California’s prison system is about to get an infusion of volunteer spirit thanks to a federal grant.
Karen Baker, Chief Service Officer of CaliforniaVolunteers, met with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard at CDCR’s Sacramento headquarters on October 1.
CaliforniaVolunteers plans to invest grant money in CDCR to help grow volunteerism in prison communities.
The grant comes from the Volunteer Generation Fund, which was created by Congress in 2009 as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
The grant’s aim is to develop and support community-based entities to recruit, manage, and support volunteers and volunteerism. It is also meant to ensure effectiveness, with a focus on measuring key outcomes.
This marks the first time CaliforniaVolunteers will be investing in the state’s prison system.
“We are incredibly thrilled,” said Baker. “This funding allows both CDCR and CaliforniaVolunteers to do really meaningful work with inmates and also encourage people to be more involved in their communities.”
CaliforniaVolunteers will match a nearly $432,000 federal grant, driving the total available to invest is CDCR to more than $863,000 during the first year.
The grant can be continued annually upon renewal by application by CaliforniaVolunteers.
“The funding will provide us with the opportunity to explore the value of intersecting volunteerism with public safety, encouraging people to get involved in the lives of offenders and actually have an impact on inmates who come home to communities throughout California,” Baker said.
Secretary Beard said volunteerism is important to keeping former inmates from returning to prison.
“Volunteers have a tremendous impact in our institutions,” said Secretary Beard. “While CDCR runs many successful rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism, having volunteers from outside the institutions reinforces to offenders that there are people in our communities who care about them and want them to change for the better.”
Kathleen Allison, Deputy Director of Facility Support, Division of Adult Institutions, also attended the meeting.
Allison expressed enthusiasm for this new partnership with CaliforniaVolunteers.
“A number of our prisons are located in remote areas, requiring a couple of hours of travel, or are in communities where volunteer levels are currently relatively low,” Allison said. “This funding will help us to engage in new ways of encouraging volunteerism to grow in these areas. “
She said the efforts of volunteers make a significant impact, which could help curb recidivism.
“Volunteers make such a difference in the lives of our inmates. Their involvement in programming shows they truly want to help engage all of an inmate’s strengths and talents and make sure he or she can stay out of prison,” Allison said.
In the meeting, Baker outlined her goals in investing in volunteerism with CDCR.
“I know there are some communities where institutions are located that are really wanting in volunteers,” she said. “My goal is to grow volunteerism in those areas and also, on a larger scale, train volunteers who are already working in institutions to improve and make efficient how they conduct their volunteer enterprises.”
There is still planning work to be done on CDCR’s end to identify institutions which could use CaliforniaVolunteer’s assistance and also the particular programs which could grow using the Volunteer Generation Fund.
“Volunteers, as community members, are a key part of rehabilitation,” said Secretary Beard. “Having the community engage even more with offenders before they leave prison will benefit our inmates and increase our ability to ensure they choose not to go back to a life of crime. This grant will help move us forward in improving public safety, and I am grateful to CaliforniaVolunteers for giving us this opportunity to develop this partnership.”
Learn more about CaliforniaVolunteers at www.californiavolunteers.org.