Community Involvement, Rehabilitation

Sacramento students tour California’s oldest prison

High school students listen to a prison inmate talk about rehabilitation.
San Quentin inmate Anthony Ammons, left, speaks to Florin High School students as they tour the prison.

(Editor’s note: High school students toured San Quentin State Prison to learn more about the criminal justice system and rehabilitation.)

Anthony Ammons was 16 years old when he took a life and earned a sentence of 102-years-to-life in prison with the possibility of parole.

It’s the same age as the youngest students in Florin High’s Law Academy, who toured San Quentin State Prison in November.

It was during a visit of the health care facilities inside San Quentin that students ran into Ammons, a porter in the institution hospital. He shared his journey through incarceration, a story that explains rehabilitation in a way that no tour could otherwise achieve.

Serving a sentence and earning an education

People stand in front of a prison. They are holding San Quentin News newspapers.
Florin High School students stand in front of San Quentin State Prison.

Ammons, who joined a gang when he was 11, shot and killed 26-year-old Kevin Fauria just five years later. The shooting, which also wounded Fauria’s wife and brother-in-law, landed Ammons in adult court, where he was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in 2002.

Though Ammons was raised in Los Angeles, he grew up in prisons, places like California State Prison, Sacramento, the maximum-security prison where Ammons earned his high school diploma in 2007. Five years later, Ammons arrived at San Quentin. There his rehabilitative programming was so successful he earned a commutation from then-Governor Jerry Brown, reducing his sentence to 19-years-to-life. Ammons was denied parole for three years last June, but will see the Board of Parole Hearings again in 2022, hopeful he will be granted release.

“You could see the weight in the room when Anthony told his story,” San Quentin Public Information Officer Lt. Sam Robinson said. “Students from Florin were weighing in on his sentencing, reflecting on what they knew about the justice system, and sharing their perspective.”

That encounter with Ammons was no accident.

“I knew Anthony would be a good example of how rehabilitation works inside prison,” Lt. Robinson said. “He’s open and very candid about his experiences and his background.

“I think it challenges people to see what hope is in this environment, to see someone who has committed a crime, understood where they are now and worked every day to become a better individual.”

Students see inside of cells, learn about rehabilitation

Boxes line the walls in a prison warehouse while students listen to a man speak about rehabilitation programs.
Lt. Sam Robinson leads the students through part of the CALPIA area of San Quentin.

The youth also went inside cells of a housing unit, observed an active recreational yard, saw San Quentin’s decommissioned gas chamber, browsed the commissary, interacted with visionaries in the San Quentin Media Center and watched incarcerated people at work learning a vocational trade.

CDCR supports educational tours for people learning about the justice system. Florin was especially worthy of the trip inside San Quentin because of a valued partnership with the department.

For the past five years, Law Academy students at Florin have provided critical volunteer work at CDCR’s annual Medal of Valor Ceremony in Elk Grove. At the ceremony, held annually in September, CDCR employees are recognized for earning the department’s highest honor for distinguishing themselves with heroism, dedication and innovation above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service.

In the past, CDCR has thanked Florin with special demonstrations by the statewide K-9 team. At the 2019 MOV Ceremony, a chance meeting between Lt. Robinson and Florin educator Carlos Garcia inspired the prison tour a few months later. The effort was made possible by Staff Services Manager Michelle Mraule in CDCR’s Office of Public and Employee Communications. Mraule coordinates the Florin volunteerism with CDCR and she joined the escort inside San Quentin.

“Moments like this make me so excited for the future,” Mraule said. “It’s inspiring to see students so keenly interested in criminal justice and so eager to play an important role in the world around them.

“I see leaders and policy makers in this bunch.”

Garcia said Law Academy students at Florin share a fervor for volunteerism with the department. It’s a relationship that should only grow as the correctional environment in California continues to find more effective ways of achieving public safety in the successful return of incarcerated people to the community.

Story by Ike Dodson
Photos by Michelle Mraule
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Students sit while five prison inmates talk to them in San Quentin.
Students listen to offenders speak about San Quentin.

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