Service providers visit institution to share resources with inmates
By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications
The majority of inmates in California prisons will one day be released. Then what? What are their options? Where do they turn? Are there resources and jobs waiting on the outside?
Hundreds of inmates at California State Prison-Solano recently spent an afternoon looking for answers to better prepare them to reenter the community.
Several CDCR agencies had tables arranged throughout the Level II gymnasium manned with experts ready to answer questions and hand out literature to inquisitive inmates.
This was an opportunity for inmates to discuss their prospects and opportunities face-to-face with those who can answer their questions and direct them to available services.
“There looks to be 200 people in the room right now, and as you can see they’re engaged with the providers, they’re not standing around just filling time. They’re in conversation with those who can answer their questions,” said inmate John Badgett.
Among the CDCR agencies represented at the reentry fair were Victims’ Services, Alternative Custody Program, Parolee Service Center and the Male Community Reentry Program.
Several outside agencies were also on hand including a reentry project dubbed Root and Rebound, the Solano County Library and Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I’m here because there is a high percentage of prisoners who have a problem with substance abuse, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, and a lot of them committed their crimes when they were drunk or on drugs,” said Carole Dorsey, representing Alcoholics Anonymous. “When they get out, it’s important that they have a place to turn, and be able to talk to others who have dealt with similar issues. AA is there for them to help them stay sober.”
Inmates don’t have access to the Internet, so if they do have questions it’s often difficult for them to get answers when planning to reenter society and their communities.
“These fairs are important because I don’t have access to a lot of these people. I don’t have access to questions I have concerning housing, restitution, and healthcare,” said inmate Nima Rezaei. “You can correspond by letter with these people, but usually their responses are short and to the point, you don’t get in-depth answers. So, when I come here, I try to get the information that I know I’ll need when I get out.”
Luke Alpoonarian is 21 years old and is serving a six-year sentence. He said he wants to hit the ground running when he gets out.
“I’m in carpentry right now and I’m learning a trade and vocation, which will allow me to get a job as soon as I step out from these gates,” he said. “You don’t have to leave prison with no skills and be forced to go back to that lifestyle that you knew and that got you in trouble in the first place.”
David Hillary served 17-years for his crime and Edwin Jones served 25. Both finished their prison sentences at SOL. They are now substance abuse counselors who came back to work with the inmates they used to see every day.
“Every time I come back here, I hear from the guys who tell us that we are an inspiration for them,” Hillary explained. “It gives them motivation to see themselves in us. They see through us that they can make it out there, and that it’s not as hard as people think.”
For Jones, it’s about giving others a chance at a brighter future.
“Some of these guys saw us when we first came to prison, not knowing, not having any idea who we were or where we were going, but then we come back and they see the transformation and they think, ‘Heck if these guys can do it, I can too,’” Jones said. “There’s hope.”
At the Victims’ Services table, Rezaei and Victim Restitution Analyst Michael Rogowski were in conversation concerning Rezaei’s restitution when he gets out.
“I’ve got about two years left on my sentence,” Rezaei said. “I know how it works with the restitution, and what I need to do to take care of that, because I’ll be moving out and I want to make sure I’m straight with what I need to do to my restitution.”
Rogowski explained, “Your parole agent will tell you when you get out that you need to make sure you start paying your restitution. But go ahead and call our office, get a P.O. box, and start sending in whatever amount you can afford. Eventually you will connect with the Franchise Tax Board and set up a monthly payment plan to satisfy your restitution.”
Twenty-year-old Diavonte Henderson just wants to soak up as much information as he can so he’s prepared to leave prison with a plan.
“When I get out and look for jobs, I have resources that I’ve taken from here,” he said. “What’s nice is there are a lot of opportunities here in the area when I get out. These are things that will help me better myself and stay out of this place.”