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IS 7,000 years 'ENOUGH TIME?'

Early yesterday morning, amid an unexpected rainy and blustery day, Dave, former lifer Jeff DePue and I left Sacramento about 6 am, headed to the newly-reimagined and renamed San Quentin Rehabilitation Center, where about 200 lifers had signed up to participate in an early morning Connecting the Dots workshop. If you've been to SQ you'll recognize the above photo as part of the very long uphill walk from parking to the sally port, which meant that by the time we arrived in the Chapel for the actual workshop, we were thoroughly wet, cold and tired after dragging a cart with 200+ workbooks and newsletters up the hill.

But once the SQ residents started showing up, all that was forgotten in the interest, questions and welcome that awaited us from the lifers at SQ.

Three men in particular--Jerry Welsh, Michael Beaudette and Louis Light, all lifers--were really the driving force behind this event (and the 3 other workshops coming up at SQ), working tirelessly to help us navigate the new processes in place for clearance, sign up participants and be sure the venue was set up and waiting for us. They did a fantastic job--perhaps event coordinator jobs could be in their future.

Someone in the audience, looking at the sea of lifer faces, wondered how many years all these men represented. A quick survey and calculation revealed that the 194 who answered the question (192 answering were lifers) represented sentences totally over 7,000 (yes, 7 followed by three zeros) years in prison. Staggering, isn't it?

Seven thousand years. What could our society do with 7,000 years of ideas, work and commitment? We often hear DAs and other say those up for parole haven't yet 'done their time,' or 'enough time.' But what is 'enough time?'

I don't have an easy answer either, but I do know that we must find a better way to help people reclaim their lives, both for themselves and for the rest of us, than isolating them in a aging fortress on the literal edge of the continent for several lifetimes, largely leaving them to their own devices to find solutions. The fact that any lifers manage to rehabilitate themselves and make new lives is a testament to their resilience, determination and humanity.

As for the California Model--well, frankly, it's still in the reimagining stage. But while visions of 'sugar plums' are dancing around in administrators' heads, some of us, Dave, Jeff, me, Jerry, Michael, Louis, and the 200+ men who showed up Saturday are doing something--seeking out, providing, fighting for programs to help foster the work of reclaiming lives and people. It's not an easy task, not for us (we estimate the 4 workshops at San Quentin over the next 2 months, including production of 200-300 workbooks per workshop and the gasoline needed to get us there, will cost LSA around $7K), and not for the men who must reevaluate and change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviors to become the pro-social people they were meant to be. But we--and they--are doing it.

Because, honestly, our society can't afford to waste 7,000 more years of human lives and ideas.

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this is why

Dave and I just returned from our weekly group at CMF--it's now after 7 pm, yet another long day. But I wanted to share an email that was waiting for me when we returned to the office--below is that

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06 may

When put this way, it is astounding how wrong this system is. 7,000 years needed to correct the behavior of less than 200 people? Sounds like an indictment of our shared humanity. I am thankful (and stand in awe) of the good men and women who are able to stand up to the challenge. They usually end up being the best of the best. Kind of amazing, isn't it?

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