Freeing 17 inmates is not prison reform

If you watch television, I’m sure many of you have seen the advertisements for the new Kim Kardashian documentary or you’ve read about her “freeing prisoners that, in her opinion, deserve to be free.”

While I applaud Ms. Kardashian for helping to set free 17 inmates, these inmates were low income, first time offenders and convicted of minor drug charges. Admirable, but no prison reform.

I have dedicated more than 40 years of my life to working with inmates both in and out of state and federal prisons. My work started small, being the liaison to inmates in county jail, helping them gain job and interview skills when they were released and working with them to replace identification cards, driver’s licenses, and Social Security identification. Many of these men had served lengthy sentences in some of the toughest California prisons from San Quentin to Folsom. This is not easy work. At times it is unsafe and at other times it is heartbreaking. I’ve lost inmates to suicide, mental illness, and parole violations. No, it is not easy work for any of us.

I am not alone in this endeavor. Attorneys who choose to stay with Legal Aid rather than forge a lucrative career; people who go into the prisons on a daily basis to bring relief, conversation, reading material, and companionship to inmates who will never again see the outside world; volunteers who send Christmas cards and letters to inmates; and even religious groups who hold services, counsel, and care about the prisoners inside make a difference in the judicial system with their compassion and their humanity.

The hardest part of prison reform is that it’s not a television program. It’s not pretty, there are no cameras or gift cards from reality TV stars. The hardest part of prison reform is understanding that despite the gut-wrenching hard luck stories, some people really do belong in prison.

Once I sat in the attorney/client room at a Minnesota prison with my client (and later husband) Christopher Boyce. I casually pointed out the nice young man who sat at the opposite end of the room, well dressed and clean shaven, speaking in soft words to his friend. Chris chuckled slightly and said, “That’s the guy who put his wife in the wood chipper.”

Another time, after spending many hours in a room with Charles Manson, I asked him about his prison time. “I belong here, I ain’t no good out there,” was his response.

Boyce and Manson were both right—some people just belong in prison.

But the United States needs to come to grips with its judicial system, its prisons, and its inmates.

In 1992, there were 1.3 million inmates in America’s prisons and jails. But two decades later, a million more had been added (Bureau of Justice Statistics). The majority of those—around 60 percent—are in state prisons, where most people who commit crimes end up. Only around 10 percent are in federal prisons, despite the attention those prisons receive. The rest are held in local jails. And that doesn’t include the millions more on probation and parole.

At the end of 2011, there were 2.2 million Americans incarcerated, 854,000 on parole, and almost 4 million on probation, meaning just under 7 million Americans—or one out of every 34 adults—were being supervised by the criminal justice system.

Not only do we imprison more of our citizens than any other country in the world, as a proportion of our population we imprison 17 times as many people as Iceland, 12 times as many as Japan, and 10 times as many as Switzerland. The only country that even gets into the same neighborhood as us is Russia.

The linked article from the NBC News website is excellent and well worth the read. It focuses on the disparity of sentencing, the loss of hope, and the decline of the justice system.

It will take much more than the reality stars of this world to make the drastic changes and reforms that the judicial system needs to make. We need people who are committed to this work, who will be on the front lines next week, next month, and 40 years from now—even when the television cameras and microphones are silent. There are hundreds of us who are committed and who are here year after year.

So while I’m happy that Ms. Kardashian wants to travel my road, all I can really say is thanks, Kim, but stay in your lane.

Cait Boyce is the co-author of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which documents her decades-long effort to free Cold War spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.

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Christopher Boyce’s captivating sequel to “The Falcon and the Snowman” is now an audiobook

Today, a book you may or may not have heard of called American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman was released in audiobook format. It was co-written by Christopher Boyce (yes, that Christopher Boyce, the eponymous “Falcon” from The Falcon and the Snowman) and chronicles his 25-year imprisonment for selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.

If you’re already sold and just want to know where to find it, go here. Otherwise, keep reading. I’ll see what I can do to convince you that listening to the audiobook will be the best fourteen hours you’ll ever spend having someone read to you.

American Sons is the literary sequel to Robert Lindsey’s The Falcon and the Snowman. It is also a direct sequel to the 1985 movie of the same name, which you may recall starred Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn at the peak of their respective fame curves.

If you haven’t already seen the movie, you should. It’s an important one. Plus, it has a great soundtrack. It’s also not hard to find. Ever since the Edward Snowden story broke and people began drawing comparisons between him and Christopher Boyce, it’s been on constant cable rotation. If you haven’t read the original Robert Lindsey book, you could, but you don’t necessarily have to—American Sons works well as a stand-alone book that recounts the events in the lives of two twenty-something kids who got caught with their hands in the U.S. intelligence cookie jar . . . and spent decades in prison for their crime.

As anyone who’s already read the book will tell you, that’s certainly not all there is to the story. American Sons was co-written by Cait Boyce, the former paralegal who represented Boyce and Lee for parole and wound up marrying the Falcon upon his release from prison. Her story, which is quite possibly even more compelling than that of the Falcon and Snowman themselves, brings an added dimension to this all-true tale of survival and, ultimately, redemption.

The American Sons audiobook was produced and published by Tantor Audio, the company responsible for audiobooks for Orange is the New Black, Twelve Years a Slave, and The Disaster Artist among many others. It is read by the real-life husband and wife team of David Colacci and Susan Ericksen. It is available now from Audible and Amazon. Race you there.

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Watch: The time Cold War spy Christopher Boyce (AKA The Falcon) was interviewed in prison


On May 23, 1982, Australian journalist Ray Martin of 60 Minutes visited Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary to interview Cold War spy Christopher Boyce, whose story was popularized in the critically acclaimed book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman.

In the televised interview, Boyce discussed at length the incidents that led to his 1977 arrest and conviction for espionage—including his discovery, while working as a telex operator in the top secret Black Vault of defense contractor TRW, that the CIA had infiltrated Australian labor unions and orchestrated the overthrow of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

“My government was deceiving an ally,” Boyce told Martin. “An English-speaking parliamentary democracy. I thought it was indicative of what my country had sunk to.”

Click above to watch the full video, or go here. The full transcript of Ray Martin’s interview with Christopher Boyce can be found here.

Recently, Christopher Boyce co-authored a sequel to The Falcon and the Snowman titled American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book documents his twenty-five years in prison, including his 1980 escape from Lompoc federal prison and recapture by U.S. Marshals nineteen months later. American Sons also tells the story of how one determined paralegal, Cait Mills, successfully lobbied for Boyce’s parole and that of his accomplice, Andrew Daulton Lee.

American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available now in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. Find it here.

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The Falcon and Goliath, or: The Indie E-book that Could

The indie-published book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition) just bested new publications by HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan, St. Martin’s Press, and Scribner to claim the #1 spot on two Amazon Hot New Releases lists.

This week, Glass Spider Publishing released the e-book edition of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition). Following on the heels of the long-awaited hardcover edition, the e-book rocketed up the Amazon bestseller charts and entrenched itself firmly in the #1 position in two categories (Biographies and True Crime), and nearly broke the top 10 in the general Nonfiction category.

American Sons also found itself in the #1 spot on two Amazon “Hot New Releases” lists—above books published by HarperCollins, Macmillan, Random House, St. Martin’s Press, and Scribner.

To call this an accomplishment is an understatement. American Sons is a wholly independent endeavor; a book operating without benefit of the marketing muscle of the Goliath-sized titans of the publishing industry, and one that continues to find new audiences despite limited media exposure. And the journey’s not over yet. The paperback edition is currently in the works, and we’ll be posting updates regularly on social media and giving our mailing list subscribers advance notice of its publication. If you’re not already signed up for our mailing list, you can do so here.

The Kindle e-book of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition) is available now exclusively from Amazon and includes a bonus section with links to transcripts, articles, and video interviews with Christopher Boyce. To purchase it, go here.

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Calvin Robinson granted compassionate release

The kindly giant of a man who befriended convicted spy Christopher Boyce at Lompoc federal prison in 1980 was featured prominently in the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.

Written by Cait Boyce

As many of you already know, I have been working with Calvin Robinson, a man who played a key role in Chris’s life. Having been associated with Cal has been a blessed event in my life. For those of you who don’t know Cal’s story, he has served nearly thirty years as a federal prisoner based solely upon the government prosecutor’s creative misapplication of the marijuana laws, under color of a Life Sentence—a true death sentence—and without an Act of Congress.

In May 1988, not long after I had relocated from San Diego to San Francisco, Special Agent Norman Wood of the U.S. Customs Service, after almost a yearlong undercover investigation, seized the ocean-going tugboat Intrepid Venture, which was towing a drug-filled barge under the Golden Gate Bridge. Calvin Robinson was arrested trying to smuggle fifty-six tons of hashish and marijuana into the United States. It was the largest drug seizure ever made within the United States, with an alleged street value of over one billion dollars.

Tried in the Northern District of California, Cal was forced to represent himself. Odd? His attorney had been killed twenty-four hours before the start of the trial, and yet Judge Bryer refused to allow Cal time to acquire new counsel. Cal was found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

For the past twenty-nine years, Cal has been a thorn in the side of the federal judicial system and has challenged his sentence with every breath. I got involved back in 1999, but then found a direct conflict of interest because I was employed by the law firm from which Judge Bryer was appointed to the bench.

In 2016, I finally got my chance to offer help to Cal and re-involved myself in his case. This also provided Chris and Cal the opportunity to finally speak to one another. It was in 1980 that Calvin Robinson became instrumental in helping a young Christopher Boyce learn to survive on escape status, and they had not spoken since. Their first conversation was so touching that it was all I could do to keep from crying.

I followed up with Cal’s appeals, dealt with the courts, and got involved (to my great dislike) with the United States Parole Commission. Yep, they remembered me. And nope, they were not happy that I had insinuated myself back into their business.

But the truth is this: Cal Robinson is seventy-five years old and in poor health. Recently, he was diagnosed with cancer and has been going through rigorous treatments. Right up until a guard at the prison decided Cal didn’t need any more treatments. Sadly, this is the way of the prison system, and the only thing left to do is fight them at every turn.

Cal wrote a plea for compassionate release. I wrote a brief for his compassionate release. His sister, Sue, and his brother-in-law have supported Cal in every attempt at release. His dear friend, Brad Schluter, has been there for support, phone calls, prayers, and friendship. I started calculating how much time I had left to get this before a judge before the lack of treatments would finally kill Cal. It kept me up at night.

On January 19, 2018, nearly thirty years into his life sentence, we received some news: Calvin Robinson’s compassionate release has been granted, and he is going home.

The Northern District Probation Office is readying their final interviews regarding the pending compassionate release, and approved paper work will be submitted from their office this week. Release could be within one week to six months.

This didn’t happen because of the work I did, or the work that Brad or Cal did. This happened because we, as a team, became a coordinated force to deal with in our single-minded effort to defeat what was truly evil. In the end, we succeeded in bringing aid to a man who, despite his crime of thirty years ago, is a good and decent human being. We never lost faith on the road to freedom, and we never gave up.

It really does take a village—and in this case, I am beyond proud to be part of Calvin Robinson’s village.

Cait Boyce is the co-author of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which documents her efforts to free Cold War spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.

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Whatever happened to Cold War spy Christopher Boyce?

If you haven’t already read Christopher Boyce’s book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, you really should.

Today—October 19, 2017—marks the publication of the 40th anniversary expanded edition of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, written by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce, and Vince Font. You can find the book in hardcover from a variety of online booksellers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

The new book was published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the arrests and convictions of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee in 1977, but that’s not the only milestone its publication observes. 2017 also marks 20 years since Andrew Daulton Lee was released from prison, 15 years since Christopher Boyce was released from prison, 15 years since he and Cait Boyce became husband and wife—and five years since the crazy notion to put the whole story down on paper was first hatched.

The 2017 edition of American Sons includes expanded content, all-new sections, never-before-seen photos, and a beautifully redesigned dust jacket. The final product represents a year of hard work. In that time, we performed a full re-edit of the original manuscript, expanded sections we felt needed expanding, and incorporated dozens of pages of new content.

Some of the new content includes…

  • A foreword by Pulitzer Prize nominee Bryan Denson, author of The Spy’s Son.
  • A preface by Cait Boyce.
  • Editorials written by Christopher Boyce and published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune during his time at Oak Park Heights prison.
  • An afterword by Vince Font.
  • A postscript by Christopher Boyce.

Writing a book is hard work. Perfecting that work in a manner that does justice to the story is even harder. We hope you’ll find the 2017 edition of American Sons worthy of the effort it took, and worthy of your interest.

Since the book is being distributed by the Ingram Book Company, it will be available to chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble, as well as independent bookstores and libraries. If you’d like to help spread the word, we encourage you to call your local bookstore and library and ask them to carry American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition).


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Coming Soon: American Sons 40th anniversary hardcover edition

Forty years ago, in 1977, Christopher John Boyce was arrested for passing top-secret U.S. intelligence to the Soviet Union. The events that led to Boyce’s arrest and conviction, including that of his childhood friend and accomplice Andrew Daulton Lee, were chronicled in the book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman.

To mark the milestone anniversary of one of the most high-profile and controversial espionage cases in U.S. history, Glass Spider Publishing has announced the forthcoming hardcover publication of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman — 40th Anniversary Edition.

“We felt it was important to mark the 40th anniversary of the arrests and convictions to demonstrate how sharply the political climate has changed in the last four decades,” said Vince Font, who co-authored the book with Christopher Boyce and Cait Boyce.

American Sons was written before the era of Edward Snowden, whose revelations had an earth-shattering impact on the way U.S. citizens view their government,” Font said. “Suddenly, understanding where Christopher Boyce was coming from all those years ago became a lot easier. In light of the actions of Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning, I think Christopher Boyce’s story is more relevant today than ever before.”

Originally published in 2013 in e-book and paperback format, the deluxe hardcover edition will include expanded content, additional commentary, and previously unseen photographs that document the imprisonment and eventual release of two of America’s youngest spies. The hardcover will also feature a redesigned book cover.

“It was important to us to deliver the second edition in a package befitting the content,” Font said of the book’s re-issue. “We also wanted to give people who have already read the book something more they could sink their teeth into. This will be the definitive edition of the book.”

American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman — 40th Anniversary Edition is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2017. To be notified of the book’s release, sign up for the Codename Falcon newsletter here.

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Kathy Griffin ranks “American Sons” in top 3 favorite reads of 2016

It’s always a delight to receive the support and positive feedback of readers, but when one of those readers also happens to be a well-known celebrity, it’s a genuine thrill.

As some of you may already know, one of the biggest fans and supporters of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is none other than Kathy Griffin. Yes, the Kathy Griffin, the uber-successful comedian, actress, and #1 New York Times bestselling author whose new book, Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index, was published by Flatiron Books in November.

To coincide with its publication, Kathy was invited by Amazon’s official book blog, Omnivoracious, to share her favorite reads of 2016. She named American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman among her top three favorites.

What’s so special about this is that American Sons is a truly anomalous beast. For one, it’s the only book Kathy Griffin named that was independently published, and that isn’t represented by a major publisher. It’s also the only book on her short list that wasn’t written by a previous New York Times bestselling author.

To call this an honor is an understatement. It’s the kind of recognition every writer dreams of. It’s also a notable endorsement that speaks volumes for a book no publishing company would touch with a ten-foot pole — an aversion likely driven by the controversy that would arise with the publication of a book written by a convicted spy. Even in today’s post-Snowden America, it’s difficult to envision any publisher willing to take a chance on something as incendiary.

It’s a point Kathy Griffin herself alluded to in her review of American Sons, where she wrote: “When the Edward Snowden story broke, I became curious about the real life stories of the two young Americans who were the subject of one of my favorite films, The Falcon and the Snowman. Guess what? They are both very much alive. This page-turner chronicles in gripping detail the real life story of this real live spy. It’s also a love story. I honestly can’t believe this book didn’t go to #1, when we have so many questions about what it’s really like to go through such a unique and newsworthy journey.”

For bringing to light a book that took years to write and an even greater effort to self-promote, the three of us — Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce, and myself — owe Kathy Griffin a great debt of gratitude.

You can see Kathy Griffin’s full review of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, and read about her other two favorite book picks, here.

Vince Font is the co-author and publisher of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. He founded Glass Spider Publishing in 2016 to help bring visibility to underrepresented authors.

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Praise for “American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman”

2016 marks the third anniversary of the publication of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. In that time, the book has received the kind of press many authors only dream of, including international print, TV, and radio coverage from the likes of CNN and the BBC.

Perhaps most importantly, the book continues to resonate with readers who see it as far more than just a chronicling of contemporary historical events, but an inspiring tale of survival and recovery.

With that in mind, we figure there’s no better way to celebrate the book’s third birthday than to share some of the stunning feedback we’ve received from the people whose opinions matter most: the readers themselves. Here’s just some of what people have said about American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.

“A brilliant finale to the Christopher Boyce saga.”

“A beautifully written account of the rare and hopeful bond that can manifest in even the darkest, most desperate of places.”

“Compelling and brutally honest. Read it if you dare.”

“A gritty true tale of survival and courage.”

“A modern-day Papillon screaming to be made into a motion picture.”

“The stories were exciting, suspenseful, and Chris Boyce’s experiences were so powerful you felt like you were walking with him every step of the way.”

“If ever there was a tale of love conquering all, this is it.”

“A heart so loud, so clear, that you could reach out and touch it.”

“From the first paragraph to the last, this is a riveting page-turner.”

“A devastatingly beautiful, inspirational, and soulful story of vulnerable spirits and hope.”

“The best read I’ve had in years!”

“A jaw-dropping story, so beautifully written I had to read it twice to savor some of the best passages.”

“It gives insight and emotion, agony, heartbreak, triumph and resolution.”

“An emotional roller coaster from the first page to the last.”

“A story of courage, crime, law and justice, told as a thriller—and true.”

“When a book has the ability to inspire you to think or act differently, you could consider it a masterpiece. Its impact is nothing short of enlightening.”

A heartfelt thanks from the three of us—Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce and myself—for the continued support. It has been an exhilarating journey so far, and we’re honored to have you all along for the ride.

The book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman was written by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce, and Vince Font. The newly expanded 40th anniversary edition is available now in hardcover from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

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