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Hometown: California

A Note about Mando

Mando was incarcerated in solitary confinement in a California prison for many years. During that time, as he describes below, he taught himself how to draw.

In California, being in solitary confinement is called being in the “SHU” (Special Housing Unit). In 2013, Mando joined other prisoners in a statewide hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions in the SHU. In 21 days, Mando lost 15 pounds, falling to 128 pounds. The hunger strike was all over the news and drew attention to the large number of California prisoners in solitary confinement. The strike also inspired a number of legal challenges to the practice.

In response, in 2015, California began overhauling conditions in the SHU and moving prisoners out of it. Mando was among them. He was moved into the mainstream prison population in 2016.

Mando’s description of himself as an artist, in his own words:

My name is Mando. I am 39 years old.

Well, I’ve been drawing for years. It sure keeps my mind and self occupied. I first picked up drawing cuz I found myself in the SHU lock-down. I was in the cell 23 hours a day with not much to do. I was bored. I found drawing relaxing, and it kept me out of trouble. And I fell in love with it. Then, I found it very helpful to send a card or drawing to a loved one. How happy and grateful they were! It also helped me out to do a card or drawing for an inmate and in return to get a little stationery or “store” [credit in the commissary]. So, it’s my escape to happiness.

Well, I do hope to maybe volunteer to do a painting for a Girls or Boys Club or give free drawing classes to give back to the community.


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