Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley joined Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson on a trip inside San Quentin to watch about two dozen incarcerated men graduate from a violence prevention program.
“What I see at this graduation is more than what we ask for in our citizens out there,” O’Malley told the graduates of No More Tears. “You have dug deep to understand your life. Most people don’t do that. It would be easy for you to have stayed on the yard, but it takes courage to come in here and do the work and be change agents.”
The theme of the graduation was “Living A Courageous Life.”
“Change doesn’t start and stop,” Dwight Kennedy, one of the incarcerated facilitators told the graduates. “When you begin your change into this courageous life, it’s a lifelong process. When you go back to your housing unit and talk to your cellie or your family, you have to share what you’ve learned here.”
Carson added, “I can’t talk to people on the streets, like you can. That is the fundamental difference in what you do here.”
Lonnie Morris, the lead incarcerated facilitator, addressed the graduates.
“Everybody has shown their vulnerability,” Morris said. “That takes courage. Every man in this room has shared their story and have torn down barriers—from that we have developed empathy. As human beings, we want to personify. Living a courageous life is to leave negativity behind, and be someone different with core values that respect all human beings. We say No More Tears for a reason.”
DeAngelo Hardin-Prince, the youngest of the graduates, aid, “I learned about triggers when I got in this class. It helped me deal with people on the yard—it helped me a lot.”
O’Malley talked about what she learned from listening to people impacted by the crimi- nal justice system. The reason she said was to find a program that would solve “what is hurt- ing our community.”
O’Malley came up with Developing Impacted Lives (DIL). The program reaches out to the youth to supply them employment, housing and educational opportuni- ties.
“We have 18 certified DIL Peer Support Specialists, and we are working on a second class of certified specialists,” O’Malley said. “The people getting out of prison and going through this training have a zero percent recidivism rate.”
She added, “I will be happy to greet you when you come home, and I will even offer you a job.”
Sheri Mendoza, an outside supporter, said, “I believe in the program, and I believe in you. I don’t have to know you to believe in you.”
Andrew Wadsworth and Linda Heiderer read poems inspired by the program.
Hamisi X. “Ski” Spears ended the graduation with a, Spoken Word performance that got a standing ovation and had the audience joining in by repeating U-N-I-T-Y.