CDCR's Week in Review Archives

Week in Review: January 20, 2023

What’s New?

Medal of Valor nomination deadline approaches

Medal of Valor Logo

Nominations for Medal of Valor will be accepted through January 31, 2023. The awards recognize employees who distinguished themselves the previous year.

The awards recognize heroism, bravery, or service beyond the normal demands of correctional/community service.

The selection of each of those honored begins with a nomination for deeds done in the calendar year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022. Recognition for exemplary work can be for work over years.

If you want a fillable nomination form or more information, email Michelle Mraule (email found in Global).

(Read more about Medal of Valor.)

New “Freedom Libraries” in California Institutions Seek to Empower Incarcerated People

New ‘Freedom Libraries’ seek to empower incarcerated people

CHOWCHILLA – The national non-profit Freedom Reads has partnered with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to open Freedom Libraries at  Valley State Prison (VSP) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, Calif.

A carefully curated, 500-book collection will be available at each institution  Books will be placed in mini portable libraries in each of VSP’s 17 housing units and also made available to staff. CCWF will open five housing unit libraries

Each bookshelf is handcrafted out of maple, walnut or cherry and is curved to contrast the straight lines and bars of prisons as well as to evoke Martin Luther King Jr.’s line about the “arc of the universe” bending “toward justice.”

Founded by 2021 MacArthur Fellow and Yale Law School graduate Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was sentenced to nine years in prison at age 16, the Freedom Libraries seek to create a space in prisons to encourage community and where reaching for a book can be as spontaneous as human curiosity.

(Read more about Freedom Libraries.)

Unlocked podcast dives into DEI

CDCR unlocked logo

Sarina Calderon has a big job at CDCR. As the Associate Director of the Office of Civil Rights, she is responsible for ensuring Equal Employment Opportunity exists for all applicants and employees, as well as creating a professional work environment free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In addition to that, she is also very involved on the CDCR/CCHCS steering committee for the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). This national network of government agencies works together to achieve racial equity and advancement opportunities for all.

(Listen to the GARE episode of CDCR Unlocked.)

In this week’s episode of the CDCR Unlocked podcast, Calderon shares the challenges, successes, and innovations CDCR and CCHCS have had in establishing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a pillar in all the Department does.

(Learn more about GARE.)

Public comment on proposed regulations

The 45-day public comment period for the Condemned Inmate Transfer Program proposed regulations, which were submitted to the Office of Administrative Law on Jan.  10, begins today, Friday, Jan. 20. A link to the regulations can be found here. The public comment period will conclude on March 8, 2023. 

(View the CITP regulations.)


Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or MLK Day, commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African American activist who encouraged the use of nonviolent means to end racial segregation. As a Baptist minister, he was a natural orator who campaigned for the civil rights of people of color in the United States from 1955 to 1968. This day honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and serves as a reminder of the journey for racial equality and non-violent social change, as well as the work still needed to achieve his dream of a world in which all humans are truly equal.

To encourage employees to expand their knowledge and gain new experiences, CDCR/CCHCS GARE Ambassadors are sharing celebrations throughout the year.  To learn more about the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts visit the GARE website.


A group of people in correctional officer uniforms
Lt. Vanessa Melendez (SCC), left, Associate Warden Chance Andes (California State Prison-Sacramento), Sgt. Natalie Rocco (OPOS), Assistant Chief Steve Stone (OPOS), Officer Antonio Strayhorn (SQ), Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper, Sgt. Timothy Dunham (CTC), Sgt. Chauncey Saffold (CTC), and Officer Jessica Huston (SQ).

CDCR recruiters join MLK Day March for the Dream in Sacramento

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CDCR recruitment teams joined thousands of community members at the March for the Dream event on Monday, January 16. The annual event is one of three walking rallies in Sacramento to celebrate the late, great civil rights leader.

CDCR staff from San Quentin State Prison (SQ), Correctional Training Facility (CTF), Sierra Conservation Center, and Office of Peace Officer Selection (OPOS) were in attendance to honor Dr. King and to show solidarity with the community.

“The march means coming together in unity, no matter your race, religion or personal preference,” shared Sgt. Dunham, CTF recruiter. “We all can come together and make a difference just like Dr. King did. Events like these create an opportunity for law enforcement to build positive relationships with the community and with community leaders. It shows that we are one community.”

Start the New Year with a career as a correctional officer

A man with back to the camera holds kettlebells and walks a course lined with cones.

The Office of Peace Officer Selection is kicking off the New Year hosting multiple JumpStart Hiring events for Correctional Officer applicants to meet current hiring needs.

The JumpStart event allows applicants to take the written exam, physical fitness test, Live Scan, and start the Background process all in one day. Some Jumpstart applicants have completed the selection process in as little as four months!

(View a list of upcoming JumpStart events.)

A list of upcoming JumpStart events is available at  More events will be added each month throughout the state.

Recruiter Danny Royster followed up with some of the JumpStart participants in Sacramento, and here are some of their stories:

“I’m a father of two daughters and need a stable career and income to take care of my family.  I live in Antelope and work for a pest control company. So happy I was able to take advantage of this JumpStart event to help speed up the process.”

“I am a stay-at-home mom and failed the physical fitness test previously. I’m determined to be a Correctional Officer so I’ve worked hard and lost over 100 pounds. I’m ready to go this time!”

OPOS invites all CDCR staff to be a recruiter by sharing the benefits and opportunities available with a career as a Correctional Officer.

(Apply online at

At the Capitol

The Senate Rules Committee this week unanimously voted to confirm Matt Atchley as Associate Director of the Division of Adult Institutions High Security Mission. Atchley will now be considered for confirmation by the full Senate.

Health Care

CCHCS LVN to RN graduations held

Four people in Nurses uniforms

Congratulations to seven employees on their journey to transitioning from a Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) to a Registered Nurse (RN)!

Sacramento City College

  • Olubunmi Ojo (CHCF)
  • Gurpreet Singh (CHCF)

Riverside Community College

  • Desiree Gatchalian (CRC) (pictured with Doina Rus, CNE-CRC, and Alex Serrano, CNE-CIM)
  • Virginia Moreno (WSP) (not pictured)

San Joaquin Delta College

  • Maureen Udeze (CHCF)
  • Juliet Velasquez (CHCF)
  • Francisco Parentela (CHCF)
  • Maira Arellano (MCSP)

Please join us in acknowledging the achievements, hard work, sacrifice, and dedication of our staff as they complete their nursing program as an apprentice through the Division of Apprenticeship Standards.

It’s an effort championed by CCHCS Deputy Director of Nursing Services Barbara Barney-Knox, who continues to work in collaboration with Service Employees International Union Local 1000, community colleges, and CDCR institutions.

The apprenticeship program allows employees to work part time and receive their full compensation while in the nursing program. After graduation, the employees are supported with preparation to sit for the nursing board exam.

(Read more LVN to RN stories in Inside CDCR.)

In Our Institutions

A man in a blue shirt holds a microphone, speaks to a crowd as officers stand in uniform behind him.

Honoring and remembering Officer Manuel Gonzalez

Collage of a man in uniform, a jersey, and talking on the phone

On January 10, 2023, the California Institution for Men (CIM) honored and remembered Correctional Officer Manuel Gonzalez on the 18th anniversary of his tragic passing. In attendance was Officer Gonzalez’s family, including his parents, brother, children, and friends, as well as CIM custody and non-custody staff.

The service began with a moment of silence at 1152 hours, the exact time of Officer Gonzalez’s passing, and was followed by a very touching End of Watch Call and the activation of the Sycamore alarm, initiated by Central Control.

Warden (A) John Merchant welcomed the family saying, “It takes great courage to face the anniversary of the loss of a loved one, with grace, even more so when passing is tragic and unexpected.”

Dr. Victor Jordan and Captain (A) Evelio Fernandez also shared memories of their friend and colleague, as well as words of encouragement and hope for the Gonzalez family.

Although we can never repay the Gonzalez family for their sacrifices, CIM will forever honor the life and legacy of Correctional Officer Manuel Gonzalez: son, brother, father, and friend.

PBSP Facility D fights cancer

Three women hold an oversized check.

Pelican Bay State Prison donated $1,286 to the American Cancer Society (ACS) to assist in their efforts to eradicate cancer.

Facility D held a Relay for Life fundraiser that incarcerated people, staff and volunteers helped make happen. The D Facility band group played during the event while participants walked around the recreational track.

Approximately 300 participants donated what they could in support of fighting cancer.


Full council meeting Jan 27

The January 27 full council meeting of the Council on Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health will feature a presentation on the California Crisis Care Continuum and Bagley-Keene training will be provided to Councilmembers. Subject to available time, CCJBH staff will provide project updates during the meeting.

The meeting runs from 2-4:30 p.m. and the agenda is now available. The agenda contains the Zoom link and call-in information. 

In the Media

Crews in orange jumpsuits walk in a line carrying tools.

Crews assist CAL FIRE with storm clean up

There is plenty of clean-up that still needs to be done after the series of storms that have hit California recently.

Agencies such as Cal Fire have been hard at work to clear out damages done by downed trees and power lines.

Gov. Newsom also called up the Delta Team, which is made up of incarcerated people who work alongside Cal Fire.

(Read more about the storm clean-up.)

Ear Hustle podcast honors ‘The Mayor of San Quentin

Drawing of Sam Robinson

Lieutenant Sam Robinson has been with Ear Hustle since day one.

As he retires from his post as Public Information Officer at San Quentin, the crew pays tribute to the man behind the mic.

Listen now.

Call me by my name, and other exercises in empathy from Soledad

Incarcerated people sit in groups in a prison housing unit.

Sergio Zarazua is 37 now, and he has been locked up since he was 15. He keeps his head and face clean-shaven, which makes his already large eyes look even bigger and deeper. When asked to write down his name, he adds his prison number. He wants to be helpful.

It was a second-degree murder and attempted voluntary manslaughter conviction in Sacramento over two decades ago. Then another conviction arrived, for the same incident – shooting at an occupied vehicle and after, some years later, it was confirmed the crime was gang-related.

The first story he shares in the circle – just a few chairs, some inmates, some civilians – is about getting to where he is at the moment, the Facility’s B Level II Sensitive Needs Yard in the Correctional Training Facility, Soledad. Before that transfer five years ago, he spent 10 years in other prisons, including adjacent Salinas Valley State Prison.

(Read the full story about SVSP.)

Top Inside CDCR Stories

CDCR crews keep storm damage at bay

Steve Tyllesen continues service after 50 years

Walking the Walls: A history of custody staff

2023 Medal of Valor nominations are open

SAC Actors’ Gang performs for family

Social Media

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