What It’s Really Like When a Prison ‘Lifer’ Gets a New Shot at Life
Ricardo Sapienza served 25 years for a crime he swears he didn’t commit. But his hardest challenge began the day the parole board finally said “yes.”
Photos by Isadora Kosofsky
On the breezy patio of an upscale Brazilian steakhouse overlooking Redondo Beach, Ricardo Sapienza celebrates his 46th birthday with thirty close friends and family members. Presents pile up, balloons float in the air, meat is carved from rotisserie skewers, and later, feather-headed Samba dancers will shimmy through. Forty-six is not a milestone for most, but this is the first time in 25 years Sapienza is celebrating his birthday as a free man. For a quarter century he was inmate #H28469. Convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder at the age of twenty in 1991, he was paroled on April 8, 2016. Tonight he also celebrates his last weekend in a six-month court-ordered transitional housing program.
He’s wearing a light blue suit that was given to him by a cousin, like most of the other clothing he owns. It hangs from his compact frame as he makes his way through the crowd, greeting friends, some for the first time since his release, with a mustachioed …