The widespread, epidemic problem of domestic abuse throughout the country was the recent focus of a group of San Quentin prisoners.
Sixty men gather in the Lower Yard for a workshop sponsored by Awareness into Domestic Abuse (AIDA) of San Quentin. The Oct. 23 event introduced the community to the problem with help from men serving time for domestic violence.
Floyd Collins, San Quentin resident and originator of AIDA, opened the ceremony and introduced all the facilitators and speakers. Collins started AIDA at Soledad State Prison, where his program became certified as a Rehabilitative Achievement (RAC) program.
The group learned that in 2020, domestic violence accounted for 160,646 calls for police assistance in California, while in the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence report stated that domestic violence is a pattern. Many experience repeated acts of abuse annually. AIDA’s mission statement includes facilitating change regarding the cycle of violence.
Keynote speaker Larry Johnson is in prison for domestic violence murder. He has served 23 years on a 15-to-life sentence.
Johnson described his rehabilitative programming: “I took anything with ‘domestic violence.’ That’s what I need to be a part of the rest of my life.”
Michael Beaudette, the lead facilitator of the PREP correspondence courses for the prison, is also a facilitator for AIDA. He added, “I believe the AIDA workshop was a complete success. AIDA is focused on one particular form of crime, domestic violence.
“Abuse makes this program much needed. It also shows that abuse extends far beyond physical violence alone — that verbal, economic, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. It brings us to the conclusion that for us to become better human beings, abuse is completely unacceptable no matter what. Insight into domestic abuse starts with AIDA.”
Johnson reflected on some positive feedback from his opening speech and the overall workshop. An audience member told him, “A guy who used to get angry and jealous is now searching for the answers as to why he does what he does.”
He hopes the people in attendance realize what domestic violence and domestic abuse looks like. “The differences and, more importantly, the signs and cues to stop domestic violence and domestic abuse must be instilled before the crime happens.”
Johnson spoke about “misinformation” regarding domestic violence.
He said that domestic violence should be seen as a two-part issue, domestic abuse and domestic violence.
Both of them impact society as a whole, from the immediate victim, to the family, to the entire community.
He said people need to understand the total cycle of violence. “For a perpetrator, the honeymoon period generally starts during the very first date. He or she then accumulates information from the ‘good times’ into their brand of abuse. They then manipulate and harm their partner. From the first meeting on, the trap of an abuser is set.”
“The bottom line is DV & DA can be prevented,” said Johnson.
Resident Steven Warren shared his experience of the day’s workshop. “AIDA’s event was an absolute success. I was nervous and excited just to be speaking and encouraging change and growth.
“In the old Male Role Belief System, we bottle things up. Through change, we must acknowledge that we need a space to get real — to become vulnerable — and we need to take account for our ways, habits, behaviors and faults. AIDA and our workshop is just the start of identifying and addressing domestic abuse and its many forms. I am proud to be a part of team AIDA.”
Collins was happy with the turnout. “For men to stand outside, stationary, with the potential of rain, for two and a half hours, seeking information regarding domestic violence, that showed their awareness and commitment to gaining insight and empathy.”
AIDA is currently in development stages to become certified programming at San Quentin and has plans to expand throughout California prisons. “The San Quentin proposal will be on the [program manager’s] desk within a couple of months.
“For now we are holding process groups, and/or workshops on the Lower Yard on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.,” said Collins.
Collins praised the mentors in the program: Steven Warren, Jesus Escobar, Michael “Egypt” Shukavy, Jerry “Malik” Gearin, Michael Beaudette, Timothy Ross, Vincent O’Bannon and Harry C. Goodall Jr. “None of the workshops are possible without the AIDA group. I am blessed they are not deterred and believe in the mission statement of AIDA to stay the course.”