Insight-Out: Getting a GRIP on Rage
A prison sentence often results in years of punishment for seconds of out-of-control rage. Jacques Verduin has made it his life’s work to teach coping skills to prisoners, equipping them to better recognize and avoid those explosive moments in the future.
Verduin’s Insight-Out program has become a fixture in California's San Quentin State Prison in the 15 years since he began working there with prisoners. Currently, the key focus is the GRIP program. Guiding Rage Into Power (GRIP) is a 52-week program that provides tools that enable prisoners to "turn the stigma of being a violent offender into a badge of being a non-violent peacekeeper."
GRIP participants are required to face up to the many issues that landed them in prison--they meet with victims, sign a pledge of nonviolence, write letters on unfinished business in their lives, and frankly discuss what led them to turn in the wrong direction. In this unflinching self-examination, “we become worthy of our suffering,” said one participant.
Verduin’s methodology embraces the need for accountability on the part of prisoners and also demonstrates they are part of the greater community, worthy of love and capable of compassion. The program, which teaches students to become emotionally literate, transforms former prisoners into community change agents who work to prevent violence and incarceration in their neighborhoods when they are released.
The Fetzer Institute is partnering with Insight-Out to document what Verduin has learned about teaching others about the power of love, forgiveness, and compassion, to integrate best practices into a revised curriculum, and to design and implement a research project to evaluate the impact of Insight-Out’s programming as it expands to other prisons.
Verduin’s program was honored recently with the top prize in the What In The World Are You Doing? contest sponsored by the Fetzer Institute, receiving a $25,000 prize to continue and expand its work.
Insight-Out refers to the transformation from prisoner to change agent, and speaks to the need for prison reform, a major cause for Verduin.
“Working firmly outside the 'us and them' fallacy, we represent a movement of engaged citizens that includes law enforcement, victims, prisoners and at-risk youth,” Verduin says.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on the Law Professions.