Karen Lovaas, PhD, the program coordinator of Coalition for Social Justice saw 17 of her 21 participants graduate from its sixth cycle on Feb. 12, in the ARC Building in San Quentin.
“The primary goal of the group is to help develop community leaders who deal with criminal behavior from a perspective of social justice and transformation,” Lovaas said, explaining the mission of the group.
“I learn more in here about justice than I do on the outside,” said Lovaas about her graduates.
Lovaas teaches The Rhetoric of Criminality and Punishments at San Francisco State University. She has been involved in American studies for 16 years, and she loves to share the prison experience with her students, she said.
“When I bring my students from the outside in here to see the men in class, it has a profound effect on the kids when talking about justice from the guys’ [perspective] on the inside,” said Lovaas.
Although, coming inside prison has a joy to it for the kids, said Lovaas, it also is a heartbreaking one for the kids having to leave the men behind.
“Amazing how characters are missed from the outside world,” Lovaas said. “It’s magical how communities form in different ways.”
I takes four months to graduate, and the men form close bonds in that time.
“It’s beautiful how a group of strangers can form a community like this,” said chairman and facilitator Royse Rose, 44, referencing Lovaas’ statement. “How are you gonna want justice if you never say anything about the injustices you go through?” Rose told the men.
Rose has been facilitating the group since 2014, and he said it is an honor to give back and see the light of knowledge turning on for the men who get it. To give back is his greatest pleasure, he said.
A graduate who shares the same joy as Rose is Jamar Henry,40.
“I’m excited to be graduating, and I plan to take the knowledge I learned in this class out on the streets with me when I parole in eight years,” said Henry.
He is incarcerated for great bodily injury and said that the class has helped him see life more clearly now.
Third session volunteer Mary O’Sullivan has been coming to the prison for a year and a half. She called the ceremony “sweet” and said in response to Henry, “The world needs people like you who really know the system to be out there and guide the lawmakers to just laws.”
During the passing out of certificates it is customary for each graduate to speak.
First time graduate Chase Washington, known as the class joker, made light of the times when he spent many days in jail.
“My mama used to always tell me that a hard head makes a soft ass,” Washing- ton said. “Well, my ass is cot- ton right now.”
The intimate crowd burst into laughter.
Other graduates Reese Rackley, 23, and Arthur Freeman, 39, are excited to find out how the law really works and are enthusiastic to go back to their communities to help make them better.
“I want my son Malik Freeman, who is in prison at Susanville, to see me graduating,” said Freeman. “I want him to know that education is the best route. I want him to be a better example for his little brothers and sisters.”
When it was time for spon- sor Nate Moore to speak, he kept it direct and to the point.
“Keep doing what you do- ing and get free.”
Moore has been volun- teering in the prison for seven years.
Mentors and facilitators congratulated the men and shared their sentiments for the graduates.
“The men grew into a co- hesive crew of a community,”
said facilitator Aron Roy. The purpose of the group is to learn more than law, said mentor Eric Crutcher,46. “I’ve been a mentor for seven years, and I learned about many different justices,” said Crutcher. “I saw this class save so many lives. I also helped a kid get off drugs, and to me that’s priceless.” Coalition for Social Justice provides reentry services for returning citizens, and Lovaas recommends men who are returning to contact the organization Bonifide.
Coalition for Social Justice Graduates:
Graduates: Patrick Bellard, Jesse Blue, Matthew Brown Lll, Authur Freeman, Jon Golberg, Mario Gomez, Harry Goodall , Angelo Green De, Jamar Henry, Dejon Joy, Christopher Miranda, Wayne Mobley, Don Nicora, Reese Rackley, Vincent Rivera, Jasjit Singh, Ivan Staich, Jake Stebler, Curtis Thiessen, Clenard Wade and Chase Washington
Facilitators: Royce Rose, Phillippe Kelly, Bennett Alan, Aron Roy,
Adamu Chan, Authur Jackson
Mentors: Ronald Carter, Eric Crutcher, Elton Kelly, John “Yahya” Parratt, Charles Ross