A Sonoma State University professor filmed an educational video of the Kid CAT Youth Offender Support Group to teach the next generation of professional counselors.
“I wanted to create a training video to teach my graduate students, social workers and community-based counselors that counseling can be done in nontraditional and difficult settings,” said Dr. Adam Zagelbaum, Counseling Department chair at Sonoma State University and Kid CAT volunteer.
“According to a RAND analysis, every $1 invested in such [inmate] education generates at least $4 in economic return,” reports Fast Company.
“The state typically spends $71,000 a year to house an inmate. It costs about $5,000 total to help put one [incarcerated] student through community college”, reports Fast Company.
“I got my inspiration to create this film because I am interested in bringing more counselors into serving populations that are underserved or don’t have the resources to obtain professional counseling.”
The training video is called “Working with Incarcerated Individuals: San Quentin Group Counseling,” and can be viewed at www.alexanderstreetpress.com.
The film features the dynamics of peer group discussions on guilt, shame and remorse, led by Kid CAT’s chairman, Charlie Spence.
“I believe professional counselors can learn a lot from the men on the inside,” Zagelbaum said.
The film offers a unique opportunity for counselors to see what a collaborative approach can accomplish in an institutional setting.
“It is not just about professional counselors bringing knowledge and dictating what should be done. It is about mutual collaboration.
“Mostly, what my students and I do here in San Quentin has been about supporting and empowering the guys to lead discussions and help each other process what they’re going through,” Zagelbaum said.
“It is significant what we do in this setting because it is what a lot of people need. We help provide the environment that allows people to accomplish their goals of having greater clarity.
“If people don’t have a safe space to talk in a real way, then they are missing out on a huge opportunity to make the best strides they can,” Zagelbaum said.
Zagelbaum attributes his passion for working with the underprivileged and disenfranchised to his father.
“My dad was a high school teacher in a very rough neighborhood in New York. Growing up, he would often bring me to class with him,” Zagelbaum said. “What stood out to me from this experience was the students’ motivation to learn.
“These students were there to learn and connect with my dad because he always provided a safe space that took them away from the troubles they faced each day.
“In the same sense, my work with Kid CAT has been about creating safe spaces where men can talk.”
Zagelbaum has been volunteering with Kid CAT for the past nine years since he was introduced to the program by Kid CAT co-founder Nou Phang Thao.
“He was doing a lecture in another group I attended that was really eye-opening for me,” Thao said. “At the time we were also trying to create a curriculum, so I thought he could probably help us, so I invited him to meet the guys.”
Recalling his first impressions, Zagelbaum said, “I was very impressed when I met the guys in the group. I was astounded by their level of accountability and dedication they had to serve their community—and I wanted to help them accomplish that goal.”
“In the same sense, my work with Kid CAT has been about creating safe spaces where men can talk”
It wasn’t long before Zagelbaum began inviting his students into San Quentin.
“Many of my students have told me that they get renewed energy to focus on the work they want to do professionally, and also how to reach more people in mainstream society, because of the work they do with Kid CAT,” said Zagelbaum.
Zagelbaum’s ability to convey genuine concern has helped the men gain insight.
“Although he is a professor, he doesn’t talk down to us; he is genuine and caring, and he means a lot to us,” said Gregory Coates, Kid CAT member. “He has helped me gain a greater awareness of my negative choices and how it has affected my life.”
Zagelbaum’s work with Kid CAT has not only changed the lives of those he has helped, but his own as well.
“People would not think that you could find leadership in a place like San Quentin, but that’s exactly what I found. These men have taught me how to be a more effective leader in my personal and professional life.”
Zagelbaum has published two books, “Working with the Immigrant Family: a Practical Guide for Counselors” (2010) and “School Counseling and the Student Athlete: College Career Culture and Identity (2014).
The Youth Offender Support Group that was filmed meets twice a month on Sundays. Discussions include parole board preparation, family struggles, and what it means to be a man.