CDCR's Week in Review Archives

Week in Review: April 7, 2023

California Model

The California Model will transform corrections

A message from CDCR Secretary Jeff Macomber

Photo of Secretary Jeff Macomber
Secretary Jeff Macomber

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of joining Governor Newsom as he unveiled the state’s plan to transform the criminal justice system. Joining us were Secretaries from other state departments, members of the media, and a building full of employees, current and formerly incarcerated people, and partners from California’s criminal justice reform community. We were all there to ring in a new era for corrections in California – the California Model.

(Read the Governor’s announcement.)

Governor Newsom announced a reimagining of thousands of square feet of space at San Quentin State Prison. Long a model of rehabilitation, San Quentin is about to take it to the next level with not only a new name –San Quentin Rehabilitation Center – but a complete overhaul of what we’ve come to think of as state prison. A team of correctional, reentry, and rehabilitation experts is embarking on a first-of-its-kind collaboration to create a space focused on preparing individuals for successful returns to the community.

But our work doesn’t start or end at San Quentin We are committed to public safety, we are dedicated to serving all citizens of California, and we value the unique differences and experiences of all who live, work, and visit state prisons.

All divisions will work together

I recently convened a California Model Planning & Implementation workgroup. The team comprises experts from every division of CDCR and CCHCS. They are tasked with developing the next steps for the California Model. Their goals – and mine – are not only to reimagine the correctional landscape for the people in our care, but also to make this a better place to work and enhance the overall wellness of our dedicated employees.

This change will not happen overnight, but we have been planting the seeds of progress for some time. Through a groundbreaking partnership with the Amend program at the University of California San Francisco, people in leadership positions throughout CDCR have traveled to Norway to learn how their approach to normalcy in corrections and rehabilitation is lowering recidivism and expanding employee wellness. They’ve taken what they learned and have been using it as inspiration to develop new programs and policies here.

The California Model is who we are and what we do

A resource team at Salinas Valley State Prison is dedicated to building a comprehensive support system for incarcerated people. They have built a therapeutic community within the prison’s Psychiatric Inpatient Unit. There, employees and incarcerated people communicate openly and regularly. SVSP employees use “dynamic security” to actively observe and engage with incarcerated people constantly, getting to know their unique needs and developing individualized treatment plans.

The Youth Offender Rehabilitative Community (YORC) is thriving at Valley State Prison. Every day, incarcerated mentors share their wisdom with their younger mentees. All are engaged in intense restorative justice programming as well as productive work assignments, community service projects, and community-building activities. Employees are taking part in the rehabilitation of incarcerated people as well as positive programs and activities designed to enhance staff wellness.

Those are just two examples of the shift in mindset that has been happening throughout CDCR. We are not at the finish line yet, but we are so far from where we were. I know a workgroup will not change the face of corrections by itself – it takes all of us. And so, I am asking for your input. What would you like to see change at CDCR that benefits both staff and incarcerated people? What does success look like to you?

Learning from our partners as we implement the California Model

The Washington State Department of Corrections asked this question in a powerful video about their partnership with Amend. While the correctional systems in Washington and Norway are very different from California’s, I know the answers are already here in our innovative employees. The California Model will be staff-built. You are all empowered to share your ideas and contribute to bettering the lives of our employees and those in our care.

(Watch the Washington video.)

Look for a video message similar to Washington’s from the Planning & Implementation workgroup soon. In the meantime, I encourage all employees to be thinking about what the California Model means to them. Share with your divisions what you’d like to see change and why. No ideas are too small or too big. In fact, your ownership of the California Model is the only thing that will make it successful.

The California Model requires a massive change in how prisons operate, how employees interact with both each other and incarcerated people, and how safe and engaged incarcerated people feel in our care. It’s a monumental task, but it’s one that has already started. Let’s find out where we go next together.


Correctional Officers in uniform play baseball

Staff from the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center (CTC) recruitment team attended Opening Day for Elk Grove Youth Baseball on April 1.

CTC Sergeant Instructor R. Hutchinson is the vice president of Elk Grove Youth Baseball. There are more than 700 kids who play in the youth recreational league, and 75 additional players are in the Championship Division for those with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Hutchinson added Elk Grove Baseball is a big deal and the love for the game is felt during the opening day ceremonies.

“It is a special day where all of the teams come together to kick off the season. It is great to see all of the players and families taking part in the Opening Day activities. I appreciate my partners from the CTC coming out to support Elk Grove Baseball.”

Even Sgt. Saffold and Sgt. Dunham had some fun and took part in the activities. When Hutchinson was asked if Sgt. Dunham and Sgt. Saffold had a future in the majors, he replied with a smile, “They are much better Academy Instructors than ball players.”

Specialized Recruitment Unit hiring events

Two men in uniform stand at a table with recruitment information

The Specialized Recruitment Unit (SRU) recently hosted and participated in two separate hiring events.

SRU conducted a Hiring Workshop that highlighted various classifications, attempting to fill over 200 vacancies for San Quentin State Prison, California Medical Facility, and California Health Care Facility.

That same week, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center invited SRU to be a part of the “You Better Work!” Career Fair. This public event served as an opportunity for members of the Sacramento LGBTQIA+ community to network, find resources, and speak with employers looking to hire.

SRU extended the invitation to Peace Officer recruitment partners and worked together to assist job seekers. About 40 participants signed up to connect with a recruiter to begin their journey with CDCR.

Learn more about becoming a correctional officer. Explore other career options at CDCR.

In Our Institutions

Powherful event honors women in corrections

A woman speaks at a lectern under a pink balloon arch.

Wasco State Prison (WSP) Warden Heather Shirley invited all staff to participate in the inaugural Powherful – Honoring Women in Corrections – event to celebrate Women’s History Month and staff were more than willing to answer the call. More than 300 staff members were in attendance to listen to the event speakers as well as enjoy over a dozen vendors and complimentary refreshments.

Connie Gipson, Director of the Division of Adult Institutions, was the event’s Keynote Speaker, presenting “Why Women Make Great Leaders.” She encouraged all staff, especially women, not to get too comfortable in their positions, and to take risks to further themselves professionally.

Warden Shirley encouraged those in attendance to “Take Your Seat at the Table,” and share their knowledge and experience instead of taking a backseat and watching things happen. She reminded everyone they must create their own opportunities.

Mandy Ferrell, Supervising Registered Nurse II and Life Coach, spoke on “Empowering Women through Wellness by Creating Healthy Habits for a more Balanced Life.”

Correctional Officer William Pitcher, who donates his time to a local domestic violence shelter, presented self-defense techniques. The WSP Investigative Services Unit set up a station where staff would write a thank you note to a woman who had a positive influence in their life. This thank you note board is posted in the administration building for staff to view.

The event was also supported by Chicano Correctional Workers Association (CCWA) – Wasco Chapter, the WSP Golf Tournament Committee, and the WSP Employee Liaison Committee.

Incarcerated people play music

CIW celebrates women

The California Institution for Women held the annual Women’s History Celebration recently, receiving much participation from staff, incarcerated people, volunteers and the public.  Displays of all types were enjoyed by all and accentuated the talent of the incarcerated population.

Guest speakers included Marianne Napoles, Chino Champion; Terry Thornton, retired Deputy Press Secretary, CDCR; and formerly incarcerated and now thriving guest Norma Cumpian, who inspired those in attendance with their unique experiences. The newly formed CIW Band was also a big hit.

Brightly painted guitars

Pelican Bay artists paint guitars for charity

Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) will hold its second annual Guitar of Hope eBay Charity Auction. Bidding begins April 8, search “Guitars of Hope 2023” to learn more.

All proceeds will benefit Del Norte and Curry County Humane Societies. Two of the six themed guitars up for auction represent Del Norte’s relationship with our sister city, Rikuzentakata, Japan.

The documentary “Kamome” was aired during the Olympics and is available to watch on Paramount+. The 23-minute documentary details the relationship of the two cities and how one boat that washed ashore in Del Norte County brought the two cities together.

Winning bidders buy a beautiful hand-painted guitar and help dogs and cats in the two counties find their forever homes. Additionally, the winning bidders will be helping the 10 participating mural crew artists of Pelican Bay State Prison serve their community and work toward fulfilling their journey of redemption.

Community Service

A group of students and adults holding a green ribbon

VSP staff engage with students at Public Service Expo

The Public Service Expo at Roosevelt High School in Fresno was a major success, creating an environment of collaboration and understanding between students and public service professionals. Students from all pathway grade levels displayed their projects and interacted with Valley State Prison (VSP) staff, who fielded their questions and engaged in meaningful discussions.

The VSP booth garnered a lot of attention from attendees. Students had the opportunity to try on Crisis Response Team (CRT) Operator gear, further immersing themselves in the world of public service. Meanwhile, VSP staff were able to connect with students and gain insights into their interests and concerns.

The event featured a diverse range of topics that were both thought provoking and impactful, demonstrating the students’ commitment to addressing issues of vital importance in their communities, including gun safety and youth homelessness.

ISU Lieutenant E. Guthery expressed his enthusiasm for participating in the Public Service Expo, stating, “It was a pleasure to interact with the students at the Expo and learn from them. The high school experience has changed so much within the last 20 years, and it’s inspiring to see the level of commitment and dedication these students have toward making a positive impact on their communities.”

PVSP takes the plunge

Six people stand by a lake, under a Special Olympics Northern California inflatable sign.

Temperatures might have been in the upper 60’ with the sun shining, but because of recent storms, snow melt, and water release, the temperature of Millerton Lake was a chilly 32 degrees. That didn’t stop team PVSP Frosty Flakes from taking the Plunge in support of Special Olympics.

Special Olympics recently hosted its Fresno County Polar Plunge at Millerton Lake’s Crow’s Nest Boat Launch. Supporters gathered from multiple institutions and law enforcement agencies to raise money for a great cause. Team Frosty Flakes took home the trophy for highest team donation at $5,280.

Learn more Special Olympics and how you can get involved in fundraising events.

Division of Juvenile Justice

A group of young people in a line, two are holding a poster

Ventura youth focus on women’s history

Youth at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) participated in a luncheon to raise awareness of gender issues during Women’s History Month. The event was sponsored by Women of Substance, Men of Honor (WOSMOH), which provides programs at VYCF, and Bank of America.

Also present for this event was Hilarry White, a former DJJ youth who has successfully transitioned to the community, earning an honorable discharge, and now works at WOSMOH. White’s story was inspirational to the youth, who could relate to White’s juvenile justice journey.

Working with Dr. Deborah Leong, a psychologist at VYCF, several male youth made presentations on moving beyond cultural vestiges of toxic masculinity while girls participated in a motivational vision board activity.

The activities were managed by WOSMOH Chief Executive Officer Rosalinda Vint and volunteers from Bank of America, Yanira Giron and Lidia Alfaro. The youth participants were treated to a catered lunch which included BBQ and cheesecake for dessert from renowned Ventura County eateries.

The event raised consciousness and encouraged critical thinking, a key stepping stone to recovery and restorative justice.

Victims’ Services

All are welcome to attend the annual Tea Party for Domestic Violence Awareness, set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 25 at Sierra Health Foundation, 1321 Garden Highway, Sacramento.

Various agencies, including a representative from the California Victims Compensation Board, will share what services their organization offers to victims and their families, as well as answer questions from the audience.

This event is sponsored by the Princess Book Club. Cost to attend is a donation and nobody will be turned away for inability to pay. For more information, call or text the book club at (916) 470-8951.

In the Media

Local heroes honored in saving Calipatria woman

Two women and a man holding flowers and an award

 On August 8, Elizabeth Ramírez and Héctor Raúl Macedo were traveling to Calipatria State Prison where they have both worked for 23 and 8 years, respectively.

On the way, Ramírez observed a column of smoke in what appeared to be a traffic accident. Shortly after, Macedo stopped to help the injured motorist. Macedo entered the New River to try to extract the injured and unconscious body of Kathryn Dunn, who was on the verge of losing her life by drowning, as her vehicle ended up with its tires facing the sky.

While lifting the driver’s body, it took Macedo several minutes to deactivate the seat belt. Ultimately, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employee managed to get Dunn out of the vehicle and out of the water.

For having saved Dunn’s life, the two members of CDCR received a Certificate of Recognition Thursday from California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Tommie Cocroft.

A conversation with formerly incarcerated creators of Uncuffed

On this edition of Your Call, Isiah Daniels and Tommy Shakur Ross join us for a wide ranging discussion about the prison system, their trip to the world’s first International Prison Radio Conference in Oslo, Norway last summer, restorative justice, media coverage of crime, and more.

(Listen to the Uncuffed episode about Norway.)

Art students bring color and creativity to prison communities

A group of incarcerated women with a colorful art project

For young artists at Cal State Fullerton, the Prison Arts Collective is much more than a class. It serves as a gateway to the future, empowering students to be change makers and social justice advocates. 

Led by Mary Anna Pomonis, assistant professor of art, the Prison Arts Collective is a grant-funded program that partners with local prisons to provide art classes, supplies and creative workshops to people who are currently incarcerated. 

“It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community. It’s life-changing to have the ability to express yourself and document how you’re feeling. A lot of the participants draw to help themselves heal,” said Pomonis.

The history of prison-run newspapers and why they’re on the rise

Since the 1800s, people inside of U.S. prisons have printed their own newspapers and run their own newsrooms. These efforts are collectively known as the prison press.

KEVIN SAWYER: The newspaper gives the incarcerated a voice.

SUMMERS: That’s Kevin Sawyer, who spoke to us from inside San Quentin State Prison. He is the former associate editor of that prison’s newspaper, the San Quentin News.

SAWYER: When I came to prison, I started writing stories, poems and journals. None of that stuff was published. So when I arrived at San Quentin, I discovered there was a newspaper here, and that’s how I got involved.