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.
It is estimated that over 3.5 million employers participated in the annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day on April 25, including at CDCR. The celebration is intended to introduce girls and boys across the county to the workplace and empower them to dream without gender limitations and think imaginatively about their family, work, and community lives. At CDCR institutions across the state, children participated in a variety of activities throughout the day.
Meet Carol Newborg, program manager for the San Quentin Prison Arts Project, a William James Association Arts in Corrections program that offers robust arts instruction inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison. Newborg has been teaching art in prisons for nearly 40 years, and shared with Inside CDCR how art programs help incarcerated people not only express themselves in a positive way, but can also inspire them to explore other avenues of rehabilitation.
One of the runners in this year’s Boston Marathon was a man only recently paroled from San Quentin State Prison. Markelle Taylor had been incarcerated in CDCR institutions for many years when he returned to a childhood sport: running. At first, he struggled to run even a short distance. But thanks to the guidance and enthusiasm of San Quentin volunteer running coach Frank Ruona, and the camaraderie of fellow members of the San Quentin 1,000 Mile Running Club, Markelle persevered – and how. In January this year, he ran a personal best in the annual San Quentin Marathon, and did it fast enough to qualify for Boston, the world’s most competitive annual marathon.
CDCR staff braved cold waters on March 29 in support of Special Olympics Northern California. Teams from Mule Creek, High Desert, Deuel Vocational Institution, CSP-Sacramento and Headquarters participated in the annual Polar Plunge into the icy water of South Lake Tahoe at Zephyr Cove. Meanwhile Avenal State Prison, Valley State Prison and Central California Women’s Facility teams plunged into Fresno’s Millerton Lake.
Meet Ron Mason, a correctional officer for more than 20 years who is sharing his talent as a writer to help his fellow correctional officers through hard times .Mason, who works at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran, found Desert Waters Correctional Outreach after the suicide of a fellow officer. The organization provides consulting, staff training, and staff wellness resources.