By Lt. Charlene Billings, AA/PIO
California Correctional Center
A total of 43 inmates participated in a graduation ceremony to celebrate obtaining General Education Diplomas, College Certifications, Transitions, and Vocational Completions at the California Correctional Center (CCC).
Warden Suzanne Peery and many others were there to witness the ceremony and congratulate the inmates as they received certificates and shook hands with instructors and staff.
The graduation ceremony was unlike most in prison – a former inmate returned as a guest speaker. Eugene Dey, who was formerly incarcerated at CCC, was present for the graduation to give an inspirational speech.
Dey spoke to the new graduates about his failures in prison and while on parole. He spoke about the steps he took to earn a Bachelor’s Degree while incarcerated and how privileged the inmates are to be given the opportunity to earn their GED and attend college at no expense to them. He provided information regarding opportunities available upon release and how to successfully parole and not return. Dey was serving his third term under the “Three Strikes” law, meaning he would not have another opportunity to parole and become a free citizen.
With new laws impacting parole, he was given another chance to change his ways, and this time said he chose to live life in a more positive, productive manner. He has made it his mission to attend prison graduations to give advice and support to inmates in hopes that they too will choose change. His success story was inspiring to all; he is married with children and has become a drug and alcohol counselor.
The newly graduated inmates sat in silence throughout the ceremony and listened to the speakers. As the ceremony came to an end, the inmates shook hands with Dey, teachers, administrators, and celebrated their accomplishments with family and friends while enjoying cake and coffee.