CDCR's Week in Review Archives

Week in Review: March 24, 2023

What’s New?

People in superhero costumes jump into a lake

CDCR takes the plunge for Special Olympics

People dressed in all red hold Hot Tamales candy boxes
The California Health Care Facility (CHCF) Hot Tamales team.

Heroes of all shapes and sizes dipped or dove into Folsom Lake on a rainy morning for the 2023 Polar Plunge, raising over $100,000 for Special Olympics of Northern California (SONC).

CDCR’s Polar Plunge teams joined other law enforcement agencies from the greater Sacramento area at Brown’s Ravine on March 11. Teams included Freezin’ for a Reason (Division of Adult Institutions), the Hot Tamales (California Health Care Facility), CSP-Sacramento, Peace Officer Selection and Employee Development (POSED), AIMS/AIU North, and Keeping it Real (SATS/OEHM). Collectively, CDCR teams raised over $18,000 for the cause.

Read more about the Polar Plunge, and watch a video from the event.

Inspired by our amazing Polar Plunge teams? You can support the cause by joining the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest public awareness and grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics. Known honorably as Guardians of the Flame, law enforcement members and Special Olympics athletes carry the “Flame of Hope” into the Opening Ceremonies of competitions.

CDCR videos available on YouTube

Screenshot of a YouTube video featuring a correctional officer getting a medal.

In addition to Inside CDCR, the Week in Review, the Unlocked podcast and social media, CDCR also has a collection of videos featuring all aspects of the Department. Recent uploads include a Governor’s Medal of Valor ceremony at Ironwood State Prison, a CALPIA graduation at California Men’s Colony, and an innovative wheelchair basketball program at California Medical Facility.

(Visit the CDCR YouTube page.)

In order for employees to view these videos and others, including GovOps’ popular Got a Minute? video series featuring state workers, the Department has lifted the restriction on YouTube statewide to allow for more access to training and work-related content.

(Check out the Got a Minute videos.)

While all employees are encouraged to view departmental videos, they are reminded that CDCR equipment must only be used in performance of job-related duties (Department Operations Manual Article 55 – Acceptable Use Policy). We look forward to sharing more positive stories with you!

Women’s History Month

Women in leadership and the evolution toward inclusivity with Dr. Diana Toche

Dr. Diana Toche
Dr. Diana Toche

I know firsthand the importance of having women in leadership. I have reflected on the phases of my life, but I have come up empty, because I really did not have a female mentor at important stages to help me find my way. And it never occurred to me to seek one out. I grew up with the belief that it was up to me to set my own course, overcome all the challenges that came my way, and find my own solutions.

My career, especially here at CDCR, has been one surrounded by strong male leadership and mentors. I do not regret any of the experiences or lessons I’ve learned from them. They were wonderful leaders who supported and encouraged me at each stage of my career, and I will forever be grateful to each of them for the trust and confidence they placed in me in my leadership roles. Given that I did not have that female leader in my career who I could look up to and guide me, and having so many promising women leaders coming up in the department, my goal is to try to be the best example I can be and to provide the same guidance to them that I did not have in my life or career.

I know I’m not alone. It can be difficult to find a mentor to assist in navigating through the unique challenges that can come our way. It is a privilege to see and be a part of our department’s evolution towards a more inclusive and diverse culture. It is important for all of our staff – not just the female staff, but all staff – to see women in leadership positions, to show different ways of leading and inspiring. I have a wonderful team of leaders, both men and women, in Healthcare Services, and I value every opportunity to learn from them and share what I can, from lessons I have learned, and to help support them in their journeys. To all of them, and especially to the women coming after me, I encourage you to be yourself. Your experience, knowledge, background, and strengths are what make you uniquely you. You don’t need to have your name hanging on a brass plate on the door to be a leader; just be yourself and lead by word and by example.

Six people stand, with three of them women holding flowers.
Joining the celebration of women were Vacaville Mayor John Carli, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assembly Member Lori Wilson,
Region I Healthcare Executive Rainbow Brockenborough, SOL Warden Gigi Matteson and SOL CEO Michael Felder.

SOL celebrates exceptional women

California State Prison-Solano’s (SOL) celebrated the many women who make CDCR excellent during the annual Women’s History Month celebration.

The inspiring event featured several special guest speakers, including California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assembly Member Lori Wilson and CCHCS Region I Healthcare Executive Rainbow Brockenborough.

Staff from all classifications were in attendance to celebrate the strong women of SOL and all of CDCR who work one of the toughest beats in the state. Attendees received swag bags and enjoyed lunch while listening to the three dynamic speakers.

This was SOL’s 11th annual Women’s History Month event. As always, it was a success. More than 150 staff members from SOL and nearby California Medical Facility (CMF) attended. Vacaville Mayor John Carli and several members of the Vacaville City Council also attended to share their support.

SOL women made it happen

The event was created in a break room among three staff members who shared a vision of celebrating women’s accomplishments and contributions to the correctional profession. The event was organized by Correctional Captain Debbra Rowlett, one of the founding three members and without whose leadership the event would not have been such a success.

3 Questions with…

Eduardo Zamora, Acting Correctional Counselor II

A man in a striped shirt stands in front of a building with a sign: "Wasco State Prison Reception Center."

For acting Wasco State Prison (WSP) Correctional Counselor II Eduardo Zamora, March 31 is not just a state and national holiday. For Zamora, the day celebrating Cesar Chavez’s impact on labor and civil rights has personal meaning.

Cesar Chavez Day, recognized on March 31, was proclaimed a California state holiday in 2000 and has been a commemorative federal holiday since 2014. The holiday honors the birth and legacy of Cesar Chavez, an American farmworker, labor leader, civil rights activist, husband, and father of eight.

Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union, responsible for significant advancements for workers’ rights in the American agricultural system. Chavez’s leadership has inspired generations of workers.

“I recognize and acknowledge his sacrifices which allows my family and I the opportunities we have today,” says Zamora.

Counselor Zamora began his career with CDCR in 2008 as a Correctional Officer at North Kern State Prison (NKSP). After working as an officer at NKSP, California Correctional Institution (CCI), and WSP, he promoted to Correctional Counselor I at WSP in 2015. In 2019, he completed a temporary assignment at the Delano Modified Community Correctional Facility and then returned to WSP. Zamora has been an acting Correctional Counselor II Supervisor since November 2022.

“CDCR means opportunity,” reports Zamora. “CDCR provides the opportunity for one to grow and further themselves. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people at multiple institutions.”

What does Cesar Chavez Day mean to you?

For a Mexican-American born and raised in Delano, Cesar Chavez Day means a great deal to me. The holiday that highlights Mr. Chavez showcases an iconic leader in the Central Valley. In 1966, The Forty Acres in Delano was established. The Forty Acres in Delano became the first headquarters for the UFW.

The UWF have a special place in my life. My grandparents and numerous other family members worked in the grape vineyards alongside Chavez and hundreds of other hard-working Central Valley residents trying to provide a better opportunity for their families. Chavez preached knowledge and education, two traits that were passed down by my grandparents. Without the efforts of Chavez and other like-minded individuals, California would not be what it is today.

What are your proudest career moments with CDCR?

I have had many special moments during my career, but besides promoting to Correctional Counselor, I take pride in being a certified Youth Offender Program Counselor and educating youth offenders on the programs available for positive programming. I completed an out-of-class assignment as a Correctional Counselor II specialist for the Alternate Custody Program, which provides opportunities to the incarcerated population releasing back into the community

What has been your biggest inspiration?

My family, my daughter. Five years ago my wife and I were blessed with our little girl. My life perspectives and priorities changed instantly.

Counselor Zamora loves to give back to his community:

  • He loves to volunteer in his daughter’s pre-school class.
  • Sponsors children during the annual WSP Christmas adopt-a-child event and that provide Christmas gifts to children in Wasco.
  • He also enjoys being part of the annual Thanksgiving food drive and basket delivery in the Wasco community.
  • He serves as Director for the Delano Chamber of Commerce.


A correctional lieutenant and a group of incarcerated people. One holds an oversized check
Lt. M Sterns with SVSP Inmate Advisory Council members and AmpSurf founder Dana Cummings.

The Inmate Advisory Council (IAC) at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) have rallied behind the AmpSurf organization. The nonprofit supports people with disabilities, veterans, and first responders through Adaptive Surf Therapy and other outdoor activities.

Facility A and Facility B IAC members raised $11,864.46 through food sales. Lt. M. Sterns gave his full support to the effort, organizing communications with founder Dana Cummings and AmpSurf. The organization donated two surfboards to paint this month that will be auctioned off at a golf tournament fundraiser in May.

People assemble boxes of cookies at a conference table

SCC spreads the word about ISUDT

Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (ISUDT) Ambassadors at Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) showed just how big their hearts are at a Valentine’s Day event.

The SCC ISUDT Ambassadors came together and hosted a staff event on February 14. Ambassadors raised funds in numerous ways to buy 400 jumbo cookies to hand out to employees. Staff also baked additional cookies to hand out; by the end of the day, almost 500 cookies were handed out to SCC staff members.

Each cookie contained facts about the ISUDT program attached to the cookie wrapper with a ribbon. ISUDT Ambassadors decorated, packaged and prepared the cookies the evening before the event.

ISUDT Ambassadors support ISUDT in all aspects, including educating others about the program. During the event, ISUDT Ambassadors were present to answer any questions staff had about the program. Staff shared positive feedback and continued to reach out after the event asking for more information and sharing how much they enjoyed the cookies.

An incarcerated man speaks at a lectern to a crowd of seated people.
Jonathan Kohut, ISUDT Peer Mentor, speaks about the positive impact of the program.

PVSP graduates take steps toward success

The Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (ISUDT) program at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) hosted a graduation for 22 proud graduates on Feb. 15. They earned recognition for completing Cognitive Behavioral Interventions (CBI). CBI is operated by the Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP).

Tristan Lemon, PVSP Warden (A), gave an inspiring speech. He spoke of growth and investment to make a better life. Lemon congratulated all the ISUDT participants and highlighted their bravery in starting the journey of empowerment and sobriety.

A group of incarcerated people and free staff in a prison cafeteria with Girl Scout cookie boxes piled on tables

Cookies and community at Folsom State Prison

“Rehabilitation is the pathway to success,” ISUDT Correctional Counselor III at PVSP, Jennifer Cota, said. “Over the years with this program, I’ve seen it grow and impact change on each participant assigned to our classes.

Folsom State Prison (FSP) collaborated with Girl Scouts Heart of Central California to conduct a cookie sale. Incarcerated people were provided with the opportunity to purchase Thin Mints and many other beloved flavors directly from adult representatives of the organization. The sale was a resounding success, with a total of 3,822 boxes sold, resulting in a significant sum of $22,932.

All proceeds were generously donated to Girl Scouts Heart of Central California. FSP leadership shares they were pleased to have contributed to the Girl Scouts’ mission and their efforts to foster leadership skills in young women.

Health Care

Correctional officers outside a modular building
LAC’s new officers joined in the fun.

Patient Safety Week celebrated statewide

Patient Safety Awareness Week is an annual recognition event intended to encourage everyone to learn more about health care safety. Employees statewide joined in educational events and special recognitions of the outstanding professionals who keep our patients safe every day.

California State Prison-Solano Quality Management staff kicked off Patient Safety Week with flyers, brochures, games, and treats!

Two women at at able full of snacks
Celia Gomez and Kamela Dullas

California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC) kicked off Patient Safety Week with a large welcome sign and swag bags for all staff.  They also had a large handmade picture frame for staff to take pictures in.

Each yard had Health Information Booths for patients all week and a patient safety newsletter was given to all patients.  The newsletter had an art theme of “Don’t count the days, make the days count” and it included important information regarding overdose, medications, vaccines, and other health information to reinforce the state’s theme of “Medication without Harm.”

LAC’s Poetry Winner was featured in the patient safety newsletter:

“In its forward march and while science insists it’s impossible… anyone with most of their brain will say that time picks up speed as you age.
One day pours into the next, fills a week, one week spills into the next, completes a month, one month surges into the next.
Swells into a year. 
One year overflows into the next and the next thing you know you are up to your neck in decades.
No way to work your way out of them, no way to cycle back through them and change what you would if only you could….
If you only knew that from the start, and believed it. 
How differently you might’ve molded those years. 
Days into weeks into month. 
Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

A group of people behind a Patient Safety Awareness Week sign

The staff turnout and participation for Patient Safety Week was outstanding at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP).  Not only did they celebrate Patient Safety Week, they celebrated Staff Safety as well. The SVSP staff work tirelessly year round to not only make sure the patient population is safe, but to make sure the staff population is safe as well.  To show appreciation, the QMSU department donated two gift baskets for a drawing to say thank you.

COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program

Ten institutions (listed below) are starting a joint California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) – California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) program for earlier detection of COVID-19 outbreaks.

  • California Correctional Institution (CCI)
  • California Medical Facility (CMF)
  • Centinela State Prison CEN)
  • Folsom State Prison (FSP)
  • High Desert State Prison (HDSP)
  • Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP)
  • Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP)
  • San Quentin State Prison (SQ)
  • Sierra Conservation Center (SCC)
  • Wasco State Prison (WSP)

The institutions will be working with a contractor and headquarters public health staff to do “wastewater surveillance” for COVID-19.  This program involves testing wastewater (sewage) for the virus that causes COVID-19.  Studies show that wastewater surveillance can detect increases in COVID-19 cases in humans quicker than standard methods.

This program will be an important tool for proactively monitoring the COVID-19 status of our institutions and will allow CDCR and CCHCS to target COVID-19 testing resources more efficiently.


The Council on Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health (CCJBH) has announced its upcoming meeting schedule.

Full Council Meeting

When: April 21, 2023, 2-4:30 p.m.

The Full Council Meeting will feature a presentation from the Council on State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on the Public Health Meets Public Safety data visualization, a data dashboard using publicly available data that will be published on CCJBH’s website that can be used by a variety of behavioral health and justice-involved (BH/JI) stakeholders to help inform their policy- and decision-making.

Additionally, CCJBH staff will present on the Medi-Cal Utilization Project (MCUP) and provide a summary of the updated Medi-Cal enrollment rates for mental health and substance use disorder services utilization trends for individuals released from CDCR in FY 2019-20, comparing Medi-Cal enrollment rates and service utilization between different demographic groups, and comparing Medi-Cal enrollment rates and service utilization of the BH/JI populations to those of the general Medi-Cal population.

Subject to available time, CCJBH staff will provide project updates during the meeting.

Juvenile Justice Workgroup Meeting

When: May 12, 2023, 12:45-2:45 p.m.

The RAND Corporation will provide an update on the Juvenile Justice Compendium and Toolkit contract, funded by CCJBH. The presentation will include a detailed overview of the Evidence-Based and Emerging Practices and Programs Compendium, a compilation of current, relevant information regarding the established practices and programs designed to serve the youth population realigned per SB 823. The RAND Corporation will also provide comprehensive instructions on how the compendium can be used to support justice system partners.

(Register for the meeting.)

Diversion Reentry Workgroup Meeting

When: May 12, 2023, 3-5 p.m.

The workgroup will feature a presentation on the behavioral health workforce and successful programs that serve individuals with behavioral health needs who are involved with the justice system. Presenters are to be determined.

(Register for the meeting.)


Three people at a booth.

Florin Square Community Development Resource Fair

The Specialized Recruitment Unit (SRU) is participating in the Florin Square Community Development Corporation’s (FSCDC) monthly resource fair. This 10-month event (held on the second Saturday of each month) was created to highlight the resources that FSCDC offers to surrounding communities by partnering with external vendors, educators, and employers for a diverse event. SRU and the Peace Officer Selection Unit collaborate to engage with event attendees, share insight on the State hiring process, and showcase the over 65,000 career opportunities within CDCR.