches and touches many people far and wide to give insight into the plight of inmates (and inmate artists) in the penal system today. Please share!

PS  Feel free to check out Paul’s Facebook Page

Enjoy, and blessings galore!

Leslie Lakes, Director

Jame and Paul taking pics inside lighthouse

Jame and Paul taking pics inside lighthouse

Ranger John and James taking pics of Paul on top of lighthouse

Ranger John and James taking pics of Paul on top of lighthouse

Leslie hanging close to outside lighthouse

Leslie hanging close to outside lighthouse


Leslie: Look Ma...no hands!



SUMMER OF LOVE...Yes, even at Alcatraz!


It's the SUMMER OF LOVE and P.A.T.H. invites you to take a trip down memory lane through the June issue of the new and fabulous MARIN ARTS & CULTURE Magazine.

Want to know what the Alluring Voices are all about at Alcatraz Prison these days?  Contributing writer - Valerie Shaw -  will gladly fill you in!

Whether you are local to the Marin County, CA and San Francisco Bay area or not, this elegant and well designed online magazine has a lot to offer, and will keep you well entertained and informed with a variety of fun happenings in the art scene...be it fashion, food, music, visual art, theater, poetry...you name it!.  And for a nominal annual subscription rate to boot.

PS  Took a few more pics when I was back out at the island.  Here is the abandoned Warden's House situated across from the still standing Coast Guard lighthouse.  Also came across a family of geese while walking up the stone path to the prison. Here you have a proud Papa goose struttin' his stuff in front; flanked by Junior gossling in the middle; with a watchful Mama following close behind.
It's a wonderful sight to see because while not unusual, it's rare to come across gosslings maturing on the island due to the onslaught of Western Gulls who steal the eggs before they hatch.



Leslie Lakes, Director