CDCR's Week in Review Archives

CDCR Week in Review: February 10, 2023

3 Questions With…

Lieutenant Guim’Mara Berry, San Quentin Public Information Officer

A woman in a white suit and black glasses smiles.

For Black History Month, CDCR would like to recognize Lieutenant Guim’Mara (Gee-ah-mar-a) Berry, the first African American Woman to hold the position of Public Information Officer (PIO) at San Quentin State Prison (SQSP). This month, Lt. Berry celebrated 20 years of service with the Department where she has contributed greatly to the mission of public safety and rehabilitation.

Lt. Berry recalls interviewing for her first position with the Department while six months pregnant, ready to leave her job at the UCSF Medical Center Intensive Care Nursery and embark on a new career path.

She has held many positions at SQSP, including Office Assistant in Parole and Intake transfers, and as an Office Service Supervisor (OSSI). In 2007, she decided to apply to become a Correctional Officer. Though the process was challenging, her determination led to success, even earning her the “True Grit Award” while in the Academy. She eventually promoted to the position of Correctional Sergeant at Folsom State Prison, and after nine years, decided to take the next step and apply to become SQSP’s next PIO. The rest, as they say, is now history and she took on her new role beginning Oct. 4, 2023. Get to know Lt. Berry:

What drew you to the role of PIO for SQSP?

I joined the number one recruitment team in the State of California, “The San Quentin Recruitment Team,” in 2020. Being able to represent CDCR in the community and sharing my awesome journey with the public is so rewarding.

I know that there are probably several single mothers out there contemplating whether they want to take a leap of faith into a career of law enforcement. I also know there are individuals who carry the burden of their significant others telling them it is a dangerous career choice.

I would like to share my experiences with anyone who has aspirations of possibly joining the Department. I enjoy providing information about an organization that has afforded me the opportunities to live comfortably. I would also like to display how diverse we are as a Department – I work with so many different people from different backgrounds. 

I am extremely honored to have been chosen for this position and have a platform to shed some positive light on how we promote rehabilitation. Communication is the key to change! I enjoy looking into matters for the public and the incarcerated population. I am dedicated to being dependable, consistent and thorough.

Who have you looked up to in your professional aspirations?

My aunt Brenda inspired me to obtain a career working for the State of California. She has worked for CSP-Solano, Mule Creek State Prison, SQSP and the Department of Justice. One thing I have learned from my aunt is to apply to every position you have interest in, as long as you meet the minimum qualifications.

My grandmother and mother were very instrumental in the person that I have become today. My mother was a single mother who worked and provided. I always reflect on the fact that I never went without. She would make sure that I had two of everything, one in each color! One would maybe call that being spoiled, but she taught me how to be a great provider to my children. My grandmother taught me to be humble and to always treat people how you want to be treated. My grandmother was a great listener and would never pass judgment on other people. She would always recognize the good in everyone. Every day I strive to be that way.

What advice would you give those seeking to challenge themselves professionally and/or seek leadership roles?

I would encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and listen to the individuals around them. Former SQSP PIO Sam Robinson certainly saw something in me. I am confident in working inside of a housing unit, even overseeing the functionality of a unit. This position is a challenge and my goal is to rise to the occasion. I would also encourage everyone new to the department to get involved with the different teams we have, like the Honor Guard, Crisis Response Team (CRT) Peer Support, Correctional Sergeant Mentorship Program (CSMP) and the Recruitment Team at your institution.

BONUS! Fun Facts about Lt. Berry:

  • Lt. Berry is passionate about cars! She works on cars with her husband and likes to read all about the latest models and features – especially electric ones.
  • Lt. Berry is the proud grandma of a wonderful eight-month old.
  • She is vegan!
  • “Love Jones” is her favorite movie, and Dave Hollister is her favorite musician.


Black History Month spotlight

Two men in dress correctional uniforms at a graduation.

In honor of Black History Month, CDCR’s Peace Officer Selection and Employee Development celebrates two academy sergeants who have spent nearly three decades guiding cadets: Alfred Porter and Walter Lomax.

Despite retiring, they both returned as annuitants and continue to shape the next generation of correctional officers.

Porter, who is of Panamanian and Jamaican ancestry, began his career with the Department in May 1981 and retired June 2010. Lomax, who is of African-American and American-Indian ancestry, began his career with the Department in September 1984 and retired December 2008.

“I met (Lomax) at the range in 1994,” said Porter. “We’ve been best friends ever since.”

(Read the full story about Sgts. Porter and Lomax.)

Sepia-toned photo of cooks and kitchen workers in a prison kitchen.

Secretary thanks Food Service professionals

Pride in Food Service Week is observed annually starting the first Monday in February. This year, it takes place February 6-10, 2023. This week and every week throughout the year I am proud of our Food Service professionals who operate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s food service operations.

Related: During Pride in Food Service Week, Inside CDCR looks at this crucial component of rehabilitation through the lens of history.

There are 96,000 incarcerated individuals in our institutions and conservation camps and all are given the opportunity to receive a healthy diet, to include specialized options for those who have specific needs. Without the food service staff, offering a regular heart-healthy diet would not be possible. 

Additionally, Food Service Professionals help to instill skills in the incarcerated persons assigned to the kitchens by teaching them employable skills, including how to successfully work in a team environment. 

Please join me in thanking our dedicated Food Service Professionals.

With appreciation, 

In Our Institutions

People cut a ribbon at a Subway sandwich shop

Wellness effort sees sandwich shop at ASP

Avenal State Prison (ASP) can now “Eat Fresh!” thanks to an initiative supported by the Office of Employee Wellness (OEW).

CDCR staff, contractors, volunteers, and guests on official business can find healthy food alternatives at a new Subway sandwich shop. The eatery is now open for business in the Administration Building cafeteria. This location is not open to the general public.

“I am grateful to all of our staff who worked with Subway on this partnership to bring heathier meal options to our hard-working ASP employees for a better quality of life,” said ASP Warden Martin Gamboa.

(Read more about the ASP Subway grand opening.)

Juvenile Justice

A group of students holding diplomas pose with their teachers.

DJJ holds final high school graduation

With the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) closing this year, the final high school graduation was held in January rather than May.

Given the realities of juvenile justice realignment, graduation ceremonies were held at N.A. Chaderjian High School (NACHS) in Stockton and Ventura Youth Correctional Facility’s Mary B. Perry High School (MBPHS).

A Graduation and Certification Luncheon Program was held to commemorate important academic and certification achievements for youth at DJJ facilities. 

During the ceremonies at MBPHS, 11 youth received high school diplomas, four received Ethnic Studies certification from San Francisco State University (SFSU) and 14 received athletic training certificates.

(Read more about DJJ’s graduation ceremony.)

Upward Mobility

Bryan Donahoo has been appointed as Chief, Special Projects, HQ – Division of Adult Institutions.

Jason Schultz has been appointed as Chief Deputy Warden, California Health Care Facility.

Dirk Williams has been appointed as Chief Deputy Warden, California Institution for Women.

Rashandra Hernandez has been appointed as Chief Deputy Warden, Correctional Training Facility.

In the Media

Prison education program grants opportunity to earn degree

A group of incarcerated people hold a sign that says "UC Irvine"

The prison education program Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees (LIFTED) is the first to grant incarcerated people the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree through the University of California system.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 into law in 2014, which funded $2 million to provide a rehabilitative program for people in state prison. The bill allowed incarcerated people to earn their associate’s degree from select community colleges. As of 2023, incarcerated individuals are able to earn a higher level of education at UCI — ranked no. 8 in top public schools nationwide by U.S. news.

UCI announced in July of 2022 that the state of California provided $1.8 million — which equates to five years of funding toward staffing, accessible facilities and education materials for LIFTED.

‘Ear Hustle’ podcast co-host is free from San Quentin prison

A co-host of “Ear Hustle,” the Pulitzer Prize-nominated podcast produced behind bars, was released from San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday, a year after California Gov. Gavin Newsom commuted his sentence.

Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, 52, left the lockup near San Francisco and was greeted by his fellow podcast co-hosts Walter “Earlonne” Woods, who was freed in 2019, and Nigel Poor.

“We’re thrilled to welcome him home,” the podcast posted on its Twitter feed, along with photos of Thomas.

Thomas’ sentence was commuted by Newsom in Jan. 2022 and the state parole board granted his release on parole in August.

“While in prison, Mr. Thomas has dedicated himself to his rehabilitation,” Newsom wrote in the commutation.

At San Quentin, law students see restorative justice in action

After serving 36 years and seven months, Tommy “Shakur” Ross counted down the last four days of serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole at San Quentin State Prison. Months earlier, the parole board had already approved his release.

Nevertheless, last April, he volunteered to play a part in a restorative justice class. As eight law students and eight other incarcerated restorative justice facilitators listened, he sat in a circle with them to discuss the 1985 murder conviction that had led him to prison.

“Talk to somebody,” Ross told the students. “Tell somebody the truth. You can’t keep it all inside.” Because it was participating in restorative justice programs at San Quentin, he says, that helped him find a sense of redemption.

Program connects formerly incarcerated with safe places to live

Two men laugh in a garden

Last year, when Tyler Jenk was looking for a roommate to share his house in Oakland, California, he met man named Askari Johnson who was looking for a fresh start. Johnson had recently been released from San Quentin State Prison after more than 20 years.

The pair ended up forming a symbiotic relationship as roommates, despite coming from different walks of life.

While in prison, Johnson had several goals for his new life. One of them was to live independently. His lawyer told him about The Homecoming Project.

“The Homecoming Project is a program to place formerly incarcerated people into homes that are potentially a better situation than halfway houses,” Jenk explained to CBS News. “The program pays their rent and gives them a laptop and a cellphone and guidance to help get started back in society.”

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Social Media

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