Memorial Day, May 30, 2022
CDCR and CCHCS honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
3 Questions With..
Deborah Leong, Staff Psychologist, DJJ VYCF
As the month of May comes to a close, and to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, we caught up with Deborah Leong who has been working with juveniles at the California Youth Authority and Division of Juvenile Justice for more than 20 years, spanning at seven facilities. Currently, she is working at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) in Camarillo.
What do you like about your job?
There’s a lot of variety. I was permitted to implement creative programs and activities within the job. You have to be flexible, creative, a people person. The youths are typically spontaneous. Witty and smart. So it helps to be fluid.
What creative projects were your favorites?
There was a project called Successfully Dressed. It was a major collaboration with staff and administration to get youths to think about change differently. By getting a visual of themselves as ‘successfully dressed’ with professional attire, demeanor and values. Youths would get a suit—a really nice suit—to wear during classes and at Board, and to take upon release. We held 2 ½ hour classes for 16 sessions, and a graduation. There were more than 30 volunteer staff to teach each cycle. Youths learned facets of communication and presentation to get and keep the job. That was one creative project.
Another example was Clean Arms for Community. I had a lot of support for it, and many staff volunteered their Saturdays to staff a program of 15 youths at a time, while the youths talked about giving back, and what it meant for them to get their tattoos removed. It was unstructured time, hanging out, letting kids talk about the future. And I think stuff like that, that unstructured time, is really impactful. I’m really proud of that program, and it was featured in Vibe Magazine.
Other favorites are The Changing Lives Book Club at Ventura, which came out of a suggestion from a youth, and several community service projects. There are other current activities like Toxic Masculinity discussions (another youth idea) to help break the cycle of recidivism.
What’s your superpower?
Maybe to inspire staff to volunteer and donate their suits? Yeah, that may be one of my greatest accomplishments in encouraging so many staff to volunteer their weekends and evenings. I’ve made some lifelong friends with some amazing staff volunteers.
Do you know a staff member who should be highlighted in our weekly update? Submit their name, title, contact information and a brief description of their work to Cal_ExternalAffairs@cdcr.ca.gov.
DAPO presents Project Hope
The Project Hope program was created to protect individuals released from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic and the communities to which they are returning. This voluntary initiative provides free hotel accommodations to individuals released from state prison who need to quarantine or isolate due to a COVID-19 exposure or positive status.
Through Project Hope, participants who are actively positive for COVID-19 or who are identified as having been exposed to COVID-19 while incarcerated are able to safely quarantine or isolate upon release from prison. CDCR provides safe transportation, hotel accommodations, and meal service to all participants.
Project Hope is available to state parolees and individuals released to probation supervision, depending on their post-release supervision requirements. It does not replace existing post-incarceration transition programs managed by the state, counties, and local service providers. In fact, participants released to Project Hope are allowed to begin their post-incarceration transition programs upon completion of their isolation or quarantine period.
To date, Project Hope has served approximately 2,000 individuals returning to the community and referred approximately 1,100 individuals to CDCR-funded programs who did not meet Project Hope eligibility.
From November 2021 through February 2022, Project Hope experienced a surge of cases due to the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. At the height of the surge, Project Hope provided services to approximately 90 participants at one time. This included the coordination of transportation, housing, and food service for the duration of the participants’ stay. Project Hope staff worked through exhaustion and often sacrificing their off-duty time to ensure the program was operational seven days a week, including weekends and holidays.
On May 6th, the Chief Executive Officer for Avenal State Prison (ASP), Jaron Nash was honored with an award by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for his continued support of the National Guard and Reserve Force. Mr. Nash was recognized for contributing to National Security and Protecting Liberty and Freedom by supporting not only his staff, but all employees who participate in America’s National Guard and Reserve Force. Mr. Nash was nominated by ASP, Chief Medical Executive, Emmanuel Conanan, M.D., who has been in the United States Navy for seven years and is the rank of Commander. Dr. Conanan expressed his personal appreciation to Mr. Nash for always supporting his requested and required time away from work for Guard service. Mr. Nash’s unwavering support of the active and reserve military personnel here at ASP is a model to be exemplified by other managers and supervisors. The award was presented by Art Alvarez Jr., Department of Defense, Area Chair, Military and Employer Outreach Coordinator.
CCI Warden, Chief and ISU recruit at local high school
On May 17th, the California Correctional Institution (CCI) Warden Brian Cates, Chief Deputy (CDW) Pat Horn, Investigative Services Unit (ISU) Sgt. Miguel Montano, and Public Information Officer (PIO) Lt. Eric Barthelmes, along with K9 Officer Harnek Sangha, and K9 Officer Joey Martinez from Wasco State Prison (WSP) talked to high school juniors and seniors from the Kern High School Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) about the career opportunities within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
The students were from the specific Law Enforcement classes offered at the CTEC aimed at preparing them for law enforcement careers. CDW Horn opened up by quizzing the class on questions like what “CDCR” stood for or what they thought our current incarcerated population was, he rewarded correct answers with special CCI Challenge Coins. He then explained his role at the institution and spoke about how the institution is similar to a city with all the departments and functions within the institution.
The Warden followed up by touching on the vast opportunities the department has to offer along with the pay, benefits and retirement they’ll also earn. He explained specialty departments like ISU as well as the route he took through various departments before becoming the Warden. The students asked the Warden questions about recidivism, staff to population ratios and calculating retirement.
ISU Sgt. Montano discussed his role as supervisor within ISU and all learning, experience opportunities ISU has not only within the institution, but also assisting other law enforcement agencies in warrants, seizures and raids.
K9 Officers Sangha and Martinez discussed their role as K9 handlers, how they got started as K9 handlers, their typical daily schedule, training the dogs and gave a demonstration where their K9s Tucker and Rye detected which one box of the three had a cell phone hidden inside. PIO Lieutenant Barthelmes quizzed the students on information from speakers such as different job positions and retirement. He closed by emphasizing the word “opportunity”. How CDCR is full of opportunity for them to work in a wide range of jobs and almost any region throughout the state.
Overall, the students were intrigued, engaged, interested and educated about the law enforcement field they aim to take in their future careers. If the Kern High School CTEC is any indication of our future the future is looking brighter because of these specialized schools.
CCI staff tour Kern MCRP
On May 19th, Brian Cates, Warden at the California Correctional Institution (CCI), visited and toured the Kern MCRP with a group of CCI staff. Warden Cates willingness to bring a team to visit the Kern MCRP demonstrates his commitment to rehabilitation and the value of the MCRP mission.
CCIII B. Peterson led the tour, answered questions from the group and provided very valuable information to them all.
CCI staff were very appreciative and stated that seeing the site first hand was very beneficial to them!
Warden Cates stated he would be challenging and encouraging other institutions to do the same.
Great work Kern MCRP and thank you for a great tour.
Healing and life skills a focus for graduates of DJJ’s newest program
Graduation ceremonies were held on May 20th for 87 youth from the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) who completed a 12 week skills course taught by staff of the Amity Foundation. The program, entitled Seeking Safety, is an evidence-based treatment that addresses both substance use and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
DJJ Director Heather Bowlds was on hand to address and congratulate youth at N.A Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility and O.H. Close Youth Correctional facilities for their hard work and dedication. While not strictly an academic course, the graduates were allowed to wear caps and gowns, as an acknowledgement of the completed workload.
“There are 25 coping skills taught in Seeking Safety.” Said Amity Foundation executive Wayne Garcia. “Each youth has been introduced to each of these skills and has accomplished identifying the coping skill that works best for their situation. “
Some categories of skills include setting boundaries in relationships, practicing honesty, compassion, healing from anger, and recovery thinking. The main goal of these skills is to help the youth attain safety in their relationships, thinking, behavior, and emotions.
The course is already taught in adult institutions, and was made available to DJJ through a partnership with the Division of Rehabilitative Programs.
Ventura youth raise $6,000 for crime victims
The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) in Camarillo raised more than $6,000 to be divided among local groups supporting victims of crimes and others in need.
As part of April’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) activities, Parole Agent Tracee Agee and psychologist Dr. Deborah Leong spearheaded a restorative justice project involving youth. Using a knot technique, they made over 250 beanie caps.
The beanies will help people in the Ventura County Homeless shelter, many of them also victims. Staff from the shelter tirelessly help those going through difficult times. They were extremely grateful to the youth for their donation.
“Fundraisers held over the past year by the institution’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Committee augmented the Ventura Victim Fund to approximately $6,000,” said Emily Evans, Parole Agent and Victim Services Coordinator.
Read the full Inside CDCR story.
In Our Institutions
ASP updates: Book donations and Bill Glass visit
The Avenal State Prison (ASP) Community Resources Manager (CRM) Office organized a book donation fundraiser for the first grade classes in Kettleman City and the City of Avenal. In April, donations of new and gently used books were delivered to some of the First Graders at Kettleman City Elementary, Tamarack Elementary School and Avenal Elementary School. On May 12th, thanks to additional donations, the remaining seven First Grade classes were provided with books for each student. This is an event created by the ASP CRM Office and our local community of Avenal, designed to give back and help our local community. Seeing the smiles on the student’s faces is enough motivation to make this a yearly tradition.
On May 14th, over 60 staff and volunteers from Bill Glass Behind the Walls came to visit ASP for the first time in over two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event consisted of a morning and afternoon session, covering all six facilities. Some of the events consisted of motivational platform speakers, one of which was Andrew Gavin. Andrew is a former Major League Baseball Player with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports and Fitness Administration. Andrew demonstrated feats of strength by inflating a hot water bottle as easily as blowing up a balloon, and bending a metal horseshoe into the shape of a heart. Also present were 12 motorcycles, a 1966 Chevy Convertible and a 1963 Bellaire Sedan. The incarcerated at ASP braved the heat to receive the messages of hope and community outreach.
Inside CDCR Top 5
#1 with 11,042 views: Academy graduates 258 new correctional officers
#2 with 1,987 views: Free COVID-19 at-home tests available
#3 with 1,956 views: CTF holds memorial for those who’ve fallen
#4 with 1,843 views: DJJ Psychologist discusses mental health, rehabilitation
#5 with 1,678 views: Section of highway dedicated to memory of Correctional Officer Bianchi