Prisoners Helping Prisoners Rebuild Lives

image credit: Salvatore Vuono

Original article posted on prison by , April 21, 2011

“The San Quentin T.R.U.S.T. for the Development of Incarcerated Men is a group of 25 incarcerated men who have taken on the task of changing themselves and others from liabilities into assets to themselves, their families, and their communities. The goal of the T.R.U.S.T. is to educate, organize and assist incarcerated men to become vibrant and productive community members through an understanding and reawakening of their history, culture and values.” (From the T.R.U.S.T. Web site)

The San Quentin T.R.U.S.T. for the development of incarcerated men is run by a group of inmates that are taking on the task of helping incarcerated men transform their lives and value systems. Their mission is to train men to become leaders within themselves by developing a positive sense of self-worth and to learn the practical life skills needed to become responsible and successful citizens on the outside.

To accomplish these goals, T.R.U.S.T., which stands for Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Techniques, has developed a year-long course that focuses on examining one’s values and understanding how these values are shaped by the historical and cultural realities of race relations in America. The course also provides a safe environment that allows participants the opportunity to purge negative thoughts and behaviors, and to replace them with a positive, more responsible self-image.

Kathleen Jackson, the executive director of T.R.U.S.T., couldn’t possible come from a more different background that the men she works with. A white woman in her mid 70’s from Marin, she worked as a teacher and administrator at the prestigious Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera for 24 years. After retiring she taught 12th-grade English at an inner-city Oakland charter public school, before getting involved with the Prison University Project at San Quentin. As Kathleen stated in an interview with Marin Magazine, “observing one class of the Prison University Project had [me] hooked.  I felt extremely at home there; it was a place where I really wanted to be.”

The power of volunteerism by people like Kathleen at San Quentin has made a huge difference in so many of the inmate’s lives. The example of T.R.U.S.T and the many other volunteer programs run out of San Quentin (e.g. Prison University Project, MOMAS Entrepreneurship Program, Insight Prison Project) really show how a small dedicated group of people can give hope to prisoners and help reverse years of discriminatory incarceration policies.

The video below provides a glimpse into the T.R.U.S.T program and how it is changing lives. It is interwoven with personal stories and expert testimony on the causes, consequences and multi-dimensional solutions to the silent crisis of incarceration that is devastating the African-American community.

Watch more about T.R.U.S.T

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  1. Andreas Luderer says:

    Hi, this sounds like a really great opportunity. While I was incarcerated I came up with an idea that hopefully sounds helpful. I wanted to create a social community like face book. Where felons, friends of felons, and family could could get resources and communicate like people do in face book. Call it now, felon book 🙂 for an example. But imagine a place were you get information and legal help, the ACLU, or what ever people need that are having trouble or can share how to get help in community with out being singled out. Have a map of the U.S. click on your state and you could info that is related in that are or county. I don’t have the computer skills to do this and I don’t have the connection to start something like. If you feel that it is a good idea take and roll with it. If you feel this could be a asset to your program. Thank for you time Andreas 🙂 Namaste

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