SATF inmates hear stories of hope from the Anti‑Recidivism Coalition

Men in blue shirts with backs turned look at man standing in front.
Inmates heard inspiring messages from those who have walked in their shoes.

By Lt. Eric Smith

As inmates assembled in the gymnasiums and visiting area, seats were quickly filled and attention was brought to the front of the room as the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, or ARC, representatives took the stage at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF).

Personal stories connect

man speaks to group in a gymnasium.
Inmates gathered in gymnasiums and the visiting area for an Anti-Recidivism Coalition

As each ARC representative shared their personal story, incarcerated inmates could see the rewards of rehabilitation. From the benefits of continued education, the availability of vocational classes, and participation in self-help groups, a sense of hope and optimism was voiced by all who participated.

“When I asked ARC to come last year, when I was over at level 2 Facilities A and B, I was able to see and hear the response and gratitude from the inmate populations in response to the men who came and spoke on their journeys from inside the walls of CDCR to successful men in their communities. Some inmates were able to use ARC’s message to dig deeper within themselves to do better, accept and own their wrongdoings and apply it when it came time for them to go before Board of Parole Hearings and or return home to their families,” said acting Associate Warden A. Williams.

“Upon returning to Facility C, level 4, as the Captain, I knew that the population could benefit from hearing ARC’s message. I spoke with the Inmate Advisory Council and gave them a goal to program positively and I would make arrangements. With that, the population has been striving to do better and be better and with that I reached out to Sam Lewis of ARC to set up a date when he and his staff could come and speak to the Facility C population. Their message may not be received by all and it might not even click right now; however, if one inmate grows and learns from what they heard yesterday, it’s a win for all those involved,” Williams said.

Hope, help and inspire

Man in tee-shirt speaks to men in inmate uniforms.
Scott Budnick’s Anti-Recidivism Coalition recently held rehabilitative programs at SATF.

“I think it’s beneficial. The ARC promotes hope and initiatives to the inmate population as proof that if you program and rehabilitate yourself, you have the possibility of being released and having a successful life.  Their stories and message were inspirational and it was very apparent,” said Associate Warden P. Brightwell.

According to those involved, incarcerated individuals are inspired when they see former offenders doing well on the other side of the walls.

“The visit from Scott Budnick and the ARC team continued to cultivate the rehabilitative environment that has been created on Facility E. The Youth Offender Program participants were encouraged by the ARC team’s success stories and the supportive network that has been created by ARC,” said Correctional Counselor E. DeLaCruz. “The ARC team’s message of ‘hard work pays off’ was well received by those in attendance. Many of the former lifers encouraged the participants to take advantage of the educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programs afforded to them by CDCR.  When the question of, ‘How many of you are currently in an educational or vocational program?’ was asked, nearly all of the inmates had their hands raised displaying evidence that these motivational visits from ARC and others have clearly had an impact on the population.”

ARC is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization founded by Budnick to provide a support network for formerly incarcerated individuals. The organization advocates for criminal justice reform. ARC’s mission is to reduce incarceration, improve the outcomes of formerly incarcerated individuals, and to build healthier communities.