Retired prison guard speaks to students
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – For almost 30 years, Jeff Evans acted as prison guard to some of the world’s toughest criminals, but lately he’s been holding a different audience captive – the students of Lake Tahoe Community College and Mt. Tallac High School. He hopes sharing his experiences will help young adults be successful, he said.
“It’s just my way of giving back to the community,” Evans said.
Evans worked at San Quentin State Prison for 29 years before moving to South Lake Tahoe a year and a half ago. He tended to death row inmates, including Charles Manson and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the co-founder of the Crips.
“I’m was in there with the Mexican mafia. I was in there with the Crips. I was in there with the Bloods,” Evans said during his presentation at Mt. Tallac High School. “The gates closed behind me and I was like, ‘Oh my god, what did I get myself into.”
Evans passed around photos of himself in his guard uniform to the Mt. Tallac students. He shared stories of his own difficult childhood and teenage years. The students could relate to him, said Susan Baker, the alternative education director at Mt. Tallac High School.
“They always like personal stories,” Baker said. “I think because he struggled in high school they liked that.”
Throughout the presentation Evans touched on different themes: Success, trust, confidence. He talked about his childhood friends and peer pressure.
“I want you guys to know that I struggled,” Evan said during the presentation. “I got in trouble. I did things I shouldn’t have done. But I learned from it.”
Evans wanted the students to feel that though they may have made some bad decisions, they could still succeed, he said. He’d rather inspire than scare, he said.
“I don’t try to scare straight, but I do throw a little of that in.”
Baker said that two students have chosen to do projects about being a correctional officer. Mt. Tallac senior Edgar Ruelas, 18, interviewed Evans both for his senior project and because he’s interested in the criminal justice field.
“I want to go to the community college and get my AA in criminal justice,” Ruelas said. “At 19, I can work at the county jail.”
Ruelas liked the stories Evans told about the people he was guarding, he said. Evans made being a correctional officer sound like a rush, he said.
One student asked if Evans had been at San Quentin during the filming of “Blood In, Blood Out,” a 1990s crime flick. Evans said he had been there for that movie shoot as well as the filming of Metallica’s “St. Anger” music video, but he was quick to say he didn’t want to glorify the prisons.
“After I was finished, the kids came up to me, and I couldn’t get out of there,” Evans said. “They wanted more.”
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