A self-help program to safely re-integrate men into their communities before they finish their prison term recently graduated more than 40 inmates. San Quentin State Prison’s Garden Chapel served as a venue for the Feb. 5 graduation.
The idea behind California Re-entry Institute (CRI) is to begin the re-integration process while the participant is incarcerated and continue support services once released.
“I was empowered by knowledge, understanding and emotional intelligence,” said Philip J. Landis, 42, who was given a parole date late last year. “I gained tools to reach a deeper understanding of myself, to embrace change, and develop a plan to make a successful transition back into society.”
Landis is currently awaiting the governor’s final review of his parole.
CRI’s curriculum uses individualized case management and personalized parole planning to assist participants on issues such as emotional needs and addictions, as well as personal empowerment and financial literacy.
|“This gave me an opportunity to look at
the worst choice I made in my life
and take full responsibility for my crime”|
“It’s amazing the work they’ve done,” said Collette Carroll, CRI executive director. “They come every Saturday. They work hard. They share. They ask for case management. They are always stopping me and asking me questions; they’re anxious and invested. They’re dedicated to being the men who I know they are.”
CRI helps participants with personal transformation through its curriculum.
Victim/Offender Education Group (VOEG) helps offenders understand the impact on victims. Domestic violence prevention is taught by Melissa Davis of the Marin County Probation Department.
“VOEG led me to understand the causative factors of my crime and how it reached back into trauma that I experienced in childhood,” said graduate Roger Chavez, 61.”The crime impact statement taught me about the pain and suffering that I caused my victim and society,” he added, “This gave me an opportunity to look at the worst choice I made in my life and take full responsibility for my crime.”
Addiction Recovery Counseling (ARC) is also a part of the CRI curriculum.
“CRI helped me understand I had a problem with alcohol,” said Eddie Wills. “CRI teaches a little bit of everything. It prepares us for the shock of things we don’t know.”
Wills said he’s been incarcerated 33 years and has been to the parole board three times.
“It (CRI) gave me insight into who I am and where I come from and why I did a lot of the things that led me here,” he said. “We recognize the power of crime impact on our victims.”
Among the guests at the graduation were Susan Bonilla, Assemblywoman 14th District East Bay, (D-Concord), and several legislative aides.
“Graduation is a wonderful day. It speaks about stepping up. This is a significant day. You have accomplished something,” Bonilla said. “You have stepped up and done the work that you needed to do.”
Bonilla said that part of her work is to get programs like CRI in other prisons. “When I shake your hand I believe in you and with that handshake I hope to shake your hand in a different place when you are out,” she said before passing out certificates to the graduates.
Ryan Morimune, legislative aide and press secretary to Bonilla, said he was inspired and educated by what he learned. “A lot of people see recidivism but we don’t actually know what is behind it. So I learned it is about allowing people to do something different, be something different, allowing them the resources to make a safe and productive transition into a new life.”
“They stand before you as men that are assets, men that have people out there waiting for them. I am excited about what lies in front of them,” Carroll proudly expressed to the inmates and guests in closing the ceremony.
For Carroll, CRI is a legacy that reaches back to her husband, who volunteered at San Quentin for nearly 30 years before he passed away. She shared this moment with the new graduates of CRI. “If it was not for my husband, almost 16 years ago, volunteering me to come in to start a self-help program here, the fire would not have been ignited, the spark would not have been lit, and I would not have had the experience to share with you men. When I was in my darkest moment, when Roland passed away, people said I was a light in your dark place. You were the light in my dark place.”
Shai Alkebu-Lan, Edward Buchanan, Cleo Cloman III,Lee Conley, Kevin Fuqua, Gary Harrell, Jorge Heredia, Ernest Hill, Eddie Hollingsworth III, Claudius Johnson, Richard Lathan, Donavon Norwood, Peng Nampha, Ruben Ramirez, Alexei Ruiz, Tyrone Shirriel, David Stephens, Isaiah Thompson, James Vick, Martin Walters, James Wortham, Ian Charles Brown, Roger Chavez, Ronald Coleman, Kevin Demings, Andrew Gazzeny, Lemar Harrison, Eddie Herena, Glen Hill, Richard Honea, Phillip Landis, Nguyenly Nguyen, Kevork Parsakrian, Daniel Plunkett, Arthur Robinson, Danny Sanders, Marty Spears, Mark Tedeschi, Somdeng Dan Thongsy, Quinton Walker, Eddie Joe Wills, Richard Zorns.
–Rahsaan Thomas contributed to this story