What is Insight-Out?

  1. Insight-Out refers to the process the GRIP Prison Program teaches. This process guides people on a healing journey deeply inside of themselves where they come back out transformed and ready to serve others. (For an excerpt on the program, scroll down to find link: GRIP Program: An Excerpt of the Work in Action).

  2. Insight-Out also refers to the former prisoners who work for the organization, men who once were in prison and are now out. These men have become Change Agents, trained and ready to give back to the communities they once took from. They work with challenged youth and teach their brothers and sisters who are still incarcerated.

  3. Lastly, Insight-Out seeks to reform the prison system from the inside out. Perhaps only in directly supporting our prisoners in transforming themselves can we transform our prison system as well. 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. All of us consider ourselves stakeholders in the prison environment; all of us wish to restore and secure our communities by playing a role in how we do prisons- and how not. We hold a vision of incarceration that goes beyond punishment to rehabilitation, giving prisoners the opportunity to learn how to take responsibility and honor their victims, heal the pain they lashed out from and learn the skills that give them a second chance. This vision also seeks to up the money the state spends on education, saved from what it spends on incarceration.


GRIP Program: An Excerpt of The Work In Action:

Excerpt from: "Leaving Prison Before You Get Out."

In San Quentin, Insight-Out currently facilitates 3 year-long G.R.I.P. classes annually. This year each Tribe consists of 30 men, a cumulative total of 90 men. Within each Tribe are 4 or 5 G.R.I.P. Trainee Facilitators (G.T.F.s). The G.T.F.’s function as interns; they are selected prisoners who have graduated from a previous G.R.I.P. program series and are now in facilitator training. The four elements of the program are: 1. Heal and stop my violence. 2. Develop emotional intelligence. 3. Cultivate mindfulness. 4. Understand victim impact.

Every year, when we start another year-long session of the G.R.I.P. (Guiding Rage into Power) Program in San Quentin, we engage in a number of rituals. The first ritual is a Welcoming Ceremony which begins to bring together the ethnic, religious and gang diversity of the prisoners, most all of whom are classified as life-sentenced violent offenders with the possibility of parole. During the second ritual, we form a Tribe. Our first task is naming the Tribe. In order to name the Tribe, we begin by taking an eye-opening inventory. When the classes start, we begin with the question: "How much time have you served?" As each man calls out the years he has served in his lifetime, the numbers are written on the white board in the front of the room and the total number of years served is calculated.

In one class, participants served a cumulative total of 654 years, the second class served 661 years, and the third class served 671 years. Every time the number of years is tallied a silence falls upon the room. Rather than turn away from the news, participants are encouraged to embrace the number and to use it to name their Tribe (much like some gangs do, when they use an area code as their gang name). Class members grow to value each other like they may have on the streets if they belonged to a gang, except this time the gang is called a Tribe and it is used to serve a constructive purpose. At the end of each class, members of the Tribe stand in a circle, clasp hands, raise their arms and proclaim their identity, “654: For us, by us, about us - ugh!”

Formation of the Tribes continues as members take on their next task, calculating the incalculable: the total number of lives lost from murder committed by the members. This year, among the members of the three Tribes, 71 victims lost their lives. After another long silence the participants are asked if they are ready to fully commit to the program – to commit to it as if life depends on it, because after being confronted by this number, it obviously does.

After taking another moment of silence, to let these numbers reveal their significance, I ask the participants, "How long were you in your moment of imminent danger? In the G.R.I.P. curriculum, the moment of imminent danger is the moment between anger and violence, as well as the moment between craving and using. One of our goals is to learn to "ID" this moment (ID being the abbreviation for: ”identify” and the acronym for Imminent Danger). It is the moment before we “lose it” and commit our crimes. The moment has three consistent characteristics: 1. Everything speeds up, 2. Everything intensifies, and 3. There is an experience of regret afterwards. Though a certain lifestyle may have conditioned this moment to emerge, the actual moment of giving in to an impulse and crossing the boundary itself happens usually in a flash, typically lasting 5 seconds - 2 minutes (5 minutes is long for most, but there are exceptions).

For all 90 participants, who have spent nearly two millennia (a total of 1986 years in prison), we tallied 2 hours, 3 minutes and 11 seconds of time spent in the moment of imminent danger, when they committed their crimes. The room is stunned when the two numbers sit side by side. 

The men commit to take a whole year to learn how to never lose a moment like that again. Jesse Jackson once said: “No one is born armed and dangerous.” So we ask; “What happened?” We’ll answer that question by diligently reconstructing how each man came to lose that moment, truthfully - but without shaming anyone. We also tally how many were using drugs during or around the time of the crime, how many experienced severe trauma when young and how many had a positive male role model when growing up. All these rank in the nineties percentile.

A sheet of paper showing the Tribe’s inventory becomes the initial page of our Tribal Book. This Tribal Book also contains the names of our victims, our families and communities, the guests that visit us; all the people doing time with us. The book is with us every time we meet; it has its own chair. All of the people named in it are evoked and present in circles of people sitting around us each time the Tribe meets in its year-long G.R.I.P. journey of learning and healing.

The Tribe makes its own Learning Agreements Contract and signs it. Each person also signs a Peacemaker Pledge, which lists the pro-social skills they vow to learn by the end of the year. These too are placed in the Tribal Book. At the end of the year, the larger community is invited to enter San Quentin for a Rite of Passage, a caps and gowns graduation ceremony, wherein the Tribe members sign their Peacemaker Pledge for life, with the community as witness. The men graduate from being offenders to being servants; ready to dedicate themselves to peace, and give back to their communities. The communities are there to welcome them back. Four years later, we now have 182 G.R.I.P. graduates. Fifty-one graduates have been released, and 0% have returned to prison (the average recidivism rate in California is 64% of released prisoners returning to prison within 3 years). It costs $60K per year to incarcerate a prisoner in California. We’re saving over 3 million dollars in tax payers’ money each year while improving public safety and preventing re-victimization.

 © Jacques Verduin, GRIP Program: from 'Leaving Prison Before You Get Out' 

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