Jarvis Jay Masters is a widely-published African American Buddhist writer living on San Quentin's Death Row. Thousands of people have read his stories and essays. A growing international movement is seeking to overturn his wrongful conviction. This website was created by the Committee to Free Jarvis Jay Masters. It does not originate in San Quentin.
Jarvis Masters was convicted of participating in the killing of a prison guard, Sergeant Howell Burchfield, despite the fact that he was in another part of the prison when the guard was killed. Another prisoner was convicted of actually stabbing Sergeant Burchfield, and a third man of ordering the killing. We have deep sympathy for the Burchfield family’s loss, and while we respect their desire for justice, we believe that Jarvis is not guilty of the crime for which he alone was given the death sentence.
This website provides an introduction to Jarvis Masters' life and work. You can find out about Jarvis's background. We have provided a summary of how and why Jarvis was sentenced to death, and an update on his appeal. We also set out why we believe Jarvis is innocent.
While living on death row, Jarvis has become an eloquent writer. Read about his highly-praised book Finding Freedom -- Writings From Death Row, including how to order it. We have placed excerpts from Jarvis's writings throughout the site. Finding Freedom has been praised by such important figures as Angela Davis and Pema Chödrön, and is being used in classrooms as a teaching tool to show children an alternative to violence.
An important aspect of Jarvis's life on Death Row has been his Buddhist practice. Read about how Jarvis became a Buddhist, and how meditation has changed his life and affected the lives of his fellow prisoners.
We in the Committee join the Catholic Church, numerous Protestant denominations, Amnesty International, and people of conscience around the world in seeking an end to capital punishment. We have included pages discussing abolition of the death penalty, and offer suggestions on how you can join in this work and assist in the effort to free Jarvis.
Many people have responded to Jarvis's situation. We will post some of the feedback our Committee has received from supporters. We also provide a way for you to respond to this website and to support the campaign to free Jarvis Jay Masters.
Pema Chödrön is one of America's best-known Buddhist teachers, and is a personal teacher of Jarvis Masters. This is what she writes about Jarvis: