Story and some photos by Lt. Michael Ramirez, AA/PIO
Centinela State Prison

Offenders assigned to the Auto Body class at Centinela State Prison (CEN) are taking advantage of real world learning opportunities.

Jesus Yerena, the CEN auto body Instructor and a 23-year veteran of the Department, runs a program with a focus on providing his students with valuable work experience.

“These inmates are exposed to real hands-on experience,” he said. “There’s training from the book but there needs to be more and [here] they’re allowed to shoot primer, mask, and paint. I see it as a very positive program.”

Students in the program plan to use their experience in automotive body repair to gain employment after prison. One student explained his goal of opening a “one stop” art studio that includes, “…air brush work, canvas paint, murals, tattoos – all [art] media in one place.”

The students in Yerena’s class take pride in their work and are eager to showcase their projects. The inmates are currently working on a variety of class projects that includes airbrushed artwork on lockers, paint and body work on several vehicles, and a mural painted on plywood for an upcoming event that will be hosted by the prison.

The class also collaborates on projects with other CEN vocational programs. One such collaboration included the fabrication of a model boat by CEN’s welding class in which the auto body class is providing the paint and body work.

The auto body class has future plans to add a new paint booth and mix station.

“The paint booth and paint mixing room will be state of the art,” Yerena said. “The mix station is designed to make any color.”