Who we serve
Men in San Francisco County Jail who agree that they are violent to their victims, families, the community and themselves and agree that they are willing to stop.
What we do
Founded in 1997, RSVP is the first jail program in the U.S. that houses and specifically works with male prisoners who have violence documented in their criminal histories. After 16 weeks in RSVP there are 82% lower rearrests for violent crimes during the first year after release compared to the general population within the San Francisco county jail system.
Grounded in the practices of restorative justice, RSVP participants engage in a rigorous 5-day a week, 8-hour a day schedule where they learn and practice the program principles and processes in community with one another. The frequent, enduring nature of the education and processes, coupled with the mentoring that happens in the peer-to-peer model, is the program’s basis for personal accountability, transformation and healing.
There are three components to the program:
manalive, the theoretical, philosophical and applied centerpiece for RSVP, is a peer-based program with a gender-based analysis of violence. The manalive process involves analyzing and deconstructing the socially learned “Male Role Belief System” of superiority and dominance. Violence, and specifically men’s violence, is enforcement of the Male Role Belief System. manalive groups encompass unlearning violent attitudes and behaviors through this critical analysis along with the education and practice of emotional literacy and intimacy.
Participants hear directly from outside presenters who have been harmed by violence in their lives. Facilitated discussions follow to explore the survivor’s disclosure and draw similarities from the participants’ own experiences of harm they have caused to others. Movement and meditation are used to ground the men to their own bodies and inner experience, so that they can come into greater empathetic awareness of themselves and others.
Circles of support and accountably provide participants a safe space to consider and process the harm they’ve caused themselves, their families and others. Restorative justice principles are used to develop a plan to address and repair harm.
During the summer of 2018, nine participants of the RSVP program signed up for a creative writing class, unaware that the class would result in a published book. The men wrote for sixteen weeks, preparing reflections about various aspects of the RSVP program as well as individual written pieces about personal stories and realizations. The completed book serves as a point of personal accountability and an opportunity to spread empathy and understanding. Click here to read The Issue.