By Charlie Spence
Over the years, I have come to believe that life only matters in the influence and meaning it has on other lives. This is because of the crime I committed nearly 20 years ago, which left nothing but hurt and devastation in the lives of others.
It is the idea of constructive influence and meaning on other lives that guides the majority of decisions and choices I make daily. Nowhere is this more important to me than in my new role as Kid CAT chairman.
It is my purpose as Kid CAT’s new leader to build meaningful relationships with everyone who is part of our organization, while connecting us with all of you out there. It is my personal goal to inspire us all to tap into our natural talents in order to serve our larger community as a whole.
I believe great leadership starts and ends with each of us growing and learning as a result of our interactions with one another. For this reason, it is my hope that I might serve Kid CAT in such a way that each of us leaves our relationship more attuned with who we are as people and better equipped to serve our organizational mission.
In my new role with Kid CAT, I want to tell all of you how inspired I am by the many letters we receive to Kid CAT Speaks each month. They serve as humbling reminders of how significant the work is and how each of us in the organization represents the population of youth offenders.
Unfortunately, I feel like this responsibility is sometimes lost on us in the daily grind of life at San Quentin. It is important for us to be reminded of the meaningful connection we share with all of you. That is why your letters are so important to us, and we have implemented a new procedure to make sure we respond to every letter we receive.
In fact, we recently received a letter from a young man who was extremely frustrated with the Youth Offender Program (YOP). We were struck by his deep desire for transformation and change, yet the YOP program was unable to take advantage of his desire.
For that reason, Kid CAT has recently begun working with a group of YOP prisoners at San Quentin to create a curriculum designed for YOP prisoners. We hope to have this curriculum done and ready to send out to all of you by the middle of 2017.
Many of the letters we receive from the “more mature” juvenile offenders express the need for a deeper level of growth and insight. We are making it our priority for 2017 to have Kid CAT’s curriculum and facilitators’ manual ready to send out as well.
Our curriculum team is meeting to discuss needed changes and strategies for the best way to accomplish this task. We hope the curriculum will make a meaningful difference for all of you seeking to gain a deeper level of understanding about yourselves and the crimes you committed.
Additionally, Kid CAT has taken a step toward being more inclusive to our population. Recently, the membership voted to reserve 10 percent of our membership capacity for those who committed their crimes between the ages of 20-25.
It is our hope that in the near future we can help persuade lawmakers to extend SB261 to apply through the age of 25, as the neuroscience clearly indicates this is when the brain fully matures. We believe by recognizing this, we will provide more credibility with those we hope to persuade, while offering those in this age group the opportunity to speak for themselves.
Lastly, one goal in 2017 will be to assist CDCR to take a more restorative approach to justice, as envisioned by Secretary Scott Kernan. Another goal is to support legislation proposed by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Major changes are on the horizon for the criminal justice system. We encourage our members and supporters to take advantage of every opportunity to work for positive changes in their lives.