Lockdown pressures during the 14-month state of emergency at San Quentin State Prison did not mean all prisoners missed out on programming.
The importance of programming was emphasized during Commissioner Robert Barton’s suggestion to an incarcerated resident at his Board of Parole hearing on Dec. 17, 2020.
“…Even in COVID, you have a support network on the outside — reach out to them. There’s many correspondence courses: PREP [Partnership for Re-Entry Program], Guiding Rage Into Power (GRIP), Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training (TRUST]), etc. There is a bunch of them out there … they all have DV (Domestic Violence) courses — have them get one you can do by correspondence,” said Commissioner Barton in the board hearing.
Other courses included Mount Tamalpais College, Coastline College, GED Education, and Vocational Classes such as Computer Literacy, Building Maintenance, and E-Learning classes
GRIP participants who completed their coursework will receive diplomas, while graduates are still awaiting time reduction credits (milestones). TRUST and its executive staff allowed its students to continue or step aside as well, with assurances of maintaining their place in the class upon re-opening. TRUST also decided to offer a voluntary “Reflections” course that allows the incarcerated to delve deeper into emotional intelligence and mindfulness while locked down.
PREP is a Restorative Justice course that allows incarcerated residents the opportunity to continue rehabilitation in lieu of classroom programming.
Michael Beaudette is PREP’s Yard and Head Facilitator at the prison. He began facilitating PREP in 2015 and has served prisoners in West Block, North Block, and now Alpine. The assistant facilitators are Donald “New York” Edge in South Block, Ed Mansolf/Steve Parks in West Block, and Richard Fernandez in North Block. Currently, Beaudette is looking for Hispanic representatives to facilitate in the Latinx community.
“PREP is an excellent program, as are all the other correspondence classes we offer here,” said Edge. “I hope more people get involved. It seems like they (the courses) are a kept secret. The courses and the dedication to our rehabilitation is very important to each and every one of us; to our victims and to society. Everyone here at San Quentin should know we have excellent facilitators in each building to help.”
PREP includes 14 curricula with 13 to 40 lessons. Beaudette also directs the incarcerated to other support organizations such as Life Support Alliances, ACCI, Hustle 20, Crimanon, and AIDA (Awareness in Domestic Abuse). Incarcerated facilitator Floyd Collins, who transferred from CTF, Soledad, founded AIDA.
Currently, only the incarcerated population at Soledad can receive time reduction credits, called Rehabilitative Achievement Credits (RAC), for completing the AIDA curriculum.
Collins and Beaudette aim to get RAC credits for San Quentin participants of all correspondence courses.
“We get ROCs (Recognition of Completion), instead of RACs, after we finish each class in PREP. Before COVID, CDCR allowed only one lesson to be completed per week. During the quarantine, the administration increased that to two lessons per week.”
Beaudette emphasizes programming is continually available through PREP, which is run by the founder, Sister Mary Sean Hodges, and managed by Tony Kim.
Beaudette said that once a participant completes a course, it would be recorded in that person’s central file. He also said the courses are all-inclusive and non-denominational.
“Our main focus is change through insight,” Beaudette said.
Javier Perez has spent four hours a day on PREP classes and has completed the Domestic Violence and Victim Impact curriculum. He started in February, and said, “The classes are great … I work very hard learning about remorse and accountability. These classes show me I will be learning the rest of my life and will help prepare me for the (parole) board in December.”
Danny Armendariz, 73, started in early March. He has completed two courses. After 18 years of incarceration, Armendariz will be eligible for parole in about three years. He studies four to six hours per day, having completed certificates in Critical Thinking and Victim Awareness.
“I love PREP,” Armendariz said. “I learned more about my emotions and how to plan for my contributions to society. I specifically learned amends are not a simple apology; they are spiritual changes in your life that allow your victims to see you truly seek their enlightened forgiveness by doing the next right thing.”
Beaudette said, “This is a chance to specifically address your issues that led to your crime … what you’re going to do to combat recidivism … as our program emphasizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it is duly noted by the (parole) board.”