Folsom Women’s Facility inmates build on future with Career Technical Education programs

State Sen. Holly Mitchell shares words of encouragement with the women graduating from Career Technical Education programs.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell shares words of encouragement with the women graduating from Career Technical Education programs.

More than 50 earn certificates from the California Prison Industry Authority


By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR Public Information Officer
Photos by Alan Barrett

Fifty-five incarcerated women are well on their way to a rehabilitation “home run.”

Dozens of women received vocational certificates from the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), which provides productive work assignments for approximately 8,000 offenders in California.

These particular women, all offenders at Folsom Women’s Facility (FWF), earned certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry, Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor, Computer-Aided Design, Facilities Maintenance, Customer Service Representative Training and Warehouse and Logistics Training.

FWF Associate Warden Robin Harrington likened the women’s efforts to playing baseball.

Ronnica Reynolds proudly displays her certificate in Computer-Aided Design. She is flanked by Chief Deputy Warden Lydia Romero, Warden Ron Rackley, CDCR Director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs Director Millicent Tidwell, Associate Warden Robin Harrington, State Senator Holly Mitchell and Female Offenders Programs and Services Associate Director Jay Virbel.

Ronnica Reynolds proudly displays her certificate in Computer-Aided Design. She is flanked by Chief Deputy Warden Lydia Romero, Warden Ron Rackley, CDCR Director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs Director Millicent Tidwell, Associate Warden Robin Harrington, State Senator Holly Mitchell and Female Offenders Programs and Services Associate Director Jay Virbel.

“The home run has been hit, but you’ve got to run the bases,” she told the graduates. “The run doesn’t count until you run the bases and make that score. You all are running the bases, and you are making big things happen, big changes in your life.”

Through a partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), CALPIA provides thousands of inmates the opportunity to participate in life-changing rehabilitative programs, all of which are aimed at reducing recidivism while keeping prisons and communities safe. Rosetta Turturici, who graduated with certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Construction Labor, said she has no plans to come back to prison after she goes home in 2016.

“Now with this training, I know that I can automatically go into the union and be offered a construction job,” she said, proudly holding her signature pink CALPIA construction hard hat. “I know that I won’t be judged for what I was, but for who I am today.”

FWF’s A Yard was filled with not only graduates, but also family members, instructors, union representatives, officials from CDCR and CALPIA, and other female inmates cheering them on. State Senator Holly Mitchell, who represents the 26th Senate District and serves as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus and Select Committee on Women and Inequality, shared words of encouragement with the crowd as keynote speaker. She pointed out that women continue to struggle with job security and equality, and that women of color in particular have not seen improvement in their unemployment rate.

“You have taken your first step to defy that statistic and defy that odd,” Mitchell told the graduates. “Being released from here, from the programs here, with specific training for careers and jobs that are available on the outside with your certificates, suggests that you are in a position to get in front of the line for many of the women on the outside looking for jobs – because of the time you spent and the commitment you made to yourself and this program.”

Mitchell said she attended an international convention of women who work in the building trades, and had her “mind blown” by the professional opportunities and salaries the women had. Many of those women, she said, started in programs very similar to what CALPIA and CDCR offer.

“You need to recognize that you are an amazing force of nature,” she said. “Which means that you are in control of who? You. And so you have the power to make the decision about what your future looks like.”

CALPIA General Manager Chuck Pattillo said FWF represents one of the highest percentages of inmates participating in CALPIA programs in a prison, and the graduating women are role models for their peers considering joining a program. He praised the women for their hard work and wished them success when they go home.

“We want you to be good mothers, good sisters, good workers, especially because we know that you’ve got a leg up on everybody else as you get out of prison,” he said.

It’s been proven time and again rehabilitative programs result in fewer returns to prison. Pattillo pointed out CALPIA Career Technical Education (CTE) programs have a cumulative recidivism rate of about 7 percent, significantly lower than the statewide average, resulting in millions of dollars of taxpayer savings.

“We love seeing you, but I will be very honest, we really never want to see you again,” Pattillo said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

CALPIA contracted with CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs this year for $2 million to provide 12 CTE programs statewide. The partnership provides programs which positively influence not only the offenders’ lives, but also the lives of their families, and reduces the number of people victimized by crime.

“I recognize that it is no small task for you to turn your life around, but the women graduating here today have made that decision and have taken concrete steps to reach those goals,” said Millicent Tidwell, Director of DRP. “The certificates that you’re going to receive today will allow you to continue to take those positive steps in your future.”

Inmate Caitlin Churchill, who was joined by her mother, grandmother and aunt for the graduation, proudly pointed out her name was listed twice on the program. Churchill earned certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor.

“I’m overwhelmingly proud,” said her mom, Michele Hofer. “She has been working on this for a very long time, and I love hearing the officers praise her work.”

Churchill said it’s about changing one’s life, not just gaining job skills.

Caitlin Churchill, who earned certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor, is congratulated by her aunt, Victoria Smith, and grandmother Helen Poore, who traveled from Orinda and Roseville to see Churchill graduate. Photo by Krissi Khokhobashvili

Caitlin Churchill, who earned certificates in Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor, is congratulated by her aunt, Victoria Smith, and grandmother Helen Poore, who traveled from Orinda and Roseville to see Churchill graduate. Photo by Krissi Khokhobashvili

“This program has been invaluable,” Churchill shared. “They have taught us not only trade skills, but life skills. Our instructors have shown us how to work through instances where we thought we weren’t capable of handling the situation. They helped us push through — they’ve given us courage, they’ve given us confidence to be successful.”

Roy Bergerson, a CALPIA construction labor instructor from the Laborers Local 185 labor union, said that not only are women able to thrive in the industry, they are also in high demand.

“These women will leave as an apprentice and in time they’ll become journeymen,” he said. “We’ve had women who were released before who are currently working right now.

“It’s a miracle program,” he added. “This program here gives an opportunity for a person who needs a second or third chance the ability to live the dream.”

Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor graduates proudly wear their signature pink CALPIA hard hats.

Pre-Apprentice Carpentry and Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor graduates proudly wear their signature pink CALPIA hard hats.

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2 Responses

  1. Christiana Reed Friday, September 19, 2014 / 5:12 pm

    After losing everything during WWII, my grandfather began to get back on his feet as a carpentry apprentice. By the end of his life, he had his own successful contracting business. I’m so excited for these graduates and their potential for success in the future!

  2. ilona sebastian Friday, September 19, 2014 / 4:37 pm

    If your institution needs help in setting up a cosmetology program, I am willing to help.

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