March 2014 - G.R.I.P. Program Training


Freedom Within Prison Project Educational Staff attends GRIP training inside San Quentin

by Lucas Roy Lehman


Last week Jim, Jay and I went to Marin for a weekend training with Jacque Verduin, a passionate and visionary educator who has been conducting the GRIP (Guiding Rage into Power) program at San Quentin for the past 17 years. Marc and Malcolm attended this training last summer; and last fall, Malcolm and I had the honor of attending the graduation of 100 inmates who had completed Jacque's yearlong curriculum.

In recent years, the GRIP program gave birth to Insight-Out, where released graduates of GRIP work in communities outside to prevent recidivism, as well as guiding at-risk youth on paths away from incarceration.

We were all inspired by the years of dedication, as well as the huge impact that Jacque has had on the thousands of men who have gone through his program of meditation, emotional literacy and personal responsibility, and walked away with a greater vision for the possibilities of the Freedom Within Prison Project.

One of Jacques exercises that we brought to our groups in both the jail and prison last week was a comparison of the number of years served by the men in our group (274 years in my group in A-yard) and the total number of minutes spent committing the crimes (approximately 3 hours). "That's the illest mismanagement of time I have ever seen in my life," one inmate said. One interesting theme that came up repeatedly, was the concept that going to prison had saved many of the inmates lives. And even though they didn't want to be in prison now (20 or even 30 years after the 5-10 minutes of insanity that had landed them inside) they were very much grateful to be alive.

We completed the exercise by inviting the men to look at the choices they had made years ago—which resulted in pain, suffering, sadness, grief, death—and what new choices and actions they wanted to make now in order to bring more joy into their lives, the lives of their family members, and to their brothers inside.