From left are Operation New Hope Chief Operations Officer Russell Degnan, founder Bill Degnan, sponsor Karina Gonzalez, Community Resources Manager (A) Lisa Urquidez and retired Chief Deputy Warden David Bacigalupo. Inmates donated more than $1,100 to the program.

By Lt. Roland Ramon, AA/Public Information Officer
Correctional Training Facility

Inmates at Correctional Training Facility (CTF) donated more than $1,100 to a rehabilitative program.

Operation New Hope (ONH), an Inland Empire based youth rehabilitation program, began 35 years ago as a means of preparing at-risk youth for the realities of adulthood. The program originally began as a court-ordered recovery program for teens incarcerated and housed in the California Youth Authority (CYA).

ONH’s founder, Bill Degnan, who worked at CYA, saw a growing trend: young men were frequently returning to the institution once they were paroled. To help combat the problem, Degnan decided to address the issue outside of the prison walls. In 1993, ONH, now a learning facility, was formed for those who were not incarcerated.

The thought process was simple: educate and rehabilitate at-risk youth before they become incarcerated. ONH is based on the premise that behavior is a system of unrecognized, therefore, unresolved problems. Once a problem is identified, it can be “treated” by understanding the difference between positive and negative decision-making, awareness of toxic relationships and the development of self-trust.

In 1993, a learning center was created to assist in the rehabilitation process of those not incarcerated. Cal State University San Bernardino and the University of California, Irvine performed research to see just how effective ONH was at rehabilitating those in their youth program. Both universities labeled ONH as an exemplary youth program, listing it as a proven and evidence-based success story. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have also listed Operation New Hope as a model program.

In 2011, the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) was contacted by Bill Degnan with the idea of building upon the success of ONH within CYA and using it to assist the rehabilitation process within the adult correctional system.

At first, the program was purposed to be a part of the curriculum that academic teachers could use in the classroom. A curriculum was developed so that ONH could also be utilized as a prison Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group (ILTAG). Training sessions began with the original members, conducted by Bill Degnan, Dr. Sechrest (Cal State University San Bernardino Criminal Justice Department), W. J. Wilson, who at the time was the Associate Warden for CTF Facilities A & B and retired Chief Deputy Warden D. Bachiglupo.

On March 14, 2014, the institutional ONH program completed its first class. Since December 2014, the ONH program has also provided for the Spanish speaking population, with their first class graduating in January 2015. Presently there are three institutions showing interest in the ONH program.

In 2016, ONH saw additional growth. Russell Degnan moved from Executive Director to Chief Operating Officer, which gives him the freedom and ability to attend workshops and promote the benefits of the ONH program. Marty Sellers, the ONH Executive Director, with Russell have the vision of expanding the ONH program throughout the Inland Empire.

ONH continues to expand to meet the growing demands of at-risk youths within the Inland Empire. ONH currently employs a staff of 10 and serves over 100 students daily in their learning centers. Currently, ONH’s high school has 65 students and its Workforce Program (Vocational Training) has 110 students. The combined learning centers, high school and Workforce students range in age from 16 to 25. In the adult correctional system, there are currently 268 participants in the ONH program.