By, Juan Haines and Michael Johnson, Senior Editor and Staff Writer.
Top officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), as well as personnel from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, celebrated the graduation of dozens of prisoners who completed highly touted apprenticeship programs geared to pre-pare them for 21st century jobs once released from prison.
“This is a milestone—a turning point in your life,” said San Quentin Warden Ron Davis to the 35 incarcerated graduates amid the large audience that gathered for the Aug. 27 event. “You come to San Quentin and you have the chance to be a better person. The skills you get here are the final key.”
Host Michelle Kane with the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) added, “When most people think about CALPIA, they think of license plates and furniture. But we have programs that are self-supporting at all institutions. Coding began in 2014.” She added that no graduate paroled from prison was ever re-arrested. “I see so many success stories from the guys on the outside.”
CALPIA General Manager Scott Walker, congratulated the graduates for doing the “hard work and taking a step in the right direction.”
Deputy Secretary of Corrections Kathleen Allison, when introducing Beverly Parenti, recognized that even after the budget cuts of 2012, Chris Redlitz and Parenti brought The Last Mile (TLM), an entrepreneurial training program, and Code.7370, a computing coding program, to San Quentin.
“When Chris and I started TLM,” recalled Parenti, “it was just the two of us with a crazy idea. Now we have 25 employees. We could not do it without you all. We believe in you and we ask you to believe in yourself.”
Parenti emphasized that the skills the men are learning al- low them to be “positive influences” in their communities. “They’ve help prove that when people believe in a smart idea, they can have a lasting influence on the rest of the world.”
Formerly incarcerated Jason Jones is a TLM and Code.7370 graduate.
“Never underestimate the belief in something bigger than you are,” Jones told the incarcerated men. “Dreaming about where you want to go allows you to build your legacy, and your legacy is the one thing that will go beyond your life.”
Ollie Hurd spent three years incarcerated at San Quentin. Today he is the Director of the Laborers Union Training Center for Northern California.
“I represent that we can become productive members of our community,” Hurd said. “That’s all I ever wanted was an opportunity and CALPIA makes this possible for all of us. Programs like this exist right now; everyone is in- volved in the positive process.”
Hurd said the training center has a “direct entry program” for people who graduate the pre-apprentice program.
“They just have to contact our training center, which is located at 1001 West Side Drive, San Ramon,” he added. Gary Roberson, a Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor graduate, commented that finishing the course allowed him to prepare himself for gainful employment upon reentry into society.
“I want to get out and work on ‘fixer uppers,’” Roberson said. “I want to get my own ‘flip this house’ company— Roberson Realty.”
THE GRADUATES Code.7370
Instructor: Jon Gripshover
Graduates: Robert Barnes, Nicola Bucci, Yu Chen, Daniel Colondres, Wilbert Frank, Dejon Joy, Kennard Love, Gregory Morris, Gabriel Ostolaza, Mark Radke, Bryan Richie, Vah Saechao, Chai Saetern, Roy Sorvari, Moua Vue, Troy Whieteley.
Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor
Instructor: Lauro Perez
Graduates: Walter Cook, Danny Geyer, Jamaine Gurley, Jamai Johnson, Montrell McDuffie, Royce Miller, Evan Page, Shawn Reyes, Gary Roberson, Darius Sommons, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Wells, Andress Yancy
Instructor: Julian Hurtado
Graduates: Arron Gilmer, William Hopper, Gregory Jones, Jermiah Lee, Tijue McGhee, James Walton.