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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

29 thoughts on “

  1. Hello,

    I just watched the story on Netflix. Thank you so much for your work and Thank God for you, your son and friends.

    Where does David’s settlement stand now?

    I pray he has been justified financially.

    • Hi Tina,
      Thank you for your response and your concern. David appears in state court on July 11th to argue for compensation. That the state and the city are trying to deny him just compensation is disgraceful. Politicians and officers of the court hide behind this legal nonsense differentiating between exoneration and overturning a trial due to fabricated or withheld evidence. As if there are two kinds of innocence. Rubin Carter was infuriated by that; a person whose trial is invalidated is every bit as innocent as someone who is exonerated by DNA. The distinction is made for their convenience. The wrongly convicted person is forced to prove his or her innocence which, after thirty years, is not too easy. Nevertheless, we expect to prevail in this case because we have gathered a lot of evidence over twelve years and because David comes off as a man of exceptional integrity.
      So I pray that he will be compensated and allowed to raise his family with some well deserved comfort. Anything else would be a travesty.

      • My fiancé and I both just finished the documentary about David. I’m not an emotional person at all but I got tears in my eyes. It’s truly amazing what you all did for him.

  2. What you, your son, and your entire team did for David is amazing!!! Watching the documentary your son made brought tears to my eyes. I am glad you guys never gave up on him and he didn’t give up on his freedom! Like David said as long as your breathing you have hope. I pray for you and your family, and David and his as well.I wish nothing but the best for all of you. This isn’t my family but I thank you for what you have done!

    God bless you!

  3. This has got to be one of the most inspiring movies I have seen. The work , dedication, sacrifice, loyalty and faith you all showed is so powerful. I hope that each of you are proud of your work. The unconditional love displayed is remarkable. I hope that the final piece of financial justice is prevailed. Thank you for your work on getting justice.

    • Hard to describe how much these responses mean to all of us. Of course, David & Me telescopes ten years into 80 minutes so people have little idea of the agony of dealing with what Rubin Carter described as “the so-called criminal justice system”. I would never recommend that anyone get involved on this level unless they have endless patience or are as crazy as I am.

  4. This story is a remarkable one to say the least. God bless you for your willingness to see this through. In the beginning I understand that it started out a little self serving. But you never realize how much you can touch people’s lives while you’re dealing with your own issues. Awesome, awesome story. Thanks for sharing that journey. Tell David to stay strong. His journey is not for nothing.

  5. I just now watched David’s story. I was extremely impressed with his insistence not to admit guilt at his parole hearings. That takes a huge amount of integrity! The entire story is sad and at times I had tears of sadness and tears of happiness.
    I am wondering (and hoping) about David getting married/in a relationship, and having children.
    God bless you, and may you live a long and happy life. ❤

    • Thank you, Sherry, for your kind thoughts. David and his new mate, Valerie, had a baby girl named Quinn at the beginning of May.

      • Oh yay! I’m so happy to hear that David has fulfilled an obvious dream of his to become a father. When asked about being a father in the documentary there was such a sadness in his eyes that made you feel as though he never believed it would happen. I’m so happy to see that life is moving forward in a positive way. Congratulations David! May peace and blessing continue to fall upon you and your family. I wish you all the best of luck and happiness you can stand. You definitely deserve it!

  6. Ken,

    This heartwarming and tireless fight touched my heart immensely. I too have a loved one who has been unjustly incarcerated since 1991 at the age of 19, and oftentimes when he goes to that “dark place”, it is such a fight to get him to continue to believe. Tomorrow is my 45th birthday, and he will be 46 on July 20th. When I think of all of the years of we’ve been fighting for him, balancing our lives on the outside, and attempting to keep him positive, it can become daunting. The fight against a penal system which refuses to admit to its mistreatment of basic human rights can bitter one’s plight, but you’ve given me more strength to keep moving. Although he is scheduled for release in 2018, the current battle is to get him an opportunity to work outside the gates of the prison in order to become re-acclimated to society. It seems as if the classification officers at the institution and state are finding ways to push back opportunities to lower his current classification.
    Ken, I could go on and on, as you are probably aware, but I would love for you to email me and provide me with any guidance that may be useful to expedite his release, as there are numerous incidents that support lengthening his stay for no reason at all.
    Thanking you again for reminding everyone about those that have been unjustly incarcerated, not forgotten, nor defeated.
    From the heart,

    • Hi Keiva,
      Yours in a familiar story, especially with respect to our time with David. Not knowing the circumstances in your brother’s case, I can only share my experience. The sadness of the various systems of injustice or, as Rubin would say, “The so-called criminal justice system”, is that the innocent suffer far more than the guilty. To proclaim one’s innocence puts the prisoner at odds with the inertia of the legal process, e.g. in order to get paroled, he has to show remorse. But how can he show remorse for something he hasn’t done?

      David was able to get landscaping work outside the prison for the last four months of his incarceration. It was beneficial, although the way you envision it, as becoming “re-acclimated to society”, did not jibe with our experience. It was beneficial for two reasons: 1. reacquainting himself with the natural world and 2. being able to have time away from the poison of the prison. Re-acclimating will be extremely difficult as it is for all former prisoners. He will need support from many sources.

      You say that your brother is scheduled for release in 2018. Is that the earliest parole date or the end of his sentence? If it’s the first, there’s no guarantee at all. If they are looking to lower his classification, it may have something to do with his claim of innocence. They don’t think he’s guilty; they KNOW it. For them, error is not a possibility.
      Hope this helps, although it may be cold comfort.

      • Thank you Ken. My apologies for not being clear; this is the man I’ve loved since I was in 8th grade, before I even knew what love was, LOL.

        I know the FLDOC’s reluctance to practice proper and fair protocol is mainly because of his charges, 2nd degree murder. Additionally, he hasn’t been a saint over the years. He has dealt with a plethora of things during his time of incarceration which have darkened and desensitized him. He doesn’t trust easily, and even with those of us of whom he trusts, the foundation is sometimes fluid, to say the least. However, he has had a span of time (years) that has been incident free, and he is well respected amongst the COs and other staff members who are in contact with him. Overall, his character, morals, values, personality and principals are strong; but because of the record, there are unspoken preconceived notions about who he really is, which is normal practice of those who’ve lost their freedom.

        When there are clear opportunities for us to question unjust practices and protocols, he oftentimes advises us not to move forward, as he is concerned about retaliation from personnel. I’ve even experienced racism directed towards me as I’ve attempted to fight on his behalf. Florida is certainly a “good ole boy system” which, in some cases, hires people who are not qualified to do the job with fidelity, making decisions because of the “system-within-the system” they’ve created to protect one another from being exposed of wrong-doing.

        What is most frustrating is that he sees other men with similiar or like charges be granted opportunities to go outside of the gates. It’s very disheartening to him and most of all, has caused him to just accept what they are doing. The current release date CRD as of today is 10.2.18, and his custody was just lowered to minimum as of 6.19.16. For the past 6 years, they have formed obstacles that don’t coincide with policy in terms with good behavior and program completion, which according to administrative procedure should have lowered his custody and points at a much more rapid rate. However, they always moved the date back or shielded themselves with other excuses.

        The last triumph to date was earlier in the year when I wrote directly to the Florida State Secretary of Corrections of Corrections, Julie Jones, and he was moved to a re-entry camp within two days, which indicated to me that once again, they were attempting to cover their wrong doing. Nothing, as you know, moves within the DOC that quickly unless there is something wrong on their behalf.

        The biggest blow came to us when the prosecutor who put him behind bars was recently ousted for putting numerous African American men behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. None of these things matter to those who’ve already fallen prey to his unethical practices.

        I thank you for taking the time to respond to me. It feels so good to just vent to an advocate who puts his money where his mouth is, and the WORK!

        You’re truly a blessing, and I sincerely send you and your family well wishes. Your son…..truly amazing. Glad that he was able to turn things around as a result of your commitment to others.

        Thanking you in advance,

        • Thanks, Keiva. Sorry about the misunderstanding–don’t know why I thought he was your brother.
          Much of what the DOC’s do is beyond my understanding.

  7. I just completed the documentary and it was so amazing, inspiring and ground breaking. It gives us perfect insight into the flaws that cloud of justice (injustice) system. The effort and determination of yourself and your team displayed are heart warming and a true example that their is still good in our world..

  8. Just watched “David and Me”, what an inspiration of hope and how there is still true human kindness and love in this world! Very touching and emotional, cried several times! Thank you all for fighting for this innocent man and showing no prejudice in the color of a person’s skin! We are all children of God! I pray for an abundance of blessings to David and all of you that made his dream a reality!

  9. Mr. Klonsky:
    After watching your son’s documentary I felt compelled to reach out to Mr. McCallum. However, I was unable to find contact information and am hoping that you will forward my comments to him. You sir, are to be commended on raising such a fine young man, who deserves commendation in his own right.

    Dear Mr. McCallum:

    I recently saw the documentary Fight for Justice: David and Me. Its story, which is your story, is painful and horrific. I know that the pain I felt in learning your story is not even an iota of the pain you, your family, and friends felt for far too long. Yet it is also a story of inspiration, because of your determination to define your life even while behind the bars of a cell.

    There are some who may dismiss your story based upon the belief that the claim of your false confession is itself false. However, such people most likely do not have the benefit of personal experience that lends credibility to your claim. You and I lived our teenage years in drastically different places. As young adolescents, you lived in a city gripped by the vice of a crime epidemic while I grew up on idyllic Cape Cod. Although we grew up in different places, we grew up in similar economic circumstances, as my family belonged to the working class poor.

    In my early teenage years, I mowed lawns during the summer to earn money and was accused of stealing silver from the home of one of my customers. Admittedly, the offense for which I was accused is trivial compared to the offense you faced; however, this experience provided me with a perspective I have not fully appreciated until I learned your story. To this day, I remember the fear I felt when a police detective grilled me about doing something I knew that I did not do. I was fortunate in that my involvement in the case ended with one interview. I also benefitted from a couple of things you did not: 1.) I was interviewed with my mother present, and 2.) the color of my skin (I am white).

    In no way am I trying to compare our experiences, but only to provide a context for how I can empathize with your experience. Learning your story made me face a question I had never asked myself: what if I had been convicted of that offense? Would I have been able to go to college on an academic and athletic scholarship? If I had not been able to go to college, then I obviously would not have been able to attend a prestigious graduate school, again on academic scholarship. There is no question that without my education that my professional accomplishments would never have happened. I raise my academic scholarships not to boast, but rather to use them as an illustration. Despite my abilities, my life may have been sidetracked in ways I cannot imagine if I had been convicted of an offense for which I was accused but entirely innocent.

    However this is not the purpose of my writing. The point of the above paragraphs are simply summarized by, but for the Grace of God there go I. The reason I am writing is to thank you. I want to thank you for being the man that you are. To thank you for your courage and grace. Most of all, to thank you for your spirit. Admittedly, the gratitude I express is selfish. It is selfish because I am grateful for your story because it epitomizes the power of hope in uncertain times. Our economy is stagnant, our public discourse is uncivil and even more stagnant, and we live in a country divided in too many ways; like race, class, and gender. Yet your story of facing insurmountable odds with dignity, and refusing to relinquish hope, offers a salve to our wounded times. It is a story of hope and faith in a time when we need hope and the ability to believe more than ever in my lifetime.

    I am profoundly sorry for the injustice you endured. It pains me to know of the loss of your freedom during what is consider the best years of your life. However, I do not think those years were lost. As difficult as it was for you to spend those years, you spent them in order to ultimately inspire hope. I cannot imagine the darkest nights you spent in prison, of the pain and loneliness you felt, and there is nothing I can do to assuage that pain or dispel that loneliness. All I can do is offer a humble and sincere thank you for enduring them.
    Thank you for your courage and for enduring the incredibly difficult passages of your life’s journey, and for your willingness to share your journey. For your journey enriches us all, and will make profound differences you never imagined and may never know.

    Malachy Rice

    • Dear Malachy Rice,
      I have forwarded your heartfelt comments to David. If you want to contact him directly, you can go to my website and look on “David McCallum on the outside”. or KenKlonsky.com/David-McCallum-on-the-outside. His blog tells of the life he’s living since getting out of prison. While it’s not easy, he’s done better than most. If you click on the blue title beneath the original title, you can respond to his blog.
      Please let me take a moment to tell you how moved I was by your observations. Many people have written in to this site and ten. times that amount have written into the Facebook site for Fight for Justice: David & Me. I appreciate each one but your willingness to elaborate so fully inspires me to keep going. Thanks as well for your comment about Ray (and Marc, who is also a kind of son to me).

  10. God Bless all of those who helped David & David, along with his family, for having such courage and faith. You are truly angels for helping him and he’s an angel for helping you. I just watched the Netflix documentary & was so moved by the story. Simply amazing!

  11. Hello Mr. Klonsky. I just watched your documentary, David and Me. I was so overwhelmed and touched by how much work, and help you and your son did for Mr. David McCallum. God bless you both. There needs to be more people in the world like you. God bless.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Gregory. Just to clarify, David & Me is my son’s (and Marc Lamy, his friend’s) documentary. I was just in the film rather than directing it. More to the point, there were times when we all felt despair at the mindless resistance we were facing. I guess what the experience told me is that you have to, for the love of your brothers and sisters, keep on going no matter what they throw at you. I would hope that is what God would want us to do; a lot of people seem to feel that way.

  12. I just watched the documentary and I am overwhelmed with emotion. Tears of joy at the end of it. So thankful for people like David, yourself, your son and all those involved who want and take a stand for justice.

  13. I just finished watching David’s story. Justice can be so unfair at times, especially in those days. I am glad he is home and able to take care of his mother and sister. As a mother of an incarcerated son, it’s very heartbreaking. My son was 18 and had just graduated high school and was a freshman in college when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Your son reminded me of my son. It was his first offense and he was hanging around a bad crowd and it cost us all a great deal. He should be walking around with a chip on his shoulders but he’s often asked by other inmates why he’s always smiling. He answers, I’m alive and things could be worse. I should’ve done the same as you Mr. Klonsky but it was too late. My son will now mentor young adults and try to get them to see they can change and not end up in prison. I can’t wait to write him and tell him about this. Especially about your son. My son sticks out like a soar thumb next to everyone. It’s sad but it’s my life now. Thank you and your son for helping David. And thank you, David, for sharing your story.

    • Dear Roxanne,
      Yours is a sad story; prison is prison whether you’re wrongly or rightly convicted. The idea of a mentor is vital for young men (not sure if it’s the same for women); they need someone outside their families to usher them into the world. They are lucky if they find someone like David McCallum, because, if they don’t, it’s easier to find a bad influence and go completely wrong. The one positive in your story is that your son–despite having destroyed a part of his own life (and maybe others?)–is capable of helping others. His soul is intact, despite the experience he has had. He realizes that he can still be a force for good. You can still be proud of him.

  14. Never knew grace could just behold someone just like that. You were really God ‘s sent to David. Was very emotional for me to imagine what he passed through. Thank you for being that great helper.

  15. Mr.Ken
    I literally just finished watching your story on David McCullam. I tell you I was brought to tears watching. The justice system is so jacked up. I pray that David and his family are doing well. Staying so positive despite all that he has been through sent chills down my spine. I personally would like to thank you and expecially your son for all the you have done! God bless you both. For David thank you for sharing your story and giving me the strength to keep pushing no matter what.

    • Hi Natasha,
      I much appreciate your words and sentiments. In mentioning David and his family, you refer to the best part of the story, his new family: a partner who had two children to begin with and a new baby girl named Quinn. David, no matter how difficult the road, will be (and already is) a great father. Helping to bring David back into the world has been its own reward. See kenklonsky.com/david-mccallum-on-the-outside. It’s inspiring.

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