Calipatria students and Imperial Valley College faculty.

Story and photos by Lt. Everardo Silva, AA/PIO
Calipatria State Prison

Calipatria student Gilbert Garcia displays his certificate with his son, recognizing his achievements in passing the first two semesters as he strives to earn his associate’s degree.

On July 28, inmates at Calipatria State Prison (CAL) were recognized for successfully completing their first full year of course work toward fulfilling their goals of achieving an associate’s degree in psychology while incarcerated. Those joining in the celebration included inmate family members, Imperial Valley College (IVC) faculty, CDCR Office of Correctional Education staff and prison staff.

Through IVC’s Prison Education Project (PEP), students at CAL began their coursework in the fall of 2016. More than 54 student inmates at CAL, in two separate programs, were excited to finally receive Certificates of Recognition from IVC.

College Superintendent/President Victor Jamie said, “There are now more than 32 prisons offering face-to-face education (and) 92 percent of (CAL students) passed the course in the fall and 88 percent passed in the spring. You are among the best and brightest of IVC students.”

CAL Warden W. L. Montgomery addressed the students.

“This program is a pathway to home. For the first time in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s history, recidivism is below 50 percent,” he said. “This program, dollar for dollar, is the best program in prison, and I challenge you students to complete what you started.”

Guest speaker Brantley Choate, Acting Director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs, said, “If you have a life sentence, a degree is important because you can become a peer mentor. … It’s more than a teacher’s assistant. You’ll be helping those in your living unit.”

Director Choate said they are partnering with five or six prisons to implement bachelor degree programs and will include San Diego State University in the Imperial Valley.

Inmate Arthur Bermudez, from CAL’s Facility B, was honored with a Student Excellence Award.

Bermudez thanked the institution for the college program.

“More important, we are learning to break down barriers,” he said. “Learning to get along with others, here and outside, as these social skills are what we need to succeed when we get out. For me, it’s a privilege to be accepted into this class.”

Calipatria students and Imperial Valley College faculty.

DRP acting Director Brantley Choate addresses the students, faculty and guests during the celebration.