INMATES IN THE NEWS
DEFY VENTURES PROGRAM
MERCED COLLEGESTUDENT OF THE MONTHVSP INMATE
Benito Gutierrez is the first inmate to be awarded Student of
the Month since inmates could enroll in college courses.
BICYCLE REFURBISHING PROGRAM COMES TO VSP
Warden Raythel Fisher Jr., assisted by inmate Rodolfo Gonzalez, cuts the ribbon during a ceremony for the Valley State Prison Bicycle Refurbishing Program as community partners look on.
CHOWCHILLA YOUTHFUL OFFENDERHOSTS FIRST MOTIVATIONAL TOUR
PLACE4GRACE BUILDS BONDS THROUGH LOVE OF READING
INMATES LEARN TRADITIONALARTS FOR THERAPY
RELAY FOR LIFE 2018
Posted April 20, 2018
INMATES BUILD PLAYHOUSE FORRELAY FOR LIFE 2017 IN CHOWCHILLA
Besides the playhouse, over $1,000 was raised by inmates during their Relay for Life event in March. Thank you men and families for being so generous.
INMATES MAKE AMENDS BY TRAINING SERVICE DOGS FOR VETERANS
We are so grateful for the support we’ve received over the past year-and-a-half and especially for Ali Imel, Yosemite Bark, who has taken the training program from zero to go! in such a short time. We are excited about the potential of each dog and are looking forward to watching their progress.
INMATES DONATE FUNDS TO HELP SCHOOL KIDS
JAIL GUITAR DOORS MUSIC AT VALLEY STATE PRISON TO HELP INMATES
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAM IS CHANGING LIVES INSIDE PRISON WALLS
CLICK ON THE RED BUTTONS BELOW FOR VIDEOS
VERY SPECIAL PUPPIES
On November 6, 2015 six new pups arrived at Valley State Prison at 10:00 am!
Two of the original 10 trainers have been elected "lead trainers" and will conduct training sessions.
Please meet and welcome the new pups!
Please meet and welcome the new pups!
DOGS AND INMATESTRAIN FOR A NEW FUTURE
TRAINING PROGRAM LEAPS INTO PRISON
SMALL ENGINE REPAIR
The sounds of air compressors blasting and engines revving takes you from inside prison walls into a place of learning and success in the warehouse buildings at Valley State Prison (VSP) in Chowchilla.
This is the vocational small engine repair program where for the last 14 months instructor Jim Lee has already helped dozens of inmates change their lives.
The small engine repair program is one of VSP’s newest vocational programs and already has the potential to grow even bigger. The class focuses on two- and four-stroke engines.
Inmates have the potential to earn $15 to $80 per hour immediately after their release. The potential benefit also is huge for California taxpayers, considering it costs an average of more than $62,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate.
The current curriculum focuses on small engines such as weed eaters, generators, chainsaws, and vacuums. The community has even stepped in to donate small engines for the inmates to work on, including 40 engines donated by Stihl, a major manufacturer of outdoor power equipment.
Inmates in the course have even stepped in to help with VSP’s needs; including repairing riding lawn mowers and institutional golf carts.
Lee has been petitioning CDCR Headquarters to expand the program to include power sport engines such as motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft, and dirt bikes. Inmates’ hopes are high that they’ll get the opportunity to expand their education even further.
“Power sports in America is huge,” one of the leading students in the class said. “It’s a billion-dollar industry; the upcoming curriculum is going to be phenomenal.”
Inmates who are successful in the course can earn nationally-recognized certificates through the Equipment and Engine Training Council. The certificates provide more than just validation that the inmate knows the material. Inmates know – some for the first time in their lives – the feel of accomplishing something they can be proud of.
“It builds character, it builds self-confidence. I know it’s going to help me be a productive citizen out (in society),” one inmate said.
“Learning these skills is a great confidence builder,” another inmate said as well as “making yourself presentable and marketable to a prospective employer.”
The current class curriculum and certification requirements take approximately nine months to complete. Instruction includes a blend of classroom and hands-on learning for approximately 35 hours a week, Monday through Friday.
“The certificates for this course come with a badge and rocker for each (certificate) they get,” Lee said. “These guys are really proud of those things.”
When VSP advertised for a Small Engine Repair program instructor, Jim Lee, who already worked at VSP’s garage and a mechanic for 40 years, jumped at the opportunity.
He built the curriculum from scratch, including getting the course hands-on training ready. Lee used his extensive experience in the mechanical field to set up the inmates for successful learning with proper equipment.
Lee is confident that expanding the small engine repair program to include power sports will significantly increase the marketable skills the students will take with them upon their release.
“Let’s face it, they’re going out there with two strikes against them whereas, the guy who’s walking off the street and hasn’t been to prison has no strikes,” Lee said. “These guys have to be that much sharper. I’m trying to give them life skills, what they have to do when they get out of here to get that job.”
There is a waiting list for the 27-person class, and spots fill up quickly.
The inmates learn to help each other and critique each other’s work while building each other up and learning to work independently to practice self-motivation.
Chowchilla is home to one of the state’s larger eyeglass production facilities.
Each day 108 people come to work and produce 1,500 to 2,000 pairs of eyeglasses.
The optical laboratory receives orders, makes the lenses to specification, assembles the glasses and fields complaints/requests for modifications at its customer service station via the Internet.
The glasses are shipped out to doctors whose clients are Medi-Cal patients who are under 18 and 65 and older.
The facility runs efficiently enough to rival any private-sector operation, but it is operated by the government.
The optical program at Valley State Prison allows inmates to learn a trade.
“This is something these guys can take to the streets,” said James Lasek, an administrator at Valley State Prison. “It’s not like when they get out they go to a place and they have to train them; they’re trained.”
Jose Chavez, the prison’s optical products supervisor, said inmates receive 1,500 hours of training during the course of several months in order to work in the laboratory. It is a coveted job in prison. Other jobs behind bars may pay 10 to 20 cents an hour, but the eyeglass facility offers 30 to 95 cents. The recidivism rate for inmates who come out of prison having went through a vocational program is far less than those who don’t, 23 percent and 61 percent respectively, according to prison authorities.
Jaream Skillern, who is up for parole in November of 2015, said working in the lab has given him skills beyond knowing how to produce lenses.
“It taught me proper job etiquette,” Skillern said. “We weren’t very interested when we were younger, but as we grow up ...”Skillern, whose job it is to shape the lenses, said bifocals are harder to produce than other types of glasses. He said he has to be careful there’s no prism (a wedge-shaped element that refracts light) visible because it will force the light to bend in the wrong direction, ruining the glasses.
Beall Carlston, who is eligible for parole in January 2016, said he is grateful because the program is providing a way for him to help his family.
Carlston, who wears glasses, said before he became involved in the process he had no clue how eyeglasses get made. “I would have never known about this. I would have just assumed doctors make the glasses,” he said.
Skillern plans to settle in Los Angeles after his release and Carlston is heading to Sacramento. Both men said they plan to get jobs producing eyeglasses. The prison system has eye-wear companies it works with to get ex-convicts jobs.
Carlston said besides the prison optical laboratory providing him with the opportunity to improve his life, it is also one more way for him to pay his debt to society.
“They need these to see,” he said. “It is a big responsibility, but that makes it that much more rewarding.”
OFFENDERS MANUFACTURE LENSES FOR THOSE IN NEED THROUGH CALPIA
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ON THE COSMETOLOGY PROGRAM