Author Archives: Cole Bienek

Unique Culture of S.Q. – Helping One Another

By COLE M. BIENEK San Quentin sits at the vanguard of CDCR’s modest rehabilitative efforts. Each month, the S.Q. News profiles any of a number of S.Q. programs. In this era of budgetary starvation, S.Q. remains steadfastly in pursuit of something larger. One of the things that make San Quentin unusual is that dozens of […]

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VOEG –Where Survivors Meet the Perpetrators

By COLE BIENEK The muggy summer air inside of a small classroom buzzed with a nearly visible electric tension. Eleven men and one woman sat in a circle attentively listening to a twelfth man relate a story plumbed from the depths of his soul. He appears close to tears, nervously wringing his hands, struggling to […]

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The Enduring Problem of Over-Familiarity

By COLE M. BIENEK San Quentin State Prison boasts the highest number of community volunteers and staff sponsorships in the entire state, if not the nation. Every day a veritable army of dedicated, altruistic men and women pass through San Quentin’s iron gates, bringing much-needed hope and compassion to the men imprisoned within the walls. […]

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New Addition to the Roster Of Faiths at San Quentin

By COLE BIENEK The religious program at San Quentin has expanded its borders to include a small but dedicated group of Wicca practitioners. The group, or “coven” as they are known, meets Saturday mornings in the old MAC office in the chapel plaza. Two Britons revived Wicca. Gerald Gardner, in September 1939, after having heard […]

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The Ups, Downs Of Hobby Shop Regulations

By COLE M. BIENEK (Part 2 of 2 parts) With the exception of suggestions for revising the cumbersome procedure for ordering materials and supplies, longtime hobby participant and artisan Renny Norelli feels that there is no reason to change the way the hobby program is managed. The in-cell program is a “proving ground for the […]

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Why All the Cuts in Rehabilitation

By COLE M. BIENEK PROGRAM HEAD LISTS PRIORITIES Six months after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced plans to cut $250 million from the educational, vocational, treatment and other rehabilitative programs, the full effects have yet to be felt. “Unfortunately, we were forced to cut some programs,” said the director of the […]

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A Promising New Way to Find Justice

BY COLE M. BIENEK A group of some 50 prisoners joined a mixed selection of visitors in the Catholic Chapel recently to participate in a restorative justice workshop and an introduction to Circle Processes. The prisoners ranged from first-time participants to skilled veteran “Circle-Keepers” who participate in twice-monthly meetings of the Interfaith Round Table. “Circle […]

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Hobby Shop – Duffy’s Answer to Violence

By COLE M. BIENEK In a dusty, busy room, men sit behind utilitarian workbenches, some carefully applying finishing touches to beautifully hand-made wooden jewelry boxes, some tooling raw strap leather into intricate belts; still others sit before large canvasses depicting panoramic landscapes or meticulously rendered portraits. At first sight, one may believe the room to […]

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3 Years Later – The Vanishing R in CDCR

By COLE BIENEK Just over three years ago the state’s prison system woke up to a promising change. On July 1, 2006 the California Department of Corrections added the word Rehabilitation to the end of its official name — CDC became CDCR. All the system’s official ID, from the huge yellow stencils on inmate clothing […]

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‘So Tell Me, What’s So Bad About San Quentin? – New Arrival Says Many State Prisons Are a Whole Lot Worse’

By COLE BIENEK Having just arrived at San Quentin on July 29, 2009, some would say that I have not really experienced the ‘Q’ at all, that the grin permanently etched upon my face is nothing more than honeymoon glow. I would argue the opposite. My first morning on the yard was a definite shock—sensory […]

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