Thursday, July 24, 2008

Growlersburg Conservation Camp:Where Fighting Fires is Just Part of The Mission

Growlersburg Conservation Camp is featured on an upcoming episode of KVIE California Heartland, first broadcast in the Sacramento region in July. The episode is available to view online at and will air on statewide PBS affiliates in late August and September.

Inmates learn sawmill operation, finish carpentry, heavy construction, and even gardening skills at the mountain camp
GEORGETOWN - Set high in the mountains above the South Fork of the American River, a piece of the “Wild West” still clings to life in the form of a small town called Georgetown.

Dating back to the Gold Rush, when thousands of emigrants descended upon the Sierra Nevada foothills looking for their fortunes, Georgetown today has not quite shaken that frontier look.

Just down the street, set in the tall pine trees, you will find the Growlersburg Conservation Camp, which supports CAL FIRE’s operations while teaching inmates valuable skills.

CDCR’s Lt. Mike Hernandez oversees the inmate population, while CALFIRE’s Division Chief, Kelly Keenan, oversees the firefighting efforts. For both, their goal is to run an efficient, effective camp.

“We oversee the custody of 132 inmates, and we aim to run a very clean operation,” said Lt. Hernandez. “The barracks are clean. The kitchen is clean. Vehicles, even uniforms are clean. It helps us maintain a level of respect and discipline which is so necessary when inmates are deployed out in the field.”

“CAL FIRE owns approximately 80 acres of land around this camp,” said Keenan. “Inmate crews maintain the forest and keep the roads cleared. When time allows, we transport crews out into the community to complete projects at parks, schools and even other fire departments.”

Sawmill operation, firefighting, fuels reduction and even working on a “crew” are valuable skills the inmates learn, and hopefully will be able to continue once they are released. These are skills learned over a period of months, and in some cases, years. Often, the day-to-day tasks are very physically demanding, whether it is working in a remote forest fighting a fire, or moving heavy lumber stacks in the camp sawmill.

Growlersburg Camp offers spiritual services and recovery programs for inmates that are provided by community volunteers. With these benefits, inmates quickly learn that life in a conservation camp is preferable to life behind the walls of a prison. It is estimated that camp emergency response to fires, floods, and project work, the inmates provide a cost avoidance of $80 million dollars to the taxpayers of California each year.

Inmate crews perform valuable fire prevention tasks including fuel reduction, road maintenance and park maintenance. A handful of inmates maintain a garden and greenhouse, year-round, which produces vegetables that supplement inmate meals at the camp. The sizable garden reduces the camp’s food purchase expenditures, while providing a nutritious variety for the inmate meals.

When they are not fighting fires, a variety of tasks are assigned to the crews.

On June 4, Crew #2 had deployed to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, in Placerville, to help the county crews prepare for the upcoming fair and rodeo. Crew # 3 was sent to Cameron Park to help reduce a fire danger around the Pine Hill nature preserve. Crews # 4 & # 5 were deployed to perform maintenance tasks at nearby CAL FIRE station houses, and were busily gearing up for what may prove to be another dangerous fire season in El Dorado County.

Back at camp, Crew #1 converted huge Ponderosa pine logs into usable lumber, and then hand-crafted the lumber into picnic tables and park benches. Growlersburg benches are built to last, with planed, smooth, 4 x 12 planks. The benches are held together with industrial-grade steel bolts. Hewn from trees salvaged from state and federal forests, you won’t find this type of lumber at your local supplier. The timber stock is a clear pine more reminiscent of an antique store or Gold Rush corral.

“You can see why the parks and schools like our product,” said Brian Eagan, CAL FIRE Captain for Crew #1. “Each table is built to last, and they even come in children’s sizes. We make everything from start to finish, right here in camp.”

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CDCR Fugitive Apprehension Team and U.S. Marshals Coordinate Major Arrests

SACRAMENTO - This week the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Fugitive Apprehension Team took part in two major arrests with the United States Marshals Service (USMS). The result is that a parolee at large (PAL) suspected of a violent crime in California was arrested in Nevada, and a fugitive in a federal methamphetamine distribution case in Washington State was brought into custody.

“These cases should serve to remind offenders that whether they’re from California or flee here from another state, that there will be no safe haven,” said CDCR Office of Correctional Safety Assistant Secretary Richard Rimmer, whose division oversees Fugitive Apprehension Teams. “We have dedicated agents who work as part of a law enforcement web that spans all geographical boundaries, and we will never give up. If you commit a crime and try to run, you will be brought to justice.”

On Monday, July 21, 2008, CDCR’s Fugitive Apprehension Team coordinated an operation to locate and arrest PAL Joshua Walker. The arrest was done in conjunction with Reno’s United States Marshals Service (USMS) Task Force and Sacramento based United States Marshal Deputies. Walker was wanted for attempted murder by the Amador County Sheriff's Department in an incident which left a victim with shotgun wounds.

A subsequent investigation led Agents and USMS to Reno, Nevada where PAL Walker had been living in a basement with his girlfriend. PAL Walker was booked on the CDCR Warrant as well as the attempted murder arrest warrant, and the girlfriend was also arrested for harboring a wanted fugitive and booked into the Washoe County Jail. PAL Walker is currently pending extradition to California.

On Tuesday, July 22, 2008, CDCR’s Fugitive Apprehension Team participated in another major arrest in Newark, California, this time of a fugitive wanted on outstanding federal charges for drug trafficking. CDCR agents, in conjunction with members of the U.S. Marshals Northern California Fugitive Task Force, located and arrested Jose Antonio Aguilar Esquivel in Newark, California. The Northern California Fugitive Task Force is a team comprised of law enforcement officers from the CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety, the U.S. Marshals, and other bay area law enforcement agencies.

Esquivel was a fugitive in a federal methamphetamine distribution case filed in the Eastern District of Washington by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force. Esquivel was booked into Glen Dyer Detention Facility on the federal warrant.

The Office of Correctional Safety represents all major adult and juvenile law enforcement, investigative, security and intelligence functions for CDCR. In 2007, OCS Fugitive Apprehension Team agents arrested more than 2,600 offenders, of which over 75 percent were either parolees-at-large, or parolees wanted for major violations of their parole terms. The office also regularly coordinates high-profile fugitive apprehensions with the U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies, and recently swore in 67 Fugitive Apprehension Team agents as U.S. Marshals.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inmates Produce Fire-Fighting Nomex Suits at Record Pace

24-hour shifts double a normal year's output in less than a month

SACRAMENTO - As forest fires ravaged the northern and central regions of the state, the California Prison Industry Authority delivered more than a year's worth of inmate-manufactured fire protection suits to CalFire and other firefighting agencies in less than a month.

Inmate crews have worked 24 hour shifts in three prisons to keep up with the demand, delivering nearly 20,000 sets of the familiar orange and yellow Nomex gloves, pants, jackets and fire shrouds, more than double the normal demand for an entire fire season.

"This heavy demand for fire gear this early in the summer is a testament to how fierce California's fire season is expected to be," said Chuck Pattillo, general manager of CALPIA. "But we have stockpiled enough fireproof material to guarantee that every firefighter who needs this life-saving gear will have it, no matter how bad the fire season gets," he added. "And our inmates are willing to work 24 hours a day, just like the firefighters themselves, to make sure we meet everyone's needs."

The fireproof clothing is manufactured by inmates in three prisons. Pants and jackets are produced at Mule Creek State Prison in the city of Ione and at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Fireproof gloves are manufactured at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.

CALPIA's largest customer is CalFire, the California state agency responsible for battling forest fires, although other customers include local fire and sheriff departments and other public safety agencies that put personnel on the fire lines. Forest fire fighting agencies in other states also purchase fire-proof protection gear from CALPIA.

CALPIA is a self-financed state agency that receives all of its revenue from the sale of products it manufactures, and that provides inmates with job skills that can enhance their rehabilitation when they are released on parole. Recent research shows that the recidivism rate among CALPIA inmates is 25 percent lower than the general prison population, a success attributed to the job skills that they receive by working on the assembly line.

Ed Note: Tours of the CALPIA manufacturing facilities in Ione, San Luis Obispo or Chino, including interviews with CALPIA managers and inmates on the assembly lines, can be arranged by calling 916-445-4950.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Information on CDCR Integrated Housing Program Now Online

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has launched a special web page to provide the public with information about the Department’s new integrated housing program. Found at, the website contains fact sheets about the program, background about the case that resulted in new integrated housing procedures, brochures which have been given to offenders, a video shown to offenders about the program, and the regulations for integrated housing. Other content may be added as implementation proceeds.

“We expect to begin implementation of the next phase of the integrated housing program this month. This new web page is designed to help answer some of the questions that many people have about the program,” said Suzan Hubbard, CDCR Director of Adult Institutions. “Our goal through this program is to ensure that we are providing an environment where inmates are not pressured into dividing among racial or other groups out of fear of retribution or violence from gang or disruptive influences.”

Background on Court Case
In 1995, inmate Johnson filed a complaint in the United States District Court, Central District, alleging that CDCR’s reception center housing practice violated his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment by assigning him cellmates on the basis of race. CDCR prevailed in the District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Inmate Johnson filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. After clarifying the constitutional standard that applies to racial classifications imposed by government, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit in 2005 for application of that standard. The parties agreed to participate in mediation, which resulted in a Settlement and Release Agreement and the development of new integrated housing program policies.

Overview of New Policy
The integrated housing program is not about desegregating prisons. Classrooms, programs, work assignments, yards, visiting, dining rooms, dorms, female offender housing, and conservation camps have long been integrated. The integrated housing program ensures that inmate housing assignments in cells and dorms are made using rational objective criteria. New procedures will utilize all available information and take into consideration inmates’ safety, security, treatment and rehabilitative needs in assigning inmates to cells and beds. It also ensures that race will not be the sole determining factor in housing inmates.

In developing new policies and regulations for implementing the integrated housing program CDCR carefully reviewed other states that have integrated inmates in cells and dorms, and received input from national experts. The review of policies and procedures will continue throughout implementation.

“We will be implementing the integrated housing program in a thoughtful and measured manner and will be monitoring results closely every step of the way. Protecting the safety and security of inmates and staff in our institutions is our top priority,” said Director Hubbard. “Based on research from national experts and the experience of other states we believe that this program will ultimately help to curb the influence of gangs and disruptive groups once fully implemented, and will help to better prepare inmates to reenter society upon release.”

For more information on the program, visit:

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

CDCR Streamlines Accounting, Goes Live with Improved Business Information System

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) goes live this week with its Business Information System (BIS) enterprise software solution, which will allow the agency to streamline data and information systems to increase efficiency. The computerized system will provide immediate information on spending compared to an authorized budget, eliminating a 45 day lag in reporting.

"This new system is a major milestone for the department that will eliminate a lot of hand processing and achieve efficiencies in our business practices. The end result will be improved management of the Department's valuable financial and human resources," said Heidi Lackner, Director of CDCR's Division of Support Services. "This new approach will provide our staff with real-time data on a consistent platform. Once fully deployed the Department's business processes will significantly improve in the areas of financial management, sick leave and overtime tracking, and procurement and contracting."

BIS is an enterprise-wide system that replaces hundreds of standalone databases, legacy systems, and manual processes with an integrated, proven solution for achieving operational efficiencies. BIS will streamline the administrative processes of the Department, including financial, supply chain, and human resources management. The new system will provide CDCR with more efficient, automated business processes as well as real-time reporting.

The system will track many typical financial transactions such as coordinating and consolidating purchases to take advantage of volume savings and coordinating contracting to avoid unnecessary duplication.

The first release of BIS is core financial functionality including general ledger accounting and basic budget reporting capabilities. It also represents the successful collaboration among CDCR, the California Department of Technology Services, and the system integrator, IBM, in establishing a robust and scalable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution that not only provides significant business benefits for CDCR but also is a model for other departments and agencies in the state. Several California state agencies are already using or are implementing SAP solutions including the Department of Water Resources, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the State Controller's Office 21st Century project. This initiative also is consistent with the State Chief Information Officer's vision for integrated solutions for the State of California.

Over the next 18 months CDCR expects to continue to benefit from future BIS releases which will add integrated functionality for purchasing, contracts, fixed assets and inventory management, grant management, budget management, personnel administration, shift scheduling, employee time keeping, travel expense processing, and budget development and planning.

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CDCR and LA County's Sheriff's Department Team-Up to Track Gang Members via GPS

SACRAMENTO - Today, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD), activated 20 Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) bracelets on parolees known to have been involved or previously associated to gang activity. The effort is an attempt to deter parolees from being involved with gangs and serves as a way to track the activity of those who fail to stay away from them.

"We have had previous successes in monitoring gang activity by GPS and we are proud to be working closely with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to assist them in curbing illegal gang-related actions in their county through this program," said Thomas Hoffman, Director of CDCR's Parole Division. "Either an individual is going to be afraid to engage in illegal activity because of the bracelets or they are going to lead us to other criminals. No matter how you look at it, it is a win-win and worth the effort."

Last year, authorities were able to solve the murder of a young woman killed in a drive-by shooting after one of the seven gang members involved was wearing a GPS bracelet issued to him by the Los Angeles Police Department. In November 2007, authorities started tracking the movements of about 20 paroled gang members by GPS. After a call came in for the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Nelly Vergara Hernandez, officers checked the computer that tracks the 20 gang members and noticed that one of the gang members was at the address the same time the shooting occurred. A police helicopter was able to use the parolee's GPS readings and tracked him down in Compton, CA. Police were then able to arrest all seven gang members involved in the murder and bring them to justice.

"Our partnership with CDCR and the use of GPS for gang members on parole will serve to strengthen public safety in Los Angeles County, potentially deter gang activity and will also complement our ASAP (Advanced Surveillance and Protection) plan at Century Sheriff's Station," commented Sheriff Lee Baca.

California already leads the nation in the monitoring of sex offenders with GPS systems, and is using the same technology to combat gang activity in the state. The CDCR and LASD are hopeful to implement more GPS gang tracking case loads as soon as more GPS units become available for use and as the technologies associated with them continue to improve.

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