Jonathan Chiu was released from San Quentin State Prison around 8 a.m. on May 1, 2020, in the middle of California’s shelter-in-place order during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 18 months had passed since his 50-years-to-life sentence had been commuted by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Chiu was 36 at the time and had served 15 years of his sentence after being convicted of first-degree murder in 2004. In prison, he had been a member of the 1,000 mile marathon club and had been managing editor of San Quentin News, where he was in charge of layout and crossword puzzles. In his spare time, he did standup comedy.

“I feel blessed to be out and wish I could’ve taken my friends with me,” he said.

The following are photos taken by his friend and San Quentin News alum Eddie Herena. The captions are based on his account of the day as told to Prison Journalism Project co-executive director Yukari Iwatani Kane.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Eddie Herena

Eddie Herena is a former staff photographer for San Quentin News, the only prisoner-run newspaper in California. He now works as a freelance photographer. His work has been published in various publications including Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Next City, The Athletic and San Francisco Chronicle.