A new program at San Quentin sponsored by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) seeks to use an array of proven methods to help incarcerated people go home and stay there.
The Men’s In-Prison Rehabilitation Cognitive Behavior Treatment Program Services, formerly known as the Substance Abuse Program (SAP), provides in-prison programs like substance abuse treatment, anger management, criminal thinking and family relationship programs, as well as transitional housing and continued substance abuse treatments on parole.
“No longer are we saying here’s $200, and I hope you don’t come back (to prison),” said Mr. Jackson, the director of criminal justice programs. “I hope to see the men get out and become fathers; I hope to see people have alternatives now rather than excuses.”
On March 21, Acting Chief Deputy Warden Patrick Covello came to visit the class during its “morning community meeting,” where administrators make announcements and mentors and participants warm up the class with messages about sports scores, entertainment and news.
Covello said he came on behalf of Warden Ron Davis.
“I’m really impressed to see what’s going on back here,” Covello said.
People with Ph.D.S, people who were formerly incarcerated and peer-to-peer mentors who are still incarcerated administer the programs.
“It’s balanced,” said mentor Cleo Cloman. “Not only do the participants have a view of people who have done the educational work, but they also get peers working hands-on with them and free staff who are living testimonies.”
The other incarcerated mentors include Tith Ton and Michael Kirkpatrick.
The classes have groups of 12 men in each and run three to five months in length.
“Groups of 12 are more effective — inmates more attentive, manageable and communication is maximized in groups of 12,” said Jackson.
Each group names itself. They chose names like Beautiful Struggle and Focus, Transitional Counselor Ms. Jones said.
Long-term statistics show the program, which started in San Quentin in December, is effective.
“Over 70 percent of participants with aftercare don’t come back to prison in their first year after release,” Jackson said. “About 30 percent come back in the second year, usually not for substance abuse. These high statistics show if they participate, they won’t come back to prison.”
For participant Darnell Stuart, the program is making a big difference.
“It’s working,” said Stuart. “I came a long way. I had been in foster care for like 14 years. I had a lot of anger problems and used a lot of drugs. This program is helping me get to know myself better and accept responsibility for my wrongs.”
Currently the program has about 182 men enrolled at San Quentin, and there are plans to increase to 264 with a Long Term Offender Program to prepare lifers for returning to their communities, according to Supervising Counselor Anderson.
It will include victim impact and denial management along with evidence-based substance abuse, criminal thinking, anger management and family relationship classes, according to Anderson.
“It does work,” Anderson said about the program. “I wouldn’t mind living next door to a lifer.”
There was controversy over gym access being taken away from general population to house the Men’s In-Prison Rehabilitation Cognitive Behavior Treatment Program Services.
“We had a better building picked out,” Covello said. “It didn’t work out because of fire codes. It was either postpone the program or have it here.”
After about 40 days, the administration made the gym available for recreation to the general population during program off hours, which are nights and weekends. That decision came too late to finish an annual half-court basketball league tournament.
“I want to thank those who participated in league for the opportunity for us to try and help their fellow incarcerated colleagues to transition back home in a good way,” said Mr. Escobar, a program director.
In 2012, the CDCR Division of Rehabilitative Programs made cognitive behavioral treatment part of its blueprint for providing rehabilitation services. CDCR contracted Center Point to administer the program.
Center Point was started in 1969 by two individuals in recovery from drug addiction. They rented a house together and opened its doors to other struggling addicts. Those who worked supported those who didn’t, and in this family atmosphere, they talked about their problems with addiction. In 1971, the small treatment program became a nonprofit organization.
Center Point psychosocially assess incarcerated people within four years of release to find people who demonstrate a willingness to maintain appropriate behavior and to identify their needs in order to create an individual treatment program.
Transition plans enable the participant to identify the services that will be necessary for their successful parole plan once re-entering the community (i.e. transitioning to residential treatment, outpatient services, with or without sober-living, adult literacy program services and/or referral to Division of Adult Parole Operations programs.)
“We have transitional housing, where we pay their rent and allow them to save their money,” said Jackson. “We give men the opportunity to practice their new lifestyle in the proper surroundings so they don’t have to compete with criminal elements.”