Great companies and organizations are the ones that can stand the test of time and San Quentin’s T.R.U.S.T rehabilitative group is one of those programs.
The transformative group hosted its 14th Annual San Quentin T.R.U.S.T Graduation Ceremony and banquet. The October 10 event honored more than 60 people graduating from three different programs: The Health and Wellness Group, Project L.A., and T.R.U.S.T. (Teach- ing Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training) classes. The Spanish Anger Management group was also in attendance.
Robb Rogers, Project L.A. chairman, and Philip Senegal, T.R.U.S.T vice chairman, both received warm goodbyes and congratulations for be- ing found suitable at the pa- role board. The two longtime members expect to be released at the end of the year.
The men who “do programs” at San Quentin get out, said Steve Emrick, SQ’s recently retired Community Resources Manager. “The parole board and the outside community recognize the work that is being done in these programs. I hope all of you who take part in the programs walk away with the things you learned and become productive re- turning citizens.”
The large crowd of volunteers and graduates recognized Rogers for his humble and direct personality that helped shape the Project L.A. program.
“After 38 years, I look for- ward of being home. This program provides all the necessary tools to survive upon release,” said Rogers. “I’m going to get involved with the Jericho organization once released. I look forward to helping the people coming after me.”
Project L.A. is a goal-set- ting and pre/post release program that assists people from Southern California with their re-entry needs. The Jericho organization, based in Los Angeles, works closely with the program.
“When people from our community are housed this far away they need this type of program,” said Saun Hough, executive director of Jericho, who also was formerly incarcerated. “We let the men know that they have a team when they come home. I once walked this road (incarcerated and reentry). I’m honored to be a part of some- one else’s team. We are on the ground, we provide real-time support and help those returning navigate the resources.”
Hough served more than 20 years in prison and has been free for eight, but every so often he reflects on his life journey.
“I was sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts the other day and I start thinking about my freedom. I began texting my daughter, then my wife and I just said, ‘I’m home—I’m home!’”
Hough said he prays to keep having that feeling.
Senegal is waiting for his second chance at freedom. He is one of the last founding members of T.R.U.S.T., established in 2003.
“I shall not do harm to myself, my family or my community; that is the golden rule of T.R.U.S.T,” said Senegal. “I’m no longer the cancer that did harm to my community. Now, I’m that healing agent.”
What motivated the founding of the group was when former Gov. Jerry Brown, who was the Mayor of Oakland at the time, stated on a news program that the core problem and the rise of crime in the community and the surrounding area of Alameda County was due to the influx of incarcerated people coming from San Quentin, said Senegal.
“This program provides all the necessary tools to survive upon release”
“We took offense to that statement and wanted to change that perspective. So with the help of the prison administration, they brought the curriculum inside and we developed the program,” he said. “If you don’t invest in yourself, change can never come about.”
Since the start of the program it has graduated hundreds of men within the prison. It also hosts the SQ Health Fair, the largest medical event, probably in the country, for a prison.
TRUST participants, members and facilitators share one last photo before leaving prison leadership but we welcome the new blood coming in,” said Diana Kronstadt, one of T.R.U.S.T’s sponsors. “Phillip bought us the history of the program with him. Robb is such a talented guy. I think they will do good things on the out- side—their presence will be missed.”
Kronstadt expressed confidence about the continued longevity of the program while the new graduates smiled as they walked across the chapel stage to receive their certificates of completion.
“I feel selfish because we learn so much more than we give to these programs,” said Christina Laird, program volunteer. “These guys are masters of de-escalation. I learned how to use the ‘I statement’ from them. I had a chance to use these techniques at my job and I just own that space.
“These guys are preparing themselves for society,” Laird added.
Louis “Louie” Light, T.R.U.S.T member and MC of the event, kept the mood festive and on schedule with his humor, plus seriousness. He made sure everyone had their time to speak and get their picture taken.
The SQ Jazz band provided soul-soothing instrumentals as the participants enjoyed their meals and their accomplishments.