By Lieutenant Gregory Bergersen | Valley State Prison for Women

Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) houses female offenders from all over California – from the Mexican border to the Oregon state line.

Although less than 1 percent of these offenders are from the Madera County area, Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAGs) at VSPW have donated more than $33,300 to the local community.

In addition to donations made by ILTAGs, inmates also donate through Victim Restitution Funds. The combined total has been more than $50,000 for Madera County charities and schools.

The donations come from approved bulk sales that allow inmates to purchase items not common in the institution’s canteen, which offers food, hygiene products, and other discretionary items that aren’t state-issued.  The items for the sales are purchased at Costco. The rebate program at Costco provided a $500 shopping spree for the Madera Rescue Mission to help homeless families.

If an ILTAG’s executive body votes to fund a request from a charity or school, the request is forwarded to the Warden for review. If approved by the Warden, a check is given to the recipient.

“There is such a need in our community. Giving back or helping someone in need is rehabilitative, and it helps those offenders who feel the need to give back for their past transgressions,” said VSPW Warden

Last year, VSPW ILTAGs donated $1,716 to buy coats and hats for the students in the Head Start Program at Fairmead Elementary School. The coats and hats were handed out December 23 and 24 – just in time for the holidays.
One ILTAG is made up of inmates who have served or have family members serving in the military. The group donated more than a thousand dollars to the Central Valley Blue Star Moms, which helps families of military personnel. 

Other groups that have received donations from VSPW ITLAGs include Madera High School; Madera South High School; the Chowchilla High School National Arts Honors Program; the Marjaree Mason Center, which aids victims of domestic violence; Friends Care; You Empowered for Success; Continuing the Dream; and the Madera County Food Bank. 

Although the vast majority of the donations are for local causes, there have been donations for national organizations that help locally, such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society.