By Luis Patino, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer

Office of Public and Employee Communications

It is week 10, the final week, at the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) Academy at the Stockton Training facility. There is a feeling of success in the air.  Graduation is only days away.

When Academy Commander Mike Quaglia looks through the room at the faces of his cadets, a wave of pride overtakes him.  He’s been with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for 27 years and in that time he’s never seen a class quite like this one.

It is the first DAPO academy class in five years. Forty-one started together, and unless something unforeseen occurs, all 41 will graduate together – achieving a 100 percent success rate. Perhaps it is the experience each cadet brings to the training. Or maybe, it is the sheer determination to be a solid source of real change that has helped them all succeed.

The DAPO Academy Class of 2016 has no actual rookies.

“They were all existing CDCR employees before coming to DAPO,” Quaglia explained. “They’re a very intelligent group and they bring with them a wide spectrum and a good cross-section of the experience of the people in the department.”

All of them have also had previous firearms training.

Several, like Veronica Harris, are lateral transfers. They know first-hand how much of an impact parole agents can make in the community.  Harris is altruistic about helping former offenders turn their lives around.  She’s anxious to “add to the bottom line of public safety by helping people change their patterns of behavior.”

If Harris seems to be taking an educated approach to her work, consider that she has a master’s degree in Organization Leadership with emphasis in Criminal Justice.  She was a correctional counselor for three years before becoming a parole agent.  When layoffs came, she went back into the custody setting as a sergeant at Central California Women’s Facility and then as an acting lieutenant at California Institution for Women.  But when the Parole Agent Academy revved up again, she decided it was “time to go back.”

As an immigrant from Mexico who was raised in San Diego, she aspires “to give back to the country that has given me so much,” by setting a good example and helping the parolees learn to manage their criminogenic needs.

Both Harris and Commander Quaglia feel this academy class will be uniquely trained to do just that.

It has been five years since the last DAPO academy was held. Since then, the computer programs and databases used by California’s parole agents have been upgraded. There is new evidenced-based methodology – based on best practices across the country – that is now used to classify parolees’ tendency to reoffend, coupled with techniques to supervise them accordingly.

Dozens of new programs are offered to help parolees with substance abuse, behavioral and mental health problems. Additionally, the cadets are learning about new supervision methods and programming tailored specifically for emerging groups of parolees, such as former life-term offenders and women.

DAPO Academy Administrator, Douglas Eckenrod, said, “I’m very proud of the behind-the-scene efforts the Division Training Unit put in to making this Academy a success.”

DAPO Director, Bobby Haase agrees.  “Many long hours of research into cutting-edge correctional practices paired with curriculum building, helped to produce the finest Parole Agent Academy in the country. I also want to thank our partners in the Office of Training and Professional Development, Office of Legal Affairs, Division of Juvenile Justice and the Division of Adult Institutions.”

Quaglia said the new resources are truly game-changing. “When I came in 27 years ago, everyone looked to California to be the leader for quality and effective ideas. We’re coming back to that stature now. We’re becoming the model people look at to be successful. The more successful our supervision, the safer our communities become,” he said.

Making California communities safer is also what makes coming through the academy for a second time especially worthwhile for Harris.  She’s anxious to rejoin the ranks of DAPO agents who are making a huge impact.

“The bottom line of public safety is helping people reintegrate into their communities,” she said.  “It helps entire families when former offenders become productive and law-abiding.  Knowing that I’ll help sons, other mothers, and fathers become happier and safer is definitely rewarding!”

When Harris gets her new badge in a few days, her own son, Jose, a student at Fresno State University, will be in the audience watching her live the words she’s taught him all his life. “I strongly believe that if you educate yourself, and work hard, the rewards are great.  You will have a better life,” she said with conviction.

The cadets turning that mantra into reality include:

  1. Maurice Blount
  2. Garrett Carpe
  3. Franklin Clay
  4. Christopher Palwick
  5. Renee Smith
  6. Luis Cardenas
  7. Desiree Weathers
  8. Christopher Dixon
  9. Joseph Jimenez
  10. Mark Ebuen
  11. Ricardo Sanchez
  12. Ramy Yassine
  13. Eddy Yee
  14. Talia Carrington
  15. Brent Johnson
  16. Ruben Ledezma
  17. Brian Messer
  18. Kathy Miley
  19. Marisa Ramirez
  20. Nicholas Austin
  21. Mark Romo
  22. Danny Acosta
  23. Manuel Banuelos
  24. Markeisha Brignac
  25. Jason Cagnolatti
  26. Ti’wanta Copeland
  27. Daniel Ferreira
  28. Donald Gonzales
  29. Arthur Luminarias
  30. John Ok
  31. Sarany Ou
  32. Nicole Peters
  33. Neel Pratap
  34. Luke Ray
  35. Sammy Bell
  36. Veronica Harris
  37. Edward Moreno
  38. Jerome Pirro
  39. Stephen Velazco
  40. Robert Wagner
  41. Cory Alvarez

The graduation will be held in the auditorium of the First Baptist Church of Elk Grove on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m.

The ceremony will be carried live beginning 10 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony.

From a CDCR computer, watch here: mms://fdcmedia/opec/CDCRLIVE01

Others can watch here: https://MEDIA.cdcr.ca.gov/OPEC/CDCRLIVE01