In California’s early years, jails were scarce and prisons non-existent. Prior to 1849, there were only six jails in the entire state. That all changed with the influx of gold seekers headed for the mines, followed by a drastic increase in crime. To address the issue, the state passed a series of laws and established a state prison at San Quentin. Inmate reform has proven a collaborative effort between custody and rehabilitative staff. The following are just a few of the examples of such cooperation through the history of the state prison system.
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.
Tucked in among the rolling hills of Ione sits Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP), housing about 4,000 offenders. To those driving by, they see a sign and a road leading onto the prison’s 866-acre grounds. That’s as close as most people get to a state prison. Movies, books and television often paint an unflattering picture of those who work at a correctional facility. Prison staff – custody and non-custody – lead the same lives as their neighbors when not inside the walls. They coach little league teams, lead scouting groups, celebrate their children’s birthdays and enjoy gatherings with their loved ones. When the big blockbuster movies end, and the criminal is captured, that’s usually where the story stops for the audience. But for those working in prisons, jails, parole offices and correctional facilities around California, that’s where the story begins.
CDCR joins correctional staff across the country to honor and recognize those who work in the field. “Here in California, our Department has a long and proud tradition, dating back to the Gold Rush with the building of San Quentin State Prison,” Secretary Diaz wrote. “Today, we are a leader in correctional policy and practice, and this is thanks in great part to the work, professionalism and courage of our staff.”
Avenal State Prison (ASP) has completed its first round of training and it was a success. Not only did the dogs get trained to be able to help members of the society, but the inmate trainers feel they can give back to the community and show humanity.
For years, Lassen Family Services has held the Walk a Mile in their Shoes event to raise awareness for victims and survivors of child abuse and sexual assault and their families. On April 13, in honor of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Honor Guard from California Correctional Center presented colors at Memorial Park in Susanville to kick off the event.