By La Cima Conservation Camp Staff
A program co-founded by Lt. Derrick “Bo” Taylor, who was killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting last fall, is helping inmates reform and steering young adults from trouble.
La Cima Conservation Camp, CC #42 in East San Diego County, is a 90-man fire camp run jointly by the CDCR and the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE). The primary function of the camp program is to fight wildland fires throughout the state in conjunction with CALFIRE using minimum custody inmates at a tremendous cost savings to the taxpayers.
Although the CDCR camp mission is to promote the conservation of natural and human resources within the limits established by the penal code, CDCR is also actively involved in the rehabilitation of inmates and helping the local communities.
Under the camp’s Community Betterment Program, staff members escort pre-screened inmates from La Cima to speak to groups of young people to talk about their struggles and choices that led to their incarceration.
The inmates provide personal testimony and experiences making children and young adults aware of the consequences of their choices. This program was implemented by Lt. Taylor and Correctional Officer Timothy Mello.
“In 2008, Lt. Bo Taylor and myself began this program,” said Office Mello. “We wanted these kids to see for themselves the results of going down the wrong path. Bo’s thought was if we could reach at least a couple of kids, the program would be a success.”
Rachel Valenzuela, a Criminal Justice English Teacher at Granite Hills High School, sees the benefits of the program.
“We have participated in the program for many years. It continues to be an event that students look forward to, as well as an excellent learning experience for them,” she said. “In a world where, often, television and media glorify and demonize elements of the correctional system, it is important for students to see, firsthand, the truths and consequences of criminal behavior.”
Inmate Stephen Horne, a program participant, said, “I normally don’t like to think of the things that brought me to prison, but if revisiting those emotions can help a child who is struggling, then it’s worth it.’
Since the 2008 school year, the La Cima inmates have spoken at Patrick Henry High School, El Capitan High School, Granite Hills High School, Santana High School and Community Day School.