In spite of a chilly morning, hundreds of prisoners lined up, listening to lectures from doctors, nurses, and counselors on how to practice wellness while incarcerated, and upon release.
More than 80 health care volunteers donated their time and services to check blood pressure, offer eye examinations, and give chiropractic aid to prisoners.
These were among some of the services of the 8th Annual Health Fair on the Lower Yard.
Sponsoring the event was Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training (T.R.U.S.T.), which teaches a pro-social curriculum to the general population of San Quentin.
T.R.U.S.T. provides a variety of services to San Quentin and the surrounding communities, including sponsoring the Richmond Project.
The Richmond Project consists of concerned community members who strive to educate, bring resources to the community, and reduce the violence in the city of Richmond.
The organization also has an alliance with Alameda County Health Department through Dr. Arnold Chavez and Michael Shaw. They teach the benefits of healthy living to the men of San Quentin with the intent of passing these lessons to their friends, family and community.
T.R.U.S.T. donates to various organizations, including the Youth Employment Program and the Richmond School District’s essay writing contest. This year’s writing contest asked high school students: “If you can change anything in your community, what would it be?” The top three winners were awarded gift certificates.
Community organizations which receive T.R.U.S.T. support include National Trust, Sonoma State University, Hitland Ministries, Urban Strategies, Health Oakland, and Project Choice.
It also supports local college internships for students majoring in the humanities.
The health fair provided information booths on:
- alcohol and drug abuse
- HIV/AIDS & STD
- hepatitis prevention
- prostate cancer
- mental health
“History plus culture equals values. Values determine lifestyle and behavior. If we can enhance one’s values from negative to positive, we can turn liabilities into assets, which is the T.R.U.S.T. main objective and primary goal.” said T.R.U.S.T. Chairman Darnell Hill.
Also, staffing information booths were representatives of Samuel Merritt Nurses Advance Directive Project, Asian Health Services & Asian Pacific Islander Community, and San Quentin Healthcare Services.
“Advance Directives are important for everyone. Whether you are in prison or outside, you have the right to choose the kind of medical care you want if you are too sick or injured to speak for yourself,” said Spring Cerise, a nurse at Samuel Merritt University.
Prisoners Robert Morales and Robin Guillien managed the alcohol and drug abuse booth. Guillien said, “Addiction Recovery Counseling (ARC) provides group counseling, individual counseling, education classes, and 12-step meetings. After the prisoners graduate from the (16-week) program, they are provided after-care treatment on Wednesday nights, where they have access to outside resources that assists their reentry into society.”
Morales added, “It is important for the general population to know that there’s a place for them to come and address their addiction problems in confidence.”
Guillien and Morales are state certified drug counselors.
Cathi, one of the dental volunteers, says, “It’s important to brush the gums to avoid gum disease. Brushing twice a day, brushing and flossing are important for healthy teeth, and it is important to brush your tongue.”
Dr. Martin Penn of UC San Francisco said, “Prostate cancer tests should begin around age 40. Colonoscopy is the test used to detect colon cancer. Researchers have determined that the best way to detect prostate cancer is what is called a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) test performed in combination. “I want to make sure people are as informed as possible of their own health. Particularly related to prostate cancer,” Penn said.
About 20 Spanish-speaking prisoners sat for a lecture by prisoner Alfonso Carranza and learned about HIV/AIDS and STD.
There were demonstrations of yoga and testing for cholesterol and glucose levels.
Information was provided regarding housing, employment, mental and physical health in Oakland by Earl Jacobs, Healthy Communities. Jacobs said, “Between 15 and 20 of our employees were formally incarcerated. Our IT director, John Holman, was formerly incarcerated.”
Healthy Communities works closely with Volunteers of American to teach life skills.
“My presence in S.Q. is one of community. Community is divided into two words, ‘com’ and ‘unity.’ When I saw the people coming inside here, I saw community. They came in unity,” said Healthy Communities volunteer Marlene C. Hurd. Hurd is also a commissioner on the Oakland Housing Authority.
–Members of the San Quentin Journalism Guild contributed to this story.