Mural en la unidad H de San Quentin
“Calvary” de Octavio Ocampo
C. O’Neal en el 2010
Mural en la unidad H de San Quentin
“Calvary” de Octavio Ocampo
Mural en la unidad H de San Quentin
“Calvary” de Octavio Ocampo
C. O’Neal en el 2010
Otoño del 2019 Volume 1 Publicación 1
Editor-en Jefe: Marcus Henderson
Escritores: Tare Beltranchuc, Juan Haines
Traducciones: Juan Espinosa
Director de Arte: Vincent Turner Jr
Vocero de SQ: Lt. Sam Robinson
Oficina del director de SQ. : Raphaele Casale
Vocero de CDCR: Joe Orlando
Asesora y editora: Lourdes Cárdenas
Asesores: William Drummond, Sarah Horowitz, Doug Levy, Alissa Greenberg
Capilla Católica de San Quentin.
Como un lugar donde la comunidad católica se une a compartir la palabra de Cristo Jesus y la celebración de los sacramentos.
Supervisors hope to eliminate stigmatization by changing criminal justice labels
By Charles Crowe Staff Writer
San Francisco officials urge a softening of criminal justice language to more humanize incarcerated people.
“The words ‘felon,’ ‘offender,’ ‘convict,’ ‘addict,’ and ‘juvenile delinquent’ would be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under new ‘person first’ language guide- lines adopted by the Board of Supervisors,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Aug. 18.
“Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a ‘formerly incarcerated person,’ or a ‘justice- involved’ person or simply a ‘returning resident.’”
The city’s Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding resolution encouraging the change by police and courts. The newspaper said the district attorney “is already on board.”
Supervisor Matt Haney joined nine other supervisors in voting for the resolution.
“We want them ultimately to become contributing citizens, and referring to them as felons is like a scarlet letter that they can never get away from,” Haney explained.
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.”
The non-binding resolution was passed in July.
Mayor London Breed did not endorse the resolution because it is non-binding, according to the mayor’s spokesperson, Jeff Cretan. However, “she is always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform,” Cretan said.
The San Francisco Police Department has taken note of the board’s action and has “made our members aware of the resolution and are researching possible impacts on operations and communications,” said police spokesperson David Stevenson.
—Joe Garcia —David Ditto and Anthony Faulk contributed
Incarcerated and outside members of the San Quentin community joined forces to emotionally support one another and raise awareness during the prison’s second annual Mental Wellness Week.
“This week is about all of us coming together to encourage hope—no one should feel they have to go it alone,” said Dr. S. McCarver, SQ’s Chief of Mental Health for the last four years.
“There should be no stigma for simply reaching out for help— reaching out for support.”
They came to speak about and clarify how the BPH regards documented mental health issues—and how be- ing involved in prison mental healthcare potentially affects a lifer’s parole suitability.
SQ’s Chief Deputy Warden Ron Broomfield set the week’s tone with a personal story about his own struggles with severe depression and his reluctance to share his experience with others.
“I’d been asked to speak twice and declined both times, but seeing all you guys’ inter- est in mental wellness gives me the courage to address you today,” he told an audience of prisoners, staff and volunteers on the Lower Yard.
“Working at Corcoran in 2009, I developed serious depression,” he said. “I could hide it at work and act like everything was fine.
“But where I couldn’t hide it was home. They got the worst of me.”
Broomfield described how his wife threatened to expose his mental problems with his coworkers if he refused to seek help.
“I remember sitting in my car out in the Corcoran park- ing lot, trying to summon up the courage to talk to someone,” he continued. “It was probably the most courageous thing I’ve ever had to do.”
“I always thought of myself as a healthy person, but hope really started when I sat in that car and decided I was going to talk to someone,” he said. “You can be free and a prisoner in your own mind— or locked up but free inside your mind.”
One of the week’s organizers, Dr. R. Thomas of SQ Mental Health, urged Broomfield to speak at the event. “I’m so grateful he shared his story with you guys,” she said. “It was in- credibly brave of him.”
Guys who know they need help are afraid to ask for that help…‘the Board’s not gonna let me out.’ But believe me; nothing could be further from the truth”
The ongoing theme of hope brought a packed crowd to the SQ chapel Sept. 11, where prisoners were ready to hear what Kusaj and Shaffer had to say about the BPH process.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Undersecretary Kathleen Allison gave open- ing remarks before Kusaj and Shaffer engaged with the chapel audience.
“I’m passionate about this subject and have remained focused on suicide prevention,” said Allison. “It’s each and every one of [us] — our responsibility. If you see someone who might be in distress or mental crisis— reach out.”
Describing Shaffer as “a real rock star,” Allison set the stage for her by saying, “If you’re not a risk to public safety, she’s going to do everything she can for you.”
Schaffer started by connecting the history of the BPH to the evening’s mental well- ness theme—Hope Looks Forward.
“In 1979, California sentenced 907 prisoners to life with the possibility of parole,” Shaffer detailed. “And in that same year, only one person was actually granted parole.
“But take 2018, Jerry Brown’s last year in office. 1,016 prisoners were admitted into the system with life with the possibility of parole sentences—while 1096 prisoners were found suitable.
“That’s the first time since 1978 that more lifers were paroled rather than sentenced.”
Shaffer then focused her presentation on discussing potential parolees’ concerns about how receiving mental healthcare might reflect badly on their CDCR record.
“I know there’s a lot of myths out there,” she said. “Guys who know they need help are afraid to ask for that help.
“So many of you think if you need help, ‘the Board’s not gonna let me out.’ But believe me; nothing could be further from the truth.
“Think about it—plenty of people on the outside go get help. That’s actually healthy behavior.”
Shaffer encouraged the SQ crowd to utilize all available mental health resources, both inside and also after they are paroled.
“It’s an incredibly stressful time in your life to be re- leased from state prison,” she said. “That’s a big reason why the Board stresses transitional housing—not so we can watch you more closely, but so you’re surrounded by people who’ve walked the same path.”
Shaffer soon segued into what the majority of the audience came for—clarity on what the Board expects to see before granting a lifer’s parole date.
“We want to see if you’ve done the work,” Shaffer explained. “If you have truly transformed, you’ll be speak- ing a different language. You’ll show more insight—be more aware, more intuitive, more in touch with how you think.”
Shaffer also stressed the importance of understanding the difference between acknowledging the victim impact on an offender’s community but without carrying the shame of their crime around with them.
She detailed a research paper written by Kusaj which analyzed some psychological factors between offenders who recidivate and those who do not.
“What’s the difference?” she asked everyone. “Shame. If you find it hard to like your- self, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to create a positive narrative.
“Try to think of the bad things you may have done as in the third person. Learn how to explain who that person was and how they’re different today.”
Kusaj set out to answer the following questions: What are the Board psychologists look- ing for? What changes do they want to see? What should guys expect during their psychological review?
In regard to psych review expectations, Kusaj explained, “Ultimately, we need to be able to understand, contextualize and make sense of your violent actions—and how that’s been mitigated over time.
“Can you make sense of the darkness, badness and wrong decisions? Have you matured and changed during your incarceration?”
He listed a compendium of psychological and emotional shifts he directs his staff to look for—such as being open and honest versus circumventing the truth or rejecting violence as a problem-solving solution, or being fair and forgiving versus being vindictive and punishing.
“In short, we want to see life transformations,” said Kusaj. “When we evaluate risk assessment, it’s quite simple. What went wrong in your life? And where are you now?
“Don’t rehearse. Don’t try to anticipate our questions. You’re there to try to help the psychologist better understand your crime-causing factors.”
Kusaj also wanted the audience to recognize the structural difference between a forensic interview rather than a therapy session.
“Think of it more like a job interview. Because of time considerations, expect to be interrupted,” he said. “Expect to be challenged. We’re neither advocates nor adversaries. Our interests lie solely in your safe release to the community.”
Although Kusaj was nowhere near giving the full ex- planation he’d hoped to offer, Shaffer stopped him to allow the panel to field questions from the eager crowd. Most questions inevitably revolved around each prisoner’s personal BPH experience.
Allison and Shaffer eventually started a list for each person to write down their name, CDCR# and specific issue they want resolved.
Shaffer assured the crowd that every BPH scheduling commitment will be fulfilled. “Last year, we held 5,300 Board hearings statewide, and this year we’ve got 7,300 scheduled,” she said. “We’ll continue that pace every year until everyone who should be seen is.”
Allison equally reassured everyone that her CDCR office is reviewing every single prisoner’s file for 1170(d) re-sentencing consideration.
“You guys don’t have to submit anything to us,” she said. “If you’re disciplinary free, done exceptional programming or fit any of the enhancement criteria, we’ll petition the court on your behalf.
“We’ve had amazing success from the courts so far. Our priority is always going to be focused on the guys who already have the most time in. Those are the cases that need to be reviewed first.”
The last two days of Mental Wellness Week consisted of pure community interaction and celebration. The chapel shook with energy and emotion on Sept. 13 as prisoners and staff alike took part in a talent showcase—opening up and performing pieces themed around mental health.
Dr. K. O’Meara, CDCR Regional Health Administer, took to the podium and read an essay by Death Row prisoner Joseph Manuel Montes.
“It’s important to represent those who can’t be here them- selves tonight,” she said.
The highlight of the talent show may have been Dr. Thomas’ promised rendition of Sade’s “Soldier of Love.” The audience cheered in awe and appreciation as Thomas hit all the right notes without batting an eye.
Fully participating at every event that week, Thomas and her vocals underscored the commitment of the SQ Mental Health staff to stay immersed in this community.
San Quentin employee Raphaele Casale has been presented The Jefferson Award for Public Service for her behind the scenes community work.
Casale is an office technician who works in the San Quentin warden’s office.
She also runs the prison’s music program and is one of the staff sponsors for the SQUIRES (San Quentin Utilization of Inmate Resources Experiences and Studies) program that allows inmates to mentor at-risk youth. “I love kids,” she commented.
Allen Martin from KPIX channel 5 interviewed Casale for a news broadcast in September.
“I get to work with a lot of wonderful people,” said Casale. “I was blessed to be assigned to two differ- ent groups. I want to make the groups better.” She said there’s therapeutic value in both programs.
Casale also provides support to staff in other parts of the prison, to volunteers, and to inmates who work in the prison’s media center. To many, she’s one of San Quentin’s unsung heroes, or in her case “Shero.”
As a sponsor, Casale is recognized by many inside and outside of the prison for the work she does beyond the scope of her day job.
“How can you put money on things that change someone’s life?” said Casale. “How could I not support that?”
Casale said inmates who work with youth in the SQUIRES program become aware of why they made a choice to commit crime and get to know themselves better. She said the kids open up to the men.
By talking to the kids “they (inmates) get a snapshot of their life,” said Casale. The men feel good about being able to help the kids. “It’s really healing. It’s a win-win for both.”
“There are people here at San Quentin who work traditional prison jobs … She is one of those people who looks beyond the eight hours and gives more of herself”
“Just one person can make an absolute difference in their (the kids) life,” said Casale. “Many of them have experienced being beaten or worse.” Because many inmates have suffered the same type of early childhood trauma, “when these kids come in, they’re talking to men who already know them.”
“There are people here at San Quentin who work traditional prison jobs,” said Lt. Sam Robinson, the prison’s public information officer. “She is one of those people who looks
beyond the eight hours and gives more of herself.”
Robinson said Casale, affectionately known as Raphie, “brings all the energy to these programs that she brings to the warden’s office.”
Brian Asey, the inmate who nominated Casale for the award, said, “She’s a very unique person. I can only imagine what it’s like being in her shoes. I know that she does a lot around here.”
Asey said during a recording of a Youth Offender Program (YOP) audio mix, he observed Casale leave on a Friday night and re- turn on a Saturday morning for another project.
He said he wanted her to know that what she does is appreciated by the inmates at San Quentin.
Inmate David Jassy, who produced a mix tape for some of the YOP inmates, said to have Casale come from the warden’s office and sit with them gets them enthused, and her support means everything. “When they see that she likes what they’re doing, it adds to their confidence,” he said.
Casale explained that the YOPs, like those who participate in SQUIRES, have to be honest with themselves and vulnerable. No negative content, derogatory or abusive language is allowed in recordings. “It takes a lot of bravery,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have that or the humility.”
The SQUIRES youth program takes place on Saturdays, so Casale wasn’t able to demonstrate her hands-on approach with the kids. The KPIX news crew was able to follow her to the loft above the prison’s Arts in Corrections building. There they observed a typical rehearsal with the hip hop band Contagious, where Jassy and the band performed three original songs.
“It’s been really important to be able to build that program,” said Casale. She said there’s a lot of stress in prison and music can re- lease the stress. “It opens your mind up to some things you’ve never thought of.”
Casale started working at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as an offsite medical scheduler and was later hired to work in the war- den’s office. She’s worked at San Quentin for 11 years.
“Being a self-help sponsor, I do get paid for it, but that’s not all of it,” said Casale. “I’m becoming a better person, too. I’m learning about myself. If I were to get another job, I would always come back as a volunteer.”
By Kevin D. Sawyer Associate Editor
The Jefferson award is given annually by local television staion KPIX.
Helaine “Lainy” Melnitzer
By teaching the incarcerated men of San Quentin high-end culinary skills, Lainy Melnitzer and Lisa Dombroski earned the Jefferson Award for Public Service on Aug. 28.
The program they founded, Quentin Cooks, will help the men find gainful employment upon their release. “Our receiving the Jefferson Award is more a testament to the grassroots nature of this program,” said Dombroski, “I feel we, as volunteers, get as much out of the program as our students. While we are solely volunteers, it is the men we serve that continue to make our program successful.”
Dombroski developed a true appreciation for food while traveling through Patagonia in South America. She realized that at each mealtime, conversations, stories and community were all centered on the food.
Later she was inspired to bring her love for the culi- nary arts to those who are often overlooked and underserved.
Teaming up with Melnitzer, who was already volunteering at San Quentin with a group that connects inmates with the local community and a reentry program, they decided to start the Quentin Cooks program.
“My vision for Quentin Cooks is that there will be a continuous flow of graduates from the program that we are able to place in meaningful employment,” said Melnitzer, “I feel that the program is so good due the Chefs Huw and Adelaar who teach the class.”
“It’s so humanizing to be in the Quentin Cooks class. They really treat us like we have the ability to succeed,” said Nathaniel Reichert, a current participant in the program, “I’ve always loved good food, but I never knew I could make good food. Being a part of this class is helping me realize my potential.”
The 12-week class meets on Wednesday mornings for five hours.
Throughout the class, the men democratically decide the dishes that they will make. Chili, curries and homemade cheeses are just a few of the dishes that the student cooks learn to make.
The class culminates in a graduation banquet, during which the incarcerated cooks prepare a several course meal for visitors from the Bay Area culinary community.
“I go into all of this believing that one person can help the world. If you’ve helped one person, you’ve helped the planet,” said Melnitzer, “You never know the extent of the ripples from a pebble that you throw in the pond.”
By Aron Kumar Roy Staff Writer
Editor-in-Chief Marcus Henderson
Staff Writer Kate McQueen
Staff Writer Molly Kittle
Art Director Jonathan Chiu
SQ PIO Lt. Sam Robinson
Warden’s Office Raphaele Casale
CDCR Information Officer Bill Sessa
Adviser William Drummond
Adviser Sarah Horowitz
Adviser Doug Levy
Adviser Dan Fost
Adviser Alastair Boone
Adviser Alissa Greenberg
1. USA — After a nearly two decade lapse, United States Attorney General William P. Barr is clearing the way for the federal government to re- sume capital punishment for five death row prisoners. Federal executions follow protocols that replace a three-drug procedure with a single drug, pentobarbital.
2. USA — The national death row population went down for the 17th straight year in 2017, while the period from sentence to execution increased to 20 years, three months, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of individuals sentenced to death fell by 94 to 2,703, which would be lower if included were the more than 900 condemned prisoners in Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and California (moratoriums on executions). The 23 executions in 2017 were half the number in 2010. Only eight of the 32 states with capital punishment conducted executions in 2017. There were 34 new death sentences imposed in 2017 with 23 executions, 21 died of natural causes, two died by suicide and one died in a traffic accident.
3. USA — Justice Department officials announced that 3,100 inmates are being released from federal prisons across the country because of a change in how their good-behavior time is calculated, The Washington Post reports. In addition, $75 million was redirected for a new system to assess prisoners’ risk of reoffending as well as a program that would bring earlier releases.
4. Lansing, Michigan — Sharee Miller, 47, went to court to assert her First Amendment right to report prison abuse, the Detroit Free Press reports. Miller says she saw a prisoner “stripped naked and painfully hogtied for hours and another, also left naked, deprived of food and water until she foamed at the mouth and went into cardiac arrest,” according to a 2015 lawsuit. Miller complained, first to officials at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, where she is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, and then to prison watchdogs on the outside. The Michigan Department of Corrections responded in 2014 by firing Miller from her job as a prisoner observation aide, a job that requires her to watch troubled prisoners 24 hours a day and keep detail recorded notes, every 15 minutes, of what they observe. Miller sought $200,000 in punitive damages, plus more than $2,500 in lost wages. She also wanted U.S. District Judge Sean Cox to prohibit prison officials from punish- ing prison observation aides who report abuse and to order them to give her back her for- mer job. The trial was set, but under a settlement, observation aides will be allowed to report mistreatment to a government oversight agency or state-designated protection and advocacy organization. Miller will be reinstated to her position, compensated for her lost wages, and have her record cleared of having been terminated for violating prison rules.
5. Philadelphia — District Attorney Larry Krasner, who took office in 2018 and vowed that he would “never” seek the death penalty, is asking the state’s highest court to make the death penalty un- constitutional because it is racially biased, is arbitrary, and discriminates against the poor, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “The most jaw-dropping statistic is that out of 155 Philadelphia death sentences, 72 percent of them have been overturned,” Krasner said after reviewing every case in which a Philadelphia defendant was sentenced to death over a 40-year period ending in December 2017.
6. New York City— In a letter to Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann, the Legal Aid Society asked that prisoners in city jails be protected against heat waves, HuffPost reports. “Most crucially, we ask that the city move all individuals confined to their cells to air-conditioned units,” the letter said. “This includes individuals held in Enhanced Supervision Housing, who are typically locked into un- air-conditioned cells for a minimum of 14 hours, and up to 23 hours. When people are not in air-conditioned areas, the city must provide free access to cool showers and ice to all persons confined in non-air-conditioned units.”
7. Arizona —Attorney General Mark Brnovich wrote a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey in support of rein- stating capital punishment, KVOA reports. “I’m worried about the lack of transparency that Arizona has shown in the past with regard to where it was getting the drugs, what drugs it was using and the qualifications of the people who would be administering the drugs,” said Emily Skinner, Assistant Director of the Arizona Capital Representation Project, a nonprofit that works with death row inmates to improve their defense.” More than 100 people are on the state’s death row — 14 have exhausted their appeals.
8. Pennsylvania — Prison- ers held in solitary confinement at a state prison are reportedly on hunger strike to protest health and living conditions and to bring an end to long-term isolation.
By David Ditto and Michael Johnson, Staff Writers.
Tasseled caps and gowns flowed as diplomas, degrees and certificates were conferred in San Quentin’s visiting room during Robert E. Burton Adult School’s 2019 Commencement. College, high school, and vocational program graduates celebrated their accomplishments with family, friends, teachers, and administrators at the annual ceremony on July 26.
“We’re so proud of all the incredibly hard work you have put in,” said teacher and emcee H. Lucas to the graduating class. “Not everyone in your block put in the blood, sweat, and tears you have,” she added. “What you have overcome to get to this place is no small thing.”
25-year-old Tye Barker was the first graduate speaker at the ceremony. He described growing up while his father was in and out of prison, “I lost out on so much because I didn’t graduate.”
Later, imprisoned as a young father himself, Barker realized he was headed in the wrong direction. “My kids needed me to change,” he said to the audience. Barker was one of eight graduates from San Quentin’s new High School Diploma program.
“Tye really turned his life around,” said Ms. Anita Kaur Sufi, the teacher for the program. “Now he’s ready for college, a career, and anything he sets his mind on.”
Sufi said that the diploma program is an alternative to the equivalency program. She explained that it began after Brant Choate, Director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs, saw the need for another pathway for students who already have many credits to acquire a certified high school education.
Receiving a six-month education credit, Barker went home two weeks after graduating.
“I came to San Quentin with a third- to fourth-grade education,” said Tommy Wickerd, the second graduate speaker. He said he confessed to his teachers that the 12.9 grade-level test scores on his record were actually from cheating when he first came to prison. “I slid through the cracks for 15 years.”
“At San Quentin I learned how to set and achieve goals,” Wickerd said. He ran three marathons and earned his GED in his almost four years at the Q. “On the final math test for my GED, I got a 149– four points more than I needed. Now I know what an over- achiever feels like! Now the 12.9 is mine – and the GED!”
“This is monumental,” said GED graduate Earl Orr’s sister Patsy Orr. “He’s my first brother to get his GED.” She said their older brother spent about 10 years in and out of San Quentin in the 1970s after serving in the Vietnam War. “In San Quentin back then, they worked out and smoked. That’s it. No classes, no groups,” Patsy said. “I wish they had this quality education program back then. Earl has found himself again through education. I’m so amazed at the change.”
Earl met his 19-year-old granddaughter Ariel Klimpel for the first time at the gradu- ation. She said: “I walked right up and hugged him. It felt so good!”
Coastline Community College graduate Adamu Chan obtained his A.S. degree in Business. Chan said that the experience taught him responsibility, follow-through and self-motivation.
John Bergeron, a Feather River college graduate, obtained an A.A. degree in Social and Behavioral Science. “I never really finished anything in my life,” he said. But now, he said, he is the first person in his family to finish college.
Graduate Watson Allison received his A.A. degree in Social Science from Lassen College. He was the speaker for the college graduates. He started his speech with a quote from Malcolm X, “‘Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.’ I’ve heard that quote many times as a youth. How- ever, it didn’t make sense, but today it does.” Allison spent 30 years on Death Row after a murder conviction at the age of 23. In 2013 his death sentence was overturned. “Then I was transferred to Solano Prison, where the CC3 counselor assigned me a mentor to help me adjust from death row living. By May 27, 2014, I passed the test for my GED. It was the first positive accomplishment in my life.”
Vocational Plumbing graduate Vadim Zakharchenko said, “I wanted vocational training because I want a career in the construction industry.” He plans to work for his brother-in-law doing prefab homes when he gets out.
Plumbing instructor Pryor said that his vocational class has a lot of math and isn’t easy, but has tutors in the class to help. He said that he “has had five guys parole and make a career out of this training.”
Machine Shop instructor J. Johnson said, “These guys can take this experience and apply for good paying jobs.”
College proctor Mr. Young said, “The guys here today have overcome all their fail- ures of the past…This is the happiest day of the year.”
Principal Wheeless said, “It takes a lot of hard work by the students to get to this day of celebration and I commend them.”
“I feel so encouraged – full of joy and a sense of accomplishment,” said graduate George Moss the day after he passed his final GED test – just a week before the graduation. Moss persevered through the flu, surgery, lockdowns and administrative segregation during the two years he worked on earning his GED.
Incarcerated for 14 years, he wanted to quit school and learn plumbing when he arrived at San Quentin.
Principal Wheeless told him, “No. Just knock this GED out first.” “I thought it was punishment,” said Moss. He said that now he is grateful to the principal, his teacher D. Searle and tutor Quincy Paige.
Now, after earning their high school equivalencies, both Moss and Paige are en- rolling in Vocational Plumbing.
Andrew Smith is a GED graduate from the Voluntary Education Program (VEP). He said he received excellent one-on-one tutoring from the Teachers’ Aide and said, “Thanks to my teacher, Dr. Marez, for pushing me in the right direction.”
“I never thought I would do it because of my incarceration,” said graduate Luis Ojeda. “But look – now I got my GED!” He said that Mr. Kaufman, the teacher in the ABE I class where he began, was always there to help him and motivate him to get to the next level.
“Now I’m confident,” Ojeda said. He will go home in about a year. “Inside or outside – I’m going to get my college degree.”
Twenty-three-year-old Raiveon Wooden received his high school diploma at the ceremony. He acknowledged help from his teachers M. Ficarra and Mr. Santos to get him ready for the diploma program. Wooden said that with his high school diploma, now he envisions a better job, a brighter future and college.
The 2019 class included 78 graduates, about half of whom attended the graduation. Many had already paroled.
Total number of Graduates:
Norberto Andino, 53, sat in a circle of about 25 people that included his classmates and teachers. The Colombian-born man came to prison without the ability, he said, to write even two sentences in English. It was the first time that the life-term prisoner reconsidered his educational journey.
“When I went to school in Colombia, I was so ashamed,” Andino said on July 15 at the third San Quentin News Teacher’s Forum. “My mother didn’t have money for me to eat. I had to walk for an hour to get to school in 102-degree heat almost every day. I felt embarrassed.”
Ms. H. Lucas is one of Andino’s teacher. Many of her students at San Quentin have lived in economically disadvantaged communities that are plagued with violence and other hardships.
“I have to understand the impact and added stress that these factors might bring to a student,” Lucas said in a previous interview. “I don’t know what they’ve endured or what they are going through, so it is important to be patient and understanding of each person.”
The forum’s aim was to give educators from the San Francisco Bay Area the opportunity to meet students who didn’t complete high school and wound up in prison – students who are in the process of obtaining their high school diploma or its equivalency.
For decades, The Rand Corporation has studied educational opportunities for the incarcerated and found, participation in any kind of education program, independent of the prisoner’s offense, or topic and level of the intervention, increases employment post- release and reduces recidivism by up to 43%.
Another study in 2019, Prison-based Education: Programs, Participation and Proficiency in Literacy/Numeracy found retaining employment post-release is “critical” to reduce recidivism.
“Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five dollars in re-incarceration costs over three years,” Rand concluded.
Kita Grinberg teaches in Mendocino county jail.
Grinberg says she sees how academics and healing support each other.
“Opening the doors to edu- cation is what’s needed to stop recidivism,” Grinberg said.
“We use the time in the jail positively.”
“I feel very strongly when I hear about the failures,” Ayers said, “not just as individuals, but as institutions. But, what are we going to do about it?”
Elaine Bryce’s high school students emailed questions about incarceration. The responses from SQN staff about the realities of prison negated their preconceptions. Bryce said that their honesty changed the trajectory of her students’ lives. “For that I will be forever grateful. I’m here to learn from you guys.”
Bryce and her students are scheduled to tour the prison on a later date.
The incarcerated men presented the teachers with brief stories about their educational experiences inside and outside of prison. Many of the stories indicated that childhood trauma, family separations, substance abuse and violence played a large part in disrupting their education. A common theme about their educational opportunities at San Quentin was the caring classroom environment that the teachers provided.
Lorenzo Romero said that when he came to prison he didn’t know how to read or write because his learning disability prevented him from pronouncing words or understanding definitions of words.
“I never found a teacher who believed in me in the other eight prisons,” Romero said. When he enrolled in the education classes at San Quentin, he said, the teachers gave him the confidence that education could work for him.
Anthony Coleman, a self- described first-generation gang member who is now an ex- gang member, once worked as a teacher’s aide. He now mentors young individuals in math, English and life skills.
“I like to help the ones who won’t come to the education classes here.” Coleman said, referring to San Quentin teachers. “I’ve never seen the loyalty that the teachers apply here.”
Charles Brandon, an 11th-grade dropout, said participating in the forum was encouraging.
“Being a part of that made me look at my life and want to do better,” he said.
Norberto Andino, who can now speak and write English fluently, added, “I want to put all my effort into getting a GED. It’s gonna take some time, but I know I’m gonna get it.”
By Juan Haines and Joe Garcia, Staff Writers
Brothers George Grifall and Chris Koppe
More than 60 men of all nationalities, races and origins gathered in San Quentin’s Catholic Chapel to celebrate the lives of George Grifall and Chris Koppe. The two well-known incarcerated men passed away in San Quentin in the month of June.
“I love you, brother,” was the catchphrase for Grifall. Koppe was lovingly known as Colonel Sanders or Colonel Crispy.
After the evening meal on July 18, prisoners mingled and listened to the blues, led by the smooth drumming of Darryl Moody Schilling. As the chapel began filling up, Schilling picked up the pace with a livelier beat.
“He told me he loved me, and then I climbed in my rack,” recalled Michael “Doc” Dickman, his cellie, about the night Grifall passed away. “George told me not to wake him for the Saturday breakfast — he hates CDCR pancakes, plus we had plenty of food.”
Grifall had a “bad habit” of hanging his hand over the ledge of the bed, Dickman explained. He said that the following morning he kept bump- ing into Grifall’s hand and after a couple times, Dickman yelled for Grifall to move his hand, but he didn’t respond. Dickman became concerned.
“When I felt his hand, it was ice cold,” Dickman said. “He died in his sleep. Don’t believe the rumors out there.”
Walter Sprakea talked about meeting Grifall while incarcerated at Corcoran in 1999.
“I thought then, he was too friendly,” Walter said. “Back then, prison was harder to do time in, and you’d see him and say, ‘what’s wrong with that guy?’ He was always respectful and of course, would say, ‘I love you, brother.’”
Larry Ryzak added, “George was my friend. He was one the most loyal people I ever knew. I could still hear him, ‘I love you, brother.’ He never changed. He had good morals. He wasn’t perfect, but nobody is or we wouldn’t be standing here.”
Anthony Thomas read a poem that he wrote in honor of Grifall.
Richie Morris said that he didn’t know George well, but “his absence leaves a hole in my life. I always saw him be- ing kind.
“Now, Colonel Crispy looked like Colonel Sanders,” Morris continued. “We spend our time with people passing by us and never notice who they are. We got an opportunity here to record we stand among giants. I want you to recognize that.”
SQNews Staffer, Aaron Taylor talked about guitar lessons he got from Koppe.
“One day I see this dude in the rotunda playing the blues, who looked like Colonel Sanders bending the strings,” Taylor said. “Chris told me that he’d teach me how to play rhythm guitar,” However, Taylor said that he was slow picking up the lessons. “Chris told me he wouldn’t play with me because he said he never met a Black man who didn’t have rhythm.”
The incident, Taylor said, invigorated his willingness to learn guitar, and he practiced until Koppe later agreed to play lead guitar with him at an open mic.
In between men taking the stage to talk about their friends, Quentin Blues entertained the audience: (Dwight Krizman (Bass), Richie Morris (Guitar and Vocals), Chris Thomas (Mandolin & Vo- cals), Mark Kinney (Piano), Joe Thurson Percussion); An- drew “Boots” Hardy (Guitar and Vocal).
A recording of “Now I Can Rise”, with Koppe on lead guitar was also played.
Brian Holliday talked about his relationship with Grifall.
“Every time he saw me, he’d stop and say, ‘What’s up?’ You don’t see that in people too much,” Holliday said. “I really miss him.”
Quentin Blues closed the memorial with two songs for Koppe: “Full Tilt Boogie” and “Upward as I Fall”.
For Grifall, Quentin Blues played “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”. Then “Boots” per- formed a song he had writ- ten the previous morning and dedicated to George.
“I dropped my pick inside my guitar and this song fell out,” Boots said. “This song is about the stories I heard about the man after he passed, the love and the handshakes.
By Juan Haines Senior Editor
Correctional Officer L. Griffin
San Quentin State Prison lost a great treasure on Aug. 23. After a lengthy battle with cancer, Correctional Officer L. Griffin passed away.
Griffin’s passing hit the men-in-blue like a boulder. Griffin had worked at San Quentin since Feb. 14, 1998.
“Once I heard about C/O Griffin’s passing, I was instantly saddened, being that we worked together for four years,” said Anthony Ammons. “One of the most important things that Griffin taught me was to always say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome.’”
Harold Meeks added, “The wisdom and words of encouragement Griffin gave to me empowered me to keep mentoring the youth inside these prison walls. Griffin always reminded us that we can change, and it is possible.”
Griffin was well-known to younger inmates, who wore their pants too low—they’d catch hell for it. “Stop sagging your pants,” Griffin would tell the youngsters, and rightfully so. Griffin never missed an opportunity to speak candidly and directly and never worried about who listened or their opinions.
The prison staff, as well as the men-in-blue, knew Griffin for being cheerful in nature. Many say that laughter would fill the room whenever Griffin appeared— filling every corner in every inch of San Quentin.
Here are just a few of the things said about Griffin: “Griffin wasn’t just a correctional officer; Griffin was a mentor, a teacher and a pure hearted genuine soul, who always offered you the truth.”
“If you never knew what a real angel looked like then you never saw Griffin.”
“Griffin told stories filled with a wealth of knowledge but also with an abundance of joy, laughter and smiles.”
“It didn’t rain on Aug. 23, 2019; the sun shined, just like Griffin’s smile.”
Without a doubt, the atmosphere here at San Quentin will never be the same.
By Richard Richardson Executive Editor