Video by Terri Hardy and Ike Dodson
Office of Public and Employee Communications
In the minutes before the graduation ceremony, Luis Berumen nervously adjusted and readjusted his cap and tassel. Not only was he going to be graduating from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s prestigious Offender Mentor Certification Program, but his twin brother had traveled hours to California State Prison-Solano to watch.
“It’s been nine years since I’ve seen him,” Berumen said.
The Offender Mentor Certification Program, or OMCP, allows participants to provide valuable mentorship within prisons, a paid position through the Division of Rehabilitative Programs. Once released, they use these skills to find good-paying jobs.
Berumen said during his incarceration he participated in many helpful rehabilitative programs, but none as transformative. His change has led him to reconnect with his brother George, one of the most important people in his life.
“Beforehand when I would talk to him I wouldn’t ask any questions about how the family were doing,” Berumen said. “I wouldn’t ask any questions about him or even some of the successes he had. I would ask him to send me a package or say, ‘Hey, why haven’t you come to see me?’”
During the course of the OMCP, which requires participants to spend five months in therapy, then a year taking courses such as the neuroscience of behavior and thinking, Berumen changed. The conversations with his brother changed too, opening up the chance of a better relationship. He has been able to talk about their past and his poor choices. He told his brother he loved him and understood why he stopped visiting.
The Berumen brothers grew up in East Los Angeles. Their mother was in and out of prison.
“My parents were actually schooling me on gang mentality,” Berumen said. “I was one day away from shooting somebody and one day I did.” He was 16 years old.
Luis went to prison, but George found another path. He has a job, a close family with two kids.
In the audience, George waited with anticipation, swiveling often to look at the door where the graduates would enter. When the students arrived, the brothers waved at each other and smiled. Luis was one of the speakers and told the group that what he valued most was family.
After the graduation, the brothers embraced, cried and laughed. Said George Berumen: “I was kind of amazed by it…the way we used to talk and growing up and now, you can tell he’s learned a lot.”
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It’s been nine years since I’ve seen him.
Beforehand, when I would talk to him, I wouldn’t ask any questions about how the family are doing. I wouldn’t ask any questions about him, or even about some of the successes that he had.
Most of the times I would just ask him about “Hey, can you send me a package?” or “Hey, why haven’t you come to see me?”
And after having these sort of experiences, and having a life change, the conversation that I’ve had with him is being able to express to him like “Hey I love you, and I understand why you haven’t come to see me.”
I grew up in East Los Angeles.
My mother was on welfare, and she was also in and out of prison. My parents were actually schooling me on gang mentality.
I was one day away from actually shooting somebody. And one day I did. I was 16 years old.
Tom Gorham, Options Recovery Services
People can change folks. That’s the bottom line.
Cameron Clark, OMCP Graduate
There’s a place out there for you. And we’re waiting on you.
I was kind of amazed by it.
Coming from back then, like the way we used to talk, and growing up and then hearing him now… I mean, you can tell he’s learned a lot.
Like, we’re twins, So, to see him actually come in… and on a day where it’s going to be a celebration… We’re going to be able to exchange food and take pictures together and talk about what the future is going to look like.
I think it’s going to mean everything. Like this is my twin brother.
It’s huge. It’s life changing.