By Correctional Officer D. Hicks, REACH Sponsor
California State Prison, Corcoran

California State Prison-Corcoran hosted a group of at-risk youth from Citrus Continuation High School in Porterville last month as part of their continuing Rehabilitating, Educating and Creating Hope (REACH) Program. The Youth were met at the front gate by REACH Sponsors made up of CSP-Corcoran correctional staff and their immersion into a day in the life of an inmate began.  Upon being instructed of institution policies, including the no hostage policy, the young men traded in their personal attire for bright green prison jumpsuits and were escorted to Facility 3B.

Upon entering the yard, the 25 inmate participants in the REACH Program took over the tour. Their prison experience began with a number of speeches by the inmates covering topics from confidentiality among inmates to respect between inmates and correctional staff. After the brief welcoming by the participating inmates, the youth were given a guided tour of the facility program area including the education classrooms, program office, medical clinics, and inmate canteen, with narration provided by the participating inmates.

The initial tour ended in the facility gymnasium where the youth and their chaperones were seated and given brief introductory speeches by the inmates. After the introductions, each youth was paired up with an inmate and given time to discuss the actions that led them both to where they were currently sitting. The next phase of the REACH Program had the young men and their chaperones escorted across the facility recreation yard to an actual housing unit, where they got a close up and personal look into the living conditions of inmates.

The young men were secured inside actual cells, two per cell, while their inmate mentors explained to them the do’s and do not’s of living in a cell with another person. The Youth visitors were allowed to make collect phone calls from the prison phones, only to realize the despair felt by the inmates when their calls to family members outside of prison go unanswered. After a speech on gang prevention, the youth, their chaperones, and the REACH inmates were escorted across the recreation yard to the dining hall, where everyone got to enjoy a typical lunch of state peanut butter and individually wrapped wheat bread.

The day concluded in the gymnasium, where each of the young men from Citrus got in front of the entire group and shared the plans they had made with their mentors to change their lives and avoid returning to Corcoran as an inmate rather than a guest.