Brian Fowlie and Kenny Blasingame are best friends who met in prison. Both were serving life sentences at California State Prison, Solano. At the time, their prospects were dim. They thought the only way “lifers” got out was by getting shot or stabbed to death, or by a drug overdose.
Although Fowlie and Blasingame had never seen a lifer granted parole, eventually both men were released from prison. As they recounted in their StoryCorps interview from September 2015, it was their focus on sobriety, spirituality and the close bond they had with each other that helped turn their lives around from despair to hope.
Fowlie had been practicing meditation for some time when Blasingame first heard his story at a 12-step meeting in prison. Blasingame, who was ready to make changes in his own life, was drawn to Fowlie's meditation and yoga practice and sought him out as a mentor.
That turned into a deep friendship as both men supported each other in their quest to "do something different that was life-affirming instead of hopelessness." That goal went against the grain in prison where drugs, violent behavior, and despair were prevalent.
But they stayed the course and were eventually paroled. Fowlie was released in 2011 and Blasingame in 2012.
Today Blasingame is a yoga instructor. Fowlie is an electrician. He's also pursuing a master's degree in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies.
Support for StoryCorps in Sacramento comes from the Sacramento Public Library and the Sacramento Public Library Foundation.