San Quentin’s gym includes a sign stating “a second chance at a first class life.” One hundred and forty- five incarcerated people celebrated completing the initial step to acquire that second chance on December 18.
One-hundred and forty-five men graduated from recovery and life skills classes designed for transitioning home, allowing men a chance to further their education.
The graduation was at the Garden Chapel, where 200 people including staff, dignitaries and participating incarcerated took the stage— men in their caps and gowns.
Incarcerated Jose L tearfully asked to get a picture of the graduation, because he “never wore a cap and gown…never” and stated, “I just want to send it to my family…”
Graduation opened with a solo from David Rodriquez and the San Quentin band known as Treasures Out of Darkness.
27 years ago Michael Davila sat where the graduates were. “Now I get to oversee this program,” said Centerpoint’s operations leader.
“I have been on both sides and had to tell myself that I’ll never live like that again. I have a passion to help incarcerated people, so I have worked for several institutions and in the community with parolees,” said the commencement speaker.
“Participants get a sense of completion because we become role models to motivate them. The old way is out as hard love does not work anymore,” said the program manager.
CCIII Collins who hosted the event reinforced graduation by asking all participants to make this a family affair.
“Although we bump heads like real family, remember the program’s creed and treat us as your guests—you sup- port me and I’ll support you,” said the program manager.
Keynote speaker Kenny Davis said have a plan when transitioning home.
The mentor and licensed counselor with San Fran- cisco’s Urban Alchemy dis- cussed the following:
• Experience differences between visits and going home—you deserve it.
• Now, family, friends, partners don’t know you — they will test you.
• I too, changed appear- ance, emotions and feelings in prison.
• The first 60 days relax and enjoy. Get used to free- dom.
• You may need help— ask. An example he used was shopping for toothpaste; in canteen, you have three choices, in a store, you’ll have a whole aisle.
• Things aren’t the same anymore…there’s no Wonder Bread… gone he said to a laughing crowd. “Challenges include relationships, women, finances and keeping the dignity you earned here.
• “If you’re not doing nothing in here you do the same out there. Keep resolve; if you’re weak you will be drug back in here.”
“I got my GED here like some of you– everything I learned here– got my (professional) license at 50; bought a car, paid insurance and drove legally, waiting to be pulled over,” he laughed. “I now come home to my own place in the Sunset district; I signed the lease and have my own mailbox. It’s nothing but a bunch of bills and junk mail, but it’s mine,” said counselor Davis.
Davis continued, “I surprised my parole officer, how well I was living. Now I’m in San Francisco willing to you do the same.”
Retired gang member Davis represented three letters. “Now I represent three new letters, CBT. I am CBT,” he said to a cheering crowd. CBT stands for DRP’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program.
Dr. D. Jones, a counselor stated the participants looked like scholars.
“Your families would be so proud of you.” She re- cited a poem she created called “Beautiful Queen.” The poem shows strength of women everywhere and re- minds us “forever she (women) reigns (as) the precious queen.”
Supervisor Michael Nelson introduced Centerpoint’s valedictorian. Nelson said the man pushed supervisors and counselors, yet turned out to be a real sharp young
man, who does a lot around San Quentin. Nelson introduced Mr. Raphael “Nephew” Bankston.
“The program began as milestones for me but five and a half months of ‘family’ changed my purpose. Staff changed my purpose. I realize we need to rewrite our script and shift our purpose,” said the valedictorian.
San Quentin’s DRP Coordinator M. Farez introduced the 144 graduates. From Terry Adams to Gregory Washington, all received diplomas.
Farez said that the key to succeeding in CBT’s program and life are two-fold. “It takes two items for success—the man’s internal decision to excel and support from the program. It’s my job to support that decision,” said Farez.
Participants assessed the program:
“Little Brother” Jimmy Wynn received a date to go home after advice from board officers. They suggested he address anger issues— he recommends the program for all.
“I didn’t realize I had anger issues until the board told me. I addressed ever since I joined CBT.”
Pastor Terrance was Wynn’s counselor.
“Mr. T’s class opened me up because of the information he teaches. Using it daily I am now suitable because I addressed my anger. I will never forget my class or Mr. T,” said Wynn, incarcerated in 2001.
Inmate Gregory Washington said anger management and SUDT (Substance Use Disorder Treatment) gave him tools to figure out his emotions in present time.
“I’m taking everything I learned to the streets,” said Washington, who is to be released in February.
The daylong ceremony included insight from Johnny Whittaker & Director Good- win, who founded the graduate phase of CBT called Offender Mentor Certificate Program (OMCP).
OMCP gives graduates of a chance to become licensed counselors. “Today is a day to hold your head high. We believed you could do it. Be- lieve in yourself. Go beyond yourself,” was the theme by the mentors.
The originator of LTOP (Long Term Offender Program), CCIII Chiu, now at Solano said, “Folks don’t take a look at themselves until they have to. At Solano we stress not keeping what you’ve learned to yourself… teach one to teach five is what we strive for,” said Chiu.
DRP program analysts Heather Bruglia, AmanDeep Kaur , Ruzanna Sargsyan and Leslie Hamilton collectively shared their enthusiasm for the graduation. They said graduation was very inspiring and was a wonderful graduation. The analysts stated it is an exciting time for change in CDCR and saw firsthand from the graduation how amazing and rewarding CBT & SUDT were.
CCIII Collins took over for the recently promoted CCIII Palmer. The new supervisor said his beliefs of the incarcerated person’s achievements and what they completed made him realize the programs made a difference.
“I truly believe in the suc- cess of this program. One of the current provider’s coun- selors was on my caseload several years ago, when I was a CCI….quite frankly, I want that success repeated from this year’s graduates,” said Collins.
Farez added, “After 20 years at San Quentin, I still believe that a man can change—and if that change is genuine and sincere, he will find the assistance to change here. With programs through DRP the likelihood of a suc- cessful change is increased for the returning citizen.”
—Juan Haines contributed to this story
**After this story was written, a bulletin was placed in the resident buildings that stated the following:
• All DRP/Centerpoint programs are closed until further notice
• Statewide changes for 2020 are currently in pro- cess
• Prior waiting lists are no longer valid
• You will only be as- signed thru clinical referrals • Voluntary assignments to programs are no longer in effect
• There is nothing you or
your CCI can affect at this time.
YOUR PATIENCE IS ACCEPTED
San Quentin News will keep you informed as to any additional information it receives.