Stoicism in the Prison System with Santara Gonzales


The following is an automated transcript and will very likely contain errors. For clarification on any statements or other content please reach out to Tanner or the guest directly.

Tanner Campbell 5:21
Sunterra Hi, how are you?

Santara Gonzales 5:24
I’m well thank you. Thank you for having me here today.

Tanner Campbell 5:26
Thank you for being here. I know you’ve got a lot of things going on. First and foremost, you work with incarcerated people helping them to reenter the normative world, I guess we could say and we’re going to talk a lot about that. But first, I want to start with who you are where you come from what makes Centaurus on Tara, what’s your story?

Santara Gonzales 5:47
Well, I am an Air Force brat. My My father was in the US military for 28 years. And I grew up in Germany and the United States. So there was a lot of back and forth where his home was always a interesting question. Because in that kind of environment, you really don’t have a lot of roots. And I had a pretty difficult childhood is something that’s kind of carried me through and into the work that we’re doing now. And that I’m doing now. And when one is faced with with trauma, and adversity and difficulty as a childhood, it really goes into who you become as an adult. And that is something that I see in the work that we do every day is that there is some residual trauma. And stoicism really is the magic bullet for me and was something that has enabled me to navigate these choppy waters of my childhood and of growing up and also being able to grow up around different types of people, different cultures, different backgrounds, and just being exposed and accepting different kinds of cultures and different kinds of backgrounds. And as the stoics would say your circle of concern was immediately broader because of the way I grew up and the environment in which I grew up.

Tanner Campbell 7:00
Let’s dive right into that then what kind of work is of that you do specifically what we

Santara Gonzales 7:05
do is two things provide programs for incarcerated men and women in institutional settings. That is we have two programs that we run in the incarcerated settings. And then we also have a program that assists the reentry journey of men and women being released from prison. And that is a journey that I started on when COVID hid in the state of California in order to reduce prison populations. And to reduce the spread of COVID. A lot of men and women were being released.

Tanner Campbell 7:35
Oh, I remember this. Yeah, it was really controversial across the country. I remember a lot of people talking about so you were caught up in helping those people who were being released, I guess, probably pretty unexpectedly to okay, how do I get back into the swing of things?

Santara Gonzales 7:48
Yes, exactly. And it was releasing 8000 People in the span of three months. So communities weren’t prepared. Nonprofits weren’t prepared. Transitional housing, housing organizations weren’t prepared. So in those kinds of situations, that’s when nonprofits jump into the breach. And my first experience was rent a van, I was working with a different different nonprofit at the time, rent a van. And over the span of a weekend, we picked up 12 people. So it was an amazing experience. And it’s not just picking up those newly released or returning citizens. It’s also about building community, having those impactful conversations with when you’re with them, having that meal with them, providing them with a backpack with snacks and PPE and water and going shopping with them. Because in a lot of cases, they only had literally the clothes that was issued by the institution. And that first question of where would you like to eat returning agency to someone who didn’t think that they had agency because of the setting that they just walked out? And if

Tanner Campbell 8:58
you don’t have agency, it’s probably really likely that you’ll wind up in a position where you end up back in prison, I would imagine

Santara Gonzales 9:05
Exactly. It’s that that feeling of I have no choice. It’s that feeling of helplessness. In a lot of cases. It’s that feeling no one cares. So what we can do is when we meet them at the jail doors and the prison gates is to show them, we care. We’re here and we’re going to see you all the way through it’s not just dropping them off at a rehabilitation center or the transitional house. It’s physically walking into that space with them and leaving only when they’re okay to let them know we are here because we I was that face that they first saw when they got into my car into the van and I want to let them know that I am here throughout the entire process. What we then also do is we provide assistance even if you need a phone call, even if you need help in getting your birth certificate or you have to go to the DM vie to get your driver’s license. In some cases, they have no vital documentation. So it’s not just picking them up dropping them off. It’s about that after care that we’re still here, you still matter, and we still care about you. And this is where you really are able to forge some really strong bonds and relationships.

Tanner Campbell 10:19
Is there some parallel here in how this kind of work is approached as when you work with people who are who are battling addiction in that, and I don’t know if this parallel will be made very well by me here, but I’m going to try my hardest in that I feel like one of the things about drug addiction that is really important to get worked out in order for someone to be successful. And to come out of that addiction and for the long term is that they have to feel like they’ve got something to go back to something to live for relationships to benefit by and enjoy. Do you find that you’re doing a lot of that in the work you do, as well?

Santara Gonzales 10:52
I do. And it’s interesting that you mentioned the topic of addiction. What we’ve also done is work with commute with parole officers. And we also work with professionals that are part of the court system in San Bernardino. And I’ve picked up men and women from the courtroom from drug court and taking them to a rehabilitation space. And in that sense, it’s also those conversations getting to the root of why that addiction happened in the first place. And it usually it’s some sense of perceived trauma, whether that was trauma in the home or trauma directly inflicted upon the person. And to reiterate that there is agency that there is a choice, and that there are people that care again, those those relationships, and it’s the same process, we’ll have that meal, we’ll buy some clothes for you. And I’m here it’s the same process and to stick it through and to make that commitment to another human being and to embrace them in our circle of concern

Tanner Campbell 11:53
you have on the wisdom unlocked website. Which by the way, I haven’t even said wisdom unlocked yet. I said it in the intro. But I haven’t said it since we’ve been talking the name of the nonprofit you now work with or that you are now the executive director of is that right? Yes. Is wisdom unlocked. And I’m wondering, you mentioned that before you were working with a different nonprofit doing similar work. But on your website, you have a story about how you came to stoicism. And it had to do with the loss of your brother. And I’m wondering if the loss of your brother, and maybe this experience with his previous nonprofit doing things perhaps, and I’m not asking you to speak ill. But maybe you thought you could do things differently to more effect. And I’m wondering if those things crossed over?

Santara Gonzales 12:38
You’re exactly right. It was doing things differently. And the big difference for me was bringing stoicism into the picture. That was the game changer. When I found stoicism I experienced a loss you had mentioned the loss of my brother, then I had also experienced a loss of a pet that was with me for 12 years, and then a loss of my uncle. And that was all in a space of about about 14 months. So those ism is what changed everything. It changed in how I engaged in the world. It changed how I saw myself how I started testing my perception, rewriting the narrative. And that was something that I took with me and brought into wisdom unlock the work is similar. But now our programs are centered and based on stoic principles. And we’re merging the two which makes the work even more powerful. Because a lot of the men and women talk to that have run or participated in programs while incarcerated. Those programs are based on stoic principles. They just don’t know it. It when we talk about the AAA programs or na programs, the Serenity Prayer is based on stoic principles. So it’s just uplifting those stoic principles, familiarizing them with the stoic principles, and telling them and showing them that they have agency, the weight and value of choices is extremely important. So I wanted to do more. And I wanted to bring stoicism into it. And that was a big change for us.

Tanner Campbell 14:12
Are you doing this on both the inside of the prison systems in California and the outside? Or are you just on the outside?

Santara Gonzales 14:19
We are doing both. So right now we’re on the outside. And we are focusing on partnering with an institution in 2023. And we’ll be hoping to be in two to three institutions for our launch with our programs. And we’re also doing this in a community setting where we are partnering with other community organizations, whether they be faith, faith based or non faith based and going into community spaces and checking in with people, meeting them where they are. That’s something that’s very, very important to us. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a community setting. If you’re in an incarcerated setting, we’re going to bring stoicism to you. We’re going to meet you where you will We’re making it accessible to you. So that’s something that’s very important for us that we spread it far and wide

Tanner Campbell 15:07
that you become evangelists for stoicism.

Santara Gonzales 15:10
Absolutely. We’re gonna we’re gonna build an army of stoics.

Tanner Campbell 15:12
Great. I love that. And I’m interested now. So could we get maybe? And this might be hard to do, because I’m sure everybody’s situation is different. Obviously, this is true. But what does a typical interaction with someone who has been recently released from incarceration look like they’re standing there at the, you know, I imagine we see a chain link fence, like what we think of in the movies, when people get released, they’re just standing there with a bag and waiting for a ride. What does that look like from that point,

Santara Gonzales 15:39
there’s, there’s a gate, right, and the gate is open. And there’s kind of like a, like a guard shack, right? When you drive into a gated community or something. And I have paperwork. So I’ve either worked with parole officer, or I’ve worked with an attorney, or we’ve worked with someone directly from the institution. So we have paperwork, because he can’t do anything without paperwork, right. And then I meet the person and introduce myself, it’s always a first name, it’s always a first name basis, shake hands, have set first contact, and then escort them to my vehicle. And usually, they’ll have their possessions in a clear plastic bag. So all of their possessions, it can be closed, it’s usually a lot of paperwork, sometimes some books, but it’s in a clear plastic bag. So my first interaction is, I have something for you. And then I give them a backpack. And inside the backpack are some snacks, some PPE, and a copy of being better. And we have a lot, we have a laminated. We have a laminated poster that has the dichotomy of control in that cartoon version. On one side, it’s what you can control on what side is what you cannot to kind of get that headspace in,

Tanner Campbell 16:45
right, a regular visual cue to keep it in mind. Yes, and to

Santara Gonzales 16:49
also just have that with you, right? It’s something that’s tangible that you have in your hands. And the beautiful thing is that usually the question is, can I put my stuff in the backpack?

Tanner Campbell 16:58
They’re not even used to being able to make a decision as simple as well, even you said the handshake I imagined, I myself have never been incarcerated. But I think from someone who’s consumed a lot of media, I have an idea of somehow of what it’s like, and I don’t think anyone shaking anyone’s hand on the inside. So that’s got to be a very, is that an emotional moment? That first handshake for some of them?

Santara Gonzales 17:20
It’s Yes. And some are very tentative, because you’re not sure. Because in prison, it’s mostly a fist bump,

Tanner Campbell 17:27
right? And not with people who aren’t also prisoners.

Santara Gonzales 17:31
Exactly. And then a woman that’s not in a uniform, that also plays a factor, right. And so due to the COVID restrictions, I haven’t sit in the backseat, so they can spread out, because I also want them to have plenty of space. And usually the first thing is, let’s go get a coffee, depending on the time duration of the ride, right? Where I’m picking up picking them up, and where I’m dropping them off. Sometimes it’s two hours, it’s been four hours, it’s been five hours. So let’s get that coffee. And that’s when it starts, what would you like, and allowing them to choose, and then having that meal, and then the conversations usually turn to the incarceration, the reason for their incarceration, the things that they’ve missed the people they’ve missed, and that’s when we have a phone call, when I allow it, when I asked them if they would like to call a family member, a friend, some don’t they want to call the pro agent, whomever it is, they want to call and then the excitement, I’m home, I’m home, I’m free, that to share that to be able to share in that moment is so rewarding for me, and to be able to be there when they realize their own. It’s very, very powerful. And the conversations that take place are very powerful for both participants for myself as well, and to have that meal, asking them where they want to eat. If we have to go off of the freeway and somewhere else, it’s all their choice as to where they would like to eat. And then we go shopping, which is just amazing. I had the privilege of picking up a man that was incarcerated for 20 years on December 31. In 2020. I picked him up from a central valley prison Central Valley here in California, and we went to Target and we’re able to buy him clothes, and he was able to pick out anything he wanted. And when you see that, now it’s coming back and they remember what they liked. Sometimes they don’t know their size, which is understandable. We will figure it out. And then to see that reunification with their loved ones. It’s been in parking lots his his family came to pick him up in a target in a parking lot because they couldn’t wait for him to come home. Sometimes it’s taking them to the front door and it’s just a beautiful moment and to know that we can aid in that is Very powerful. And for me, that is stoicism in action from the minute we pick them up to having these conversations, and to see that transformation. And to know that we have a bond, we now have a bond, we were there at that first moment when this man or woman came home. And that is very, very powerful.

Tanner Campbell 20:18
What is your role after they get home? Because you have ongoing contact with them? I imagine it’s elective, right? It’s up to them whether or not they stay in contact with you. But I would also think that a lot of them would choose too. Am I right about that?

Santara Gonzales 20:33
Yes, some of them do. And it is elective. There was one young man that actually turned into a mentee, and then I’ll go visit them at the transitional house, make sure that they’re getting on there, okay, take him for that coffee, or whether they need some vital documentation and just stay with them and not pressure and not push. And then some after six months, they’ve gone on, they’ve gone home, they’ve transitioned out of that out of that transitional housing, and they working, they have jobs, and then life happens, right? And so that’s a lovely thing. And then I check in once in a while, just make sure that they’re okay. And it’s just something that you have to do on a case by case basis.

Tanner Campbell 21:16
Well, so I’m Tara, we are going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about some of the programs that you have it wisdom unlocked and learn more about those

Tanner Campbell 22:00
…And we’re back with Santara Gonzalez talking about wisdom unlocked Santara at wisdom unlocked you have a number of programs, we’ve talked about one already life unlocked, which is this reentry staying in touch with getting people to feel normal again, you have two others. One of them is the care not conflict resolution program. Can you talk a little bit about that.

Santara Gonzales 22:19
So it cannot conflict programming is an 11 week program in which we on a weekly basis practice and impart stoic tools into how to better navigate conflict. And we also touch upon navigating negative emotions, which can lead to conflict. And this is really important when you are in an incarcerated setting where the smallest slight can really escalate into an all out prison brawl. And so learning how to navigate those negative emotions and Testing, testing your impressions, and learning how to handle conflicts differently, and to look for positive ways to resolve conflict not only aids to the safety of our course participants and but also for the institution for those running the institution. So this is really something that we wanted to impart, I have been in running programs in prisons and being asked to leave because an altercation escalated to such a point where someone got stabbed. So if we can use stoic principles and a Socratic method to teach better ways of navigating conflict and working through conflict, then that it can really be a game changer for our participants and for the institutions in which the program is offered.

Tanner Campbell 23:46
And how do these work within the institution? I am I’m imagining this tennis very stereotypical and probably very wrong about this. But I’m imagining like a bunch of chairs in a circle, everybody’s talking through it. But is that actually how it happens? Is that actually how you work with people there?

Santara Gonzales 24:00
Well, there’s certain that’s also one method, the way we are looking at these programs is because there’s a lot of writing, right, so we present we have a period where we present materials, and then we have a group discussion of the materials. And then we have in classroom activities. So we can have always have an icebreaker, we always have discussions. In a workbook, we have a workbook that accompanies each chapter of the book that we’re using. So we import some lessons, the course participants then work along in the workbook, and then we have a discussion. And we also always want to include some kind of scenario so that they can apply the principles that we have discussed and also looking at now knowing what you know, is there a situation previously that you could have handled differently based on what we’ve discussed and learned today? And then of course, we have a self taught activity which happens when they go back to their house. because we don’t like to use the word sell when they go back to their house, right? We don’t want to use the system’s language. And then we always go over that those learnings at the start of the next session, and each of our programs ends with the graduation, where the participants receive a certificate of achievement and or attendance. And then we’d like to offer some snacks, a cake and some beverages, but to really also celebrate that achievement.

Tanner Campbell 25:28
Well, that that I think, is useful to them, not just from a morale perspective, but that certificate probably becomes useful to them in reentry, doesn’t it because it shows that there was some sort of therapeutic philosophical Teaching, Learning advancement that was happening prior to their release, right, that’s going to have some real benefits.

Santara Gonzales 25:49
It does. And you know, especially when, of course, participants go in front of the parole board, right, not everybody has a determinate sentence, which means a 10 year sentence or five year sentence with a determinate date, when they get released, some have to go to the parole board. And so these certificates of completion from the courses that they take, they really do carry some, some weight they add to the overall to the overall picture.

Tanner Campbell 26:16
And how does someone who is currently incarcerated elect to participate in a program like the care not conflict resolution? Do they get to volunteer or they assigned? How does that work,

Santara Gonzales 26:27
they get to volunteer, we offer the program in the institution, the program advertises that the institution advertises the program, and then participants can sign up to take the program. So they so they can volunteer. And it’s, it’s purely, it’s a volunteer basis. And we do want to encourage that they stick through the 11 weeks so that they do get the completion. And there’s also you can also get credits within the institution assigned by the institution for completion of courses offered by nonprofit organizations that run programs,

Tanner Campbell 27:01
and are these credits in some way transferable in the outside world towards perhaps like a public college effort or something?

Santara Gonzales 27:09
Unfortunately, not. But they do. But they do serve to add to depending on how many they have to maybe getting some some points off of their sentence, maybe it adds to an earlier release, depending on how the institution wants to handle that. Going back to what you said initially, it really also is a morale boost, right? If there is that sense of achievement, and that hopefully, gives them that self confidence, and that boost in that self confidence that they may not have had before.

Tanner Campbell 27:37
So I have I have two more questions on this. The first is, what’s an example of a workbook activity,

Santara Gonzales 27:45
a workbook activity would be so our workbook is is the journey. It’s a bespoke workbook that Kai and I wrote for our programs,

Tanner Campbell 27:53
and this is Chi waiting. We haven’t clarified that. But that’s, that’s what we mean.

Santara Gonzales 27:57
So one of the examples would be drawing circles of concern and mapping their roles within each circle within the circles of concern.

Tanner Campbell 28:08
Actually, this is I think, the first time we’ve mentioned on this podcast, the stoic concept of the circles of concern, can you talk about that a little bit, because I think people would like to learn that. So

Santara Gonzales 28:18
the stoic concepts the way we’re applying it here with the circle of concern, it’s, it’s carrying, and it’s carrying V the circle of concern, and the idea that no one is an island. And we bring those circles inwards towards us, instead of pushing people out. So we have the self in that circle. And then we have our family, we have our friends, we have our community, we have the planet, right. And then we have the environment. And that layer of the environment was added by by Kai Whiting. And Leonardo has consulted costs in 2021. In their work, so that we also include the the environment in our circles of concern. And these are all basically how the way we envision it is, how close are we pulling people that we care about. So I’m closest to myself, and then I have my family. But I also have my friends in my community. And in my broader community is where we have the our incarcerated men and women, they’re part of our community, even though we don’t see them, they are still a part of our community.

Tanner Campbell 29:23
And even though we don’t sometimes act that way, precisely,

Santara Gonzales 29:26
it’s uncomfortable to say an incarcerated man or woman is part of my community. And I’m going to pull them inward towards me in my circle of concern. And this is a big leitmotif for our work and wisdom unlock is to understand that no one is a sum of their mistakes, and no one is a sum of a bad day, and that we should embrace anyone despite of their mistake, because we may be capable of making the same mistake. All it takes is on one on rational thought sometimes So in this exercise, we would ask them to draw the different circles of concern, and where they see themselves into in those circles. And we can have journaling questions, who cares for me? And how do they show that they care? How do I care about other people? And how do I show them that I care, and in what way have they positively contributed to another person’s life. So that would be an exercise that corresponds with the lesson on the circle of concern. I love

Tanner Campbell 30:29
that. And just in case anybody is missing the dual nature of the circles of concern, it’s not just about what you need to focus on. First, in order to focus on the next circle, you need to focus on yourself to focus on your family to focus on your environment, that’s part of it. But the other part of it, as you’ve said, Sonterra is about bringing people who are in the next circle out one circle closer. So you want to bring people into your family, from the community and into your family. So it’s about getting closer with as close to as many things as you can. And I think that’s a really just a wonderful thing to be teaching people who are going to get out of incarceration, and they’re going to feel like they’re not close to anything,

Santara Gonzales 31:06
yes. And then to see that we have pulled them into our circle of concern by our life unlock program. That’s where it starts. So it’s really about putting boots on the ground, and really practicing stoicism putting all of these beautiful principles into action. And using them to really impact lives, to change lives, and to help men and women live the best life that they can, and showing them how their choices can impact that. The last

Tanner Campbell 31:37
question I have on this, I hope it’s not an awkward one. But I imagine that it’s something that you must run into with this program. And that is that these might be difficult things to practice while you’re incarcerated because you’re with a general population, most of whom is not taking this course and implementing these things in that environment. Do you see friction there? Is that difficult?

Santara Gonzales 31:58
That’s a really good question. I don’t think it’s difficult because of the mindset if you have the right mindset. And it’s the approach that our program participants take with the fellow men and women that they’re incarcerated with, it’s usually a very informal approach, where they can just share with the man that they share their house with what they learned, hey, I read something, I want to share this with you, the way I did it with my previous nonprofit was I would take an historic meditation. And we would sit in a circle that you mentioned earlier, and I would have the men read these meditations out loud, and then we would talk about them. And then I would hand out more so they could share them with the men and women that they will see with the men that they will see in the yard or with the women that they will see in about depending on the prison that we’re in. And that formula approach really helps. And it just drives them to want to share the lessons in the message that they have learned. And that’s a very powerful thing. They will come back and say I talk to so and so. And he really liked this, can I get another copy of this? Can you send me a copy? So it’s all about the approach. It can be difficult depending on whom they interact with. But it doesn’t have to be.

Tanner Campbell 33:16
So that’s interesting. You actually you actively encourage them outside of the program while still incarcerated to share what they’re learning with other people in the general population. I wouldn’t think that that would be the That’s great to hear. And do youth have you gotten feedback that people who aren’t in the program, see the value in these things that are being shared with them? Do you find the programs growing where the programs are happening as a result of that,

Santara Gonzales 33:41
that’s still yet to be seen, to see if they’re to see if they’re growing, but what we are getting is it is positive feedback in that sense. And also when I mail articles that chi Whiting and I have written, I mailed those articles in the institution, I have some mentees that are struggling with anger, I’ll mail the article, and then that article gets shared. So there’s a lot of value in sharing and against spreading that message no matter where we where we are, and where that message needs to go. It’s almost like the the message in the bottle, it gets shared, and sometimes you don’t know where it lands. But the important thing is that it lands. And that’s the beautiful thing about that. And I think that’s an approach that we consciously choose.

Tanner Campbell 34:25
In the last portion of this conversation. We’re going to talk about ancient wisdom, new ways, which is another of your programs. But before we do that, I’m wondering right before our second break, are you trying to get into more facilities? And how is that going? Because this sounds like a very small operation. It’s you and Kai and maybe some volunteers who are involved, but I imagine this is something you’d like to see take the nation by storm as a word.

Santara Gonzales 34:51
Yes, we would. And we would like to roll out in more prisons and institutions. Presently we would like to do what we do well And then roll it out into more institutions, starting with the state of California and then preferably moving out of the state of California, perhaps even into the UK, or ky is located so that we can really but the important thing at this point is to do what we do really, really well. So it’s quality instead of quantity to begin with, and then expand. Eventually, I would like I would like us to be in every adult institution in the state of California, maybe also roll rollout a program for juveniles and be in juvenile detention centers, and work with other organizations that run programs in those institutions. You’re never too young, I think, to learn stoic principles and to learn ways that can help you make better choices. Juvenile detention in the state of California and United States is also a problem that we would like to address. So presently, it’s, it’s in the works for 2023 and 2024.

Tanner Campbell 36:00
Well, I think it’s probably a good thing that what you’re doing is focusing on doing this well, because this is a very important thing. You wouldn’t want to roll it out more broadly until it was as perfect as one could hope it to be and as effectual. So I think I’m glad to hear that it’s a great answer.

Santara Gonzales 36:14
It’s also when you’re influencing another person’s life, or you know, a community when you’re affecting a community, that’s really something to have in the back of your mind is, Am I doing this work justly? Am I working? Using the Four Virtues? Are we are we acting wisely, and courageously, and with temperance? And so this is really important to us as well.

Tanner Campbell 36:38
We’re going to take one last break, and we’ll be back to hear more from Sentara. From wisdom unlocked. Stay with us.

Tanner Campbell 37:17
And we are back with Santara Gonzalez from wisdom unlocked. And I guess in this last section, I want to ask you about ancient wisdom new ways, which is the third and final program for now that you have it wisdom unlocked. And then I’m going to ask you about maybe some book recommendations and some of the things that the listeners might want to know about these programs and about wisdom unlock. So let’s start with ancient wisdom, new ways. What is that program about?

Santara Gonzales 37:40
Yes, ancient wisdom, new ways, is our flagship flagship program. And as it says, in the title, we’re using ancient ways of stoic philosophy, ancient wisdom to show new ways of making choices of thinking and navigating the world that we live in. And what this book what we did is, it’s 11 weeks. It’s based on being better doses of a world worth living in, written by Kai Whiting and Leonardo, Santa Claus, and we wrote an accompanying handbook. So each week, we go through a chapter of the book and the handbook, and it ends with the graduation ceremony. So all of our programs are pretty much structured the same way. But we have a theme for each week we have the classroom activity, and we have a self taught activity. So with this ancient wisdom new waste program, it’s where we are introducing the participants to stoicism, stoic principles, stoic virtues, and the combination of the book. And the workbook is powerful, because in the workbook itself, they also have space for self reflection, for answering questions, and for a bit of journaling within that handbook, and that’s something that they can bring with them, and something that they can then work on when they after the course after each session.

Tanner Campbell 39:01
So to get a sense for this, what does week one look like? Week one

Santara Gonzales 39:05
is first week, so we have the icebreaker. And then we have two interactive question and answer sessions regarding their view on what constitutes a good person or a good character.

Tanner Campbell 39:19
So this is introducing them to the concept of virtue, I guess, concept of

Santara Gonzales 39:23
virtue. And then we are also going to use the Socratic method and teaching them to understand what a life worthy of being lived means in the stoic sense. A lot of participants feel that you cannot be a good person because you’re incarcerated. So it’s changing that narrative and breaking down those barriers and redefining and reframing some of the terms that they’ve been using, and bringing in that stoic language. So and then, after this one session, they would then go back and read this chapter one of being better than they would start journaling and asking themselves questions. Who am I? What do I want to achieve in this life? How can I help my family, my friends and community, while staying true to who I am. So it’s that first deep dive into the self, to give us a starting point. And to see where we can then do work for week two, because in week two, we really delve into the insights from the self taught activity of week one, and each week builds upon itself, and upon the teachings of the previous week.

Tanner Campbell 40:37
That’s great. I mean, that sounds like first IOMMU I laughed a little bit to myself, because I imagined in that first session, there are probably some pretty funny things that these guys say. Some pretty funny ideas of what makes someone good. I bet I bet there’s probably some good laughing in that first session. Oh,

Santara Gonzales 40:54
yes. And it’s, you know, the thing wouldn’t revolves around though also is a lot about sharing a lot about. So you have a system of inequality. Even in an incarcerated setting, you have some incarcerated men and women who have family and friends on the outside that make it possible for them to purchase items from the prison store, some don’t have that they don’t have friends, they don’t have family. So they’re unable to do that. But they can have the talent, they can draw. So they’ll draw a picture of a person’s loved ones, and then they barter, right? They may get a soda, they may get some cookies. So a lot of times, what is a good person, sometimes it revolves around, I gave him a box of cookies, because he drew a picture from my family. So it’s all about but it is, it’s a lovely thing to do, because you’re taking care of someone who has nothing. And he’s, he’s got his talent. And he’s sharing that with you. So but it’s expanding that, right. And it’s expanding, getting into character, and really redefining the terms, because words like good and bad get bandied around. And sometimes we lose touch of the meaning of those words, and showing them that yes, even though you may have committed a crime, that landed you in prison, you are still a good person, you are worthy of living a happy life, a fruitful life, of striving to be the best person that you can be, despite your incarceration. That’s what we really want to drive home with this program. And week by week, provide them the tools to do that.

Tanner Campbell 42:37
It doesn’t matter what your character was, it matters, what you decide your character is going to be in the future. It’s not a static thing that you’re born with, and you can’t change. It’s something you can do something about. And you should do something about it if you feel you wish, if you feel you need to,

Santara Gonzales 42:51
precisely, and it’s also about meeting them where they’re at right here today, the person that committed the crime, especially if the crime was committed 20 years ago, that person may not even exist anymore, because we all evolve, we all change. So I want to meet you where you’re at, right here in this space. And that’s powerful. There’s no judgment, there’s no judgment, no questions asked. We’re just here.

Tanner Campbell 43:15
Well, let’s say that somebody listening has a loved one who’s incarcerated right now. And they are really interested in this program. Now. Now, we know you’re not in every prison system across the US maybe one day, fingers crossed, that’s what happens. But if somebody wants to learn more about this, maybe they have a way to help introduce you to another prison system, some other place where you could get in and start doing this kind of work there. Or if they’re in your neck of the woods, and in Northern California, Southern California, Southern California, and they have a loved one or a friend who is imprisoned and they think, Oh, hey, maybe they could be part of this program. And maybe they happen to be in a prison system that this work is going on? I wonder how I can find that out? And how I can match match them up? How can they get a hold of you to figure out that sort of thing,

Santara Gonzales 44:00
they can reach out to us via wisdom or locked our website with them fill out the contact form. And we will immediately reply, whether it’s they’re comfortable with an email or for over the phone call, whichever method is more comfortable. And we would love for people to reach out and to connect and start broadening our wisdom a lot community. It’s not just also about the incarcerated men and women. It’s about the families as well. Oh, good point. Yeah. Right. And and the friends, they’re part of that circle of concern. So we would welcome anyone to reach out if they have any questions and see how we can help.

Tanner Campbell 44:34
Maybe in the future, you’ll have a program that is aimed specifically at the at the people on the outside who maybe could benefit from that sort of thing as well.

Santara Gonzales 44:43
It’s already in a rough outline.

Tanner Campbell 44:47
Unfortunate telling over here. I love it.

Santara Gonzales 44:49
Yes, you are. It’s

Santara Gonzales 44:50
about preparing the loved ones for the impact, not in a negative sense before the impact of what it looks like when your loved one comes home after lengthy incarceration. There is a process that goes on there as well, where stoicism can be immensely effective.

Tanner Campbell 45:05
Well, Centaur before I let you go, and this has been a great conversation, I know you don’t do a lot of podcasts. Is this your first one?

Santara Gonzales 45:11
It is my first one. So I’m very honored to be here with you.

Tanner Campbell 45:14
I think you did really well. I’ve had a lot of people in just in past podcasts that I’ve done it, it’s their first podcast, and they just fall to pieces. And you didn’t do that at all. You’re a pro. And if you’re this good on your first podcast, I’m telling you, you’re gonna you’re gonna, you’re gonna kill every other podcast you do. It’s gonna be great.

Unknown Speaker 45:29
Thank you. And hopefully, I’ll get to speak to you again.

Tanner Campbell 45:31
Yeah, I hope so as well, before you go, I know that maybe your answer to this won’t be relevant to what we’ve been talking about. But I find that everybody is always hungry for some kind of book recommendation, something that someone read and got a lot out of and has been in some way formative to their character and has helped them solve some problems. I’m wondering, do you have any books that you could recommend to the listeners?

Santara Gonzales 45:52
I do. I have read several books along my, my storage journey to begin with, and one that I always keep with me and I know that it’s not for a novice is I always have Marcus Aurelius meditations with me. That that’s something that I always ask myself, What would Marcus do when I get stuck in a tricky situation? Recently, I enjoyed breakfast with Danica by David feeler, Solecism and emotion by Margot R. graver,

Tanner Campbell 46:20
I’m in the middle of reading that one. Isn’t it intense? It’s so intense.

Santara Gonzales 46:23
It’s very intense, but it’s really, it’s unlocking some knots. And it’s it’s very, very intense book. And I’m grateful that she’s taken the time to write it.

Tanner Campbell 46:34
Right, because none of us were going to do it, that’s for sure.

Santara Gonzales 46:37
No, no, only she could do that. And to just dismiss the misconception, right, that stoicism that stoic was as small as knowing emotions, and to really kind of lift that veil and put these two together and what does it look like? So that was really, really powerful. I cannot recommend being better from Chi yz and laminitis consulted close enough. It was the first book that I read where it clicked, where the philosophy meant everyday application, and chi and I actually met over this book. So it’s, it’s it’s near and dear, near and dear to my heart. And then Ryan holidays, the obstacle is the way. I think that’s also a wonderful introduction on how to use the principles in everyday situations.

Tanner Campbell 47:19
Great. Well, I will make sure that I go find those on Amazon and link them in the show notes so people can easily locate them the one by Margaret graver, it’s hard to recommend just because it’s so I mean, imagine thinking that stoicism has nothing to do with emotions. And then someone can write a through for darn near 400 page 10 point font book on it. I think maybe there’s more there than most people think there is. But I would recommend it to I mean, that gets a big thumbs up for me. I’m only a third of the way through it because it’s so intense. But even if it seems intense, I feel like anyone could benefit from reading it if they could just if they can manage to get through all of this so many big words. I feel so silly. But thank you for the book recommendations and Sentara thank you for your time, it’s been so great to learn about wisdom unlocked. And is there anything that you would like to say before I let you go any anything you want the listener to do if they were interested other than reaching out to you by email?

Santara Gonzales 48:14
Yes, it would be wonderful if the listeners want to know more about incarceration, find a pen pal Mail Call is the most important thing in a prison setting. That’s how I got into this work. I had a pen pal that I found on a website. And this is really a way to bring somebody into your circle of concern. There are wider is a website to go to that will just allow you to open your mind and open your heart and again, open and expand your circle of concern. And we can start pulling those closer to us. Oh, wow, that’s

Tanner Campbell 48:54
great. I didn’t know such a website existed. What was it again?

Santara Gonzales 48:57
Write a

Tanner Campbell 48:59
Well, that’s easy to remember. I’ll put that in the show notes as well. That’s great. A very easy way to get involved in someone’s life.

Santara Gonzales 49:04
Yes. And to just bring some sunshine into those prison walls.

Tanner Campbell 49:08
Very cool. Well, so Tara again, thank you so much for taking the time. I really enjoyed our conversation and I know I’ll have you back on the show in the future when you’re in every prison system across the world.

Santara Gonzales 49:18
Thank you so much, Tanner. Thank you for having me.

About the author

Tanner Campbell

Hi, I'm Tanner. I spend most of my time writing in the philosophy space and I'm the host of the Practical Stoicism podcast. When I'm not writing, I'm reading or recording. In rare moments when I'm not writing, reading, or recording, I'm spending time with my partner and our dogs.

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