The Freedom Chronicles


My name is Bilal Coleman. When I was 17 years old, I was sent to prison. That was 20 years ago. I was released on parole on November 16th, 2015. I started working at Planting Justice the next day, and am blessed to have this great organization supporting me during this transition. 

The Freedom Chronicles is my way of documenting my journey back into society. Hopefully, sharing my story with all of you can bring attention to the trials and tribulations that one may face during the re-entry process. More than pointing out the faults of the system, I want to highlight the positive moments of freedom, growth, and community. I hope that by seeing my journey, people will realize the importance of re-entry programs like Planting Justice, and will work with us to motivate those who are in power to fund more programming like this.

I am the 18th person that Planting Justice has hired from San Quentin. My 17 predecessors have all successfully made the transition and stayed out of prison. I plan to follow in their footsteps, with the help of Planting Justice and all of our supporters. I hope that sharing my story will show the world what Planting Justice is capable of. The State and others with resources should be supporting and funding this work so that we can help hundreds and thousands of people just like me stay out of prison for good. Talk is cheap, but actions aren’t. Follow my story and see how we’re moving and shaking at Planting Justice.

I hope that sharing my story will change people’s minds about so-called “violent criminals” like me. I am human. I am gentle. I do not deserve to be thrown away.  I have a light to shine. 

I'll be posting here every week during my first year out. 

Thank you for your support,


 This work is only possible because of the people who generously support the work of Planting Justice by making monthly donations.    Donate 1 ($17.50) or 2 ($35) hours of parolee payroll each month to help another person get free. 

This work is only possible because of the people who generously support the work of Planting Justice by making monthly donations.

Donate 1 ($17.50) or 2 ($35) hours of parolee payroll each month to help another person get free. 

365 Days Free!

Bilal was sentenced to 20 years in prison when he was just 17 years old. Today, Bilal is still free from state incarceration and proud of beating the statistic that 7 out 10 people who walk out of a California State Prison are back in less than one year.


The real truth about the matter is it has been six months now since I have been home from prison. I have to thank God for giving me the strength to endure for so long, to even have the chance to get this far...So six months into things and like I've been saying for so long, I am having a blast. Life is good, but let's not get it twisted - as far as my story goes, a place was being structured for me before I had even LEFT prison. Planting Justice was the designer, and with that being said, I was offered a chance to drive towards the top....From my eyes to my words, there's a cold reality in the world and it's not easy. I see a lot of homelessness all around me; it wasn't like this before I went to prison. 

So don't look at my blog as a one sided view to what's really happening all around. Just know you're receiving my interpretation of how my life is going. And sure, I'm not super human, I have problems like anyone else. It's not about difficulty functioning in society or walking around angry and anti-social like everybody expects. The big problem with me is trying to create more time in the day so I can dine with my lady friend....

That's 200 days. 

121 days & counting

"It's a beautiful day here in East Oakland, California and this morning I'm working with the PJ Education Team down at Bridge Academy, installing a local food jungle for the youth. Planting Justice has a class here twice a week, where I'm given the opportunity to shine my light while engaging with our future (the youth). So look at me now: 121 days of freedom under my belt and I'm continuing the good work and making that change in not only my life but in the lives of those I come in contact with. Solid." - Bilal Coleman

78 Days & Counting

Here's me with my mentor, Anthony (the first PJ ever hired out of San Quentin over 5 years ago) educating the community about the work of Planting Justice. 

73 days & Counting 

I had a blast on the Planting Justice Staff Retreat! First time in the woods/wild in over 20 years. 

62 days & Counting 

On MLK Day, there was a huge march in Oakland with 3,000 people calling for peace and justice. I was in awe being at my first protest. 

50 days & Counting

This is is good ol' Planting Justice Bilal, the 18th hire for PJ's San Quentin re-entry program, coming to you once again with a 50 day check in. Yes, after 20 years in prison, I have been free now 50 days and counting. Let's say life is wonderful, although there are many adversities one faces during re-entry, being able to face those are a blessing. 

Working with Planting Justice has been a godsend for me. Our organization has afforded me a platform to give back and let my positive light shine through for all those I encounter, whether it's on the streets doings community outreach, writing blog posts or sharing a word or two with the youth we serve through our education program. So I can say that at 50 days and climbing, I am truly blessed and looking forward to shining this light of mine clear on through 2016.