Trejo's life of crime landed him in prison twice. While there, he met someone who encouraged him to live a life that was clean and sober. So after leaving prison for the last time more than 40 years ago, "before I did anything else, I went to a meeting," Trejo said, "and I started going to meetings, I started surrounding myself with people who had my best interests at heart, not theirs."
Trejo believes in what he calls "education over incarceration," admitting that he didn't get his high school diploma until he was serving time in San Quentin. An incident there made him recall his fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Findlay, who always nagged him about getting a diploma, telling him that without one, "You'll never amount to anything!" Trejo's initial reaction? "Shut up lady, I hated her!"
Yet once inside the legendary penitentiary, Trejo's friends encouraged him to apply for a prison job at the dry cleaner. His application was rejected. "My docket came back, 'This trade requires a high school diploma,'" Trejo said. "I swear to God I heard Mrs. Findlay say, 'I told ya, I told ya.' Even in prison you need a high school diploma!"