The San Quentin accountability group T.R.U.S.T. is regaining its footing with renewed commitment to program participation as COVID-19 cutbacks ease.
Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training (T.R.U.S.T.) – helps men develop skills necessary to becoming productive, law-abiding, and self-aware, the organization’s web site www.sanquentintrust.org explains.
The T.R.U.S.T. mission: assist men in becoming leaders within themselves, their families, and their community and to build a bridge of accountability between the community inside and outside of prison.
“I am deeply touched by what the men have had to go through in their lives. Their hard work is encouraging and inspiring, said Diana Kronstadt, an 11-year volunteer alum, who prefers to be called Diana.
“The process of change is life-long, and I am reminded through each class that we can always do better to be better.”
The T.R.U.S.T. curriculum consists of several workshops that incorporate topics related to: self-assessment and self-esteem; emotional intelligence; childhood trauma; domestic violence; re-establishing family relationships; cultural awareness; and many others.
“During my participation in T.R.U.S.T., I’ve learned to turn my liabilities into assets by developing the necessary skills to be responsible, [and] I was introduced to various life skills,” said former member and T.R.U.S.T. Fellow Bryan Jacko.
“The ones that stuck out the most for me were ‘decision making’ and ‘work ethics,’ which are essential for me to be successful when I return to my community (society). Prior to T.R.U.S.T., I had made inadequate decisions which only resulted in negative consequences. Today, I am thinking before I act to ensure myself that I am making good decisions. In order to have good work ethics, one must be able to make the right decisions.”
T.R.U.S.T. has been a California-prisons-recognized organization program since 2003, and began with 25 incarcerated men. Today T.R.U.S.T. holds workshops with 65 men in attendance.
“T.R.U.S.T. is powerful and it empowers. Some people never realize their true power. Many people feel that they are not worth much, so the transition is amazing,” said Quilly, a T.R.U.S.T. volunteer.
“It’s such a moving thing to watch the transition, and to be a part of it.”
Four workshops are offered: The T.R.U.S.T. workshop is a nine-month curriculum which promotes personal insight and assessment, relationships, and prepares participants for parole board hearings.
The second workshop, Project L.A., is a nine-month reentry program for men who will be released to the Los Angeles area.
“I am the co-founder of Project L.A. and since its inception, I’ve witnessed guys speak highly of its success,” said Earlonne Woods, former fellow and co-founder of the San Quentin Ear Hustle podcast. “Project L.A. gives individuals the space to restore dignity and humanizes one’s experiences as one merges back into the community.”
Anger Management is a Spanish-only workshop where 20 men meet once a week for the 12-week program (offered twice a year).
“Developing this class was virtually a dream come true since self-help classes in Spanish are so scarce, as are volunteers to teach Spanish,” said co-facilitator Dr. Arnold Chavez. “The participants in this group are able to create a circle of support where they feel safe to identify the underlying issues of their anger, where they come from, and how to cope with them.”
The Emotional Health and Wellness program is a 26-week support group to help men explore and heal emotional trauma. This group provides a safe, supportive environment for 8 to 10 men.
“I joined Health and Wellness in 2015,” said Hieu Nguyen, (now released) T.R.U.S.T. fellow and co-facilitator. “It is a self-help group that gives incarcerated men like me the opportunity to explore our past. In this workshop, the participants learn the roots of where their anger comes from.
“They begin to understand the unresolved trauma issues in their lives that led them to commit their crimes. It also gives the participants the tools and coping skills to deal with their triggers. As for me, I applied everything I learned from this workshop and use it in my daily life. It keeps me staying sober and prevents me [from] going back to the person I once was before.”
Fellow Kevin Fuqua commented, “The workshop of Emotional Intelligence has opened my mind to new things about my masculinity. The man I am today: I utilize self-awareness for my own emotions and well-being.
“Self-management: I utilize control over my own emotions, such as impulsiveness or sadness. With relationship management, I understand that communication is helpful during conflicts and is key to connection with others.”
The workshops are facilitated by a combination of program volunteers, fellows, and outside professionals.
Each Monday afternoon, 65 men in blue and five outside volunteers gather in the Protestant Chapel. Individuals are encouraged to uncover and discover internal emotions that harbor pain, resentment and distrust, and for those who have a fear of speaking their ‘truth’ out loud, to be able to let go and let live.
“This program is unique in the fact that the volunteers provide a perspective that differs from mine and they have provided valuable insight and direction for me,” said Anthony Caravallo.
Group Chairman Wyatt McMillan stated, “T.R.U.S.T. has helped me to have integrity and to become responsible and accountable.”
McMillan has been a part of the T.R.U.S.T. family for six years.
“Being a service to the community and helping give men the tools needed to deal with issues and turning negatives into positives drives me to follow my rehabilitative path,” said McMillan.
“T.R.U.S.T. has helped me with social skills that I did not have, and to be able to connect with people in ways that gave me an alternative to violence.”
Consistent attendance is required, and all participants are expected to complete assignments outside of the workshops in order to receive credit and to graduate.
T.R.U.S.T. is embarking on a new season with new workshop curriculum material being added.
The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) and Centerforce partner with San Quentin to host the annual Health Fair event for more than 1,000 incarcerated residents.
The Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC) has provided financial and outside volunteer support for the Health Fair since 2019.
Health Fair volunteers have provided health education and health-related services to the incarcerated population since 2003.
The T.R.U.S.T. organization, ACPHD, Centerforce, the Bay Area Black Nurses Association (BABNA), and Larry Vitale, SF State University nursing professor, credit former community resource manager Steve Emerick and current CRM Madeline Tenney for providing a smooth interface between the prison administration, custody officers, and volunteers.
“I was drawn to the name T.R.U.S.T. because it was something that I did not have,” said Terry Winston.