A Rite of Passage for 84 Life-Sentenced Prisoners

GRIP graduation speaker, Insight-Out

“Imagine a wedding ceremony, except there are 84 grooms--and all are life-sentenced prisoners--and you get the picture,” wrote Jacques Verduin in a recent email. A father, community organizer, and teacher, Verduin has spent decades studying mindfulness and emotional intelligence in his effort to transform violence. Working in prisons for the last 17 years, Jacques serves as a catalyst for state-wide prison reform in California. And he is busy helping his “guys” prepare for one of the most important days in their lives, graduating from the GRIP (Guiding Rage into Power) Program.

THE FACTS:

  • San Quentin State Prison
  • 93 life-sentenced men started the program 
  • to date they have served 1,987 years 
  • together they undertook a year-long journey in the GRIP Program
  • today 84 transformed men will graduate

Bearing witness at this communal rite of passage: victims, dignitaries, politicians, national media, families of prisoners, community members, and correctional department representatives.

Graduates will speak to the value of being a member of a “Tribe” that is focused on healing violence; they will share various spoken word pieces; the San Quentin Choir will rock the pews; and the graduates have determined, by vote, that a victory boxing robe donated by Mohammed Ali will go to one of the victims this year.

“For our Bay Area communities this is an important gift of good news,” says Jacques Verduin, who founded the Insight Out Prison Program. “The good news in this case is the message that these men are safe men. They are ready to return to their communities as a positive force so they can give back, protect and provide for their loved ones, and working as Change Agents, they can diffuse the potential of conflict and violence around them.”

We see this as heartening news on a widespread basis as it offers effective options to our country’s broken prison system. To learn more about the program, watch their compelling 5-minute video, and if you feel moved to support this innovative work, consider a donation