By Capt. Stephen Zanini
Division of Rehabilitative Programs
Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP) Director Brant Choate gathered all DRP Correctional Counselor IIIs (CC III), Correctional Counselor II-Specialists (CC II) and Parole Services Associates (PSA) at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Facility in Galt for a two-day conference recently. This marked the first time since DRP expanded rehabilitative programs into every prison that these employees attended a conference together.
DRP CC III’s coordinate a broad spectrum of legislative mandates, departmental policies, DRP procedures, and management goals affecting the performance and success of an in-prison rehabilitative program. DRP currently has two CC II-Specialists. CC IIs make recommendations to DRP, prison administration and contract treatment management staff to resolve issues involving the functioning of the Offender Mentor Certification Program and other DRP Programs such as; Substance Use Disorder Treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment programs and Long Term Offender Programming.
Another integral position within DRP is the PSA classification. Overall, the PSA’s perform program administration for the California Identification (CAL-ID) card program, assist in screening for eligible offenders for DRP programs, and track each offender’s participation in programs.
This assembly allowed Director Choate, and Deputy Directors Kevin Hoffman and Ryan Souza to express their gratitude for field staff’s contributions and diligence in creating environments conducive to rehabilitative programs. In turn, the conference gave field staff the opportunity to share with the executive team their achievements, the challenges they experience and recommendations for a more successful program.
The conference began with special recognition of employees that had overcome extreme difficulties and unforeseen obstacles in order to provide programs to the inmates without disruption. The following staff were acknowledged: CC III Jennifer Cota of Pleasant Valley State Prison; CC III Russell Tuman, PSA Sharon Dias and Office Technician Audra Paz of Avenal State Prison; PSA Olivia Arnett of Deuel Vocational Institution; PSA Rebeca Garcia of Correctional Training Facility; PSA Rebecca Lee of Folsom State Prison; PSA Sarah Mata of Valley State Prison; PSA Michelle Torres of California Institution for Men; PSA Jennifer Tweed of Pelican Bay State Prison; PSA Patrick Vinfrido of R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility; and, PSA Ruvanna Zamora of California State Prison-Sacramento. In addition, CC III Jeffrey Devenberg of Calipatria State Prison was congratulated on his imminent retirement in December.
Several Department cabinet members spoke to the group. Secretary (A) Ralph Diaz and Undersecretary (A) Kathleen Allison spoke how rehabilitative programs transform into greater public safety. Secretary Diaz introduced his new guiding principle: “Rehabilitation is not from us; it’s through us.”
Connie Gipson, then Division of Adult Institutions Director (A), shared recent enhancements within the Department, which will create a safer prison environment and promote positive inmate-programming. Associate Director Felix Vasquez solicited a frank discussion with staff on topics such as staff positions and inmate assignments.
Warden William Muniz gave a presentation on his Prison‑to-Employment project and shared success stories of paroling inmates who started state employment as soon as they were released.
Both days were packed with speakers and various instructional presentations. However, ample time was set aside for constructive criticism and alternative solutions from field staff.
Although the conference has ended, DRP managers are still receiving messages with positive feedback.