MTC Alumni, Barney McClendon

Alumni Spotlight: Barney McClendon

By Barney McClendon | June 25, 2020

Many of our former students remain committed to a life of service upon paroling and are often strong advocates for those still inside. We’re proud to share the following reflection from our alumni community.

I joined what later became the Prison University Project for the chance to earn some more college credits and because it provided both a challenge and a positive program. It’s much better to challenge the mind, and perhaps improve it, rather than spend one’s time watching TV or lounging in the yard.

I cannot locate my diploma, but I must have graduated around 2000, or just before. I was released in October of 2004, completing parole in 2009.

I think the most significant impact the Prison University Project had on myself, and most of my fellow students, was bolstering our self-esteem and personal confidence. That, and the competition against ourselves. It gave me a feeling of self-accomplishment—not to mention improved communications skills.

I enjoyed the instructors and the exposure to people from the community and not just the prison system.

There were some great classes and other activities. One volunteer weekend class was called “The Sunflower”. Not a class for credit, but a great experience.

Since paroling, I initially held self-help classes at the local half-way house for a few years and spent a lot of time just recovering social and technical skills that I lost during 22 years of incarceration. I am now eighty and after numerous medical problems do very little other than day-to-day existence.

In summary, the college program was the most enjoyable and helpful program I experienced during my incarceration. I think that the more inmates that take classes, then lower the inside violence and return to the insanity of drugs and crime.

Please note that the Prison University Project became Mount Tamalpais College in September 2020.


It's been a rough few weeks in terms of media layoffs so I want to flag a job I'm helping hire for: @prisonjourn, which trains incarcerated people as journalists and helps them get published, is hiring a managing editor to run all of its editorial strategy

Teaching @StanfordLaw students alongside incarcerated students at @MtTamCollege in #SanQuentin was a highlight of the year—with hopefully more to come!

A fascinating glimpse at the history of higher education at San Quentin! While many hurdles still exist when running a college with a prison as its campus, at least we no longer have to "copy, stencil, and mimeograph" course materials to bring them inside.