By Lt. Jennifer Davies, AA/PIO
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
There was no need for actual fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July at Richard J. Donovan (RJD) Correctional Facility. Instead, inmates on Facility E, RJD’s Non- Designated Programming Facility celebrated Independence Day with bursts of creativity.
In an unusual showcase organized by the inmates themselves, along with the support of volunteer service providers, the inmates demonstrated their creative talents and showcased a few of RJD’s programs in an event they produced for outside family members and friends. The event was produced through the combined efforts of the Facility E Music Program and Community Social Gatherings.
A group mural designed and painted by inmates involved in Project PAINT was on display in the Visiting Room, where the celebration took place. Founder Laura Pecenco spoke about the five year history of Project PAINT at RJD and announced the inmate’s work will be featured in an upcoming exhibition in Oceanside.
The Tender Loving Canine’s POOCH Program (Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles and Creating Hope) also took the stage with two service dogs currently going through training. The men described the program as the
dogs obediently responded to their trainer’s commands, demonstrating training methods that focus only on positive reinforcement.
While animals are tough to follow in any performance, Playwrights Project’s Out of the Yard program had the audience in stitches with their performance of “Moonbeam Saves the World” written by one of the inmates. Professional actors from Playwrights Project performed alongside the inmates and Executive Director Cecelia Kouma gave a brief overview of the program and announced that the plays by writers at RJD will be produced at SDSU for the 4th consecutive year in April 2019.
Jail Guitar Doors (JGD) introduced JGD Instructor Rob Bird who spoke about the importance of the program, and the participants’ appreciation of the support, training and equipment provided by the organization.
These presentations served as opening acts to the main attraction: a phenomenal rock concert featuring a variety of musical styles, a combination of joyful and heart-wrenching original lyrics, along with covers of popular songs. The concert was completely produced and performed by the musicians on Facility E. Throughout the performance, the audience delighted in the artists’ talents. They laughed, cried, swayed to the music and honored the performers with a standing ovation at the end of the evening. The participants, whose faces beamed with pride, expressed gratitude to the administration, officers and volunteers for making the event possible
Cecelia Kouma said, “These guys are talented. It was a pleasure to see them sharing their creativity in such a positive and rewarding way. The event showcased the importance of the programs provided inside and gave the men an opportunity to work together in a cooperative way to produce something remarkable. It’s impressive what these guys are able to accomplish when given the resources and ability to make it happen. I applaud Warden Paramo, Captain Garza, the officers and administrators who encourage this type of personal growth.”