By Joe Orlando
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos by Velda Dobson-Davis
Felons Against Distracted and Drunk Driving Program Coordinator
In the classroom at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), every woman had the same grim background: each killed someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both.
One wrecked her car and killed her 2-year-old child who was riding in the backseat. Another backed over and killed her father in the driveway while he was trying to stop her from leaving.
Most of the women in the group have been sentenced to 15 years to life for their crime.
“I had talked about how I had lost my best friend to a drunk driver when I was 19, and my dad was killed by a drunk driver. I got my first DUI right after my dad died. I was pregnant at the time so I couldn’t drink then but as soon as I had my daughter, I started drinking and stopped caring,” said an incarcerated offender.
Velda Dobson-Davis, a retired Chief Deputy Warden at CCWF, runs the program called Felons against Distracted and Drunk Driving.
The program’s goal is to produce a video that eventually gets out to the public with a message warning of the dangers of distracted and drunk driving, said Dobson-Davis.
“Hey this girl’s just like me. Maybe this can happen to me.Maybe I can end up in those shoes, I can end up in prison. I can end up being called a murderer, because that’s what I am today,” one woman said.
As part of that video, each woman gives her testimonial about drinking and driving. The hope is the message gets into schools, and community centers and is available to the general public, especially young people who are about to make life altering choices on their own.
“We’re hoping to hit people at a younger and younger age, so I’d like to hit those about to get a driver’s license,” Dobson-Davis explained. “They’re saying, ‘I’m about to graduate and I’ve got the liberty to do what I want,’ but the reality is, do you really? I want their stories out there to impact their lives before they make the mistake.”
The women in this group hope people will hear their message and realize the consequences of their action before it’s too late.
“But you know too, I feel like if I had heard it from an actual person, the one who had done the killing, the one who is actually sitting in prison, I feel like maybe it would have changed me. Because sometimes I feel like, that would have got me. I was so stubborn, so selfish, so set in my ways, even though I lost two people who meant the absolute world to me, I still committed the same crime. I still walked the same path, and verbatim the way it happened to my dad is the exact way it happened to me,” an offender explained.