Invincible Minds is a collection of short stories, poems and artwork created by the men living at Kern Valley State Prison involved with the Compassion Prison Project. Spearheaded by Ruben Riviera and David Do, Invincible Minds is currently in the final stages of editing. The men have collaborated brainstorming ideas, supporting and editing each other’s work.
Here is the introduction written by Ruben Riviera: Hello my fellow humans. My name is Ruben Rivera. I’m a prisoner serving a life sentence here at Kern Valley State Prison. I’m also attending The Compassion Prison Project. My fellow classmates and I put this book together in an attempt to enlighten you in a positive manner and give you some insight of the trials and tribulations that we have endured. We understand that society can be judgemental at times and sees us as outcasts, people that don’t deserve a second chance. However, we are much more than that. We are humans. People that have made bad decisions in the past but have now rehabilitated. Prison is a place intended to break your spirit and make you feel like a failure. But that’s only if you let it. At times light comes in different forms. For example, a letter from a loved one, an unexpected J-Pay from a friend, or a visit from a significant other. In this particular case, light came to us in the form of a ducat that indicated that we were to attend Compassion Prison Project. We had no idea how we were signed up or why we were selected but after being in prison many years, we were happy to attend and see what the class was all about. I’ll never forget my first class. I walked in and there was Fritzi and Arthur, the Founders of CPP accompanied by several volunteers. People from the Free Society that had come, especially for one purpose…to teach us compassion towards ourselves and others. I looked around the class and saw nothing but smiles. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. For a moment, it didn’t feel like we were in prison. To the contrary, it felt like a Thanksgiving Family Reunion without the turkey (LOL) as they were kind enough to take time out of their own personal lives so that they can teach us compassion and inspire us to do good. The class was fun! First, we did something called the Crazy 8’s. It’s a warm-up, a physical exercise that helps us release tension and create a fun environment. Then we would engage in deep meaningful conversations about past trauma, losses and any other personal experiences we wanted to share. I quickly came to realize that my fellow classmates all shared similar stories and I felt empathy towards them regardless of race. We were all inmates enduring lengthy prison terms due to our past actions. Making strong efforts to self-analyze and rehabilitate. During our class conversations, there were tears and hugs, genuine smiles, words of encouragement, undivided listening but most importantly, compassion. This class played a big role in reprogramming our way of thinking and helped us understand the importance of compassion. We now see things through compassionate eyes and think before we act. We understand that compassion is necessary in the world and that sincere friendship and humbleness come from a loving heart. Furthermore, my fellow classmates and I will share our original poetry and personal stories in high hopes, that they will change your outlook on us prisoners and moreover, help you realize that we are all human and that although we were dealt lemons, we managed to make lemonade. All of my CPP classmates willingly submitted their own original poetry and stories, along with their pictures and CDC’s #’s and gave me permission to use them in this book. We hope our writing and past experiences inspire you in a positive manner. Thank You for your time and attention. We hope you enjoy the read.