February 18, 2017
A few weeks ago, Carl Hogan and Edward De Anda wouldn’t have been dropping beats together.
But the two inmates learned their rhythms aren’t so different after a three-day workshop at the Pierce County Jail that addresses the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and teaches conflict resolution skills.
“It’s not like therapy, where we say ‘So tell us what happened to you?’ ” said Roger Kluck, a former lobbyist and environmental lawyer who helped organize and lead the workshop. Instead, the curriculum focuses on activities.
Posters around the workshop room at the jail recently featured prompts such as “These are my standards of integrity …”
And “A personal goal I have …”
Others had the scribbles of a brainstorming session, during which inmates thought about which behaviors lead to violence and which lead to peace.
The workshop targets incarcerated veterans who have suffered trauma. But depending on how many sign up, sometimes it’s offered to non-veterans, usually with different kinds of PTSD, such as from street violence.
Kluck said 106 veterans participated from April 2015 to March 2016, and that as of November, 22 had re-offended. Of those, seven committed the same crime and one committed a violent crime.
Participants don’t talk about the charges that landed them in jail, but they learn strategies to prevent coming back.
Hogan, 49, said he was an Army tank commander in the 1980s, based in Louisiana. He said the workshop reinforced for him that using drugs and alcohol is not a good way to cope with mental health struggles he’s had since his service.
“I make a lot of wrong decisions when I’m not medicated,” Hogan said. “… When I self-medicate, things go wrong.”
He was featured on “Washington’s Most Wanted” in December, when sheriff’s deputies said he fled the courthouse after he was found guilty of possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful gun possession and bail jumping.
The show reported Hogan had 14 felony convictions in the state at the time. He was sentenced to five years, eight months in prison for the recent crimes.
When participating in the jail workshop, Hogan said, the part that dealt with respecting the views of others was especially hard.
He said he feels most comfortable around combat veterans, and at first was skeptical about non-veterans in the class.
Then that changed.
“You know what?” Hogan said. “Their experiences are similar. They just didn’t have any (military) training.”
For example, he said, military veterans and veterans of street violence must protect themselves from enemies.
And, just like the non-veterans surprised Hogan, he surprised them.
“Who would have thought a vet would be able to beatbox?” De Anda said.
On the second day of the workshop, Hogan started beatboxing — a kind of verbal percussion meant to sound like drums — while 36-year-old De Anda was rapping in the bathroom.
The men, who live in Tacoma, had seen each other only in passing in the jail before the class. Now they sometimes sit together at meals, and they’ve kept the musical routine going.
De Anda said the group was reserved the first day, then started to bond.
“We all struggle and strive to be better,” he said. “We all need a little help sometimes.”
Halfway through the program, De Anda, who is charged with second-degree assault and identified himself as a second-generation gang member, said he felt like he could leave his gang.
“I broke down and cried for about half an hour,” he said. “I kind of realized 36 years of my life, I’d been living a lie.”
The workshop De Anda and Hogan took was the 23rd at the jail in about two years. There usually are about 15 inmates and four facilitators who lead the group through a curriculum that comes from the Alternatives to Violence Project.
The organization has been doing similar workshops in prisons across the country for more than 40 years, and Kluck founded a local chapter.
The veterans workshop is one of the local chapter’s recent efforts. Much of the work is volunteer, though the Pierce County Veterans Bureau pays facilitators for their time.
Some facilitators are veterans, and Kluck hopes the workshop eventually can be entirely veteran-run.
Jail officials have been happy with the program, and Martha Karr, the captain who oversees the jail’s programs, said there’s a demand for it among inmates. Those interested are interviewed by workshop leaders ahead of time to make sure they’re a good fit.
“The word is out about the class,” she said.
An inmate scheduled to be released once asked a judge to let him stay in jail one more night so he could finish the workshop, Karr said.
She and other jail supervisors attended the graduation for the recent workshop, where the inmates got certificates for their work.
One of them was David Gonzalez, who was a truck driver in the Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord until about a year ago. He said the class wasn’t what he expected.
“You’re ready to sit back and get free coffee,” he said.
Instead, the 23-year-old, who is charged in a drive-by shooting, came away from the program realizing that soldiers need to understand that it’s OK to get help.
“Asking for help is not a weakness at all,” Gonzalez said.
Being open about weaknesses is one of the workshop themes, which tied into a conversation Hogan, the beatboxer, recently had with his 7-year-old son.
The boy is doing well in school, and when Hogan told him he was smart like his father, the kid replied with a zinger.
“No, Dad,” Hogan remembers the boy saying. “You’re very intelligent, but you’re not smart. Smart is what you do.”
The workshop gave Dad some tools to act on that wisdom.
“I’ll think before I react now,” Hogan said.