Valley State Prison Inmate Family Council

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INMATES IN THE NEWS

DEFY VENTURES PROGRAM

posted 12-22-2017

MERCED COLLEGE
STUDENT OF THE MONTH
VSP INMATE

Benito Gutierrez is the first inmate to be awarded Student of the Month since inmates could enroll in college courses.

posted 11-09-2017

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.

posted 10-14-2017

CHOWCHILLA YOUTHFUL OFFENDER
HOSTS FIRST MOTIVATIONAL TOUR

posted 10-14-2017

PLACE4GRACE BUILDS BONDS
THROUGH LOVE OF READING

Richard Cabral, an actor and writer known for his roles on the TV series “American Crime” and “Southland.”

posted 10-28-2017

INMATES LEARN TRADITIONAL
ARTS FOR THERAPY

posted 08-13-2017

RELAY FOR LIFE 2018

Thank you to all that donated to Relay for Life.  A whopping $3,500.00 was raised with another $500.00 from food sales.  The inmates have built two dog houses and a table and chairs to be auctioned off during the Chowchilla Relay for Life on October 6th.

Posted April 20, 2018

INMATES BUILD PLAYHOUSE FOR
RELAY FOR LIFE 2017 IN CHOWCHILLA

This darling playhouse was built by inmates at VSP for Relay for Life.  Approximately $2,000 was made from the purchase of tickets, that is to go for cancer research.  Kudos to all the men that built this adorable work of art. The family that won the playhouse were so happy, especially their tween daughter, who will be having many sleepovers in her new little home.

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.

posted 06-23-2017

INMATES MAKE AMENDS BY TRAINING
SERVICE DOGS FOR VETERANS

Clark entered the Valley State Prison on Monday to meet trainers and begin training. It was so awesome to watch the inmate trainers and the dogs connect and begin a relationship that will continue for the next 6 months and last a lifetime. The trainers have been honing their skills over the past year and it was obvious that they are highly skilled as they handled the rambunctious newcomers.

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.

Service dogs can be life changing formilitary veterans struggling with various disabilities, but these incredible animals are also changing the lives of the people training them.
This past Friday, three future service dogs and their trainers completed the first round of training as part of the 
Doc’s Dogs for Vets program, which paired the rescue dog from Fresno Humane Animal Services with inmates
from the Valley State Prison.
By the end of the program, veterans will be able to receive trained service dogs that will drastically improve their quality of life. “I went down a dark path. I became addicted to oxycodone and came to a point where I didn’t want to live anymore,” said John “J.C.” Cook, a Navy veteran who spoke at the ceremony about losing his leg and struggling with addiction before getting his service dog. “There’s so many things dogs can do for people. … Part of the reason I went down that path was because I didn’t have a purpose. This (Ivy) gives me a reason to wake up every day. I’m not alone.”
But the program also allows the inmate trainers to learn valuable skills, take responsibility for something in their lives, and help them make amends for their crimes.“I’m an ex-gang member, so when you’re on the streets you only care about yourself,” Jones said. “This taught me to care about something other than myself,” said Andrew Jones after six months of training and caring for his dog, Samson. “We’re hoping that Sierra is able to go and impact a veteran’s life and make life easier for him or her,” said Victor Trillo. “This is a way to give back to society for the wrong that I have done.”

INMATES DONATE FUNDS TO
HELP SCHOOL KIDS

posted 05-11-2018

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!

Two of the original 10 trainers have been elected "lead trainers" and will conduct training sessions.

Please meet and welcome the new pups!

DOGS AND INMATES
TRAIN 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.

OPTICAL

Beall Carlston checks eyeglass specifications at VSP as part of it's optical program.

More than 1,500 pairs of glasses are made daily.

Jaream Skillern shapes eyeglass lenses for Medi-Cal patients as part of the program at VSP.

Beall Carlston, left, and Jaream Skillern produce eyeglasses for Medi-Cal patients.

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

Keith Archibald inputs the specifications of a lens prescription at VSP's  Optical Lab.

COSMETOLOGY

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR A GREAT ARTICLE ON THE COSMETOLOGY PROGRAM

INMATES DONATE TO
VALLEY CHILDRENS HOSPITAL