CDCR is focused on providing inmates a solid pathway for rehabilitation, including those in the Step Down Program (SDP) at California State Prison, Corcoran.
To deliver rehabilitative opportunities to Security Threat Group (STG) inmates housed in the Security Housing Units (SHU), the SDP has been providing a variety of programs such as interactive workbook exercises, group facilitation, Voluntary Education Program (VEP), and elective programming.
Visions Adult School Principal Bernice Van Klaveren collaborated with STG Correctional Counselors O’Brian Bailey and Juan Bugarin to brainstorm on how to provide recreation for the SHU. In January 2016, CSP-Corcoran Coach Heidi Wippel developed the first-ever football toss competition at CSP-Corcoran. Each player was given 60 seconds to toss as many footballs into one of three targets. The further targets were given 2 points each and the closer target given 1 point each. This activity was held earlier for general population and sensitive-needs yards with over 200 voluntary participants institution-wide. Many of the participants have not touched a football in years and some not for decades.
To provide more programming in the SHU, the administration led by Correctional Administrator Debra Herndon and Warden Dave Davey, decided to allow the football toss competition to be available to inmates who were actively participating in the SDP.
There were 14 SDP inmates in Step 3 and 4 of the program who voluntarily signed up to participate in the toss. With keeping security in mind, each inmate was allowed to individually exit their cells and they had 60 seconds to toss the footballs at the targets. The energy and excitement in the housing unit was overwhelming, according to organizers.
There was a notable change in the participant’s demeanor and it assisted with opening a line of communication with staff. Many of the inmates who opted not to participate in the toss began to ask about participating in the next event. The football toss was a success as it enhanced the relations between inmates and staff.
“Everybody enjoyed being able to engage in a challenging sport activity as a group. For that moment, the nonsense was forgotten, and a true perspective was discovered by all,” said one inmate participant. “Thank you for bringing this program challenge to us, and for believing in our ability to demonstrate our true nature as human beings.”
Programs and special competitions such as these not only promote hope, but positive behavior, according to organizers.
Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Positive programming in a prison setting has the same effect as casting that stone. The ripples it creates can positively affect not only the inmates, but their relationship with their families, a more positive transition back to society, reduce violence, improve staff relations, and provide an incentive for other inmates to consider a change in their way of thinking.