One of the San Quentin program leaders is Raphaele Casale, who began her career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in the medical department.
“When I was in medical, I had no idea what self-help programs were,” she said.
When Casale found out about SQUIRES, she said, “Wow! Here the kids can talk directly with inmates about how things can go really wrong just by making one wrong decision. It’s very intense sometimes. These kids need to realize they have the power to choose the direction of their lives.”
“I grew up in Marin and saw San Quentin from the highway all the time. I never thought about what went on at San Quentin. It’s kind of funny,” she said, “San Quentin has helped me to help kids.”
Before working for CDCR, Casale was always interested in law enforcement support services and served as a community service officer for a year with Fresno County.
“Young people today have so many social pressures and are pulled in so many different directions,” Casale said, “That’s one reason they get into trouble. I wanted to work in the criminal justice system and help young people.”
Casale hopes she is able to make a positive contribution by being involved with inmate self-help programs. In addition, she said that she believes those inmates who are involved in correctional education and vocational training are improving themselves.
“These men are people who want to do the right thing and will, if given the chance,” she said.
Casale has multiple responsibilities over a range of prison activities including secretarial duties for the wardens office and overseeing the inmate music program. However, she says she loves working with the SQUIRES kids.
According to Casale, SQUIRES is a program that shows young men what’s in store for them if they don’t change their ways. She said that bringing the youngsters into San Quentin for a day in prison “is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.”
“We are interested in trying to find a follow-up program so that after the visit here, there’s someone for them to talk with,” Casale said.
The Los Angeles-based About Face Cadet Corps provides some of that aftercare. Eduardo Sanchez, a group leader with AFCC, said, “This experience changed how I see prison.”
Inmate Von Miles said he especially appreciates Casale for her energy and diligence.
“She has a fresh perspective and brings a lot of heart to SQUIRES,” Miles said.
Other inmates agreed.
Her official title is Chief Sponsor, but Arnulfo T. Garcia (editor-in-chief of the San Quentin News) said, “Her title should be chief go-getter.”
Mentor Tommy Winfrey added, “She’s Dynamic.”
“We respect her and she respects us,” said Winfrey. “She is very straightforward and firm in her resolve to do the best job possible.”
–By Ted Swain