Safer institutions benefit staff, incarcerated
Editor’s Note: Regional Parole Administrator Gabriella Aguilera explains the California Model.
The California Model seeks to profoundly change our approach to corrections within CDCR and CCHCS.
Drawing from international best practices, the department intends to overhaul the cultural foundations of our system. CDCR is committed to creating an environment where staff and the incarcerated population have more positive interactions.
Emphasizing evidence-based strategies like dynamic security, normalization, peer support, and trauma-informed care, CDCR sets new standards for interactions, aiming for a healthier work environment. At its core, investing in human relationships leads to healthier individuals and more secure institutions.
In September 2022, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Norway. This journey allowed me to witness the innovative strides made by correctional systems nationwide and overseas. As the sole Parole Agent on this trip, my insights into their probation department and methods were unparalleled.
I participated in group sessions, job shadowing, and training in narrative development, public speaking, course facilitation, and leadership. Every aspect of this training was designed to cultivate advocates for cultural change at both local and national levels.
Our mission is unequivocal: to nurture an environment geared towards rehabilitation. Our goal is for inmates to emerge as constructive members of society, both inside the correctional system and out. This calls for a pivot from strictly punitive to more supportive, rehabilitative approaches. By deeply investing in each parolee, we strive to mitigate reoffending and bolster their chances for a brighter future.
Our methodology rests on several pillars:
- Normalization: Stressing that the mere loss of freedom is punishment enough. The conditions inside the prison should mirror life outside to the greatest extent possible, equipping inmates with the vital life skills they need.
- Dynamic Security: This principle encourages staff to build positive, professional relationships with inmates and parolees, emphasizing open and effective communication.
- Progression: This strategy motivates inmates and parolees to earn privileges and gradually advance through their sentences, thus incentivizing and rewarding positive behavior.
Our team is pivotal to the model’s success. They manage the daily routines and rehabilitation processes of over 96,000 incarcerated individuals, preparing them for safe reentry into society. Likewise, our parole division provides unwavering support to over 40,000 parolees in our communities.
We understand change is not instantaneous. While we don’t anticipate swift overhauls, even subtle, step-by-step improvements can catalyze significant positive change.
Let these guiding principles be your compass as you navigate your daily tasks and interactions. And never underestimate the power of a simple, cost-free smile.
Submitted by Regional Parole Administrator Gabriella Aguilera, Southern Region