Tuesday, July 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Prison program aims to keep teens on proper path

Prison Outreach CSP-Solano 1_30_14

Roger Hernandez speaks to teens about his experiences in prison Thursday at a meeting of the Prison Outreach Program at California State Prison, Solano. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | January 31, 2014 |

VACAVILLE — “Never come here, you hear me?”

It was a loud message from an anonymous inmate as he walked by a group of teen boys from the Vacaville Youth Diversion program while on the exercise yard at California State Prison, Solano. It was just one of many taunts of “fresh meat” and vocalizations from the hundreds of inmates out for exercise at the same time the boys and their parents walked through the yard flanked by 10 inmates – all members of the Prisoner Outreach Program, dubbed POP.

The resounding message from the POP inmates during the eight-hour program: It’s all about choices and decisions, and it starts with the little things such as disrespecting parents, ditching school and drugs.

“I never thought about consequences,” said Matt Ray, a POP inmate, to the group of teens. “Please think about what you’re doing. It starts with little things . . . now I’m in prison.”

Ray, along with the other nine inmate POP members, are all in prison on murder convictions. The teens spent the day with them Thursday as part of a six-month contract the teens signed with the Youth Diversion Program that allows first-time offenders to avoid a conviction on their record if they fulfill the contract and stay out of trouble.

The five Vacaville teens, ranging in age from 13 to 15, took a tour of the prison that took them right into the general prison population, showing them the holding cells, exercise yard, miniscule shared cells; all the time giving the teens a snapshot of what the inmates lives are like: the shame, the embarrassment of being locked behind bars, fences and barbed wire.

“Everything you see today is unscripted,” said inmate Derrick Branch. “We don’t want you to end up like us.”

Branch was blunt to the group of silent, unsmiling teens throughout the tour. The group paused at the locked security gate – one of many on the prison grounds, most laced with barbed wire – leading to the “Receiving and Release” building, and turned to the group.

“Before you leave, you have to spread your butt cheeks,” Branch said, as he talked about the regular inmate body searches. “That’s just one of the things that happens . . . daily.”

While the program allows the teens to see the harsh realities of prison life, it’s not a “scared straight” program. Marlaina Dernoncourt, the prison’s public information officer, said, “We don’t use that. That’s what they use on TV. This is respectfully done (and) not to terrify them.”

It’s also done on the personal level. Designed to open the doors of communication, the POP inmates sat down with the teens and told their stories – stark, black-and-white stories with no sugarcoating. Stories of ditching school, fighting, alcohol, drugs, gangs as young teens or even in elementary school; all leading eventually to them killing someone.

Branch described the killing of a friend who he believed had betrayed him.

“I decided to kill him,” said Branch, who graduated high school and was in the military for more than two years before being kicked out. “I went and picked up my friend, took him to his own house and choked him to death.”

Branch, married with a young daughter at the time of the crime, paused, and again looked each teen in the eye: “Please don’t allow my story to become your story.”

The teens also shared their stories – most were there for drug possession on school grounds – before breaking into one-on-one groups to encourage the teens to open up about their lives. The teens were paired with a POP inmate who could relate to what the teens were going through. The parents broke into another group. The sessions culminated by meeting in two larger groups in an effort to begin dissolving any communication barriers between parent and child.

“We don’t just talk to the kids, we talk to the parents,” Branch said, while he set up for the sessions. “We try to get the young people and parents to listen to each other. It’s not about us dogging at the kid.”

Robyn Cole, the staff sponsor of the program, said it can get emotional.

“Some break down and say, ‘I love you’ for the first time in years,” Cole said of the participants, who are also welcome to come back for repeated, briefer sessions if they want.

Cole meets with the POP inmates two or three times weekly with trainings that keeps the group up-to-date on things such as new drug and gang trends. The inmates involved can’t have any write-ups nor can they have committed crimes against children or women. They do it in an effort to deter the participating teens from the wrong path.

“I see myself in every youth that comes in here,” said Sergio Aceves, who has been in prison for 31 years after committing a robbery and murder as a teen. “This is my responsibility to be of service.

“My vision for the end of the day is for these kids to have an awakening . . . . Don’t end up this way.”

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or swinlow@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 5 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • elleryJanuary 31, 2014 - 3:06 am

    good article. pictures were worth a thousand words.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • boomJanuary 31, 2014 - 9:27 am

    Not to nitpick or anything but those button up shirts are contraband lol, alotta times they let the lifers keep them though.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Malibu 1369February 06, 2014 - 10:31 am

    Don't know where you get your information, but just because Solano doesn't issue button up shirts anymore doesn't mean that they are contraband, they aren't. And any inmate can have one, not just lifers.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • jermaine cadeFebruary 06, 2014 - 2:36 pm

    This is good! Anything that will help keep another child out of prison, or from becoming just another statistic is a step in the right direction. Who better to help than those living in a place of wrong choices, and bad consequences. Hopefully these programs such as A.A., POP, and P2P, along with the religous programs (church) will continue behind the walls. I love it!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Dr. Tim NormanFebruary 13, 2014 - 2:32 pm

    I brought 10 boys from Hanna Boys Center to spend the day with the OPO. I must say that it was inspirational to all of the boys and the 3 staff who attended. The inmates helped our boys develop healthy critical thinking skills that could literally save their lives. These inmates give all of themselves to the youth who participate and provide an opportunity to see that sometimes unintended consequences can be disastrous. It was a great experience!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Weather for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Library friends set spring book sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

 
 
Carpenters training center set to expand in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Man, woman, comic and dance contest primed for box office

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Polk first to file for Fairfield council

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

Rockville Trails hike on August calendar

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Groups plan Zombie Run to raise college scholarship cash

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Governor signs 2 bills by Frazier into law

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

 
Video chair exercise class returns to senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

2 Vacaville homes hit by gunfire

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Mayor’s Commission on Crime to host forum

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

.

US / World

Detroit retirees vote in favor of pension cuts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Clinton: US, Europe should get tough on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Gaza death toll rises as truce effort intensifies

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Rebels release train with bodies from downed jet

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Afghan vet who fought wounded gets Medal of Honor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Hopkins pays $190M in pelvis exam pix settlement

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Ex-teacher convicted of pushing wife off cliff

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Full-contact youth football practices restricted

By The Associated Press | From Page:

BART police enforce stretching ban at stations

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Obama back to California for Democratic campaigns

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Report: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Law blocks some brown lawn fees during droughts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
California won’t send troops to Mexican border

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Murder charges filed in California bank robbery

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Cause of deaths in FedEx truck-bus crash released

By The Associated Press | From Page:

California reduces deportations for minor crimes

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Official: State can send inmates to medical site

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Opinion

 
Walmart donation benefits Meals on Wheels

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

Batson’s column on Mideast peace is wrong

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Love and Manson guest on ‘Sons of Anarchy’

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
‘Fargo’ gets 2nd season on FX with new cast, crime

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Box office top 20: ‘Apes’ holds reign with $36.3M

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
TVGrid July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Hugo Perez Elite Training Camp to be held in Vallejo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Duvall, Kontos help Giants beat Phillies

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Lady Vols coach wants a stronger finishing touch

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Gail Goestenkors quits WNBA job, enters hoops hall

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Chamberlain’s arm and beard fitting in with Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

This date in sports history for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Big 12 commish’s dire warning about pending change

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Big Papi passes Yaz with 453rd career home run

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Chargers bolt into camp with high hopes

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Broncos primed for another super run

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Seattle says what happened last season is history

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Tony Stewart riding high from sprint car victory

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Head of 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics resigns

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
6 South Americans refuse to return to Donetsk club

By The Associated Press | From Page:

BMC, Team-Garmin Sharp back for USA Pro Challenge

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Tour leader Nibali: A ‘flag-bearer’ against doping

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Witness: Sterling needs Clippers sale to pay debts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Jeter turns small part of attention to business

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders enter camp with ‘chip’ on shoulders

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

49ers start fresh after forgettable offseason

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Cain heads to DL with elbow injury

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Microsoft makes design central to its future

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Allergan to cut 1,500 employees in restructuring

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Obituaries

Shirley T. ‘Mac’ McFadden

By Nancy Green | From Page: A5

 
.

Comics

Zits july 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Bridge July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C. July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5