Military members get eye-opening inmate experience at CMF

Inmates met face-to-face with military service members to help direct the at-risk airmen to a less destructive lifestyle.

Inmates met face-to-face with military service members to help direct the at-risk airmen to a less destructive lifestyle.

By Landon Bravo, Community Resources Manager
California Medical Facility

Those who once served in the military but now find themselves incarcerated through poor choices and antisocial behavior can help other military members from making the same mistakes thanks to the Military Assistance Program (MAP) at California Medical Facility (CMF).

Established in March 2016, MAP is an awareness program to enable inmates to explain to military service members the behaviors and attitudes that may lead to incarceration. The primary goal of MAP is to inform service members of the result of crime or continued destructive behavior, lack of responsibility and anti-social behavior as a way to help prevent them from entering the penal system.

The MAP sessions assist service members in understanding the pressures encountered within their peer groups. MAP inmate participants share their life experiences that led them to prison and help counsel, educate and support armed forces service personnel as a way to help them avoid the pitfalls of criminal behavior.

On May 5, CMF hosted MAP’s first face-to-face encounter with service members from Travis Air Force Base. Inmates housed at CMF warmly welcomed the military personnel into the institution to participate in a workshop on self-awareness and positive decision making. There were seven airmen from Travis accompanied by a captain, master sergeant and a staff sergeant. There were 14 inmate MAP members. One doesn’t need to be a veteran to be an inmate MAP participant.

Group discussions, choice-making testimonies, inmate one-on-one chats and a facility walk-through experience took place throughout the day. MAP members engaged the airmen every step of the way with insightful stories that expressed empathy, making amends and the living consequences of their negative choices.

In the end, the airmen, along with their commanders, requested a lengthier experience in the future with more personal stories from MAP members. The airmen also said they would spread the word throughout Travis Air Force Base about the MAP at CMF. They said they would recommend the program to those stationed at the base.

Inmate James Cross said he was appreciative of the effort it took to organize MAP.

“This program has had a profound impact on me,” he said. “I believe the experience was invaluable for all parties involved. I know it was for me.”

Cross said sharing his story with the military members was powerful.

“To be able to share my experience of bad choices and consequences along with preventive insight in the interest of giving back to the community was just amazing,” he said.

MAP inmates spoke to service members during a tour of the facility.

MAP inmates spoke to service members during a tour of the facility.

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12 Responses

  1. Juanita Crosby Friday, August 5, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    Great story and great program. I think that inmates will benefit greatly from this program and hopefully learn that there is a life out there if they just reach for it. So many times I have heard stories of inmates saying they fell back of crime after paroling because the only people out there waiting for them was their “homies” because they had burned their bridges with family and friends. Maybe knowing they can aspire to a rewarding career can turn their lives around and help them become positive members of society.

    God bless all those involved in this program!

  2. Marvarghn Jennings Tuesday, July 5, 2016 / 8:54 am

    Beginning my career at CDCR and also a reservist at Travis AFB. I think this is awesome… I will gladly spread the word about this program.

  3. Paula M. Cross Thursday, June 23, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    My only son, James Cross was proud and pleased to be a part of this new program.
    It is my opinion, that anything to help our servicemen should be implemented by the CDCR.
    Thank you for making this article available so this heart broken mother can be pleased that her son is able to help others during his incarceration.

  4. Kenneth C. Emerick Thursday, June 23, 2016 / 10:21 am

    Yes and amen to an outstanding program and artical concerning our military vets and inmates. Major dittos to each reply above.

  5. Trish Jones Wednesday, June 22, 2016 / 5:59 pm

    I love this program. It is a win-win situation for all involved. Proof positive that inmates CAN be rehabilitated and do good in society 🙂

  6. Kenneth Marshall Monday, June 20, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    As a retired Marine and now a Correctional Sergeant with almost 15 years in the department, I find this to be one of the best programs to come along in my career. Thank you to all who are involved in this program. Great job in helping our military service men and women. Semper Fi.

  7. Linda Hagen Monday, June 20, 2016 / 2:41 pm

    What an awesome program! Seeing up close and personal what could happen to them should go a long way in keeping these warriors out of prison. Thank-you, CMF, for reaching out to our military, and filling a big need. Hope this program grows nationwide!

  8. B. STRINGER MTA Monday, June 20, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Bravo Zulu! Being a Master Sergeant in the world’s best Air Force Reserves, I think this program should be nationwide and to all services. Too many veterans are coming to the penal system.

  9. Dr. Wagner Monday, June 20, 2016 / 10:55 am

    So glad to hear of this program!

    As a Psychologist in CDCR and in the Army Reserve I have become aware of the national statistics of approximately 10% of U.S. prison and jail inmates being military veterans. Specifically as of last report, 9% of CDCR inmates report having been in U.S. military service.

    It pains me greatly to see our service members in prison, especially ones who go from deployment to incarceration and never return home. Anything we can do to help prevent our veterans from making mistakes, over-reactions, and bad decisions that send them to prison, I strongly support.

    I applaud the efforts of all concerns to “give back” and provide “lessons learned” for service members, and conversely provide additional “brothers in arms” support for inmate veterans.

  10. Joseph Castaneda Monday, June 20, 2016 / 8:43 am

    As an Army Veteran, I empathize with my brothers in arms. I am filled with a great sense of contentment to know there is yet another avenue to allow for self reflection and realignment in order that they may yet enjoy life and come to the knowledge that there is still a bright future ahead. After such great sacrifice, they deserve to enjoy the freedoms they so bravely and courageously protect.

  11. Deb Monday, June 20, 2016 / 8:42 am

    Bravo to all involved!

  12. Raymond.Moser Monday, June 20, 2016 / 8:41 am

    Although I have not personally served in the military, I have family who has and am very proud of our military. To have this opportunity is invaluable. Great article! This could serve as the model for all other prisons. Thank you to our military personnel and to CMF.

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