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Success Stories: Tackling Patriarchy Inside Prisons 


“We get to choose what type of men we become in life. And, it has always been our choice and always will be. So the question lies--what kind of man will you be?” -Hugo Gonzalez, former incarcerated President and facilitator; current staff, Success Stories (featured in The Feminist on Cellblock Y , 2018,


About Success Stories


Success Stories was founded in February 2014 by Richard Edmond-Vargas and Charles Berry, two incarcerated men at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. It was recognized by the California State Assembly for its contributions to public safety later that year. Success Stories became officially designated as an ILTAG (Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group) by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2015. As of August 1st, 2017, Success Stories awards its participants with Rehabilitative Achievement Credits that remove time off their sentences. Based on the success of the program, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) awarded Success Stories a 3-year Innovative Programming Grant to expand to three new prisons in 2019. Since its inception in 2014, it has graduated 550 men. 


The program focuses on socio-behavioral, trauma-centered, self reflections to help men discover the harmful ideas they have about manhood and how those beliefs are negatively affecting them. The Success Stories model centers the unlearning of destructive behaviors and the building of new patterns and identities for men who are at higher risk for recidivating. All sessions and facilitator trainings are led by currently and formerly incarcerated people depending on the setting. 


Success Stories was profiled in the 2018 CNN Documentary “The Feminist on Cellblock Y,” which follows our co-founder Richard, as he facilitates workshops inside Soledad, a year prior to his release in July, 2018.


Program Design


Success Stories works primarily with men ages 18-35 but without age requirement. Men account for 80% of arrests for all violent crimes (FBI, 2012), and this age group has the highest rate of recidivism. 


Over 12 sessions, Success Stories provides men in prison or other facilities with a peer-led environment where they can self-reflect, set goals, and unlearn destructive habits that have hindered their lives. The program utilizes a “Relate-Investigate-Recreate” model where peer facilitators don’t try to teach participants in lecture style classroom, but instead: 


  1. Seek to relate with them by describing how they personally dealt with or deal with similar thoughts/behaviors. 

  2. Investigate together if those thoughts/behaviors serve their loved ones and goals. 

  3. And then work together to commit to doing something new. 


The process is organic and collective, where facilitators and participants heal and grow together. 


Each session’s discussion centers around a different topics such as toxic masculinity, love, long-term thinking and responsibility. The curriculum uses a feminist framework developed by the well-known author and theorist, bell hooks. This lens gives participants the language to express vulnerabilities and new ways of processing complex emotions. The explicitly feminist framework pushes participants to explore their own masculinity and how it contributes to their harmful and unhealthy behaviors. The group seeks to help participants reach hooks’ concept of integrity--the state of being where men are emotionally whole and prioritize their goals and loved ones over outside pressures of what it means to be a “real man.”


After program graduation, participants stay connected in a network of support, whether they are still in prison or in the outside community. 


Research finds our program design to be effective. The Congressional Research Service found in 2015 that “goal setting, managing stress and fear, and improving cognitive skills, was found to have a positive effect on recidivism.” (Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism, January 2015).

Please contact us, or view our website at to learn more.

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