CDCR allocates more than $14 million to boost rehab programs

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has awarded funding for more rehabilitation programs, reports Nuala Sawyer of the San Francisco Examiner.

The department has allocated $14.5 million to boost innovative programs and increase volunteerism in prisons.

Now in its third funding cycle, the Innovative Grants Program will establish 43 programs at 20 adult institutions. The funds are allocated for programs that teach offender accountability, violence prevention and restorative justice skills. Grants have also been given to programs that teach communication and de-escalation skills, dog training, prison gardens, family reunification and computer coding, Sawyer reports.

“Positive programs help offenders learn important life skills, foster peaceful communication and self-reflection, and contribute to safer prison environments for inmates and staff,” said Jay Virbel, director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs. “Expanding programs to even more prisons and focusing on our long-term offender population will enable the state to see even more success in preparing offenders to return home.”

The money will be divided into three parts over a period of three years, for a total cost of $9 million. The funds are designated for prisons that lack volunteers and nonprofit organizations that facilitate existing programs.

Additionally, $5.5 million will be awarded for one-year programs that serve inmates with long-term non-life or life sentences.

Some of the recipients of the monies are Marin Shakespeare Company, GRIP (Guiding Rage Into Power), Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, Marley’s Mutts and Prison Yoga Project.

Some of the sponsors for these programs were asked their view on how additional funding for their programs will impact the prison system.

James Fox, sponsor of Prison Yoga Project at S.Q. since 2009, said, “If the mission of CDCR is rehabilitation, every penny spent on rehabilitation is money well spent and enhances the prospect for reducing recidivism and contributing to public safety.”

Fox’s goal is to establish yoga mindfulness in prisons everywhere.

GRIP sponsor Jacques Verduin said, “It opens up the prisons to community organizations, and that’s important, because it brings resources to prisoners that they haven’t been privy to. It also demonstrates to the public the human side of prisoners who’re giving back to the community they once took from.”

GRIP is a one-year program comprising four elements: stopping violence, developing emotional intelligence, cultivating mindfulness, and understanding victim impact. Since inception five years ago, 69 graduates have been released, and none has returned to prison.

Four years ago a presentation was given by GRIP. A former inmate and a victim participant told of GRIP’s impact on their lives, before the Public Safety and Budget Committee. This provided an important impetus for establishing the funds, allocated in increments of $2.5 million the first year, $3 million the second year, and $14.5 million the third year.

The funding has added 188 programs not previously offered. However, when the monies run out, it is expected the programs will continue financing those programs on their own dimes.

–Forrest Lee Jones

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