I began volunteering with T.R.U.S.T. in July, 2016. I have been helping with the Social Media Committee. San Quentin is a shining star of rehabilitation efforts in the prison world. I hope that other institutions will recognize the power of programs with men helping men. Without educational support and personal growth, the patterns of criminal behavior will not change.
T.R.U.S.T. provides a warm welcome from a group of men striving to improve their lives and the lives of others at San Quentin. It is both challenging and gratifying to me. I participate in the small groups and find that I, too, have a lot to learn in developing mindfulness, living in the moment, and understanding others with different backgrounds and experiences.
I am deeply concerned about the racial climate in our country as well as the rate of incarceration in our society. I am excited to be a part of creating a bridge between the gentlemen who are working so hard to improve their lives and relationships and the rest of the world. I hope that their voices will be heard.
In 2018, I was persuaded by a friend to join the T.R.U.S.T. program as a volunteer. I had recently retired from a teaching career, and I wanted to continue doing work I felt was meaningful. Never having been in a prison before, I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure helping criminals was a good use of my time. After all, did these men even deserve help? To my surprise, the answer was (and still is) a resounding YES! Here is why.
First, I met the Fellows, and I discovered men who are motivated, insightful, and articulate. Their very real commitment to change, depth of self-knowledge, and strong desire to give back to both their San Quentin community as well as the community outside the concrete walls is inspiring.
Then, when the new cycle of the T.R.U.S.T. workshop began, I met the program participants, men who are taking these workshops for the first time. These are men who recognize that who they are and how they behaved prior to coming to prison needs to change. If not, they will most likely end up in prison again. This kind of change takes a lot of hard work, time, and commitment. They start by accepting responsibility for their past actions and the harm they caused to their victims and their victims’ families, as well as their own families. To successfully make such a deep and profound change requires a degree of vulnerability and truthfulness that is essential to their becoming responsible and productive members of society. And, remarkably, they do it!
I used to think that rehabilitation for inmates meant embracing sobriety and learning a trade. Since coming to San Quentin, I have learned that rehabilitation is much, much more. Volunteering in T.R,U.S.T. is not only meaningful, but it has also opened my eyes to how much people can and do change. I am profoundly grateful for what these men have taught me.
I returned to school in 2016, and my studies focused on the intersection of Environmental and Social Justice. When Helaine invited me to volunteer with T.R.U.S.T. in January of 2018, it was a continuation of the path I had begun in the world of academia, but, this time, with real world examples and lessons. Watching the personal growth - through T.R.U.S.T. and the benefits of their programs - and seeing the difference it makes in the lives of the incarcerated men in San Quentin is the reason I volunteer.
Coming from a background in literacy education for incarcerated women while pursuing a doctoral degree in forensic psychology, I began volunteering with T.R.U.S.T. in 2018. A notion I have consistently returned to in the course of my studies and volunteer work is that rehabilitation is possible as long as there is a will and a system of support to guide the way. It is my weekly honor to witness the men of Project L.A.actively participating in their own personal growth and promoting adaptive change in the group’s other members.