The high school dropout became fascinated after reading a prestigious archaeology magazine in a prison waiting room. The rest may be history.
In 1996, Fenstermacher, then 24, was sentenced to 16 years for felony assault, a period extended by three years after an altercation with a guard in prison.
The prison confrontation landed him in solitary confinement, where he thrived because he could focus on Egyptology. When time came to return to the general prison population, he sought and won permission to remain in solitary.
Using the cartons from his allotment of morning milk, Fenstermacher would make flashcards, each bearing a single hieroglyph — four a day for a decade. He read the cards while he worked out, forcing himself to get five right before switching exercises.
Transgender inmates struggle in California prisons: A court ruling in one prisoner’s favor could make California the first place in the U.S. required to provide sex-reassignment surgery.
Photo: Thomas Strawn, a transgender inmate who goes by the name Lisa, applies eyeliner inside her cell. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times