Houses of Healing at San Quentin

14/12/15 0


Several years ago Father George Williams, the Catholic Chaplain at San Quentin, brought to San Quentin a program called Houses of Healing, written by Robin Casarjian and published by Lionheart Foundation. Father Williams was friends with Robin and originally taught the course in the Boston area. A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom, the Houses of Healing book and curriculum are based on Emotional Literacy and Restorative Justice. In 2011, Father Williams gave Susan Shannon, one of his ministry students at the time, the opportunity to begin a Houses of Healing group at San Quentin. Currently over 100 men have taken the course, with more on the waiting list. Two years ago Kathleen Jackson joined Susan as a facilitator, and has helped expand the course by offering another time slot. Soon, Hassaun Jones Bey, who interned for two years with Susan, will start his own group, bringing the total Houses of Healing groups to three.

Facilitator Susan Shannon says, “The Houses of Healing book and course written by Robin Casarjian over 20 years ago are currently implemented in over 200 men and women’s prisons across the country. This course is a great class to take for seasoned programmers who would like to go deeper into some of the core teachings of other foremost San Quentin self-help groups, as well as for men new to any program at all. Some of the men who were new to programming from Susan’s first course have gone on to become master facilitators of other programs. The Houses of Healing groups are limited to 15 or less, and run approximately 7-9 months.

Chris Gallo, a recent graduate, describes it this way:

“In the scope of what is important to the rehabilitative process, Houses of Healing is a comprehensive look into the self. With discussions on self-understanding, healing relationships, and stress management, this thirty-session class instructs on being true to one’s core self. Participants learn to identify and deal with their sub-personalities, such as anger, selfishness, control, and insecurity, and low self-esteem.

When I entered into this small group I originally found more questions than answers, but it was not long into the sessions that the intimacy of the group caused it to become a safe place to open up. While being asked to represent our class with a few words is a great honor, I feel it is more powerful to share everyone’s voice:

Houses of Healing is a must for any lifer who wishes to be able to express himself better on the impact of his crime, anger, abuse and self worth. Allen

The Houses of Healing program…took me by the hand and led me to my past, which helped me understand the grief, pain, and suffering I created. Flavio

Houses of Healing has helped me to maintain an attitude of introspection. It has reinforced my emotional awareness and allowed me to develop relationships I might not have had otherwise. Ray

In Houses of Healing I learned how to forgive myself. Before I learned that knowledge I walked the Earth feeling shame, guilt, and a lot of fear. Once I learned the value of self-forgiveness and how to forgive, the sun got brighter, and the air cleared. I became whole again. Glenn

It helped me have further understanding in accepting responsibility for my actions and holding myself completely accountable for all of the choices I made that affect not only my life but so many other lives as well. Richard

Houses of Healing is really life-changing. I know it was for me. Harry

I once thought that my childhood had nothing to do with the man I became. Thanks to House of Healing I have been able to connect my childhood trauma to my criminal behavior. I’m filled with joy from what I’ve learned in this class, and now my life feels very complete. Darnell (Mo)

I know the pains that I have caused will never go away; but now I have a better understanding of where it started from as a child, and I can heal that inner child. Lee

I’ve learned forgiveness plus how to breathe, to watch the sky, and to meditate. I now think cool thoughts, not just hot ones. I’ve learned that Houses of Healing isn’t just about short time or short term fixes but a life change that I must use each day. I thank Houses of Healing for giving me more tools for my tool box of life. John

The biggest impact for me has been the acknowledgement of those sub-personalities and the realization that they are not a part of my core self. I am not broken or distorted, but pained by the echo of my past; and by following the guided steps I have been able to resist and re-write my story. Chris

These are the gentlemen I have had the privilege to share my truths with. We were blessed with a kind and dedicated facilitator, Kathleen Jackson. The graduating class of 2015 would like the population to know that this could be one of your successes as well. We bonded in circle, honesty, and respect. Now we are family.