On October 26, several hundred residents, staff, and guests gathered in San Quentin’s Garden Chapel to celebrate the graduation of Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment participants for the first time in more than three years.
The 90-plus graduates were from multiple cycles of the ISUDT program. The drug and alcohol recovery program, which is supported by CDCR’S Division of Rehabilitative Programs, consists of three components — Cognitive Behavioral Intervention, Life Skills, and After-Care.
“ISUDT helped me to get off drugs,” said graduate Rodney Vandunk. “I abstain from using because of the stories I heard in ISUDT and the people I met that are clean.” Vandunk expressed his appreciation for the graduation because he now has a certificate to send home, showing he is making progress transforming himself for the better.
The ISUDT program is expanding at San Quentin and around the state. ISUDT Director Lance Bohn spoke of three new classes and more staff being hired. “The program is gearing everyone to go home — embrace it,” Bohn said to the crowd.
Bohn encouraged the graduates when he shared a quote from Edgar Allen Poe: “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”
Center Point delivers Substance Use Disorder, Cognitive Behavior Intervention for ISUDT programming and is behind the principle that every person has potential for greatness. Everyone recited their Creed during the graduation, which highlighted concepts of commitment, trust, accepting responsibility, communication, empathy, and integrity.
Graduate Huan Nguyen took two years to complete the program because of delays due to COVID. He shared his appreciation for the many courses offered from parenting, anger management, domestic violence prevention, victim impact, recovery support, and sobriety. “ISUDT saved my life,” Nguyen said.
“For me, my goal is to be a better person not only physically, mentally, but also spiritually,” graduate Ordonez Garcia said. “All thanks to God.”
Speaking on the positive change he witnessed in his fellow graduates, Olegario Ambriz said, “I see that they have a positive change in how they conduct themselves and that change is continually using the tools they are implementing.”
OMCP mentor Kelon Williams thanked everyone and said it was a blessing to see so much support for the graduates. “I see a future of individuals who no longer respond to the moments in life but choose who they want to be,” Williams said.
Williams encouraged all graduates to welcome any feelings of discomfort and not go back to old behaviors. “Change requires strength, resilience, courage, and bravery amongst every incarcerated person.”
Williams inspired the graduates with a quote from David R. Hawkings: “The world can only see us as we can see ourselves.”
“Having a graduation is validation the program is working, that it is impacting the population on a grand scale,” said Acting Associate Warden E. Patao to SQNews. “ISUDT program is a way residents can cure their disease. It is important to show support to the residents from the custody side of things.”
DRP Captain Oliveraz shared how she was encouraged to see how many people are engaged in the program. She said looks forward to more opportunities coming with the implementation of the California Model of prison reform.
“We want the same things, especially treating each other well,” Oliveraz said. “I am confident in each of you to make choices that are different and to continue to take responsibility of your future.”
She encouraged the graduates to look back with pride on their hard work and determination. “For administration, it is huge to see there are this many people engaged,” she added.
ISUDT counselor Arthur Sanders told SQNews how rewarding it is to see the fruits of his labor through the graduates. “The support we give them I feel is priceless,” Sanders said. “Our work helps prepare [incarcerated] individuals for the streets.”
Jackie Wilson, mother of graduate Chris Wilson, attended the ceremony; she said how overjoyed she is to see her son recovering. “I am proud of him doing the work it takes; drugs are awful.”
SQ’s band The Greater Good played music during the ceremony. Graduates in caps and gowns enjoyed some pizza and cake during the reception afterwards, some of them with their family.
Resident Kevin Brinkman was there to support graduate Chris German and said how important it is to support all the graduates.
“[There is power in] knowing you can accomplish something, especially when you have been told you could not do anything your whole life,” Brinkman said.