CDCR employees can view this video. A YouTube video is also embedded below.
Video by Rob Stewart, CDCR Television Specialist
Office of Public and Employee Communications
The beautiful artwork adorning the walls of Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) represents not only the artistic talent of its creators, but also the changes that have swept through California’s state prisons.
In what used to be the Security Housing Unit (SHU), a maximum-security facility at the Crescent City prison, art, rehabilitative programs and reentry readiness are now the focus. In 2017, CDCR converted nearly 500 SHU cells into Level II housing, creating a setting suitable for lower-custody incarcerated people to live and program.
Staff and inmates partnered to create the art program, which provides a creative space and guidance for the creation of many different types of art.
In addition to art, PBSP’s Level II facility also offers numerous rehabilitative programs, including audio journalism, music, creative writing, substance abuse disorder treatment, gardening and theater.
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Kitiona “Rock” Paepule
This is Christian Lassen’s style of art, and we’re going to use his paintings to bring in all these walls.
I started my time right up here.
‘91-’92, on A Facility, and back then it was troublesome.
You know, this marble that we have created here.
And I remember coming across this magazine, and it had a little tiny painting of Thomas Kinkade.
And I remember like looking at this painting and the picture and then wondering like how the heck was he able to produce this beauty, you know?
And it just started me on this journey of like man, if I could ever paint like this, I would showcase it when I had the chance and the ability to do so.
And that’s what you see on our wall here.
It was pretty easy, I think, because me and Rock talked about it a lot and he showed me the paintings, he showed me what he could do.
So I went into all the warehouses I could find, I took everything that I could find that wasn’t in use or wasn’t nailed down, and we brought it down and they started their painting.
A lot of people they don’t really understand that they have a certain gift, right, that’s there.
Sometimes it’s what’s on your mind, and you know, your free spirit grabs a hold of you and you want to paint all day.
And until you tap into it, you’ll never know.
It will get spread out and it will go through the whole place.
And people will enjoy it and they’ll remember that this is something I was able to do in my cell or I never would have been able to paint.
Because I believe that the industries that are in prisons, it touches everybody’s family.
It might as well be in a good way and not a bad way.
And some of these guys, if you see them from the start and you see them now, and the confidence that they now display, you will see.
You know, the change is what rehabilitation is all about.
It’s really pulled me out of a comfort zone of pencil and pen to this medium, which is acrylic.
It’s neat to see the outlook at Pelican Bay from what it was to what it is now.
Being that it’s not a hardcore institution anymore, it’s now a softer, more manageable Level II.
That change is yours and yours alone.
You have to want it.
I can tell you about art and all of this, but unless the man really wants it, wants to give themselves that chance, it’s here.
And that’s what we are. We want to be that vehicle inside to present that chance to any inmate.
Any inmate that’s willing to try because I’m a strong believer that if you believe, you can make it happen.
You know, we wear a patch that says CDCR, and the R is rehabilitation.
And if we can change the mindset of a criminal to a leader, a teacher, a mentor, then we should.
And that should be our goal.
Safety and security of the public, staff and inmate, but also to rehabilitate.
It just makes me feel proud that they’re doing something with their hands and their minds.
And they’re not just sitting there not doing anything.
It’s going to go through the state like rain fills up a bucket.