By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor

In the spirit of cooperation and learning, the South Korean government recently sent several prison employees to tour California correctional facilities.

After visiting San Quentin State Prison and the California Correctional Institution, the seven-member group from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Justice took a tour of the California State Prison, Sacramento (CSP-SAC).

Accompanied by an interpreter, the South Korean prison officials were greeted by Lt. Tony Quinn, Community Resources Manager Therese Giannelli and Jae Yang, Supervising Registered Nurse II.

Yang happens to be from Korea and still speaks the language, and so he acted as tour guide during some portions, making the flow of information much easier.

The delegation from South Korea included Daejeon Correctional Institution Vice Warden Jae-Ik Kim, Security Division official Jong-Sun Lee and other custody staff. Daejeon is the country’s largest prison, housing just over 3,000 inmates.

Interpreter Samuel Min said the delegation’s members each had 20 to 30 years of correctional experience. The delegates are selected annually from a pool of such officers and officials. The visit to CSP-SAC marked their fourth year.

Chief Deputy Warden David Baughman explained the mission of the Level IV institution.

“We have a complex mission at CSP-SAC. Along with being a level IV institution, we also house inmates with severe mental illnesses. SAC staff is trained to be versatile and cognizant of an offender’s possible disability,” he said.

Baughman discussed the medical system, mental health and how CSP-SAC makes nearly 7,000 meals for the nearby Folsom State Prison and Folsom Women’s Facility.

Intrigued by the medical and mental health services, the delegation requested to visit those specific areas.

First, Lt. Quinn showed the group the minimum support facility, housing nearly 170 low-level inmates in two dormitories.

“The remainder of our 2,300 inmates are all level IV. Yes, it’s maximum security,” he explained to the delegation through their interpreter. “As we go through the rest of the institution, you are going to see less (inmate) movement and more staff presence.”

The delegates were shown the Psychiatric Services Unit, radiology, dental, triage, a housing unit and the A Facility yard.

The group also saw an Arts-in-Corrections volunteer teaching classical guitar to inmates in the housing unit.

“We have about 108 different classes per month like this through Arts in Corrections,” CRM Giannelli said. “Then we have other programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and religious programs, just to name a few. Over 1,000 hours per month are done by volunteers.”

Lt. Quinn also discussed some of the vocational training programs available to the low-level inmates.

“Providing a job skill is part of rehabilitative programs,” he explained. “Participation varies but we have about 100 inmates participating. We require they complete an education program, so they have to earn a GED or high school diploma.”

The health care improvements at CSP-SAC seemed to impress the delegation.

“They were very happy to learn about your health care system,” said interpreter Min. “They said this is the most advanced system they’ve ever seen. (The vice warden) is very impressed by your people working in this facility.”

During visits to the other two institutions, the delegation was shown different aspects of the state prison system.

“The conversation back and forth was good,” said Sgt. Christopher Siino, administrative assistant to San Quentin Warden Ron Davis. “During the tour I had an officer come over and explain the different types of protective equipment (and) the training the Department gives.”

They were also taken to the firing range for a demonstration.

At California Correctional Institution, the delegation was shown protective gear and given a tour of the facility led by Lt. Joshua Tyree.

“I took them to our Level I Sensitive Needs Yard Facility and we went into Van Wesson Hall.  I had an Officer display the personal equipment that he was wearing on the yard and explained what each item was utilized for,” Lt. Tyree said. “From there I took them to the Level 1 visiting where I displayed the two types of personal vests assigned to custody. They were very impressed with the difference in weight from the stab-resistant vest to the bullet-resistant vest.”

The delegation also learned about CDCR’s Crisis Response Teams (CRT).

“CRT Commander Lieutenant L. Machado briefed them on what CRT was and how they are used,” Lt. Tyree said. “We provided them with hearing and eye protection and took them to the range (for a demonstration).”