Kenneth E. Hartman

"Making the world I live in a better place remains my goal and focus"

About Me


About Me
My Publications
Contact Me
Related Links


I was born in South Boston, Massachusetts, lived in Brooklyn, New York for a time, and mostly grew up in North Long Beach, California, hard on the bottom end of Los Angeles County. In 1980, when I was 19 years old, I killed a man in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight. I am serving life without the possibility of parole. Over the past decades, I have served time in the California Institution for Men-Chino, at the Correctional Training Facility-Soledad, at Folsom State Prison, and in both of the California Correctional Institution-Tehachapi’s maximum-security units before transferring to California State Prison-Los Angeles County in Lancaster, where I remain.

I wrote the proposal that helped to initiate the Honor Program at the prison in Lancaster, and currently lead a prisoner-initiated and organized effort to end the sentence of life without the possibility of parole, the other death penalty.

I'm the co-founder and a member of the Board of Trustees of Lifer's Education Fund. Recently, I was invited to be a charter member of the National Advisory Board of Californians United for a Responsible Budget.


Kenneth E. Hartman has served more than 30 continuous years of a life without the possibility of parole sentence for killing a man in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight. He is the author of the memoir Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars, (Atlas & Co. 2009), winner of the 2010 Eric Hoffer Book Award for memoir and a silver medallist winner of the 2010 Nautilus Book Award. He has been published widely, including in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian, the Vacaville Reporter and the National Catholic Reporter, writing about prison life and prison reform. His magazine articles have appeared in Notre Dame Magazine, Topic Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Whole Life Times, High Times and Prison Life. His piece “Harder Time,” which appeared in California Lawyer, won a Maggie Award in 2005 for best-signed editorial. His essay “A Prisoner’s Purpose,” was a prize-winning finalist in the Templeton Foundation’s worldwide Power of Purpose contest in 2004. His piece in the respected academic publication The Prison Journal’s first quarter 2008 edition about the effect of supermax prisons on the consciousness of prisoners is now a part of the curricula of university criminology programs. “The Absent Voice of Prisoners,” appeared in the inaugural edition of J, the journal of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, addressing the need for the inclusion of prisoners’ voices in the process of prison reform. “The Other Death Penalty,” an essay that discusses the broader ramifications of the sentence of life without the possibility of parole, appeared in the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (volume 18:1 & 2; 2009), published by the University of Ottawa Press, and served as the founding document of a grassroots effort by prisoners to abolish this form of the death penalty. His essay on spiritual growth “Seeking Peace” is in the book Serving Productive Time. His comprehensive essay on the reality of prison and what needs to be done about it, “What Is and What Should Be,” “What Is and What Should Be,” is in the book Honor Comes Hard: Writings from the California Prison System’s Honor Yard. His work has also appeared on several influential websites, including The Huffington Post,, and the For more information see

Ken can be reached at or by writing to the address below.

Kenneth E. Hartman, C-19449
P.O. Box 4430
Lancaster, CA 93539-4430

Samples of his writing are available on this website. See My Publications.

Home | About Me | My Publications | Contact Me | Related Links