Monday, November 6, 2006

CIW Teams with Faith-Based Organization to Prepare Female Offenders for Parole

Inmates spend final year of prison time preparing for release

Chino – Today the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California Institution for Women (CIW), and the Prison Industry Authority, in cooperation with a nationally recognized faith-based prisoner reentry program, held an open house for a pilot program designed to prepare female offenders for reentry into society, and reunification with their families and children.

This reentry curriculum is being coordinated by a national organization, Alpha USA Divisions of Prisons & Re-Entry, which has conducted similar programs in two other states. The results of similar programs in other states have been encouraging and indicate a decrease in recidivism or return-to-prison rate for inmates. More than 200 faith-based volunteers from across the United States joined in a celebration and blessing of this open house today. Nearly 130 CIW female offenders are enrolled in this program.

"This department re-organized to begin preparing inmates for their eventual release back into the community the day they arrive to serve their prison time," said CIW Warden Dawn Davison. “I believe these type of partnerships will give inmates, such as the women at CIW, the best chance at success once they leave prison and return home. This program also has improved the security and safety within the prison, allowing other programming inmates the ability to be successful.”

The pilot program allows for CIW inmates to voluntarily participate in a curriculum of study based on Biblical principles prior to release and continue to be assisted in their transition back into the community after release. The state is not reimbursing the collaborators for curriculum delivery or post-release services.

CDCR has a long history of working with organizations of all denominations who serve as volunteers. CDCR welcomes organizations of all denominations to approach the department with proposals that assists inmates and parolees on services.

The Prison Industry Authority, the state organization that operates factories in California prisons and a co-sponsor of the program, has created additional jobs in its fabric enterprise at the institution to support this pilot program.

"The Prison Industry Authority is pleased to partner with the Alpha project in developing a new rehabilitation program at the California Institution for Women," said PIA General Manager Matt Powers. "The skills that these inmates learn while working in PIA and the life skills that are taught in the Alpha Project can greatly assist inmates in successfully transitioning back into society."

Administrators at other CDCR institutions are studying the CIW pilot in an effort to determine whether this program will work in their facility. Plans are already in place to initiate a second pilot at Folsom State Prison in 2007.

In nearly every community surrounding existing adult prisons and juvenile facilities, hundreds of faith-based volunteers serve as a critical community partner with inmates – often serving as the only visitor an inmate might have during their incarceration. The Alpha program is designed to channel those resources in a coordinated effort to deliver a variety of skills to inmates so they can best succeed once they return home.

"I was a prison warden for more than 20 years in Oklahoma," said Alpha National Director Jack Cowley. "I have been witness to a failed correctional system, both in California and on a national level. I am excited about the possibilities in this state for a meaningful transition for the inmates. This follows Governor Schwarzenegger's plan for reducing recidivism. This program is a first, and I believe it will serve as a significant step toward making those reductions in recidivism occur."

Female inmates with a minimum of nine months to a year of time before their parole date can be considered. Inmates can stay as long as a year. The program encompasses a single living unit in a general population area.

Inmates are housed within the same living unit of the facility to enhance an environment within the facility, which is supportive to their life-changing experiences. The curriculum is broken up into four quarters, like an educational curriculum. Thirty to forty inmates attend each part of the curriculum as they move through the four quarters. The classes are taught in the evenings, while inmates are at jobs during the day.

News Fact Sheet: CIW Faith-Based Initiative (pdf)

CDCR Investigators Catch California Prison Escapee after 35 years

Escapee Found in Canada Returned to California Prison On Monday

(Sacramento) – A 35-year odyssey came to an end today when a man who escaped from a California corrections conservation camp in 1971 was returned to custody after a special agent with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reopened the case earlier this year.

“This case clearly demonstrates that CDCR never stops looking for offenders who have escaped from custody or parole supervision,” said Richard Rimmer, Assistant Secretary of the CDCR Office of Correctional Safety. “Our agents and staff are very experienced, talented and relentless investigators.”

Earlier this year, a special agent with CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety-Special Service Unit reopened the case of Michael Florentino, who had escaped from a state correctional conservation camp on August 22, 1971. Within months, the agent tracked Florentino, now 60, living in Vancouver, British Columbia, under the alias Michael Capuano.

In August, the Special Service Unit contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for assistance. The RCMP confirmed Florentino’s identity and conducted surveillance to confirm his whereabouts. The Federal Bureau of Investigations submitted an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Custody warrant to authorities in Canada and Florentino was arrested on September 15, 2006 in Vancouver by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for being a U.S. citizen in Canada illegally.

Florentino, convicted in Contra Costa County in 1969, was about two-and-a-half years into his six-months to 10-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon when he and inmate Bobby Jehu Stroup walked away from the Growlersburg Conservation Camp in El Dorado County 35 years ago. Stroup was apprehended, but Florentino, who was 25 years old at the time, eluded authorities for more than three decades.

Following his recent arrest, Florentino was given a deportation order to return to the United States from federal immigration officials. He voluntarily surrendered to CDCR Special Service Unit agents and federal immigration agents this morning. He was taken into CDCR custody and transported to San Quentin State Prison’s Reception Center.

The Board of Parole Hearings will be notified and will schedule a hearing to determine how much time Florentino needs to serve and what action to take for his 1971 escape.

The Special Service Unit was established in 1964. Originally formed to enhance liaison activities between corrections and the law enforcement community, the unit provides state level investigative services to law enforcement when inmates or parolees are suspected, provides investigative services for CDCR institutions, functions as the department’s gang intelligence operation, apprehends escapees and dangerous parolees-at-large, and coordinates the California Gang Task Force, the longest running law enforcement task force in California history. In the past three years, the Special Service Unit has apprehended 61 escapees.

Of all offenders that escaped from a state prison, conservation camp or community based program between 1975 and 2005, 99 percent have been apprehended.