The GRIP (Guiding Rage Into Power) Program has graduated five Tribes this summer from its year-long program at San Quentin, Avenal and Mule Creek state prisons.

Prisoners, their families, victim/survivors, community members, politicians and dignitaries, and media were in attendance to help actualize this rite of passage. Caps and gowns were worn during the commencement and moving testimony was shared. Musicians and spoken word performances helped to bring the house down.

These ceremonies are a rite of passage, a formal initiation into a life of non-violence, a life of peacekeeping. Graduates speak to the value of being a member of a Tribe that is focused on healing violence.

Avenal GRIP grad Warden

Avenal SP Warden Rosemary Ndoh and a GRIP graduate.

The GRIP Program is about “Guiding Rage into Power” and it provides the tools that enable violent offenders to transform their behaviors. This sophisticated program has evolved from 20 years of actively working with prisoners. It prepares the men to graduate from offenders into servants and give back and be of service to the communities they once took from.

For communities this is an important gift of good news, said Jacques Verduin, GRIP founder and director, who attended the graduation at Avenal.

The good news is these men are safe men, he said. They are ready to return to their communities as a positive force so they can give back, care for and provide for their loved ones, and as Change Agents, diffuse the potential of conflict and violence around them – inside or outside of prison.

The Avenal GRIP Graduation story is now doing the rounds through CDCR and is touted as an example of what successful culture change looks like, Verduin said.

“The way the event was hosted dignified everyone involved and the fact that everyone present was determined to find their joy by serving one another lifted the ceremony to a whole other level,” Verduin said.

“In my 20 years working in state prisons, I’d never believe I would be seeing a warden and senior staff in uniform serving food to the inmates and their family members- and enjoy doing so!” Verduin said.

“Just pause for a second and imagine what those messages say to the prisoners that are in our keep. It says that we are willing to believe in them, that we are willing to invest in them and that we can work together to better serve public safety in our communities, through their redemption.

“This of course compels them like nothing else to give you their very best in return, with their families and the community as witnesses.”

Avenal GRIP Grads

GRIP graduates and trainers at Avenal.