Thanh Tran was born and raised in Sacramento, California. At 18 months old he was placed into foster care. He was adopted by two Vietnamese Buddhist nuns, but lived in a state of conﬂict. His home on one hand was a Buddhist temple, but school on the other hand was the polar opposite – saturated with drugs and gang culture. At the age of 12, Thanh made one of the worst mistakes of his life – he joined a gang. As a result, he was arrested and sent to juvenile hall 9 times from the ages 12 to 17. Eventually Thanh left the gang life but was still involved in criminal activity, committing a robbery two weeks after his 18th birthday. He was sentenced to 17 years for attempted murder, attempted robbery, and a 10 year gang enhancement. After ﬁghting deep depression in county jail, he made a decision to change his life after he heard his younger brother was incarcerated trying to follow his footsteps. “I realized I was lying to myself for years saying I was the only one being hurt.” Thanh said during an interview with San Quentin News.
I believe the question should be, what happened to these people, not what is wrong with these people.
On July 2019, Thanh walked the stage to receive his AA Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences through Coastline Community College. He is the Chairman of R.O.O.T.S. (Restoring Our Original True Selves), a self-help group that focuses on intergenerational trauma and Asian Paciﬁc Islander culture and history. He is a member of a youth diversion program called S.Q.U.I.R.E.S. where he utilizes his story to help steer troubled youth in a diﬀerent direction. Now as a part of FirstWatch his goal is to empower the voices and stories of incarcerated people, with the hopes of changing the current narrative of who incarcerated people are.