By Lt. Christene Zoucha, AA/PIO
Deuel Vocational Institution
On a warm day in August, more than 200 offenders at Deuel Vocational Institution focused their efforts on self improvement and rehabilitation by attending the Day of Peace.
Organized by the Peacemakers’ Alliance Program, the event was meant as a way to shine a light on rehabilitative options for those offenders who aren’t currently engaged in such activities. More than 50 self-help groups hosted information tables and took onsite enrollment for their programs.
Thanks to the generous donations of vendors and volunteers every inmate participant was provided with a “Success Pack” containing learning essentials such as a folder to carry class materials, writing paper, pencils, pens, a list of rehabilitative programs and an event bookmark. Light refreshments were also donated.
Through the Day of Peace, various inmate groups came together in a positive way through community building.
“Today was a truly blessed and positive day that opened my mind to the many doors that can lead me to my ultimate freedom. They should have more events like this one in the future,” said one inmate attendee.
The keynote speaker for the day was National Center for Youth Law attorney Frankie Guzman, who co-authored Proposition 57 and Senate Bill 261.
Some of those attending included Associate Warden Kenny Johnson, Community Resources Manager Martina Virrey, Peacemakers’ Alliance Program co-founder Angele Echele, San Francisco State University Project Rebound representative Joseph Miles and in-house bands led by DVI music coordinator Tracy Hunter.
More than 30 community volunteers who serve in self-help and religious programs at DVI were on-hand as well as five contract employees from HealthRIGHT 360 and more than 20 DVI employees ranging from correctional staff, psychologists and self-help sponsors to chaplains, library staff and education staff.
DVI Chaplain E. Santiago said the event was enlightening.
“I find that programs such as this Day of Peace open my eyes to the positive things people can do for each other,” he said.
Malachi Dad volunteer Walter Mendez echoed those sentiments.
“Here I sit in amazement, surrounded by men who want a better life,” he said.
Another volunteer said the event promotes unity.
“Today’s occasion is a day that should occur more often. Its purpose is to unite and not to divide. We need each other for survival,” said Carlos Lara, volunteer with Veterans Healing Veterans
“Community events such as the Day of Peace empower those present to realize the available opportunities for growth and change. Taking advantage of those opportunities is not without struggle, for change is gradual and difficult. Positive change is much more possible when leaders invite others to participate in the process and offer support along the journey,” said Peacemakers’ Alliance Program co-founder Angele Echele.
“As communities and individuals grow and heal, peace is possible. Peace is contagious and has the power to transform any community. The inmate volunteers, community volunteers and DVI self-help sponsors are the leaders acting as agents for change in the DVI community and society at-large. Without the Administration and custody staff’s support and focus on maintaining a safe, secure space, the Day of Peace would not have been possible. The (event’s) success shows that hope is alive at DVI,” she said.
Students in the Peacemakers’ Alliance Critical Literacy and Peace Education course developed the Day of Peace event proposal as a community service project. Making the event possible and successful was a collaborative effort between Peacemakers’ Alliance students, inmate activity groups’ executive body members and volunteers, self-help volunteers and sponsors, the DVI administration, custody and support staff, outside donors and the inmates who voluntarily attended the Aug. 13 event.
“This basic concept is a great way to let people who normally wouldn’t know about theses groups have a chance to be informed. It’s a great idea,” said inmate Clint Livermore.