Army Civil Affairs Students Tour the Salinas
Valley State Prison
Editor’s note: On Aug. 22, students of the U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Re-Classification Course from Fort Hunter Liggett toured Salinas Valley State Prison. As extra credit for the course, one of the students wrote a story about the students’ experience.
By SPC Matthew Franklin (student) and Sgt. James Walker (instructor)
U.S. Army Reserve
Students of the U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Re-Classification Course from Fort Hunter Liggett were welcomed on a tour of the Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad. The students and instructors of the course were interested in looking at the prison system both as a community in its own right and as a reflection of society at large.
The purpose of the Civil Affairs occupation in the Army is to use teams of well-trained operators to build relationships between the local civilian populace in fragile states/countries where the U.S. military is operating.
A large part of what Civil Affairs Operators do is networking among U.S. forces, U.S. government agencies, local host governments and forces, and organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, and even groups like Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam. This work promotes U.S. interests abroad, reduces conflict, and enhances the image and reputation of both the United States of America and its Army.
In touring Salinas Valley Prison, Civil Affairs Student-Soldiers were looking to confirm the validity of Fydor Dostoevsky’s old adage that, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” This quote was mentioned not only before the tour when students were considering the scope and concept of prison society, but also by Warden Randy Grounds during the information briefing portion of the tour.
Led by Lt. Michael Nilsson and other prison staff members, the tour pulled no punches and provided fascinating detail on what is essentially a small city, with all of its intricacies. The fact that large proportions of the staff were veterans of military service was an instant icebreaker and source of bonding.
In discussing the most succinct reasons that led inmates to find themselves in Salinas Valley Prison, a staff member summed it up in two root causes: broken families and lack of education. When looking at many of the social ills that affect society today, Dostoevsky’s quote is disturbingly resonant.
Deaths in the CDCR family
Pelican Bay State Prison
Sept. 13 – The California Highway Patrol confirmed to CDCR that Pelican Bay State Prison Correctional Officer James Chappell, 29, was fatally injured in a traffic collision Sept. 13 in Colton while on military duty. He died in a hospital of head injuries.
Officer Chappell was with CDCR for two years and six months. He began his career at California State Prison, Los Angeles County. He transferred to Pelican Bay State Prison on Feb. 27, 2012.
He leaves behind a wife and three children. The CHP is investigating the crash.
Deuel Vocational Institution
Aug. 31 – DVI was informed of the passing of retired Correctional Sgt. William “Bill” Greaves. Mr. Greaves began his career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Sept.16, 1985.
After graduating from the Richard A. McGee Training Center, Mr. Greaves transferred to DVI as an officer and in August of 1997, promoted to the rank of correctional sergeant.
Mr. Greaves was loved and respected by all who knew him and remained an integral part of the DVI family throughout his entire career, retiring in January 2008.
North Kern State Prison
Sept. 3 – North Kern State Prison received notification that Dolores Azevedo, Case Records Technician, passed away. Ms. Azevedo began her career with NKSP in 2006. She will be dearly missed as a colleague, friend and loved one.
Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center
Aug. 30 – The R.A. McGee Correctional Training Center received notification that Loretta Reyna, Office Technician, passed away after a short battle with cancer.
She began her career with the Franchise Tax Board in 2002, transferring to Deuel Vocational Institution in 2004 and then promoting as a Office Technician at the Office of Training and Professional Development, Stockton Training Center in 2007.
In 2010, she transferred to the Correctional Training Center, where she worked in the Advanced Academies Unit.