Rehabilitation programs and job training are the key to solving California’s revolving prison doors, says Kathleen Jackson, a retired San Anselmo schoolteacher who’s been working with San Quentin prisoners for seven years.
Jackson was a teacher and administrator at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera for 24 years, and taught 12th grade English at an inner city Oakland public school for three years.
Now, at least four days a week, she volunteers at San Quentin, teaching convicted criminals how to change the way they think about themselves and their community, by facilitating programs like VOEG. VOEG is a program that connects victims with offenders in hopes of revealing how unaddressed past traumas contribute to deviant behavior. After that trauma is addressed, offenders can meet with a panel of victims of crime in order to heal the community.
“When San Quentin prisoners go through self-help and educational programs and work at various jobs that increase their skills, they do receive many benefits,” said Jackson.
In 2008, Jackson became executive director of T.R.U.S.T. (Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Techniques). T.R.U.S.T. utilizes a series of lessons built upon a simple, clear belief: thinking controls actions. This program has been lauded by prison administrators as a positive training tool, giving offenders insight into criminal behavior and allowing prisoners a chance to understand themselves.
Jackson helped set up a new program called The Last Mile, with the assistance of venture capitalist Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti. It is an entrepreneurial-orientated program and had its first group of participants demonstrate their business ideas this month.
On Friday evenings, she helps teach the Christian creative writing in the Protestant Chapel.
Jackson got her beginning in 2005. She wanted to find a way to do community service, so she sat in on a San Quentin college class. “I felt extremely at home there: it was a place where I really wanted to be,” Jackson said in a 2010 interview with Marin Magazine.
Jackson is always looking to improve the program’s ability to assist offenders. In April, she went to Los Angeles to get a tour of Homeboy Industries, which provides jobs as alternatives to gangs.
“What Homeboy Industries provides is a composite of each client’s needs,” says Jackson. The visit reaffirmed her strategy of employing the same approach with T.R.U.S.T. “Wouldn’t it be the best to have case management for every prisoner, so that the door to the free world would open only to the outside with no need to swing inward?”
PPI’s “Correctional Control: Incarceration and Supervision by State” is the first report to aggregate data on all types of correctional control nationwide.