SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – George Jurand has worked for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office for two decades, long enough to learn that the victims of violent crime need support beyond the first months, the first year, even the first several years after losing a loved one. That’s why he leads a support group called The Healing Circle.
“Our purpose here is to heal, is to educate those who aren’t educated about what happens to families that experience violence, Jurand explained. “It’s also to help families realize that you are not alone.”
Twice a month, family members meet at the Paradise Baptist Church in the Ingleside district of San Francisco. They come from cities around the Bay Area, bringing photographs, so no one forgets the faces behind the statistics.
“I wanted a place where people can come and not feel judged, to not feel that they were alone in their loss and they weren’t the only ones that had experienced this kind of traumatic event,” Jurand said.
Jurand’s work at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office has put him in touch with crime victims year after year. He saw them struggling with tragedy long after the stories had faded from the headlines.
“There is really no service providers after a year,” he said. “What the Healing Circle is for, is that we are there after a year, two years, three years—we are going to be available no matter what.”
Jurand brings a unique perspective from working two decades in the Criminal Justice system: he believes that, in order to stop violence, the healing has to happen on both sides. So he takes the Healing Circle into jails and prisons to bring crime victims and perpetrators together.
Former inmate Henry Montgomery was serving time at San Quentin for a murder he committed as a teenager in Los Angeles.
“When the Healing Circle first came inside we were afraid of them,” Montgomery remembered. “We thought they were coming in to judge us and bash us.”
He came face to face with Bay Area mothers Paulette Brown and Elsa Casillas, whose sons were also murdered.
“My first time going into San Quentin I was really scared, shivering,” Casillas said. “I was wondering, ‘Why did they kill my son? Why did they take my son away from me?”
“There was a lot of mistrust and distrust going on,” Jurand agreed. “Within the next six months, it went from adversarial to ‘we’re family.’”
“I really got a lot of insight of what I had done and the pain I caused the family of the guy that I murdered,” Montgomery added. “For the first time, I had empathy for that family.”
Montgomery got out of San Quentin several months ago and continues to come to the Healing Circle meetings.
“They are doing what they promised to change their lives and not hurt anymore,” Casillas said. “It really impacts us because then we know we are changing people for the good.”
“We were once victims but now we are survivors,” Brown added.
“That’s what inspires me, to see families brought back together,” said Jurand. “Instead of despair, there is hope.”
So for providing education, advocacy and support for those whose lives have been changed by violent crime, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to George Jurand.
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