My short bio: I stole the safe. I turned the photos in anonymously. I faced 400 years to life under California's 3 Strikes Law. All of my strikes were for serious but nonviolent theft (burglary, possession of stolen property). I did not get a life sentence, but have served just under 9 years in California prisons. I paroled in 2012 and have been off parole since 2013. I don't steal anymore.

My Proof: I did an interview with the Sword & Scale Podcast here: https://hahnscratch.com/2017/05/07/sword-scale-episode-89/ OR HERE https://www.swordandscale.com/sword-and-scale-episode-89/ And here's an old article about my case: https://tucson.com/news/national/good-deed-may-not-give-burglar-leniency/article_a9cc3db9-1f05-5e2c-aea2-d552d92c4e86.html My Twitter: https://twitter.com/hahnscratch

Photo Verification (you can compare to Twitter profile, or Google Searches): https://imgur.com/GfRDi2z

9:45 pm PST: I'm signing off live, but will continue to answer questions as best I can going forward.

Comments: 106 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

gellergreen29 karma

Hi there! Hope things are going well for you :) that’s pretty amazing that despite the trouble you could have gotten in you turned in the safe.. how did you get started with stealing? Like were you bored, did you fall on hard times? Hope that’s an okay question. Thanks for doing this

Edit: also how are things for you now?

hahnscratch32 karma

I presume you're talking about the more felonious theft. Because I did steal little things here and there as a kid.

I started stealing mostly as a way to pay for drugs. But then the stealing became a drug of its own, an addiction in its own right. The stealing also progressed from 'soft' theft to 'hard' theft, in much the same way one might progress in drug use.

hahnscratch26 karma

I suppose I should explain 'soft' versus 'hard' theft. This may or may not make sense to people who haven't experienced something similar.

So, when I first started stealing, I told myself I wouldn't steal from individuals, from homes, from cars, stuff like that. So, I only stole from stores or businesses. Then, I crossed that line and stole from a construction site. My new boundary was that I wouldn't steal from any place where people currently lived. Then, I crossed that line, so my new boundary was that I would steal from cars or garages but that I wouldn't enter a house. Eventually, I crossed that line, too.

elvis561317 karma

What are your thoughts on rehabilitations in the prison system? Also kudos man that took some mug strength to put yourself on the line in that way

hahnscratch21 karma

That's a really complex topic that is hard to answer without it being more specific. My experience, however, was that my rehabilitation was generated from within. It wasn't something the prison system fostered for me.

alliknowis5 karma

Sure gave you the environment and time to rehabilitate yourself though, didn't it?

hahnscratch20 karma

This is definitely true. It is no coincidence that both prisons and monasteries have cells.

hahnscratch9 karma

Thinking about this a bit more. Yes, I was able to make rehabilitation work for me. But it would be nice if it could work for a lot more people (people who, for example, don’t have familial and financial support as I did). Prison can be such a toxic place. For the sake of either the prisoners or the people on the streets who will live with them when they get home, it would be prudent to find ways to make it less toxic.

38LeaguesUnderTheSea2 karma

Sometimes I miss prison... Hell of a thing.

hahnscratch2 karma

There are little things I miss, but not enough that I’d ever want to go back.

eskimoexplosion17 karma

From your experience as a burglar, what's the best deterrent from burglary as a homeowner?

hahnscratch34 karma

Loud, barking dogs. Loud, external burglar alarms. And very bright motion lights that are not within arm's reach (I would often just unscrew them or knock them out).

Another deterrent. Don't put your garage door opener in a car that is sitting in the driveway.

Sligee9 karma

Fuck, that's how I park my car

hahnscratch10 karma

Well, I suppose a change is in order. With a garage door opener in there, you're just one broken car window away from a home burglary.

Ghana_Mafia10 karma

2 questions...

1. How popular is homosexuality in prison?....Anytime I watch Prison documentaries, homosexuality tends to pop up and I wonder if TV producers are actually using that to make their documentaries scandalous for views or does it really happen a lot in prison?...You said you did 9 years in a few prisons in California....How was it like?....Did someone attempt to rape you and was homosexuality the "it" thing to engage in....or are these TV prison life documentaries exaggerating....What were your experiences?

2. Were you stealing because you needed money or were you stealing to just to be adventurous and rebellious?...I'm asking this because I used to know someone who stole stuff and burglarized homes just for the thrill....His parents were rich so it's not like he didn't have access to money....He just stole stuff just to prove that he could and for the thrill....for an adrenaline rush....so what was your reason?....was it for money or for the adrenaline?

hahnscratch12 karma

1) I cannot speak for the entire prison population. I can only speak for California prisons, and only the ones I was at. So, I lived on level 3, level 2, and level 1 (maximum to medium to low security) yards, all general population (so, no yards with snitches or sex offenders or gang drop-outs). And I am White (race makes a big difference).

First of all, I never once witnessed or heard about a rape happening. This doesn't mean it didn't happen, but if it it did it wasn't visible.

Second, homosexuality is a big no-no inside, at least for Whites and Southsiders (and I believe with other races as well). So there was nothing happening in the open. If it did, those people would've been dealt with severely.

My first time in prison (2000-2001), there were still trans people on the yard (so, trans women). There was an understanding that they were there but we weren't supposed to engage with them sexually. Per prison politics. By the time I returned to prison in 2005-2006, they were gone. I think most of them had been moved to special yards where they were safer.

hahnscratch6 karma

2) I answered this a bit in another comment. I started out stealing in order to get money for drugs. It progressed to stealing in order to have more money for other stuff. And then it progressed into stealing for the sake of stealing, an addiction in its own right. So, yes, the thrill, the sense of power, the adrenaline.

breedus6 karma

Crazy, I just listened to the podcast you were on the other day

What are you working on now? I assume some kind of advocacy/reform work? You seemed pretty knowledgeable about current problems in the prison system, etc.

Also, on a personal note, thanks for sharing your story with such candor. I told my gf after listening that I'd heard a lot of myself in there. I never went to prison, but did a lot of crazy shit for drugs and while drunk. Been sober two years now

hahnscratch9 karma

I raise awareness when I can, usually by speaking with students at a local high school and San Jose State University. I feel like I fit better as a storyteller, as somebody who can humanize the experience of people who've been through the CJ system. While I have a very in-depth experience with the prison system, I don't think I necessarily know how best to "fix" it. I have ideas which I share with others, but haven't made them into anything concrete.

Honestly, the direction I feel myself going is more towards alleviating the suffering of people who are incarcerated or recently paroled. That comes in the form of the recovery communities I'm a part of, but I also see that happening in the form of mindfulness and meditation groups.

And congrats on the 2 years!

abi_sue975 karma

Don’t take this the wrong way but how close is Orange is the New Black to portraying what prison is really like?

hahnscratch9 karma

Good question. I really enjoyed the first couple of seasons because they got the culture of low-security prisons correct. There were all sorts of little things that were spot on. Like, there was this one scene where they were pulling hidden contraband out of a weird part of a wall and I was like, "Yup. Secret hiding places everywhere." But there's a lot of stuff in the show that's just too extravagant. Its almost like they decided to take every single anomaly that had ever happened in prisons and made them all happen in one prison in a short period of time. I kind of lost interest when that scene when the guard brought a gun in and then an inmate got the gun happened. It was too much. Too unrealistic.

Emjayen4 karma

Any opinion on the series Oz given your experience?

hahnscratch6 karma

I just tried watching Oz last year and I couldn’t get through more than 5-6 episodes. It was too dramatic. I mean, prison can be an awful place, but Oz made it look like prison is just animalistic. It is not all just violence and mayhem. That stuff happens, but 95% of the time prison is boring.

hahnscratch3 karma

If you want a movie that better depicts the serious politics in CA prisons, watch Shotcaller.

franhd3 karma

I remember reading your case in the news a long while back. Knowing you were on your last strike, what made you act on good conscience and turn the guy in for his photos? Did you assess the risk and turned in the photos knowing it could potentially lead you to getting arrested and face a harsh sentence? I guess what I'm really asking here is at the time, was there a sudden moral switch that flipped inside your head?

hahnscratch5 karma

I found the memory card, saw what type of photos were on there, and knew that I had to do something. I knew the risk and thought that if done properly, there would be a pretty slim chance of it getting back to me. And, no, I wasn't thinking about how that would play out if I was arrested. I wasn't that forward thinking.

Not sure if you listened to the Sword and Scale Rewind Episode (the follow-up to the original S&S Episode), but I talk a bit about the moments around my admission to the local police that I'd "given them Aitkens". It happened in the context of a back and forth convo between myself in the officers, who knew me. (it was a small town and I'd been on parole there, so there was familiarity)

franhd3 karma

Thank you for your post. I haven't listened to the podcast yet since I'm in an area with little data, but will do so when I get the chance. I apologize if it's been mentioned already, but what do you know of where Aitken is today? Also, how did your anonymous package get traced back to you?

hahnscratch3 karma

Aitken is still in prison (he got a 30 year sentence). I believe he is eligible for parole in the next year or two.

The package didn’t get traced back to me. As I allude to in the above comment, during my arrest I had a conversation with the cops when I admitted to sending them the memory card (though I didn’t admit to stealing the safe). We then had an off the record conversation, when I told them what I’d found inside the safe (photos, diapers, a gun, etc).

It should be pointed out that they already had a good idea that I'd been the one burglarizing the neighborhood. They had "visited" me at home one night, just to let me know they were onto me. When I went to the station after my arrest, they already had a giant file on me. They'd actually executed an expired search warrant when they arrested me (a story unto itself), which means they'd been planning on getting me for awhile.

Skiizix3 karma

Despite how they still screwed you in the end, I’m happy to hear you did a great thing by turning those in. Do you know if these people were pursued from the evidence you turned in?

hahnscratch6 karma

Yes. The photographs were actually depictions of the person I stole from engaging in sex acts with a child. That man, Robbie Aitkens, was arrested and received a 30 year sentence.

STG_Resnov3 karma

What have you been up to since getting out of jail?

hahnscratch22 karma

I went to UC Berkeley after paroling, studying anthropology. Then, I joined an electricians union where I'm finishing up a 5 year apprenticeship.

I spend my free time doing photography, speaking with students about my story, lecturing on Indian history and philosophy, and traveling (mostly to Asia).

peeledraspberry3 karma

Dude that’s an amazing recovery. Congratulations! I’m glad you are doing so well for yourself. May I ask do you like your new life? And since you compared it to an addiction in another comment, do you ever miss stealing?

hahnscratch6 karma

I wouldn't want to trade my new life for anything. I have to pinch myself regularly.

I'd say that there was a period of time when I "missed" the criminal lifestyle in the same way that a problem drinker periodically misses a drink. It would occur to me as a craving of some sort, but would quickly pass. That doesn't happen any more.

87917819273 karma

That sounds like crap. What were some other bull crap things that happened to you during the trial?

hahnscratch1 karma

Not a ton. I think the weirdest thing was them not wanting to set a reasonable bail amount for me. It started as no bail. Then, after an appeal and hearing, it was "lowered" to $1.2m (which actually requires that you give up twice the amount in collateral).

coldfeet-2 karma

What’s your opinion of prison guards ?

hahnscratch5 karma

That’s a difficult question mostly because they’re all different. I can’t say I have an opinion about prison guards in general. Some of them are assholes and the absolute power gets to their head. They stand out the most but I wouldn’t say they’re all like that, not at all.

A good number of them are just there to do their job and nothing more. This means they will occasionally do something questionable, mostly because they were told to or because they don’t want to break from the cultural expectations.

And then some of them are good people. They are principled and do their best to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

I guess, then, guards are like any human population. I think what makes them unique is that with the ability to have total control over another human, the assholes can do more damage than in other occupations.

I remember a thought my Dad once shared with me at a visit, “You know, in my career, people had to spend years learning and earning the right to tell other people what to do. But prison guards? There is no requirement whatsoever for knowing how to communicate with people, how to have power over other people. And it’s apparent that most of them don’t actually have the skill set to do what they’re charged with, namely, to be peace officers. They only seem to know how to order people around without regard for the fact that there are better ways to get things accomplished. They treat me like I’m a piece of shit, and I can only imagine what they treat you like.”

Now, to be fair, my Dad had a couple of bad experiences observing the way guards treat visitors. But there is a certain validity to his statement.

Pineapple-_-Lord2 karma

I noticed that most people in your situation use "burgled" instead of "thievery", what is your explanation for the reason of this?

hahnscratch3 karma

I think because it’s more specific than thievery. Thievery could be anything. Burgling is entering a business or home to steal. At least that’s how I understand it.

nineyearoldofpewds2 karma

Normally, to some extent, parents or social life has something to do with how a child matures and develops (cognitively.) Is there anything that happened when you were younger that has influenced the way you are?

hahnscratch5 karma

That’s a good question and I think most of the time it’s true. In my case, I can’t put my finger on any singular events in my childhood that would’ve impacted me in such a way. I grew up in a good home, with loving parents, in a nice neighborhood, etc. No abuse, no alcoholism, no addiction, no traumas. The only thing that really bothered me was tension between my parents which eventually led to their divorce when I was a junior in high school, but that’s not particularly abnormal (these days).

I think, in my case, it was a combination of general curiosity, some rebelliousness, and the latch-key kid situation. My curiosity with drugs eventually led to dependence, and it was all downhill from there.

Now, after my first arrest and parole from prison, I was doing pretty good. Going to school. Good job, etc. The suicide of my closest friend was a very traumatic event for me (I was 23), an event that I was mostly unable to cope to with. I think I relapsed on meth about 6 months after that happened.

None of these are excuses. I’m responsible for how I respond to life events. And for a long time, I was terrible at responding to life events.

ZainMunawari2 karma

Hello Matt. I hope you are doing well and good. I am from India.

My question to you: what is your advice for the people who think of easy money and generally start committing crimes and end up spoiling their lives and careers?

hahnscratch1 karma

I feel like you may have answered your own question in the question. But if there’s one thing I might say, which I’ve heard plenty of men say in prison, “There is no such thing as easy money”. In others words, fast money now usually has consequences later. Those consequences aren’t always legal, however; but the karma will always be paid.

pitcher_planter2 karma

Have you made any attempt to repay all the people you stole from?

hahnscratch3 karma

It’s probably impossible. Not because it’s too much money but because I don’t know who they were. I did have close to $20k in restitution which was for the the victims that didn’t get their property back, which I did pay back.

pitcher_planter2 karma

Thanks for your answer.

To be perfectly frank I abhor theft and it is not something I can easily look past even if it had nothing to do with me, but I'm glad restitution was paid. I hope you're able to move past this part of your life.

hahnscratch7 karma

I abhor theft, too. But I did it.

black_flag_4ever2 karma

What’s more effective for home security- a system or a dog?

hahnscratch6 karma

I'd say you need both. A dog can't surround a house, but it will definitely keep somebody out of a backyard. A dog in the house would do the trick. Especially a vocal, large-sounding dog. The alarm system may not keep somebody from breaking in, but it will cause the burglar to leave very fast. Something still might get stolen, but the chance of getting "cleaned out" is slim.

barduke2 karma

What about 4 crazy chihuahuas?

hahnscratch1 karma

Probably not.

StNic542 karma

What are some of the major changes in life that you noticed upon release? What are some of the life events you missed out on?

hahnscratch3 karma

Biggest changes/ The smart phone and social media. They were basically non-existent when I'd been arrested.

Major events missed? Sister's graduation. Mother's wedding. Grandfather's death. Election of Obama. SF Giants' first WS title in forever.

spr07981 karma

Would your younger self have done things differently, and if so, how?

hahnscratch4 karma

Can you be more specific? I mean, if I'd had a better sense of future consequences, then I'm sure I would've made different choices. As it is now, I regret the harm I've caused countless people while at the same time I am grateful for the (painful) lessons I've learned along the way.

tania6191 karma

I’ve followed you since your S&S interview. What was the hardest thing to deal with publicly after that interview?

hahnscratch3 karma

I haven't had any tangible, negative consequences following the interview. I think the worst thing I've had to experience from the public is negative commentary about me in online forums, which is nothing new and is to be expected. I had that happen to me even while I was fighting my case. I'd listen to radio shows while sitting in my cell in the county jail, shows that would allow callers to give their opinion about my future. Some were positive, but most weren't. I try to be understanding, but it doesn't stop it from being difficult to hear. I'll never forget the caller who said, "Hahn should be gone!", which the men in the cell block playfully repeated to me for months afterwards.

And, to be clear, that's small stuff. Stuff that is the natural consequence of the harm I caused others.

tania6192 karma

That is to be expected. I’m glad I heard your story and I will continue to follow and see all the great thing you do. Not sure if I remember correctly but weren’t you writing a book?

hahnscratch2 karma

Yes, I'd started writing a book. I haven't finished it yet. Its a challenge trying to write that thing while working and going to school. But'll get done, hopefully within the year.

MediocrePigeon31 karma

Would you consider your actions worth it?

hahnscratch1 karma

Which actions are you referring to?

Cloudguy1011 karma

Were you hoping to not get prison time or did you turn it knowing you were still gonna get some? You’re a very brave man and I doubt many burglars would’ve done that for fear of being arrested.

hahnscratch2 karma

I wasn’t yet arrested so I was only trying to turn it in without getting caught. I watched the newspaper afterwards to make sure he was arrested, and I was prepared to come forward in a direct way if I had to. But I didn’t have to do that.

Datacruncha1 karma

  1. How were you caught?
  2. What steps did you take to find sobriety?

hahnscratch2 karma

1) I’d stolen a radar detector and sold it on eBay. Didn’t think it was traceable but I was wrong.

2) I started working with a sponsor from AA while I was in the county jail, and continued to go to 12-step groups my entire time incarcerated. I also “discovered” Buddhism and meditation, which became very important to me during my time down. Now, I am heavily involved in mindfulness based recovery groups and am looking to start bringing that into local jails.

zarrilli1 karma

what was a “go song” for you before doing a “job”? Have u ever needed to use the bathroom during it?

hahnscratch3 karma

"Go song"? Nothing specific. It probably depended upon my mood. When I was feeling wild, I listened to Tupac while roaming neighborhoods at night. This is gonna sound ridiculous, but I also listened to Ramstein when scouting neighborhoods.

More often than not, though, I actually went silent on the radio. You see, I did my burglaries at night when people were at home. It didn't make sense to bump music as I drove up to a house.

And, yes, I've had to go to the bathroom while this happened. But my burglaries were usually pretty quick deals so it wasn't anything that couldn't be handled in the bushes.

terpcloudsurfer1 karma

Favorite Rammstein song?

hahnscratch2 karma

I'm sorry, bud, I don't even remember them. There was something about the tone of the music that made me feel like I was a lone Euro-spy or something, on a mission.

tunajones3232-10 karma

It’s extremely hard to meet the threshold for there’s strikes you’re out, as you know. You’re not talking about three skip ups you’re talking about a life that’s dedicated to crime. Thus we say we are safer with you behind bars. While I applaud you’re not a child molester and don’t condone child pornography, do you not feel as if your sentence came off as extremely light. You’re not a hero, you’re a life long criminal “your states words not mine” and you turned it in because even you knew that would get you murdered I. Jail if you didn’t. You didn’t have much of a choice did ya? Eventually they would have connected you to the b and e. Eventually a ton of child porn is missing. You’re the last one with it. You had no choice bro. They hate people with sexual crimes against women and children inside . And you would have gotten that label. You have zero choice when you saw it. Cmon on. Don’t do this to yourself .Don’t you think you should be serving life without?

hahnscratch16 karma

There's a lot in this question. I'd have to disagree with a couple of the premises. First, I got 9+ strikes on my first arrest at age 18, thus making it so any felony I received thereafter would've been a third strike (because they can't strike you out on a single arrest). Second, I wouldn't say I had a life dedicated to crime. I had two separate periods of severe drug addiction when this all happened (one lasted about a year, the second one about 6 months). This is not offered as an excuse for what I did; it is simply to counter the "life of crime" claim.

I definitely had the choice to throw out the photos when I found them, which is what the man I burgled with wanted me to do. And, since I turned these photos in two months before I was arrested, there is no way I could've presumed that I would be connected to the burglary. I certainly didn't imagine that he would report the burglary of his own safe which contained the photos.

hahnscratch12 karma

No, I don't think I should be doing a life sentence. And this isn't just for me, its for anyone serving time for crimes similar to my own. I tend to believe that punishment, if and when it must happen, should be equitable. Whether we like to admit it or not, incarceration is a form of violence (albeit socially acceptable). When we decide to use it as punishment, I don't believe that it should be for longer than what is justifiable per the offense committed (rather than trying to prevent a future crime from happening). Of course, we may disagree about this but I suppose that's what people are usually debating in CJ circles.

tunajones3232-9 karma

Taking you at word and assuming you’re not being dishonest you’re the anomaly. Changing sentencing guidelines based off of one person supposed experience with the evidence is pretty clear it’s the other way is one wya to look at it I guess. I just think you’re being very misleading to people that don’t understand the three strikes law

hahnscratch10 karma

How am I being misleading? Please explain.

Blacky2943 karma

Nah I don't know... maybe I "don't understand" since I'm (gladly) not a USA citizen, but as far as I know there is scientific evidence that those "3 strikes your out" laws don't reduce crimes. Where I live, depending on the crimes ofcourse, people who committed (fairly low-impact) crimes are often released back into society in a controlled way. At the end of their sentence they are allowed to go out on the streets, and back to work, first supervised and later unsupervised. Or with an electronic ankle chain, or whatever it's called. And I think a lot of (former) criminals benefit from this way better then spending life in prison. Especially when you made poor life choices when you were relatively young/given the circumstances and committed crimes where people weren't (seriously) harmed.

hahnscratch4 karma

I haven't read the science but my experience agrees with this. I also spent a lot of time in prison with lifers, most whom had been down many decades since the crimes of their youth, many of whom had committed pretty serious crimes (murder, attempted murder, etc). They, too, can be rehabilitated. They, too, find redemption. Of course, their release is more a political and social issue, as their victims often do not want them released (even if they are deemed likely to not re-offend). And that is understandable.

cheezytoast3 karma

Hey man. Good on you for changing course and making the positive changes necessary for rehabilitation. Keep it up.

hahnscratch3 karma

Thanks a lot!

tunajones3232-10 karma

It’s just how many times do you want praise for this? You turned them in Anonymously, then got caught stealing from an innocent person AGAIN. And you go oh that was me who sent the pictures in trying to get credit and time knocked off your habitual status. You’re a classic con artist You will be right back in

hahnscratch14 karma

Well, I'm not right back in. Its been almost 15 years since this happened, 7 years since I paroled.