Re-entry volunteer Kiki Kessler said every person she has worked with at San Quentin had addiction problems, and there was nowhere to send them.
“Guys are getting out, but if they haven’t dealt with their addictions, they’ll come back,” Kessler said.
In 2005, she discovered two men serving life sentences, R. Trunzo and D. Pratt, who were trying to become state-certified addiction counselors, so they could help other incarcerated men attain sobriety. She joined their efforts to establish the Addiction Counselor’s Training (ACT) Program and the Addiction Recovery Counseling (ARC) programs.
Kessler, who has been developing programs to help incarcerated people for 20 years, said that her reentry program covered a lot of ground, but it didn’t deal with addiction. She brought Reentry Action Planning (REAP) to San Quentin in 2003.
REAP teaches life skills, goal setting, planning and accountability to men in San Quentin’s dormitory units.
“No matter how bad the crime, how obnoxious the person, there’s this desire inside everybody to have a better life,” said Kessler, talking about her work with men through the REAP program. “I found a lot of guys need to set goals.”
She said that she helped men define what they wanted, and she found that most people wanted to do better. “They want to help someone, their families, or improve their lives.”
Her work to improve lives through the ACT and ARC programs was so successful that the state exported the programs to California State Prison-Solano, where she was the project manager for the Offenders Mentors Certifications Program (OMCP) for incarcerated people to be certified drug and alcohol counselors.
Kessler expressed pride about the first ACT group. She said that of the 14 who were released back to the community, all obtained jobs as counselors or are in college. “Some work with kids; some work with sexually abused people; some work in substance abuse,” she said.
Gregory “White Eagle” Coates, a recent graduate of ACT who has been working with Kessler for three years, explained that she travels all over the state helping guys get their CEU hours to keep their licenses certified. In her role as the Work Experience Supervisor of the OMCP he said: “She’s modeling the things she’s teaching us about restorative practice and caring for people with addiction.” j“I feel tremendous gratitude (toward Kessler),” John Lam said. Lam is a certified addiction treatment counselor intern (CATCI) who has known Kessler for three years. “She donated over a year of her time to us. It shows how much commitment she has. And that motivates us because we don’t want to let her down.”
Kessler is the founder of Seeds of Sophia, a nonprofit organization that provides educational and spiritual development for incarcerated people and the community at large.
To find out more about Seeds of Sophia, contact K. Kessler at P.O. Box 53, Crockett, CA 94525.