Last October me and my former work partner received a Unit Citation award from the Sheriff’s Department for my work with incarcerated gang members.
The award reads, in part:
“For your resourcefulness and dedication in the introduction of QUEST (Question Understand Excel Success Transform) Gang Diversion Program… Your commitment embodies the professionalism of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department.”
Allow me to give you a little background on the program.
Back in 2009, me and my (then) partner began working on what would become the region’s first in-custody gang diversion program. We were tired of seeing the “revolving door” of gang members repeatedly coming to jail. We were even getting to know the sons of some of the long-time gang members, who were themselves starting to come to jail.
The program was officially launched in July of 2012, and was taught by me and my partner. Since then, the program has been integrated into the local Reentry Services program, which was created in response to California Assembly Bill (AB) 109. The program, now called QUEST, serves gang members and gang associates incarcerated in the local jails (both county sentenced inmates and former state prisoners incarcerated under AB109).
Imagine more than 50 rival gang members all living together, agreeing not to fight or engage in what is known as “politics,” and focusing on learning new skills and personal development in a classroom setting. Imagine not one single fight occurring in their housing unit for more than two years. Sound impossible? Well, that’s exactly what we achieved. Many of our co-workers and administration were doubters but it happened, much to the credit of the participants themselves.
I’ve since realized that my driving goal is to help people who feel stuck in their circumstances, whether they just came through a divorce or a bankruptcy, or they are caught in a cycle of gang life and incarceration.
I was honored to receive the Unit Citation for my work in co-creating the gang diversion program.
I wrote about the program in my book, Beat the Curve, with Brian Tracy. You can download the chapter free here.