Three Ironwood State Prison (ISP) employees were awarded the Silver Medal in the Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor virtual ceremony for their heroic rescue last year of two adults and two children involved in a rollover vehicle accident. Mayra Mora, a registered nurse (RN), Heriberto Mora, a correctional lieutenant, and John Bradley, a correctional sergeant, are among 33 state employees honored by the state on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom.
On the morning of Feb. 4, 2021, Lt. Mora and his wife, RN Mora, encountered a car crash on their way to work. Trained emergency first responders, the Moras pulled their vehicle over to the shoulder and ran across the freeway to the mangled truck that had rolled over into a ditch.
“On behalf of our department, we thank Governor Newsom and our colleagues at the California Department of Human Resources for honoring our staff,” said Kathleen Allison, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). “The actions and bravery of Lt. Mora, RN Mora and Sgt. Bradley helped save the lives of an entire family. The fact that they were able to react as quickly as they did, and work as a team to assess the situation, truly shows their resolve and selflessness. We are so very proud of them.” Read the full story.
Earlier this year, RN Mora, Lt. Mora and Sgt. Bradley were also honored at CDCR’s 37th Medal of Valor ceremony.
Podcast dives into recruitment, Academy life
This week’s episode of “CDCR Unlocked” focuses on correctional officer recruitment. CDCR is hiring 2,000 correctional officers in the next year to fill statewide vacancies. Sergeant Corey Ringer sits down with Captain Dennis McTaggart from the Backgrounds Investigation Unit and former Cadet/ now graduated Correctional Officer Esmeralda Rodriguez as they talk about their path to CDCR and share insight into the online features in the hiring process to fast track candidates. Come join our diverse family with a rewarding career that offers great pay and benefits! Apply online at JoinCDCR.com.
Rain couldn’t dampen the spirits at a graduation ceremony hosted by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) at RJ Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) in early November.
Forty-one graduates received their nationally recognized job certifications and/or state-certified apprenticeships.
CDCR Secretary and Prison Industry Board Chair Kathleen Allison spoke at the graduation.
“We believe in second chances, and this is your second chance,” said Secretary Allison. “You are breaking that cycle of incarceration for generations to come. We applaud you for your accomplishments.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance
Submission by GARE Ambassadors Samantha Bruton and Laurenne Davison
“Transgender” is a term used to describe people whose gender identity (a person’s internal, deeply held knowledge of their own gender) differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. People within the trans community may describe themselves using a variety of terms, such as: transgender, transsexual or and/or non-binary. To be an ally when interacting with people who are transgender, it is always important to listen first and use the name and pronouns that the transgender person uses themselves or asks you to use. Keep in mind that it’s ok to ask someone what pronouns they prefer!
November 20 marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day in which we honor the memory of transgender lives that were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. What began as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman killed in 1998, has grown to be a day of mourning and remembrance to highlight the losses we face each year due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.
Leading up to TDOR is Transgender Awareness Week, a time to raise visibility about transgender people and the issues they face. Transgender people face dehumanizing discrimination and prejudice every day and many violent crimes against them go unreported. The week also serves as a call to action to advocate for transgender people’s rights and recognize their struggle, stigma, and abuse they face on a daily basis.
California Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month
Submission by GARE Ambassador Kristina Diaz
In California, we celebrate Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation during the month of November.
Sikhism was founded in India over 550 years ago. Principles of the Sikh faith include social equality, truthful living, service to humanity, and devotion to God. Those who practice Sikhism are prohibited from shaving or cutting their hair as a sign of respect to God. Sikh men wrap their hair in a turban to show an outward commitment to their faith.
According to the Sikh Coalition, there are approximately half a million Sikh Americans, with the first dating back 125 years. Unfortunately, beards and turbans worn by Sikh Americans are often improperly associated with stereotypes of terrorists. This has made them targets of hate, violence, and discrimination. On the eve of September 11, 2001 the Sikh Coalition was founded and aims to raise awareness and defend the civil rights of Sikh Americans.
Find more information at sikhcoalition.org.
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.
Brave the cold for Special Olympics
The CDCR Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) Headquarters Freezin’ for a Reason Team is gearing up for the 2023 Special Olympics Sacramento Region Polar Plunge. Last year CDCR DAI HQ rocked it by taking home, not one, but two titles: Top Fundraising Law Enforcement Agency and Best Team Costume!
Join the team for the Greater Sacramento Polar Plunge from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Brown’s Ravine at Lake Folsom. New this year is the addition of a 5K Trail Run. Participants may do the run or do the run and plunge, or just the plunge alone. Register for the Plunge by December 31, 2022, to take advantage of the “Early-Bear Discount” and skip the $25 registration fee!
All proceeds benefit Special Olympics Northern California, which provides sports, education, leadership and health programs to children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Make a splash with costumed friends for the iconic Polar Plunge. Plungers can dive into the water all the way, just dip in and out, or stay completely dry and still enjoy the experience. Every Plunger must raise a minimum of $125 and will receive a Polar Plunge T-shirt and lunch. Additional fundraising is encouraged and incentives are available. Fundraising resources will launch in January and you can hit the ground running to gather donations and earn incentives.
Meet the DAPO Sex Offender Unit
The DAPO Sex Offender Unit (SOU) is committed to the reduction of criminal behavior through the application of evidence-based Sex Offender Treatment (SOT) services. SOT services are provided to specifically decrease sex offender parolees’ risk for recidivism.
SOT is an integral part of the Containment Model, Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) approach to safely and effectively supervise sex offenders. The SOMP consists of four components: supervision, treatment, polygraph, and victim advocacy. The SOU is tasked with oversight and maintaining a containment model program set forth by Penal Code 3008. The SOU has 34 separate agreements with California Sex Offender Management Board-certified providers throughout California, which includes 48 treatment locations. The SOU conducts monthly audits and site inspections for all SOT providers to ensure contract compliance. The SOU is the Subject Matter Expert for sex offender risk assessment tools such as the Static-99, Dynamic, and Violent assessment tools.
The SOU conducts training for DAPO field agents with an emphasis on the containment model, including analyzing polygraphs and containment team strategies, and providing statewide training to parole agents and staff on new policies and procedures regarding the management of sex offenders on parole supervision.
In our Institutions
Wasco State Prison honors veterans, fallen officer
Wasco State Prison (WSP) hosted the annual Veterans Day event that features veterans and supporting staff coming together to honor all veterans by holding a ceremony and completing a formation run around the prison.
This year was the first year the prison renamed the event from the WSP-Reception Center (RC) Veterans Day Run to the WSP-RC Benny Alcala Jr. Memorial Veterans Day Run to honor Benny Alcala Jr., a Navy Veteran and avid long distance runner who was tragically taken from the WSP family in August. Staff wore custom Benny Alcala Jr. Memorial Veterans Day Run T-Shirts to show their support for the Alcala family, who was in attendance and participated in the event, along with many supporters from staff at WSP as well as North Kern State Prison.
This year the event had a walking portion for those who wished to participate and show their support. Warden Shirley and many executive staff participated in the walk and run event. After the walk/run events concluded, staff met in the In-Service Training conference room for cake and refreshments.
ASP holds run/jog/walk for Veterans
Avenal State Prison (ASP) continued an annual tradition of honoring its veterans by hosting its second annual Run/Jog/Walk and Marine Corps cake-cutting ceremony. ASP also honored recent fallen Army Veteran Sergeant Steven “Scott” Rather with a special tribute with his family in attendance.
ASP’s Marine Corps cake-cutting tradition started five years ago by retired Correctional Sgt. Michael Mendoza, who also served in the Marine Corps. Lt. Jaime Jacquez, who served with the United States Army, added to the tradition with a Run/Jog/Walk in 2021.
All branches of the armed forces were represented by staff in the two-mile run around the institution. Those who couldn’t participate in the run came out to show their support.
After the Run/Jog/Walk, all staff gathered in front of the Administration building where the ASP Honor Guard presented the flags with a special guest performance by the Coalinga High School Band who performed the Star-Spangled Banner. The band also performed the Armed Forces Medley. Upon completion, guests were treated to remarks by current and former veterans. Veteran guest speakers included Dr. Harold Groff, Lt. J. Jacquez, Sgt. R. Cortez, and A.W. E. Burden.
Correctional Sgt. and former Marine Rudolph Cortez capped off the day’s events with the cake-cutting ceremony that incorporated a Marine Corps non-commissioned officer’s sword. The first piece of cake is traditionally presented to the guest of honor. This year’s guest of honor was the family of Sgt. Steven “Scott” Rather, who recently passed. The family of Sgt. Rather stated, “Thank you to all the staff who helped us during this difficult time and for remembering Scottie and allowing us to be part of this day.”
Training puts emphasis on tactical response
The Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) and the Emergency Operations Unit (EOU) conducted an Alarm Response Instructor course at Correctional Training Facility (CTF). The course was made possible by a collaboration of EOU and CTF with the assistance of the Corrections Peace Officer Standards and Training (CPOST) Job Shadow program.
The primary objective of the Alarm Response Instructor course is to certify new instructors and train instructors to provide quality, realistic quarterly training to institutional staff in the tactical response to incidents. Alarm Response training is critical to ensure institutions can operate safely and ensure the safety of CDCR staff and CDCR’s incarcerated population. The Alarm Response Instructor course consisted of five days of intensive training in tactics, policy, instructor development and safety protocols.
A total of 70 instructors from several CDCR institutions received their certification credentials during the training. Following this certification, newly recertified instructors will be able to return to their institutions and conduct their own institution-specific reality-based drills.
California City raises $21,000 for cancer research
California City Correctional Facility (CAC) staff, volunteers, and incarcerated people recently participated in the second annual Relay for Life walk at CAC. There were 48 teams consisting of 328 incarcerated people and 81 staff/volunteers who raised money and walked the track on the recreation yard.
The event kicked off with the national anthem being sung by an incarcerated person. Community Resources Manager Dennis thanked all the teams for coming together for a cause. The program included two incarcerated speakers and one staff member. Mr. Hall spoke on the importance of taking care of yourself and thanked staff and incarcerated people for coming together for one cause. Mr. Cyrus wrote a spoken word about losing his mother and sang it with the institutional band.
Associate Warden D. White addressed the community on how cancer has affected his life, and the awareness of the effects of cancer. American Cancer Society representative Jamie Brickey Powell attended the event, spoke of the importance of these events and participated in the walk. American Cancer Society representative Debby Brickey, a cancer survivor, spoke on gratitude to all for these events to help find a cure and support cancer victims. Awards were presented to the top teams by Dennis and American Cancer Society representatives. The check was presented to American Cancer Society in the amount of $21,734, by AW White and CRM R. Dennis.
Money was raised by bake sales, food sales, craft auction, trust withdrawal forms, and also from family and friends online. Moving out to the yard, the walk started off with everybody walking the first lap together in honor of all survivors. During the walk the institutional band sang and members of the Give A Beat activity group DJed. Throughout the event, team members took turns walking, or running, until the conclusion of the event at 12:30 p.m.
CRM Dennis congratulated them on a job well done. She told them that they set the bar high this year, and that next year will only be better. Brickey Powell congratulated them on raising the most in a prison setting, but also more than most local events.
Mule Creek gives back to veterans
In honor of all Veterans for this Veterans Day, Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) held a food sale in October. Incarcerated people had the opportunity to give back to their community as they raised a total of $9674.10.
On November 9, MCSP presented a check to Victory Village Veterans Center for $5,674.10 to help them assist Veterans with housing, employment, life skills, physical wellness, education assistance, Veterans Affairs advocacy, and family support.
The other $4,000 was presented to Ione Memorial POST 8254 VFW to help them provide maintenance, modifications and additions to the Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Ione.
MCSP strives to be a good neighbor to our community by giving back and always remembering our Veterans.
Pelican Bay builds community
Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) has been busy this fall with various activities, trainings, and community service projects in collaboration with the Del Norte County community.
The PBSP Honor Guard marched in the Veterans Parade and were asked to facilitate the flag and colors ceremony. The Honor Guard attended the Veterans Luncheon where they received a certificate of appreciation for being part of this local tradition.
The Crisis Response Team (CRT) participated in the in the Tsunami Drill held for Del Norte County. Local law enforcement, fire, paramedics, Caltrans, volunteers, and county officials joined together for the successful event.
The CRT, Honor Guard, and Recruitment Teams participated in the annual Trunk or Treat for the community. The event was held at the CHP station in Crescent City Local businesses, law enforcement, fire and Paramedics joined together for the event and handed out candy to participants of all ages. More than 1,000 children participated.
PBSP’s Facility D garden program grew pumpkins as a donation to the special needs class at a local elementary school. There were 28 large pumpkins and 10 small pumpkins donated. The small pumpkins were painted by incarcerated people at PBSP. The children were excited to get the pumpkins and candy donated. The teachers talked about the many activities they could do in classes with the pumpkins. Pumpkins were also set up at visiting for children to take one home. The children were excited and all pumpkins were taken.
Pumpkins were also setup at visiting over the weekend for kids to take one home. Kids were excited and all pumpkins were taken.
In October, PBSP showed support for breast cancer awareness by coming together and wearing pink.
CTF and SVSP get in the Halloween spirit
Correctional Training Facility (CTF) and Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) hosted their second annual Trunk-4-Treats Event. The event, which was coordinated by the CTF and SVSP Employee Action Committees, hosted staff, families, and friends to a safe and fun alternative to trick-or-treating. During the Trunk-4-Treats event attendees were treated to baked treats, a chili cook-off, jump houses, food vendors, music, costumes and more. The Trunk-4-Treats event was coordinated to provide on-duty and off-duty staff the opportunity to celebrate Halloween with their families and friends.
“Hosting a Trunk-4-Treat for Halloween event takes a lot of hard work and dedication but in the end – it’s worth it,” shared CTF Warden (A) L.A. Martinez. “Thank you members of the EAC and all of the volunteers who put this event together. The opportunity to see everyone come together to produce and enjoy such an event is truly rewarding!”
Day of Healing honors victims and families
The Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OSVRS) attended the Day of Healing at San Quentin State Prison. The staff who attended heard many victims’ stories and about their journeys to forgiveness. They also heard about incarcerated people’s work to apologize to victims or victims’ families as well as taking ownership of their crimes, and working to be better people so they will not harm another human being.
The day was emotional, eye-opening and informative, and was a beautiful experience that the staff were glad to attend. OVSRS was proud to attend this event and will attend again in the future.
Council reschedules workgroup meetings
The Council on Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health November 18 Juvenile Justice Workgroup and Diversion and Reentry Workgroup have been rescheduled to December 16.
At the Juvenile Justice Workgroup meeting, CCJBH will provide an update on the Juvenile Justice Compendium and Toolkit contract with the RAND Corporation. CCJBH will provide an overview of the 2022 Annual Legislative Report findings and recommendations related to the juvenile justice system in California. The agenda is available on the CCJBH website.
At the Diversion and Reentry Workgroup meeting, CCJBH will provide an overview of the 2022 Annual Legislative Report findings and recommendations related to Diversion and Reentry in California. The agenda is available on the CCJBH website.
In the Media
An estimated 95 percent of people serving time in California prisons will be released eventually. Based on statistics, it is likely that two-thirds of them will re-offend and return to prison within three years. But a new push within the prison system aims to change that.
A solution might be found more than 5,000 miles from the Golden State.
There isn’t much Ed Borla hasn’t seen in his 25 years in California’s criminal justice system, first as a corrections officer and now as the deputy chief warden at Salinas Valley State Prison.
As the second in command there, he’s in charge of about 3,000 incarcerated people.
A Level Four maximum security prison, Salinas contains some of the state’s most violent individuals, including rapists and murderers.
But these days, it’s leading the way when it comes to prison reform. Read the full story.
Safe walking paths, study spaces, nearby horse trails and a garden are just a few of the amenities available at the John Irwin House, housing for previously incarcerated students attending California State University, Fullerton.
It’s been Jimmie Conner’s home for nearly three years as he works toward his bachelor’s degrees in sociology and business. It is official university housing for up to nine students but was founded and run by Project Rebound, a campus-based student program dedicated to helping students meet their goal of graduating from the CSU system upon their release from prison.
Such a housing option is rare for students with an incarceration experience, and the John Irwin House, named after the program’s founder, is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Given its success, Project Rebound programs at other campuses, like CSU Sacramento and CSU Fresno, are looking to soon open similar housing initiatives. Read the full story.
For years, prisons were focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation. But now, a new approach explores the reasons they ended up behind bars in the first place.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60 percent of adults suffer from some type of childhood trauma, compared to 97 percent among prison inmates. Even so, it’s a topic that’s rarely discussed within prison walls.
But that might be changing.
Fritzi Horstman is the founder of a non-profit called The Compassion Prison Project. For the last three years she’s been educating officials and incarcerated people about the long-term effects of childhood trauma. Read the full story.
Coping with the incarceration of a loved one can be overwhelming. The stress of supporting a family member in prison can cause lasting health issues for those on the outside.
It’s something Fritzi Horstman is trying to change. The founder of The Compassion Prison Project, Horstman has been helping prisoners face the trauma that landed them behind bars.
“The more compassion we can bring to prison the better,” she said. “Prisons are not an isolated event. The violence that happens here reverberates into our community.” Read the full story.
A prison might not be the first place you’d think of to celebrate a wedding. But it’s where Uncuffed producer Edmond Richardson is marrying the love of his life, Avelina. He talks about his joys and his fears as the day approaches and we learn what it takes to have a ceremony at San Quentin. Read the full story.
What do Sammy Davis Jr. and Metallica have in common? They both performed at a prison in California.
You may not usually see these musicians on a list together but they all share one similar experience. They all performed at a prison in California. Read the full story.