Folsom Prison Toastmasters Give Back to At-Risk Youth, Publish Letters to Their Former Selves

“The day that you decided that being cool (or ‘down’) was living a life of crime and wearing the ‘tough guy’’ mask was the day you forgot your dreams. You became Sam I Wasn’t.”

Folsom, June 7, 2017 –  Folsom prisoners dispatch real words of wisdom and hope in their new book “Sam I Was: Letters to My Former Self”, written for young people interfacing with the juvenile justice system. 

Published by 916 Ink, in partnership with the California Endowment for the Arts, the impetus of this book was born when 916 Ink began writing with The Folsom Prison Gavel Club in 2016, after the “Gaveliers,” a group of extraordinary men, held a fundraiser to give back to 916 Ink youth writers who were incarcerated at the Juvenile Detention Facility in Sacramento County. 916 Ink thought, if anyone could offer advice, an “I’ve been there,” moment, and inspiration to at risk youth to stay on the path toward freedom and happiness, it was these men who are working together as a team to help each other, learn, and grow from their mistakes.

“The men saw a link between how 916 Ink is helping at-risk youth through creative writing projects and how the Gavel Club members are trying to better themselves through creative writing and speaking. The Gavel Club members also identify with the at-risk youth, since many of them were at-risk themselves when they were younger,” says Shane Mollring, Folsom State Prison Gavel Club Staff Sponsor.

The Gaveliers set out to write letters to their former teenage selves, anonymously, with sage advice. This book is meant to be distributed for educational purposes to incarcerated youth, teachers, gang prevention and intervention nonprofits and experts, and others who are interested in understanding why youth turn to a life of crime.

It is in the sharing and telling of authentic and vulnerable stories that lives begin to change. As humans, storytelling is the way we make meaning of the world, and for some, it is the path to seeing that our life choices can be in our control. Most writers understand that through fiction or poetry, we can make choices about how to behave in certain situations or rooms, to think before certain words pour out of our mouths or through the mighty pen, and which plots we should champion. Everyone is on a hero’s journey and can be the hero or heroine of their own life.

A special book release event and reading will be held at Folsom State Prison on June 7, 2017 at 5:30pm.

About 916 Ink

We are 916 Ink, Sacramento’s only art-based literacy nonprofit that transforms Sacramento youth into published authors. Why? Because empowered students equipped with amazing literacy skills lead healthier lives. 916 Ink dispatches teams of trained volunteers to work in schools, libraries, nonprofits, and detention facilities. We make students, ages 4-18, active agents of their own change through creative writing. Since 2011, 916 Ink has transformed over 3,000 young people into published authors in our quest to lead the literacy revolution.  Learn more about us at

Press Contact: 
Katie McCleary
(916) 284-7560