Keep fewer behind bars and offer opportunities for self-rehabilitation
When I came to San Quentin in 1980, rehabilitation had not yet become a dirty word. During my years at the prison, I was trained in data processing; took Arts-in-Corrections classes; attended church programs; participated in the Course in Miracles, Toastmasters and Transcendental Meditation; read books on tape for the blind; and played Pozzo in the 1988 prison production of Samuel Beckett‘s “Waiting for Godot.”
But my “rehabilitation” started before getting on the bus to Quentin. In the months when I was still in the county jail, I sat stunned by all the words the district attorney used during my trial. I had no idea what these words meant, and I told myself then that I would not let unknown words trap me. I started studying the dictionary in jail and reading all I could. I began to awaken the sleeping student inside me, and thus took my first steps on my journey.
At San Quentin State Prison, I checked out all the books I could get from the prison library and education department. In one notebook, I wrote definitions. In another notebook, I used my favorite words in sentences. I became enraptured with words. I said certain words aloud numerous times, and pondered a word in the way I pondered the garden in front of the prison chapel or a sparrow singing in a tree. I took all the adult high-school education classes offered in the day time. At night, I took all the college classes and self-help/personal-expansion programs offered. All of these programs stressed taking responsibility for your actions, forgiveness, growth, love and peace.
Words would be what self-rehabilitated me and my thinking. I learned a few new words each day, and each new word brought forth a geyser erupting inside my mind and soul. The more words I read, studied and pondered, the clearer life became. I became richer and deeper inside. I could see, taste, feel and touch the growth taking shape inside me, and understood things I had never understood before. It was like I walked down an endless hallway full of dark rooms and, with each room I passed, a light came on and I learned something new.Dismantling the machine of oppression is our goal! Sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter here.Photo: AZRainman/Flickr