Skip to main content
incarceration rehabilitation

San Quentin News office

Anthony Kline, a California appeals court judge, came to the San Quentin News office to talk about incarceration, rehabilitation and reentry with about a dozen incarcerated men whose personal histories included gang-banging, drug dealing and even murder.

The incarcerated men were lead facilitators for several self-help programs that enable participants to deal constructively with anger, criminal thinking, victim awareness, early childhood trauma, and lack of education.

Two prisoners recently transferred out of Pelican Bay after spending a combined 36 years in its Security Housing Unit (SHU) were in the audience. Each said they were impressed and looking forward to this opportunity for rehabilitation for the first time in their incarceration experiences.

"I grew up around a lot of violence and a broken family," said Chris Gallo, describing how he gravitated to a criminal element of "skinheads" and committed "many acts of violence," adding, "I'm not proud of that.

"I began to see things differently after attending a Restorative Justice seminar," Gallo said. "When I was there, I kept my head down, not looking at the person speaking. However, the speaker said something that really connected with me. When I looked up, I saw an African-American man talking about everything I went through. I began going to the sessions, and today, me and that guy, Darnell 'Moe' Washington, are best friends."

James "JC" Cavitt talked of how two inmates serving life sentences help him understand his role in the crime he committed.

Cavitt said when he first began his sentence he thought he was in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

"Okay, if you think that way," one of the lifers said, "Think about what you did."

Cavitt said when he slowed his actions and considered everything that happened he began to understand "that merely by what I did, made me responsible for her death."

I challenge you to come up with a curriculum that would show youngsters how to stop from developing the habits that send them to prison.

"Since that moment, 16 years ago, I've taken every kind of rehabilitation available to help me understand who I was in order to answer how I got to the place where a human being could be brutally and savagely beaten to death."

Cavitt is a facilitator for the juvenile diversion program, SQUIRES.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

"The boys who come through have a lot of trauma that they are carrying around with them," Cavitt said. "They don't have the space to talk about what they are going through. SQUIRES gives me the opportunity to give back. It is a huge blessing to give back. The reason it works is that my truth is their truth, and we are able to relate."

Another SQUIRES facilitator, Tommy Winfrey, added, "SQUIRES lets young people know that they are part of a community. It's about sharing empathy. We don't speak in a position of authority but as a place of shared experiences and of taking off the mask.

Judge Kline suggested that "people on the outside" need to hear the inmates articulate how and where their lives went bad, along with their suggestions on how to prevent others from making the same mistakes.

Kline acknowledged that the definition of insight is difficult for the courts to determine.

"I'm shocked at the level of insight needed to get out of prison, and nobody knows exactly what it is," Judge Kline said. "It is talking about reasons for the commitment offense. Most people cannot do this. I don't think judges and lawyers can do this. However, I'm impressed about the level of insight in this room."

Julia Posadas-Guzman of Santa Clara County Probation has been coming inside San Quentin for nine years.

"What affected me is the honesty and sincerity," Posadas-Guzman told the inmates. "You have a model here that is working.

"I keep seeing lambs go to the slaughter," Posadas-Guzman continued. "I am wondering how to stop it. I don't see the magic key. I am learning that overcoming trauma and poverty are important factors. I challenge you to come up with a curriculum that would show youngsters how to stop from developing the habits that send them to prison. I want to take what you're doing here to the next level so that young people didn't have to come here to get it."

Restorative Justice facilitator, drug counselor and adult educator Jen Slusser added another request. "I challenge you to make a series of videos showing people that they are capable of doing things productive. You should come from a place of embracing these young men. I can't do this. It has to come from you guys."

Later Judge Kline said in response to the forum, "You need to send San Quentin News to all judges. Judges are major players in reform."

Kline is the presiding justice on the First District, Second Division of the California Court of Appeal. He was appointed in 1982 and took office in December of that year. He was most recently retained by voters in 2014 to a 12-year term expiring in January 2027.

Juan Moreno Haines