In this podcast, I had the rare opportunity to interview three men in Level 4 maximum security at Kern Valley State Prison. There was no time to do homework on any of them, so I crossed my fingers and jumped in. It was incredibly nerve-wracking and, ultimately, incredibly rewarding and fun. Any expectations I might have had going in were exceeded.
I owe special thanks to Cat Hoke, all the men who participate in Defy (the program Cat started), and all the staff and officers at Kern, including Chief Deputy Warden Goss who made it possible for me to bring recording equipment. Thank you for the help, sir!
If you’re interested in a similar prison visit after listening to this episode, Cat now has five more trips lined up. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. If this episode moves you in any way, make sure to check out Defy and other groups doing this work and making an impact, like the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC).
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Defy Ventures
- Anti-Recidivism Coalition
- Catherine Hoke — The Master of Second Chances
- Kern Valley State Prison
- Step to the Line: How Prison Is Helping Oculus Expand VR’s Horizons
- CDCR: Two Correctional Officers Attacked by about 12 Inmates at Kern Valley State Prison, ABC News, Bakersfield
- Coroner: Kern Valley State Prison Inmate Was Stabbed, The Bakersfield Californian
- Peek inside The SHU: What It’s like for California Inmates in Solitary Confinement by James Queally, Los Angeles Times
- California’s Prison Education System Is Yielding Impressive Results by Ben Paynter, Fast Company
- Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) Gangs by Richard Valdemar, Police
- Aristotle on Teleology
- Moral Relativism, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- San Quentin State Prison
- Ear Hustle
- Kern Valley 180 Podcast — not yet available, but look for it on iTunes soon!
- A lengthier introduction than most, establishing how this unique episode came together, and why I think it’s an important listen for all of us. [04:34]
- On a societal level, what’s more likely to reduce recidivism among those convicted of serious crimes: punishment or rehabilitation? [07:42]
- Why getting permission to bring recording equipment into a maximum security prison is problematic. [09:23]
- Don’t empathize with people in prison? Try the “step to the line” exercise. [10:22]
- How you can experience a prison visit like this one. [14:18]
- If you’re ashamed of backsliding in your goals, here’s a helpful follow up from Jason, one of the men you’ll meet in this episode. [14:40]
- Setting the scene: visitation center. [17:15]
- Meet Jason. [17:40]
- Meet Ian. [18:09]
- Meet Brandon. [18:57]
- What catalyzed the choice these men made to change their trajectory? [19:38]
- Jason’s story. [20:24]
- Ian’s story. [22:54]
- Brandon’s story. [26:54]
- New beliefs a chaplain instilled in once-atheist Brandon. [29:42]
- What new beliefs have helped Jason stay on his path? [30:49]
- Good influences and beliefs that have helped Ian. [31:41]
- How do these men try to influence others to course correct? Who do they choose to approach, and why? [33:34]
- What have been the most effective approaches for guiding others toward redirection? [35:26]
- Creating change from the inside out. [38:23]
- Are there patterns that lead to people straying from their path? What can be done to help them back once such a pattern has been identified? [39:48]
- Did anything from Jason’s gang experience translate into something he can use in a positive way today? [42:35]
- The others weigh in on Jason’s skills, reputation, and values. [44:11]
- Where would these men like to be in three years, and what are they doing to pave the way there? [45:49]
- Ian’s answer. [45:54]
- Jason’s answer. [47:34]
- What keeps them going? What would make them look back on their time here with pride? [47:59]
- Tools helpful for nudging others toward a better path. [49:09]
- Practical and purpose-driven questions that lead to problem solving. [50:27]
- How does Ian look back on the crimes that got him sentenced to prison? [52:59]
- Resisting temptation or recovering from a relapse. [54:40]
- Ian tries to lead by example, but even he loses his cool sometimes. He shares one incident and how he managed to de-escalate it. [55:51]
- Jason tries to foresee possible outcomes and avoid escalation from the get-go, but understands that variables can throw a wrench in any plan. [1:00:00]
- Brandon admits he loses his cool and snaps fairly regularly. He tries to run through a mental checklist to take a breath before saying something regrettable and leans on the other two for help on this front. Here’s one story where he overcame these urges and did the right thing. [1:01:16]
- Where would Brandon like to be three years from now? [1:06:26]
- These three produce the Kern Valley 180 Podcast. How did this come about, and what are the logistics? Is it available to people outside the system? [1:07:13]
- Ian asks what compelled me to come to a level four maximum security prison and sit down with them. [1:10:13]
- Ian explains one of the podcast’s main goals. [1:12:39]
- Jason asks how I come up with questions for understanding what makes people tick. [1:15:59]
- Ian’s parting thoughts. [1:22:58]
- Brandon’s parting thoughts. [1:23:51]
- Jason’s parting thoughts. [1:24:44]
- My parting thoughts. [1:25:29]
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