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Joe Hunt cofounded the first men’s group in a California prison

Joe Hunt with his wife, Jamie

I was a founding member of the first men’s group in a California prison. We held our meetings at B facility, California State Prison at Sacramento, also known as New Folsom. In attendance was Robert Albee, a free man and published poet with considerable experience in men’s groups on the street, and Pat Nolan a convict who had met Robert through correspondence.

The first meeting of the men’s group was held after we came off a particularly long lockdown in 1996, which was instituted after a particularly bloody and violent riot that occurred on the yard. Pat was hoping that men’s work, along the lines of what was taking place in circles of men which had formed in the outside world, could create bridges of familiarity, understanding, and respect Behind the Walls.

Men’s work is a particular process that gives one an opportunity to look at one’s emotional response to life. A man does work, with the aid of the circle, and typically one of the men facilitates. I was tasked with establishing a men’s group on C-Yard at New Folsom in 1998. Under the auspices of Deacon Dennis Moreno, our Catholic chaplain at New Folsom, I did so. In time the circle thrived and was still functioning 14 years later when I left New Folsom. For the first 10 years, I was the clerk in charge of the program and one of the main facilitators. Intensive 4-day trainings were held at C Facility every few months while I was clerking as a facilitating for the program. These trainings would typically involve 30 or 40 men from the outside world, and many came from other countries, joining us behind the walls for 12 to 14 hour sessions on four consecutive days. What took place in such meetings became a subject matter for the documentary, which was filmed after I left New Folsom.

Here is some information about a documentary made about this men’s group, from after my involvement with it ended:

Interview: Joe Hunt discusses the sixteen people he helped to receive sentence reductions.

Joe Hunt discusses the sixteen people he helped avoid a life sentence and the dozens that received sentence reductions.


Well yes, I’ve been working, I’ve done habeas petitions and I’ve litigated on behalf of other prisoners.

I’ve also been trying to have them freed, to vacate their conviction, and so, over the years I’ve filed dozens and dozens of—probably close to something like 150—petitions on separate cases.

And I’ve also helped prisoners when I was in the county jail in San Mateo for four years, and I was in Los Angeles County Jail for almost five years total.

I helped other prisoners that were pro per, acting as a mentor to develop the theory of the case, investigate their case, and understand the rules, evidence, and to prosecute their sentence theory.

Anyhow, in total, the sixteen people that I’ve helped either avoided a life sentence because they were acquitted or were released by the courts.

In addition, there were dozens of cases of sentencing reduction.

Joe explains how he chose which inmates to offer legal assistance to.

Joe Hunt explains how he chose which inmates to offer legal assistance to, and several ways that he did this.


So you asked about what sort of results I’ve gotten for other prisoners who’ve been seeking to either overturn their conviction or to be acquitted at trial.

I’ve spent 9 years of my life in county jails, about half in L.A. county jail and half in San Mateo, about 7 of those years while I was actively pro per—which means representing myself. So, many prisoners came to me to ask for help with their cases.

I was very selective about who I chose to assist, and factors about what they were charged with and who they were played a major role.

I was not interested in helping people that I felt were what I would call sick with it; in other words, they were going to choose the criminal lifestyle…

In any event, there have been sixteen people that were either facing life sentences or had life sentences that I’ve assisted to regain their freedom—about evenly split between people that I mentored while I was in county jail so that they would be acquitted.

These were guys that were representing themselves and people that I filed habeas petitions for, or on behalf of, from prison that were released by the courts.

In addition, there were dozens of people that got reductions in sentences as a result of petitions that I filed.

Free Joe Hunt

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