From Life Without Parole to Motivational Speaker

38 years ago a young man in his teens committed a homicide resulting in a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The homicide was a young man’s defensive mechanism to a stepfather who was extremely violent, causing extreme physical injuries to this young man as well as his brother.
Dan has spent 38 years in prison as punishment for the homicide that he committed. During his incarceration, Dan educated himself, taking every opportunity to obtain academic and vocational skills, and has become a mentor to both staff and inmates. Dan has worked relentlessly to become a better person than the young person who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Dan WiltseThis man’s unique story begins when he first arrived in the California Department of Corrections. Dan made the decision that he would not get in trouble, not fall into gang influence, not use drugs, stay away from violence, and spend his time setting and reaching positive goals. This determination to do well and strive for positive goals has resulted in a man who has done 38 years in prison with only a single disciplinary in 1984 for a minor offense.
On April 15, 2017, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, reviewed the sentencing case as well as the incarceration history for this youthful offender and made a historic decision to commute the sentence from a sentence of life without the possibility of parole to a sentence of 25 years to life. The governor had an in-depth investigation conducted and recommended that this man, now 38 years later, have the opportunity to present his case to the board of prison terms and request release to our community. On December 8, 2017, Dan was granted parole and now lives in San Diego County.
Today, just 91 days following his release from prison, Dan has returned to be an inspirational speaker at the academic and vocational graduations at Centinela State prison. His message of hope resounded tremendously for everyone present, including staff members and family members who attended the event.
Dan WiltseDan spoke to the graduating classes about setting goals even though there was no end in sight. He encouraged the men to build their personal integrity and their power through education with the focus on becoming a better person.
When Dan finished speaking he received an extended applause, and after the graduating certificates were handed out to the class, many of the men and family members spent time speaking with him. He shared a message of hope to the family members who have prayed for years and years to see a change in their son, brother, father or even grandson.
Warden Raymond Madden congratulated Dan for his relentless drive to achieve his educational goals and requested he return to share his message of hope and hard work to the next graduating class.
Dan is “Paying it Forward” by giving back to our communities through his dedication to guiding other prisoners towards positive goals which will result in forming future positive and productive members of our society.

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