DEPTH OF PROGRAM’S
IMPACT MIRRORED IN
FOR ITS CREATOR
Staff facilitators and incarcerated participants said goodbye to Jacques Verduin, the founder of the self-help group Guiding Rage Into Power — GRIP — by honoring his legacy at a farewell ceremony at the Addiction Recovery building on April 28.
Attendees sat in a circle with Verduin at its head. At the center of the circle was a book filled with letters from GRIP participants at other prisons. The book included artwork and photos of captured GRIP memories.
GRIP, an evidence-based, in-depth study of violent behavior, helps participants to develop tools for tracking impulses that lead to acting in harmful ways. The program developed over 25 years by working with incarcerated persons and victims and survivors of crime. The program’s Peacemaker magazine says that its roots derived from restorative justice and the processing of trauma.
Dennis Jefferson a resident facilitator opened up the farewell event by thanking everyone for coming. He told the attendees to speak from the heart. Jefferson looked at Verduin and said, “I consider you as my spiritual father. I asked you how to get into GRIP, you told me to join the tribe that had already started, some told me I did not belong, but you told me I belong.”
Verduin has pointed many people in a positive direction, helping incarcerated residents move away from destructive behavior.
Bernard Moss, a paroled facilitator and GRIP staff member, said, “Twenty-one years, counting, and you have not kicked me to the curb. I was one of the defiant ones, you accepted me with open arms; I went to the hole (the prison’s segregation unit) in 2009, and when I got out, you said I have a seat in the group, I love you, and you’ll be seeing me around.”
Former San Quentin resident and current staff facilitator Fateen Jackson said, “I came to SQ in 2012; I walked into a mindfulness class. You asked me why I am so angry. I am here to learn, you are in the right place (Verduin replied), and it was huge for me to hear that. I had not taken a GRIP class until then. I love you like a brother.”
Verduin often wears a fedora, a style of hat worn by the movie character Indiana Jones.
“I knew Jacques as the Indiana Jones guy, you are so gentle. I love you very much,” said Lucia de la Fuente, the Spanish GRIP staff facilitator.
Verduin hired De la Fuente as the first Spanish facilitator. Her tribe’s first graduation took place in 2016, and she has facilitated for the program since then.
“I want to thank you for bringing me in on Fridays. You have the sky in your eyes, you listen like no one I ever met,” said Nina Gold, another GRIP staff facilitator.
Verduin’s longtime friend James Fox could not attend the farewell. He later said, “I met the GRIP founder while looking for a place to live in the 1990s, Jacques and I became housemates, which was the beginning of our friendship.”
He described Verduin as a “dauntless person” who represents the incarcerated participants by bringing innovative rehabilitation to CDCR. The program now employs many of its graduates. “I was Jacques right hand man; He got me involved with rehabilitation. We started the Yoga Prison Project together, including the first lifer group at San Quentin,” said Fox.
Before GRIP, Jacques started Katargeo, a processing circle. He envisioned a self-help group based on four pillars: violence prevention, victim-offender education, emotional literacy, and body-mind integration.
The founder’s ideology of rehabilitation has taught incarcerated participants how to help themselves, leading them to help others.
“I want to thank you for your vision of hope, I did not know eight years later I would be helping other men,” said Patrick Baylis, a resident facilitator.
“What we can say about a guy who guided justice into rehabilitation, your presence will always be felt,” said San Quentin resident facilitator Jon Hays.
Verduin has developed a bond of gratitude and hope. San Quentin residents have found guidance and understanding in their growth.
“Our relationship formulated prior to GRIP. You kept your word, showing me what healthy masculinity looks like. You are a special person in my life. If you ever need anything call me,” said Tommy “Shakur” Ross, a paroled resident and current GRIP staff member.
GRIP resident facilitator Robert Barnes said, “I first met you in 2017, you have so much compassion. You’re a person who does not see me as a crime, thank you.”
Attendees describe Verduin as thoughtful, honorable, fatherly, ethical, love, peaceful, personified, supportive, compassionate, friend, serene, and clarity.
At the end of the event, participants passed a rock from one person to the next. Each person rubbed the stone in his hand while and placing his right hand on the chest and the left hand just below it, symbolizing a final goodbye.