International insight by CDCR leaders highlights second half of 2019
By CDCR’s Office of Public and Employee Communications
Funding opportunities outside of the California budget made it possible for CDCR leaders and policy makers to visit correctional systems in Norway and Ukraine in the second half of 2019.
The insights and experience gained will help inform the ongoing process to make CDCR a more humane prison system and they are among the highlights of a host of significant events in the later months of the year.
The Department also honored its employees for remarkable acts of bravery and professional achievements, showcased an inspiring visiting program for children of incarcerated parents and cut the ribbon on an innovative program to house the homeless with vocational job-training.
Incarcerated people also set record fundraising marks and welcomed a one-of-a-kind event with the Sacramento Kings inside Folsom State Prison. The Department also performed vital community outreach and safety support with events like Operation Boo.
Below is a summary of these significant events, the second of a two-part series highlighting the big CDCR storylines of 2019: (Read part 1)
Camp Grace hosts the Today Show in Soledad
July 22 – Children of incarcerated men at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad spent extended time with their fathers during Camp Grace, a five-day enhanced visiting program designed to strengthen family bonds and encourage rehabilitation. It’s a program happening at other institutions in California as well, but in July, Camp Grace and Salinas Valley State Prison hosted The Today Show and anchor Craig Melvin to witness the week of father-child bonding at a maximum security prison. A national audience was exposed to the program that makes prisons safer (participants have to be discipline-free for a year) and strengthens important relationships between children and their incarcerated fathers. CDCR will release a department video about Camp Grace next week.
Aug. 13 – Incarcerated people and CDCR teamed up with the non-profit group R-3 (Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Respite) to begin building “microhomes” for the homeless and other communities in need inside Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad. CTF hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Vocational Education Department site and welcomed guests to see the first completed microhome and tour the facilities where the homes are being built. CTF Warden Craig Koenig introduced CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz who was the guest speaker. The project was featured in local television coverage by KSBW 8, KION 5/46 and Telemundo and later featured in a video by the Division of Rehabilitative Programs. CTF’s Valley Adult Schools’ Vocational Education Department makes sure that students are involved in all areas of construction: carpentry, construction technology, electrical, masonry, construction core, and welding.
CDCR honors employees at 2019 Medal of Valor Ceremony
Sept. 13 – At its 2019 Medal of Valor Ceremony, CDCR honored 231 people for their bravery in responding to crises and life-threatening situations as well as exemplary work of benefit to the department and the community. Employees from nearly all disciplines and professions statewide received awards at Creekside Christian Church of Elk Grove. In addition to the Medal of Valor and Unit Citations, CDCR awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Corrections Stars; Distinguished Service Medals; and medals for Correctional Officer and Supervisor of the Year. CDCR also honored exemplary executives and administrators as well as health care, rehabilitation, parole, and juvenile justice professionals. Two employees were awarded the Medal of Valor, CDCR’s highest award earned by distinguishing themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service. California Rehabilitation Center Correctional Sergeant William Annas received the Medal of Valor for rescuing several disabled elderly women from a burning house. Pleasant Valley State Prison Correctional Officer Hector Villarreal contained a gunman responsible for a series of shootings in Kerman, protecting the community from further harm.
Sept. 14 – CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz and Division of Adult Institutions Director Connie Gipson joined senior staff from the Governor’s Office, CDCR institution leadership, formerly incarcerated people, representatives from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and other advocates and educators on a six-day tour of the Norwegian prison system. Over six days, Diaz and Gipson toured Norwegian prisons, training facilities and reentry programs, witnessing famed humanistic practices that deliver wellness, safety and empowerment to everyone involved. The visit inspired CDCR’s leaders to make necessary reforms to create a more humane prison system. At the same time the Norway visit was taking place, Rosalinda Rosalez and Ryan Souza, Associate Warden, and Deputy Director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP), respectively, were on an educational trip of their own – experiencing what criminal justice looks like in Ukraine. Souza and Rosalez saw people working, engaging peacefully with one another, connecting to their families, and other pro-social activities also vital to successful rehabilitation. They also took note of several practices unheard of in California, including more freely allowing movement, and allowing incarcerated people to keep personal property and pets. Only the warden is allowed to take away visiting, and only in extreme cases.
Record donation at Relay for Life event
Oct. 22 – California City Correctional Facility staff and incarcerated people came together in a one-of-a-kind event to fight cancer with the institution’s first Relay for Life event. According to the American Cancer Society, the event was the top fundraising walk ever held at a prison. The event easily eclipsed its goal of $5,000 in funds raised with an $18,450 total. All incarcerated people and staff walked the first lap together in honor of all survivors. More than 300 incarcerated people and 50 staff took part in the walk. There were 35 institution teams, with the top fundraising team bringing in $1,438 from family, friends and trust account withdrawals. The second-place team raised $1,160, which also included artwork sales.
CDCR checks on 1,275 sex offenders during Operation Boo
Oct. 31 – CDCR parole agents arrested 82 of the 1275 sex-offender parolees who were contacted during compliance checks or searches as part of the 26th annual Operation Boo Child Safety Project on Halloween night. Statewide, new charges of various types were filed against seven of the active sex-offender parolees contacted. A total 23 parolees were found with narcotics, narcotic paraphernalia or were in violation of other conditions of parole. Six parolees were caught with weapons. A parolee-at-large was also arrested. Local agencies sent a total 108 law enforcement partners to aid CDCR’s 466 parole agents from the Division of Adult Parole Operations in the statewide operation. It was a historic year for media coverage of the event, which received an estimated cumulative national TV audience of over 1 million thanks to scores of news reports.
Sacramento Kings, Folsom Prison score one for rehabilitation
Dec. 12 – The Sacramento Kings in partnership with One Community, working with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) as a part of the Represent Justice Campaign, facilitated a round-table conversation with incarcerated men at Folsom State Prison and players and coaches from the Sacramento Kings. During the conversation, the incarcerated men discussed goals of uplifting narratives of hope and redemption to break down stigmas associated with incarcerated individuals. Following the conversation, the Sacramento Kings served as players and coaches during an hour-long basketball game with incarcerated men. The Sacramento Kings event provided an atmosphere that felt like attending a regular season NBA basketball game. The basketball court was outfitted with a tent that covered the entire court, equipped with lighting, bleachers and a scoreboard. The event was featured in an NBA.com story and featured heavily in media coverage.