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Gov. Schwarzenegger Attends Female Inmate Carpenter Graduation, Opens New Inmate Firefighter Training Center

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger participated in an inmate graduation ceremony today at the California Institution for Women (CIW) to highlight the state’s commitment to effective rehabilitation programs that prepare offenders for life after prison. The Governor congratulated female state prison inmates who were presented with graduation certificates for completing a carpenter apprenticeship training program. The Governor also dedicated a new classroom that female inmates in the carpentry program built, which will be used to train other female inmates to fight Southern California brushfires.

“It has been a top priority of my administration to reform California’s prison system by focusing on rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism and increase public safety,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Both the carpenter training and firefighting programs give inmates skills to take their lives in new directions. These programs and the will of these women to improve their lives is what I want for as many inmates as possible because it will make our communities safer and will save taxpayers billions of dollars in the long haul.”

The 5,200 sq. ft. classroom that the Governor dedicated today was constructed by 30 female inmates from the California Prison Industry Authority’s (CalPIA) Career Technical Education-Carpentry program. This program is the first of its kind in the nation for women and is modeled after a similar program for men introduced in 2006 at Folsom State Prison. Both programs are partnerships with the Northern California Carpenters Union Local 46. As part of their training, the inmates demolished an antiquated training center used by female inmate firefighters who train at the prison, replacing it with a new modern structure. The work involved all phases of carpentry where inmates gain proficiencies in various skills including: framing, drywall, taping and texturing, painting, roofing and finished carpentry.

The 14 inmates who graduated from the training this year are eligible for placement in jobs in the construction industry when they are released on parole, through formal agreements between CalPIA, the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department and the Northern California Local Carpenters Union.
“This program not only gives inmates the training they need for a career upon release, it gives them a foot in the door with an employer,” said James Tilton, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). “We know that ex-offenders who have a plan for life after prison have a much higher probability of returning home to become productive members of their local community. It is our ultimate goal to return inmates better off than when we received them. The Prison Industry Authority plays an important role in providing skills inmates need for success.”

To help inmates get a start in their new lives, CalPIA provides a fully equipped tool belt to each graduate when they are released on parole, ensuring they are ready to work on day one, and also pays their union dues for one year.

The carpenter’s training program was funded with a $1.2 million grant from CDCR that was intended to reduce repeat crime among inmates.

The CalPIA, dedicated to inmate rehabilitation, is financially self-supporting through the sale of its products manufactured at 22 locations within the prison system. Recent data shows that inmates who participate in CalPIA programs and business enterprises have a recidivism rate that is approximately 25 percent less than the general prison population, saving taxpayers an estimated $11-15 million per year. In addition, teaching inmates job skills in CalPIA businesses reduces taxpayer funds spent on vocational education by an additional $30 million per year.
Approximately 250 female firefighters are trained at CIW each year before being assigned to the fire camp in Malibu (Los Angeles County) or a pair of camps near Fallbrook (San Diego County). Female inmate fire crews from those camps were on fire lines throughout Southern California last fall during the widespread wildfires across the region.