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NEW! PRISON MINDFULNESS PODCAST: Radically Shifting Belief Systems with Bernard Moss

Updated: Mar 28

In this episode, Bernard Moss speaks with cohost Fleet Maull on his experiences with incarceration, learning alternatives to violence, and his work with the GRIP program.

  • The rationale behind engaging in violence and a gangster lifestyle

  • Shifting value systems - from violence to peace-making

  • Creating safety for transformation through the GRIP program



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Bernard is a GRIP Senior Facilitator, and Peacemaker, and an expert in violence Prevention, mindfulness, and emotional Intelligence. He currently resides in Pittsburg, California. Bernard was one of the first to go through and graduate the GRIP program at San Quentin. After he graduated he went on to facilitate three GRIP groups. He was granted parole after 28 years and currently facilitates GRIP at San Quentin state Prison and Mule Creek State Prison.


Podcast Transcript


Fleet Maull: 

Hi! Welcome to another session on the Prison Mindfulness Summit. My name is Fleet Maull, your co-host for this session. I'm really happy to be here today with Bernard Moss. Welcome, Bernard. How are you? 


Bernard Moss: 

I'm great, Fleet. How are you doing today, sir? 


Fleet Maull: 

I'm doing great. Alright. I'm going to share your bio with our audience, so they get to know you a little bit, and then we'll jump right into the conversation. Sounds good? 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, sir. 


Fleet Maull: 

All right. So, Bernard Moss is a GRIP or Guiding Rage Into Power facilitator, a Peacemaker, and an expert in violence prevention, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, California. Bernard was one of the first to go through and graduate from the GRIP Program at San Quentin. After he graduated, he went on to facilitate three GRIP groups in San Quentin, I guess, and he was granted parole after 28 years and currently facilitates GRIP. How do you pronounce that? Deuel? 


Bernard Moss: 

Deuel Vocational Institute. Yeah, they closed down. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, they did? And also a Mule Creek State Prison. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, sir. And also at San Quentin State Prison. 


Fleet Maull: 

Oh, San Quentin. Okay, great. Great. I'm sure we'll get into all that in our conversation today. 


Bernard Moss: 

Okay. 


Fleet Maull: 

All right. So, you know, Bernard, we're certainly going to talk about your work as a GRIP facilitator now that you're out and since you've been out, and also about your experience of going through the GRIP program at San Quentin, but first, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about sort of who you were and the world you came from before you ended up at San Quentin with a sentence I believe it was seven years to life. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, it is. 


Fleet Maull: 

Attempted murder. So, tell us a little bit about your background and the world you came from. 


Bernard Moss: 

Okay. Well, I was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1965. At three years old, my father was in the military. So, we transferred from Georgia to Pittsburgh, California. That's basically where I was raised. I started out in the projects of West Pittsburgh, and then we moved to the more eastbound Pittsburgh in the middle of the city. I moved there in high school. That's when my life started to change. I started to kind of hang out a little bit in the streets and, you know, got addicted to street life and selling drugs, using drugs, alcohol. It was a big culture shock for me to move from West Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh and just -be in that environment. So yeah, it was kind of difficult. 


I committed the crime of attempted murder in 1988. I was sentenced to seven years to life. I really felt I wasn't getting out of prison when I was sentenced to seven years to life. So, I got into a lot of trouble in prison. I started out in Folsom and went to Lancaster, Mule Free Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo. And in 2002, I got a bus ticket to go to San Quentin. And once I arrived in San Quentin, it was again culture shock because I was so used to being so hyper-vigilant in prison and being around a lot of violence and people just not wanting to program and do right. 


I got to the same point in 2002 when I saw these guys run around with backpacks on. They had made their laundry bags into backpacks. Everybody was off in a hurry to get somewhere, and I was like, "What's going on here? Where are all these people going?" And someone told me they were going to groups. I had no idea about self-help groups at that time. So, that was my introduction to self-help and meeting Jack [Fordom 04:17], who at that time was running a group at San Quentin called Katargeo. 


Katargeo was short for putting away the things that bind. So, I got involved in Katargeo, and I didn't buy in. I wasn't one of the people who really thought that this stuff worked, right, mindfulness. I just was like, "This is all baloney. This is bull." That was my belief. But Jack never gave up on me. He always stuck with me and always told me I had a place in his class. I was still getting into a lot of trouble in prison. I was in and out of seg. 


GRIP started a few years later. I got there, I think, in 2011, and GRIP started. I was chosen to be a part of that GRIP program. It's life-changing for me. It was a place where I felt safe to share my trauma and share the things that I've been through in my life. And yeah, it was a good change for me. I just jumped in feet first and decided that it was time to change. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, before we go further into the GRIP process and the changes you went through, I want to really help our audience understand your background and the change in beliefs, the change in mindset. Once you got involved in street life and selling drugs and doing drugs and so forth, it became completely normal for you to carry a weapon, right? 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes. 


Fleet Maull: 

I understand that you have been shot at, and you've probably been involved in other types of gun violence. In this case, you shot somebody who, I don't know, whether it was a drug deal that went bad or just some kind of being disrespected, but it was kind of like you're almost living in the wild west, where that's just the way people did things. It wasn't like you were deciding to, "I'm going to go do this bad thing." It was just kind of that's the world and the mindset you're in. Can you talk a little bit about being in that belief and mindset, so we can really understand the transformation from that mindset to the mindset that you developed within the GRIP program? 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, I can. We had a saying about drugs. I'd rather be caught with one by the police than caught without one by our opponents out there in the streets. I looked at a firearm or gun as a necessity and a piece. As I got dressed every morning, I always put a gun in my belt. So, it was like, this was part of my everyday attire, running around the streets with weapons and shootouts and different things of that nature. I'm not proud of it, but that was what I believed in at that time. So, yeah. 


This wasn't the first shooting I was involved in. So yeah, I had also been arrested for shooting a young man in 1985, which was three years prior to my conviction. We all live by street code, where you don't tell, you don't testify. And the guy that I sat with wouldn't testify, and witnesses wouldn't come to court, so all the charges were dropped against me. It gave me a feeling of being invincible in the streets, right? 


I can do anything I want to do out here in the streets. As long as I'm not caught by law enforcement at that time, then it's okay. We live by a whole different set of values, a different set of rules, and a different belief system. I really just felt like this was okay, and this is what I'm supposed to do in order to survive these streets. So yeah, it wasn't pretty. It was very irresponsible, but I didn't understand right then. It was like, "This is what I'm supposed to do." 


Fleet Maull: 

There was nothing instigating you to reflect on that when you were on the street. You just got in that world. There wasn't any reason to question it. Right? 


Bernard Moss: 

Right. There's no reason. And the sad part is, I have two younger brothers who both have been arrested or convicted of also shooting people, right? So it was like, this is our lifestyle. We know nothing else. This is what we know. We know the streets, right? And so when you know the streets, you try to maneuver through those streets the best way you know how and as safely as you can without someone else taking your life, without you getting hurt out there. So, yeah. And I did it to the best of my abilities. 


Fleet Maull: 

Then, when you did end up going to prison, and you went to a number of facilities, but really to kind of help, our audience understands what people face when they end up in prison, especially when they come from the streets. And that's the same street culture as inside the prisons, right? Sometimes even the same gangs and different things, but it's that culture. It was quite a while before you got involved in any kind of effort to turn your life around, right? So, what was that like to fit in and just survive in prison before you had the opportunity to even think about change? What were those years like in prison? 


Bernard Moss: 

It was tough. I got to the reception center at San Quentin in 1991, I want to say. It was the most afraid I've ever been in my life. I'll put it to you that way. I walked into a building at San Quentin with a life sentence, not knowing anyone, right? And this is where you go to decide where you're going to start your prison sentence. They classify you there, and then they put you on a bus within 90 days, and they send you off somewhere else. I was scared. I walked in. I didn't know anybody. I was on the first tier. I looked up, and it's five tiers high. And I'm like, "Wow, what am I going to do?" Right? I really got myself into a situation here. 


I knew that there were men inside that prison, who were also there for either taking lives or attempting to take lives. A lot of them still had that mindset, right? So it's like, "Okay. I'm here now without a gun. So, I have to man up." Right? That was my mindset. It's time to man up. So, I went in, and I decided to be the best criminal that I could be. I just started learning the ropes from the OGs and guys who have been doing time since the 60s and 70s. They just taught me the way. I learned how to support myself in prison by making prison wine. So, drugs in prison. I did anything that I could do to survive because I had given up, and I felt like this was where I was going to die. This is where I'm going to spend the rest of my life. So, I need to be as comfortable as possible. 


I need to be respected, right? I did whatever I needed to do to be respected, to be amongst my peers, and what we call cars, and what that car is like the group of individuals that you associate and hang out with, and it can be a gang, or it could be people from your city or your neighborhood, or whatever the case may be. I just felt like I needed to be a leader within this cohort of fellow prisoners. That's what I did. I went in, and yeah, I just put down my values at that time and my belief system, and it was about reviewing other people's paperwork and making sure that they weren't in there for what the prison hierarchy considers to be crimes that aren't acceptable in prison and rolling people up off the yards, because they are here for a crime that I felt at the time was not up to the standards of the crimes that we should be committing on the streets, right. 


So, you know, when you have people with sex offenses or offenses against children. And within that hierarchy, we felt like those kinds of people shouldn't be here on the main line with us, so we would roll up people and make them by us. Rolling up means whether by violence, force, or whatever you needed to do to get that person off the yard and into where they would be. For some people, that hurt along the way. And some people, you know, just like, "Okay, I'm going to go to other people. I can't be here. I'm going to roll up my stuff, and I'm going to leave." But then you run into resistance. You run into people who feel like, you know, "I'm just doing my time, and I'm not going anywhere." So, when you tell a person they have to leave the yard, and they don't go, then you have to do it by force, and you have to remove them by force. So yeah, I was part of all that senseless behavior when I was in prison. 


Fleet Maull: 

And again, not to justify it in any way, but that's the world you are in, right? You thought that was going to be your life from then on in, right? So, you got to have some people to hang with. You got to keep yourself safe. You got to take care of yourself. Right? 

Bernard Moss: 


Right. Can I say this, Fleet? 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, please. 


Bernard Moss: 



Yeah, my belief system was I had to do this to be accepted by my older homeboys and the people who taught me how to do time. Right? I felt a sense of failure if I didn't participate in this kind of activity. And, you know, people who we felt shouldn't be here were here on the line with me in the same yard with me. How would they look at me if I had handled this? Right? So in order to be accepted, I did anything that I could do to be accepted by those people. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, I mean, that's generally what we do as human beings in any social structure we find ourselves in. We try to do what we need to do to survive and to be okay and be accepted, and so forth. So, when did things begin to shift for you? I mean, you talked about finding your way into that Jack Fordom's first program called Kasargeo or something like that. 


Bernard Moss: 

Katargeo. Yes. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, how did you even get interested in that? When did things actually begin to shift? When did you start having any kind of different thoughts going through your head, 


Bernard Moss: 

When I got to San Quentin, they put me in a cell with a guy. He was an older gentleman. He was my mother's age, and his name was Watani. Watani was a part of Jack's class, the Katargeo class. He could see that there was a lot of work that I needed to do. He just came to the cell one day and said, "Hey, we got an opening in the class. Would you like to join?" I was like, "Well, I'm not doing anything else. Right? So, I might as well go see what everybody else is doing. Right?" 


So, I went to Jack's Katargeo group. I was there for at least seven years, right? So seven to eight years in Katargeo, if not longer. I didn't understand it at first. The guys were opening up and talking about their lives and talking about their past traumas. I was just there. I wasn't really serious about changing my life. I was just showing up to have something to do. It kept me from being locked in my cell at four o'clock during count time. I will be out of the cell. I always kept getting in trouble. I was still selling drugs. I was still drinking. I was still doing a lot of things that I shouldn't have been doing. 


One of the things about that was the compassion that was shown to me. Even when I went to the hole, they always saved my space in the group for me, so they never filled my slot with someone else. As long as I didn't get transferred out of that prison, I always had a spot there. Jack would just take me back with open arms, and they met me where I was at. Right? They were going to meet you where you are. You can make that change when you're ready to make it. I think my change came in 2009. Myself and my younger brother were in seg together. My brother got validated as a gang member and sent to the indeterminate SHU program at Pelican Bay State Prison. I kept telling myself, if I get out of this one, I'm done. Right. 


I went to one of my disciplinary hearings. The lieutenant found me not guilty. I wasn't shocked. I was found not guilty of the offenses. I always was a person who stayed true to my word. If I said I was going to do something, I'd do it. So, I kept saying if I get out of this, I'm going to change. That's what I did. So in 2009, I started kind of really paying attention to what was going on in these groups that I was attending and not just being there physically. I started being there mentally and spiritually also, and really paying attention and listening to what was going on. 


When GRIP started in 2011, I was lucky enough to be selected for that process. GRIP was about being a peacemaker. I just went through the process, and I signed my pledge as a peacemaker. As of that day, I've never been involved in violence. I don't believe in violence. I don't believe in hurting anyone. And in any situation where I can find space to make peace, I do that. So, it was a big change for me. It was a blessing. 


Fleet Maull: 

Wow. Well, it sounds like even through the years when you are in the Katargeo program, and you are kind of in but not completely in and hadn't bought in completely, still involved in the life in prison and still getting in trouble but nonetheless, there was this new community in which you are finding acceptance. And probably, there were even some people who had been in that community longer than you were. They were there to mentor you. 


And you know, there's some parallel between, if we can see what helps people change is, you know, we all have a lot of needs as human beings, and so that need for acceptance is really strong and need for the community, the need for understanding "Okay, how do I make my life work here?" And so over time, you're in this new community that was just meeting you where you are, accepting you as you are, always holding a place for you even when you went that seg or the hole and came back. And yet, over time, you're learning a new way to make your life work. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes. Yeah. I think that's so important for people incarcerated. I tried to do the same thing now that I facilitated inside prison, right? I always try to make space for a person to be safe and feel safe and always there. If they have to leave for something, I always leave that space open for them to come back. And although they may not graduate and complete that, that support system is still there for them, right? So, yeah. It meant so much during my process that I want to make that available for people who are going through our program also. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, and just as an aside. I think some people in our audience may not be from California or the Bay Area but have heard of San Quentin. It's a pretty infamous prison for death rowers or at least one of the death rows in California. I don't know if they have more than one, but it's actually a very program-centric facility, as you were saying. 


I've heard at some time there's like over a thousand volunteers that go in there doing the program because it's right there in the bay area surrounded by San Francisco and Marin County, and, you know, the East Bay and all that. So there are all these people there to bring in the program. So, it's kind of an odd mixture of being this old, hardline prison, maximum security prison right there in the middle of all these resources. 


Bernard Moss: 

Right. Yeah. I think that's the blessing about San Quentin, where it's located, right? And so, you got a marine right there. You got Oakland, San Francisco. You got every city, basically around San Quentin. So the volunteers who do come into that prison are so important to the transformation of people inside of that prison, right? I don't think I would have ever made that transformation without people coming in and volunteering and making groups available. 


I've been through restorative justice groups. I've been through emotional intelligence. Without all of these tools that they're making available to us at San Quentin, there wouldn't be room for people to make the transformation because what's there is the prison culture. And when you're in Rome, you do as the Romans do, right? So when you go into prison, and that's what's going on (the violence, and the drugs, and the alcohol, and all the senselessness, the politics), you just get involved. If you want to fit in, if you want to be accepted, you end up getting involved in those things. 


And then, when you can get somewhere like San Quentin, and like I said, it was a culture shock to see people run into college and self-help groups. I had never seen that before. At the time I arrived at San Quentin, I had been incarcerated for 14 years. I had never seen people doing that before. So it was like, "Damn, there's something I can also do." One of my group facilitators who facilitated me through the program was a guy named Robin D. I watched him in another group when he stood up to speak. He just was so intelligent. He just spoke like a professional. 


I was like, "Is this guy really wearing blue? A blue prison uniform like me?" I said, there's something I would love to do one day, right? So, I just watched it. I just took it all in. He had told me about Toastmasters and different things that he had participated in to teach him how to present and to speak well, and I was like, wow, that's possible, right? I can change. I can do something different. So yeah, I have a lot of mentors and people who just guided me along the way. 


Fleet Maull: 

So, what you're talking about is just so important. All the people in our audience, I think, are mostly people who are really interested and work a lot with the people who are doing this work. This is what inspires us. This is what really makes it work what you're talking about because absent people are coming in and offering a different culture, a different way of being, a different possibility. 


I remember doing my time, you know, the weekly 12 Step group that I went to that I was always a leader in, you know, the people that came in from the outside, we had wonderful NANA sponsors, and, you know, they just treated you like another human being. They were drunks and addicts. We were drunks and addicts. There was no barrier, right? And so, it was like that for that couple of hours that were up in that meeting. You weren't really in prison. You weren't in that culture, right? There was another possibility and had some other opportunities like that, but there's a really strong convict culture in prison, then the correctional staff have their culture, and those two cultures tend to demonize each other. Right? 


Bernard Moss: 

Right. 


Fleet Maull: 

There can be some staff that treats people like human beings. There's a good staff. That depends on who they're around, right? The hard-nosed they're around. They tend to go along with whatever's around, right? But still, there aren't a lot of options because you're not presented with a different culture or a different way of being. And then to see some of your fellow prisoners being different, right, in a good way, you get that sense of, "Oh, wow, there's a possibility there." But absent that, how would you ever sense there's another way to be or another possibility or have any hope that that could be there for you? Right? 


Bernard Moss: 

Right. Exactly. I think that type of support and just being around that is so important because I used to sit up and watch guys walk away from a fight, right? But they had done their work on themselves, right? And they knew that they didn't have to prove anything to anybody else. I was like, "I want to get to that point one day. How can I walk away from a fight around all these people and not care what someone else has to say or how someone else feels about it." And just that mentorship from the people who have been through these programs, who have done that work, and their example, their walk in prison. Showing that they're still safe, they're still here, and they still walk with their head up high. 


It's, like, I aspired to be like that one day, right? That's what my journey was like. I watched a lot of people who had good cellmates. I encountered some really good OGs along the way who saw a lot more in me than what I was showing and what I was offering. Right? So yeah, it's a big part of successfully doing our time and getting out of those mindsets of having to be that convict. Right. I didn't want to be a convict anymore. I just wanted to be a human being and get back home to my family. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, I remember another training that I had the opportunity and the privilege of being able to do while I was inside. On the outside, it's called The Event. Inside I think it was called Beyond Release. Most people were just thinking about getting out. Well, what's going to happen when you get out if you don't make changes, right? Very intense group process. These outside facilitators came in and created a really safe environment in which people went, you know, ourselves, the prisoners, my fellow prisoners, we just go deep into sharing a lot of trauma. And almost everybody there had severe trauma from their childhood. You look around, and you go, "No wonder they're in prison." Right. So wondering, you know, they've survived this far. 


We would create that environment, but they would tell us, you know, this is why you're up here. We're up there like 12 hours a day. It was an intensive three-day program. Then it had a follow-up. They said, "Okay, in this room, this is the human being's realm. Now, you go back out there, you know, you gotta put your thing back on, go out there." And so, I have that. Well, then you come back here tomorrow. You'll be in the human being realm again. We can do some real work. It's about being a human being here, right? And so, yeah, I love that you said that. 


Well, let's talk more about the GRIP program, specifically, guiding rage in power. So my understanding is that it's a year-long program. It forms a cohort, and you kind of have to make some contractual agreement going into it. And then you're really in this community for a year. Now I know the content. It's been described as a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence curriculum. But it seems like a really powerful part of it is the community itself. Anyway, tell us a little bit about your first journey through GRIP when you went through the first time as a participant. 


Bernard Moss: 

As I said, I joined the group in 2011. That was the very first GRIP group that was offered at San Quentin. It was basically in its developmental stages. They had just put the curriculum together. We were learning together. At that time, it was a 52-week model, where you attend it for two hours once a week for 52 weeks, a year-long program. It's broken up into four sections: stopping our violence, developing emotional intelligence, understanding victim impact, and cultivating mindfulness. I didn't know what any of that stuff was when I went into the group. I had been through a few classes and things of that nature, but I had never really dove in that deep. 


One of the first things we do in GRIP is build a safe container, right? So we do different exercises that show people how much we're more alike than we are different from one another. We calculate the number of years that everyone has spent in the tribe. And this came later, the very first tribe, we had calculated, but we didn't name our tribe that number, right? So what we do now is everyone in that room calculates the amount of time they've spent in prison, and we add it all up. That becomes your tribe number. 


One of my tribes now is 1045, which means you have, amongst all the participants in the room, 1045 years served in prison, right? I've had groups like 644-645. And, you know, you just add up those numbers, and you start to look at, wow, we've been in prison this long. So then we add up how long did it take you to make the decision to commit that crime that you committed, and you may have 1045 years, and it took us less than two minutes for everyone in that class to be serving that amount of time, right? When you start looking at it, and you start thinking about it, you're like, wow, this is really, really impactful. 


And that one decision, I made that split decision, and look at me now. I may never see the streets again, or I've been gone for 40 years. I've been gone for 30 years, right? And you start to understand that none of this street life or the value systems are really worth what they're built up to be. It was a journey for me. I've learned so much about myself because we dive into childhood trauma, dive into our belief systems, and challenge those belief systems. It's just the male role belief system, right, which we call Mr. BS, right? So it's like, to be a man, these are all the things that I believe, and I should do. And then you have to question that. Is that true? Or do you really have to do that to be a man? Or do you just do that because that's how you talk and that's what you believe? You've never known another way to solve a problem or to get past something. 


Once you start challenging those things, you start to realize that, "Hey, I can be human differently. I can find another way to live my life and to do things." So, that first year of GRIP to me was so impactful at the end. And then we sign a pledge at the end, right? We get the pledge in the beginning to learn it. You go through the pledges, and you start studying and learning. One of the pledges that I love is to learn to understand rather than be understood. My thing was always understanding me. But once I started taking a step back to understand other people, you know, it brought about some empathy. That's one of the pledges that really stick with me throughout my life. But just going through that and learning it and being invited to come back was powerful. 


Yeah, it's that circle, that process of being in the circle, building that strong bond among that circle, and building that safe place to feel safe to share what's been going on in my life and what I've been through and the challenges that I've encountered. How do I get that? Because for a while, I never knew there was a way to get past those traumas. But just opening up and talking about it, processing those things, is so powerful. It just helped me to become a different way. I don't even want to say “different” but become my true authentic self. 


That's what we teach in GRIP, to be your true, authentic self. There's nothing wrong with who you are. We get a lot of people who say, "I'm here to be a better person." We don't teach you to be a better person, but we can teach you and show you how to get back to being your true authentic self and not having to be that person who has to impress everybody else to live for other people. I can live from the inside out instead of the outside. It's a powerful experience. 


Fleet Maull: 

I know one of the unique features of the GRIP program is actually within the group within the safety of that container acknowledging crimes that have been committed, acknowledging the harm that we've done. Right? For many people who do prison work, they've probably heard, you know, you don't ever ask anybody what their crime was. You don't need to know that. They just come to the group, and you accept them. 


That makes sense for a lot of groups because there isn't enough of a container with some weekly classes, you know, there's just not that safety to ask people to talk about what they've done. I think that's a powerful part of GRIP and that you are able to create that safe container in which men can go because, you know, there's a lot of us when we're in prison, we still want to hold on to some story about either we're innocent, or it wasn't our fault. Somehow we got some story about it, right? 


I've even often heard our fellow prisoners, even in some films we've done, they'll talk about the crime they're convicted of almost in a third person. We don't say I did this. We say, "Well, that was my thing." And so, it seems like that's a lot of vulnerability. It requires a lot of safety to invite people to move into that kind of acknowledgment. But it also seems like they could really be the beginning place for a lot of deep transformation. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yeah. And maybe it is because I think along our journey in prison, and I'll say, I speak for myself, I lived in prisons with a lot of shame, right? A lot of people ask me why. I said, "Because I shot a man because I believe he owed me $500." I was willing to take someone's life behind $500, right? And there's a lot of shame in that because life is so valuable. You can't put a price on someone's life. For me, for a long time, I was proud that I shot someone who owed me money. But after I was able to sit back and start thinking about it, there was a lot of shame involved in that and carrying that saying. It can hold so many people back, right? 


So making a space safe enough for me to talk about what I did and why I did it. And then to fully understand that that wasn't the reason that I shot him. I shot him because of my belief system and what I believe other people will see. Like, I was saying earlier about living from the outside in. I was so concerned about how other people would look at me if someone owed me money. I didn't do anything about it. So this is my response to that. Right. I won't even say my response. I'll say it's my reaction to that because a response is thought out. Normally, you make a wise decision. Well, I didn't make a wise decision. 


A lot of people carry that and especially around crimes against children or crimes against women. We have people in prison who are hiding and living and saved because it's not safe for them to talk about it. You don't get the help that you need if you can't talk about why you're there and what you did. And so, that safe container is so, so important in helping people with their transformation and helping them to move forward and pass a place of shame, right? Because this is a lot of shame, they carry. No one has the balls for it. 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. I'm so glad you brought up that issue of shame. In my own experience, I felt like one of the things that made it really hard for people incarcerated to turn their lives around is because the minute you get arrested, you're kind of being buried under this mountain of shame and demonization, the whole process of being arrested and prosecuted and incarcerated, you know, intentionally or by default, it just ends up being this huge exercise in shaming and being stripped over your identity and othered and turned into a number. And so, instinctually we're trying to protect ourselves by trying to survive even psychologically. And so, we tend to armor up with anger, armor up with our own victim story, armor up with bitterness, right? That prevents us from being able to go inside and connect with that vulnerability and connect with a genuine sense of regret over the harm we've caused in the past with whatever we've been involved in. Right? 


That makes it very hard for people to turn around because, in some ways, for me in my own life, really, you know, when I went in, what really was crushing for me was realizing what I've done to my son. He was nine years old when I went in. I just went through a huge dark night of soul finally having to face all the incredibly selfish decisions I've been making and putting his life at risk, his mom's life at risk, and now he was going to grow up without a dad because I originally was sentenced to 30 years, no parole. Fortunately, I lost five on appeal. That's down to 25. Fortunately, I was sentenced to the old law of fed, so you got a lot of good time if you stayed out of trouble. I ended up serving 14 and a half. And still, my son had to grow up without a dad during his formative years from nine to, plus 14, you know, 19-20. From nine to 23, he didn't have a dad. And so, that was crushing for me. And so, I was really facing that. 


At the same time, I was still justifying. I've been involved in cocaine smuggling and drug dealing, and so forth. I still justify that in my head somewhere. It was recreational. Everybody was doing it. Judges and lawyers did it. It wasn't until I sat in 12-step groups, week after week, and listened to one man after another talk about how his life unraveled and his family's life unraveled around coke and crack and everything that, you know, that artifice of my self-defense and my justification began to crumble. I mean, even for a while, because I was involved in smuggling powder cocaine, I thought, "Well, crack. That's someone else. I wouldn't be involved in that." But then, you know, even that, I couldn't hold on to that anymore. And after a couple of years, I had to really face the fact that I'd been doing really harmful things. Who knows how many people might even have died from the drugs that I sold and brought into the country, right? 


It was really painful to face myself. And then, what developed in me was this deep longing just to cause no more harm. I was inspired by Buddhist traditions. I also wanted to do good, but I will say I just had a profound longing to just not to cause any more harm. That really started without any more defenses, acknowledging the harm that I'd done and feeling that remorse and that deep regret in a way that didn't self-shame myself but was just, you know, wow. Like, it was about the other people, about the people that got harmed, right? And so if we can't get that experience, it's very hard to turn our life around. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, it is. 


Fleet Maull: 

I feel lucky that I got there, but the good thing about the group program is you create a safe container for people that get to that place. 


Bernard Moss: 

Right. I love that you said that because of the ripple effects of our actions, right? I had never thought about the ripple effects and how my life was in the streets and out there selling drugs. I had three daughters at that time, right? When I was convicted, my two youngest daughters were four months old. And my oldest daughter was right before her sixth birthday. I was arrested three days before her sixth birthday. When I got out, they were grown women, 34 years old and 28 years old. It's like, wow, I really took all of this away from them, right? 


I never considered my actions and what it did to the rest of the world. And not only for my community and my family, but there's a ripple effect on everybody. When we go out and commit these crimes, right? So when I was out there running around with guns and shooting people and selling drugs, everything I did affected someone else in a different way. Right? I didn't even think about it. It wasn't my concern. Today that has to be a concern. Every step that I make, every move I make, I'm conscious of how this affects other people? Right? And how this affects my family. It's powerful when you can just hold that with them in your heart and understand that it's so powerful in moving forward every day in life. So yeah, thank you for saying that. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, let's talk about it, and thank you for everything you're sharing with us, Bernard. That is so powerful. Let's talk about getting out. What was it like for you to get out? I also like to hear about your work now as a facilitator in the GRIP program, but what was the transition like coming back to the world for you? 


I assume you live not far from where you were in life before. And now you're out. I don't know whether you start running into the same people again or what it was like for you. Talk about the transition coming out. 


Bernard Moss: 

Okay. So, for me, my transition was fairly easy, right? I was married in 2014. I was paroled in 2016. My wife has been amazing. She was there for me. She's been to every step of the way to help. Technology-wise, I had no idea how to use a computer when I came home or how to answer an email. None of that stuff was around in 1988. So for me, just coming out and her assistance and help. And my family, my mother, and my daughters, my wife's children, all my kids, they are all wonderful, right? They all assist me and help me to help me stay on the right track. 


And yeah, my transition was easy, and I came out with the mindset of whatever I need to do to be successful and to help my family, that's what I'm going to do. So when I came home, I was paid minimum wage working on the side of the freeway and picking up trash. It was the most fulfilling thing that I've done in my life. I'm out, and I'm helping. It was through an organization that pays you every day once you come home, back to the garage. I used to make after-taxes $88 a day. I was just so thrilled to be making that $88 a day that I would give my wife $80, and I will put $8 in my pocket, right? 


And it's like, I'm finally contributing to paying bills and just buying groceries and to help, right? It's something I had never done before in my life because I've always been selfish. I sold drugs for myself, and I sold drugs so I could look good and do the things that I wanted to do. And now I'm doing it for others, right? I'm helping in that transformation of coming home to something like that, which is powerful. I don't think I'd have been able to do it without her. It would have been difficult. So, big clap for my wife, Marissa. Thank you for helping me. It's been different. 


The world from 1988 to 2016. I walked into Costco, right? I would look at all the big box items in this big warehouse store and, like, what is this? It can be overwhelming. And without that support and someone there to help you, just adapt to those things. It's a lot. I was able to have someone there to hold my hand to help me get through that stuff and not be so overwhelmed with what's going on in society, and learning how to pump gas in and use a debit card to pump your gas and not going to court to pay you money for it. You know, all that, which is a culture shock and a change. So yeah, my transition back into society has been adventurous. It's been fun. But I've enjoyed every step of it. I say my worst day out here in society is better than my best day inside, Fleet. Yeah, I'm willing to take on any and everything that comes my way. 


Fleet Maull: 

Well, it sounds like you're really fortunate to have great support systems in place. That's also a reflection of the change in you. That's a reflection of your mindset. Because unfortunately, a lot of us, when we get out of prison, if we haven't been through that transformation, we kind of come out almost with a feeling of entitlement, like the world owes us something, right? We can have a mindset that doesn't invite people to want to support us. Right? So, I'm sure a part of your marriage and reuniting with your family, and the welcome you've received and the support you receive is really about who you're being today, that you are being Bernard, true, authentic self. Instead of that thing that you had created early on to survive and be accepted and so forth. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, true. And it also helped me with the understanding of being away from my children for 28 years, right? There's going to be some animosity. There's going to be some feelings and some anger in that. I was prepared for that. I was prepared to accept that and work through it. It's okay to be upset with me, and it's okay to be mad with me because I left you. And for so many years, I always thought people out there weren't dealing with it, but I had to come to them. 


Instead, I left society. I made a conscious decision to commit a crime to be taken away from society. And people aren't obligated to be there for me, right? I had to really come to understand that it was okay that I was the one who made that decision. I was the one who left, and people are going to be upset with me now that I come home. I need to be open to working through those situations and trying to get things back on track. So, they will really be involved. 


Fleet Maull: 

Wow. Well, understanding all that is not only how to turn your life around inside but also what it takes to really transition out and to really own the impact we've had on people and be willing to listen to their pain and their anger and work through that. I'm sure it makes you a fabulous mentor for the men you work with today. So, tell us just a little bit. We're near the end of our time here but tell us a little bit about the work you do for GRIP now. 


Bernard Moss: 

Okay. So today, I'm a senior facilitator at the GRIP Training Institute. I facilitate at San Quintin and Mule Creek. Those are my main two prisons right now. I'm also getting ready to start at Corcoran a program there called A Breath of Freedom which GRIP offers. It's a four-month pilot program where we introduce people to mindfulness. I'm part of that. 


Also, we have a women's initiative. We're trying to get into Chowchilla to do the same work with the women there at Chowchilla. My work is very fulfilling. I get to go in and put together to try the same process that I went through to get into GRIP. We take people through that process of selecting tribes and naming our tribes, and I get to facilitate and give the information. I always say, "Being a facilitator is like being a coach." You make the information available for people, and you tell them how to internalize this information and do this work. And then it's in their hands, right? I can't play the game, but I can sit on the sideline, and I can watch. I'm able to do that. It's really, really powerful. I've built some great relationships throughout the years. I've learned. 


One of my biggest things was judging people, right? I get to do this work free of judgment from any and everyone. Everyone is welcome in my tribe. We just select something we feel is the best fit for this tribe and get that process done more. I will say we do two separate processes of the GRIP program. 


We have a weekly process where we meet for two hours once a week for 52 weeks. And then, we have a 13-month process where we meet once a month for eight hours. And that's one of the things we do at Mule Creek. So, I'm able to do the eight-hour classes, which are really, really powerful because you really get that bonding time in that circle for eight hours in the day. 


And then, we have small groups run by our inside facilitators throughout that month. And then we come back the following month, and we process everything we've learned. It's fulfilling. I really enjoyed this work. 


Fleet Maull: 

What's it like for you to go back into those same facilities where you did your time as a free person to be able to walk in and walk out? 


Bernard Moss: 

It's nice. I was a little scared in the beginning. I didn't know if I walked in if they were going to let me back out. When I went inside, you know, I had butterflies, and I was a little nervous, but after about two or three times inside, it's just like, "Hey, this is the work that I do, and I'm comfortable, and I'm just going to go in here and do the best job that I could possibly do." It's a power for the people inside to see someone who used to be in the same position they're in now coming back inside to help facilitate. 


Fleet Maull: 

Absolutely. Absolutely. It makes the whole thing so much more believable to see you. 


Bernard Moss: 

Yes, exactly. I'm grateful to be able to offer that to people inside 


Fleet Maull: 

Wow, fabulous. Well, thank you so much for everything you've shared with us today, Bernard. Thank you for being you and for taking the amazing journey you've made, and for everything you're doing now to continue to serve and show up for the folks who are still going through that same journey we went through, so just thank you so much for being part of our summit. 


Bernard Moss: 

Thank you. Hey, I appreciate this opportunity just to get the word out about the GRIP program and to talk about my life and my transformation, so thank you so much, Fleet. I appreciate you. 


Fleet Maull: 

You take care, Bernard. Be well. 


Bernard Moss: 

You too. Have a great day. 




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