San Quentin prisoner profiled on KCBS Radio granted clemency

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday denied parole for Sirhan Sirhan – the man who killed Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 – making headlines worldwide.

But dozens of other prisoners have gotten better news about their applications for clemency. One of the names on that list might be familiar: During the COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin in 2020, we met Thanh Tran.

"This virus is real. It's killing people and these conditions aren't getting any better," he told KCBS Radio in July 2020 as the coronavirus worked its way through the prison, killing 28 incarcerated individuals and one guard.

Tran and his family celebrate his associate degree.
Tran and his family celebrate his associate degree. Photo credit Thanh Tran

To reduce overcrowding, some people were granted early releases.

But Tran wasn't eligible.

His best hope was the application that he filed in 2018.

"I've been hoping ever since, since before this pandemic," he said. "I've been working for years at this, getting my college education. I got an AA degree, multiple certificates. So I'm hopeful that I may get commuted."

On Thursday, Tran finally got his wish.

In the commutation certificate, the governor referred to Tran's dedication to his rehabilitation and the fact that he was just 18 when he committed the robbery that landed him in prison.

Back in 2020, Tran said there were plenty of people like him who were ready to come home.

Tran's fiancé, Lupe Angulo, outside the prison last year.
Tran's partner, Lupe Angulo, outside the prison in July 2020. Photo credit Kathy Novak/KCBS Radio

"There's people who need to be home with their families," he explained. "People who have families. People who can reenter (society) safely."

There's still one more step for Tran. He still needs to go before the parole board to be considered for release. In all, 47 people received pardons, commutations or reprieves from Newsom on Thursday.