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Retired San Quentin Associate Warden Richard Nelson smiles as he sits in the prison museum.
Retired Associate Warden Dick Nelson helps keep California prison history alive

San Quentin State Prison is the oldest state correctional facility in California and one man has made it his mission to help others remember its history. Associate Warden Richard “Dick” Nelson began his preservation efforts in 1986 while he was still employed at San Quentin. Inside CDCR recently caught up with Nelson, who sat down with CDCR TV Specialist Rob Stewart in the San Quentin Prison Museum. Nelson worked for CDCR for 40 years, seeing many changes over that time. He retired in 2008.

VIDEOS

Man from MCRP talks about program.
MCRP creates ‘building blocks to trust’

CDCR is committed to assisting incarcerated individuals find success after incarceration, by providing the tools they need to be drug-free, healthy, and employable members of society. The journey home starts long before someone’s release date, as teams of professionals work with each person to create a transitions plan that takes into considerations individualized reentry needs.


Women wearing Law Enforcement Torch Run shirts rush into cold water at Lake Natoma.
CSP-Sacramento, Sierra Conservation Center staff plunge for Special Olympics

Throughout the year, CDCR staff volunteers raise funds to support Special Olympics athletes. The Polar Plunge is one of those fundraisers. Braving the frigid waters two lakes, volunteer staff from California State Prison, Sacramento, and Sierra Conservation Center took the plunge on Feb. 8.

Men and women stand against a wall while holding a certificate.
CMC Recruitment Team takes top honors

The CDCR Office of Peace Officer Selection (OPOS) selected the California Men’s Colony (CMC) Recruitment Team as the Top CDCR Recruitment Team in the Central Region for 2019.

REHABILITATION

Inmates hold signs with "hevenu" and "shalom," meaning "we brought peace."
Seeds of Peace: First CDCR statewide event sees 7,400 inmates participate

Allowing seeds of peaceful coexistence, cooperation and forgiveness to take root in the state prison system were the goals of CDCR’s first statewide Day of Peace and Reconciliation. Events were held the last week in January at 34 adult institutions and five community correctional facilities, marking the first time something of this nature has been done on such a massive scale. When totaled, there were 101 ceremonies held statewide.

Valley State Prison inmates, staff and volunteers raise their arms during the Day of Peace and Reconciliation.
CDCR’s first Day of Peace and Reconciliation in pictures

Across California, 34 adult institutions and five community correctional facilities observed the first Day of Peace and Reconciliation during the last week of January. Nearly 7,400 inmates took part in the events offered by chaplains of all faiths.

CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz and Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell with inmates holding a banner that reads "Skid Row Marathon, RJDCF."
CDCR Secretary Diaz runs tribute lap with judge, inmates at RJD Correctional Facility

In a special event held at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) in San Diego, CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz traded in his suit and tie for joggers and running shoes. He joined Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, founder of the Skid Row Running Club, and RJD inmates on Facility E in a tribute lap around the facility’s yard in honor of the powerful acts of recovery and redemption.

ABOVE THE CALL

An officer puts handcuffs on a man.
Alert Parole Agent links high-risk parolee to sex crime

Sex-Offender Parole Agent Javier Cosme has a tough beat supervising high-risk sex offenders in the community. Mandated to wear GPS tracking devices on their ankles, these offenders are closely monitored.

Officer stands near a flag pole.
Correctional Officer headed for job interview talks down jumper

With thoughts of a Sergeant interview running through his mind, Correctional Officer Ranato Benitez-Sanchez was heading to Ironwood State Prison when he spotted a woman sitting on an overpass, looking down at traffic. Pulling over to ask if she was OK, he soon realized she was contemplating suicide.

Photos of a scarred head, a woman and man smiling, a crushed car and a helicopter at an accident scene.
Calipatria prison employee saves coworker in wreck

In the early morning hours on Friday, Sept. 6, the lives of two individuals would be drastically changed. While driving to work on Highway 111, Rosalie Cota came upon a huge cloud of dust blowing on the roadway, obscuring her vision, forcing her to slow down to a crawl. As the dust settled, Cota was able to see a vehicle on the opposite side of the road, flipped over and resting on the passenger side. The severely injured driver happened to be a correctional sergeant.

BEYOND THE BADGE

Retired San Quentin Associate Warden Richard Nelson smiles as he sits in the prison museum.
Retired Associate Warden Dick Nelson helps keep California prison history alive

San Quentin State Prison is the oldest state correctional facility in California and one man has made it his mission to help others remember its history. Associate Warden Richard “Dick” Nelson began his preservation efforts in 1986 while he was still employed at San Quentin. Inside CDCR recently caught up with Nelson, who sat down with CDCR TV Specialist Rob Stewart in the San Quentin Prison Museum. Nelson worked for CDCR for 40 years, seeing many changes over that time. He retired in 2008.

Woman leads a group of equestrians in a memorial parade.
CDCR employee bucks bull-riding stereotypes

CDCR employee Kimberly Henson knew from an early age she had an affinity for bovines. Now, she directs that passion toward education, community involvement and rustling support for the longhorn steers’ forgotten contributions to settling the American West. When she’s not working at CSP-Sacramento, you will often find her on the back of her saddle-broke Texas longhorn steer, Cowboy Jazz.

Two men in camouflage outfits in a field.
Mornings in a duck blind bond two lieutenants

Lt. Ricardo Jauregui and Lt. Thomas Presson have similar life stories. The two went to high school together and later joined the department just six months apart. Rather than letting the stress of work and life come between them, they’ve found ways to strengthen their friendship through a shared love of hunting.

HISTORY

Two mugshots of lawmen are superimposed over a sketch of San Quentin prison.
San Quentin undercover probe foils deadly 1891 plot

Long before California state prisons established Investigative Services Units or the Office of Correctional Safety, staff used the tools and skills at hand to maintain public safety and institutional security. There are many examples throughout the state’s history. In 1893, Folsom Prison Warden Charles Aull was prepared when he caught wind of a planned uprising. In 1898, Correctional Officer Ben Merritt headed a posse to track down an escapee from San Quentin. The latest installment of Unlocking History explores one of these early investigations.

Photos of blacksmith and wheelwright are show with a photo of barrel makers.
Amalgamators, button makers and vaqueros: Jobs lost to time

When inmates were received at state prisons, physical characteristics were noted as well as the inmate’s occupation. An 1887 report related to inmates at San Quentin reveals some forgotten jobs. Titled “Occupation of Prisoners when Received,” the report breaks down the job titles of 1,220 inmates. Inside CDCR takes a closer look at some of the jobs that no longer exist or have faded to obscurity as part of the Unlocking History series.

Prison building behind a pasture.
School, library, rehabilitation highlighted in 1874 San Quentin report

In 1874, the Joint Commission of the Senate and Assembly reported on the condition of the State Prison at San Quentin. One section focused on the Moral Instructor, the school and volunteer chaplains. The commissioners recommended the state appoint an official chaplain and expand the educational offerings. In the 1870s, the school, chapel and library were all in the same room. As part of CDCR’s Time Capsule series, this has been edited for length and clarity. Otherwise, it is published as it was written.