Steven Schnitter, in cap and gown on graduation day, is presented with his degrees and certificates by Correctional Sgt. Paul Linder.

Steven Schnitter, in cap and gown on graduation day, is presented with his degrees and certificates by Correctional Sgt. Paul Linder.

Credits rehabilitation programs, ‘strong desire’ to turn life around

By Sgt. Paul Linder, Assistant Camp Commander
Owens Valley Conservation Camp

At 43, Steven Schnitter found himself sentenced to a five-year prison term on a drug-related offense in 2011 but rather than give up, he decided to turn his life around.

Schnitter began to apply himself and work hard enough to qualify for placement in one of the state’s 44 fire camps, according to officials.

Schnitter arrived at the Owens Valley Conservation Camp located in the eastern Sierra on July 23, 2012, and worked two fire seasons on an inmate fire crew, fighting multiple fires throughout the state during the 2012 and 2013 fire seasons.

In December 2013, Schnitter was accepted as a trainee in the Camp’s Waste Water Treatment Program under the supervision of Cal-Fire Water and Sewer Plant Operator J. Tabush.

In the two years he worked in the program, Schnitter earned three state licenses – Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator Grade II, Water Treatment Operator Grade T2 and Water Distribution Operator Grade D2.

And, he did it all while being an instrumental part of operating the Camp’s Water and Waste Water treatment programs.

Schnitter also managed to utilize what spare time he had left in the day to earn three college degrees and one Certificate of Achievement from the Distance Learning Program of Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley. He earned an Associate of Arts (AA) in Social and Behavioral Science, an AA in Arts and Humanities and an Associate of Science Degree in General Business with a Certificate of Achievement in General Business.

During his two years and seven months at Owens Valley, Schnitter also assisted 11 other inmates in working toward their College education and facilitated the camp’s Pre-Release class multiple times.

“(I had) a strong desire to change my life,” Schnitter said. “It would have been much more difficult without the love and support of my parents, Terry and Carol Schnitter.”

Inmate Schnitter also wanted to give a special thanks to Chief Plant Operator J. Tabush for giving him the opportunity to be in the Water Treatment Program and Camp Commander J. Frohreich and Sgt. Paul Linder for the hours they spent proctoring his many College Exams.

Inmates who desire an education can earn up to a GED. Anything beyond the basic GED, according to officials, must be paid for by the inmate or the inmate’s family.

Steven Schnitter, through his hard work and efforts, has truly demonstrated that for those inmates who are willing to put in the time and effort, great things can be accomplished. Those with the facility say rehabilitation is alive and well in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.