Officials turned out for the Pleasant Valley State Prison 20th anniversary celebration.

Officials turned out for the Pleasant Valley State Prison 20th anniversary celebration.

Families, employees turn out to celebrate PVSP anniversary

By Lt. Ryan Anderson, AA/Public Information Officer
Pleasant Valley State Prison

Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary as an institution.

On Nov. 4, 1994, PVSP began housing Level III General Population inmates on four facilities and Level I inmates on its Minimum Support Facility. Many staff who activated PVSP remain employed there today.

Although staff have left through promotions, transfers, etc., through the years, many have found their way back to the place where their careers started.

One example is current Warden Scott Frauenheim, who arrived at PVSP in 1997 as a Correctional Officer, and later promoted to other institutions before his eventual return in November 2013.

Warden Frauenheim said it was a great honor to be able to host the prison’s 20-year celebration as the Warden of PVSP.

“PVSP has always been known as the best among the State of California’s institutions, and we will strive to continue our commitment to excellence and state service for years to come,” he said. “It is a privilege to return to where I started, and mold the next generation of leaders in the department.”

Among the attendees and guest speakers of the celebration were current Valley State Prison Warden Ray Fisher, former PVSP Warden James Yates, and a representative from Congressman David Valadao’s Office.

PVSP employee, Al Bonilla, who started his career at PVSP in 1997 as the Community Resource Manager, is a local resident who was influential in the naming of the institution.

Bonilla was a Coalinga City Council member when the council voted to give the institution the title  “Pleasant Valley” State Prison based on the name of the 18-by-9 mile Southern San Joaquin Valley basin in which it is located.

“I’m proud to say 20 years ago we brought roughly 1,400 jobs to a small part of southwest Fresno County. The benefits to our community have been immeasurable when you consider the funding which came to the city’s infrastructure upon the arrival of the prison,” he said.

Bonilla is currently the Correctional Business Manager II for PVSP.

PVSP houses about 3,200 Level III inmates on two General Population facilities, two Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) facilities and one Minimum Support Facility.  Although located in a remote area of outside of the Central Valley, a large percent of PVSP’s 1,350 staff members are longtime residents of Fresno and Kings County, promoting a family atmosphere feeling throughout the institution.

To help commemorate the 20th anniversary event, PVSP held a Family Night wherein over 300 of the staff’s family members arrived on prison grounds to witness demonstrations of staff’s daily activities and even embarked on a guided tour of one of the facilities.

Guides gave specific facts about PVSP and the Department of Corrections, giving family members more perspective of what their loved ones do on a daily basis.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, PVSP Fire Department and representatives from the MADD program were also onsite interacting with the families.

Santos Cervantes was part of the team who activated PVSP and he recalls the day they received their first two inmates.

“I was a new Correctional Counselor I on Facility B at PVSP on Nov. 1, 1994, when inmates got off the bus at R&R,” he said. “How do I know for sure? Because it was my birthday.”

He said the first two inmates were half asleep when they arrived.

“We hurriedly processed them, gave them their laundry, bedrolls, and other supplies. We classified the first two inmates right there at R&R, granted them Minimum B custody, generated gate passes and work cards, and gave them a sack lunch. By noon, I personally escorted the two inmates to the minimum security facility, where they picked the bunk they wanted, showered and ate lunch.”

He said staff were working long before the first inmates arrived so they could activate the facility.

“I arrived on Oct. 10, 1994, and staff was already working in the Administration Building,” he said.

Cervantes worked at PVSP for two years. Currently he is a Correctional Counselor II (Specialist) at CSP-Solano.

Families and friends attended the 20th anniversary celebration at PVSP.

Families and friends attended the 20th anniversary celebration at PVSP.