By Marianne Napoles
The wardens of the California Institution for Men and the California Institution for Women, both located in Chino, were on hand Tuesday morning to inform the community about prison happenings.
Both wardens encouraged residents to apply for corrections officer and other staff positions, or to volunteer at the prisons.
“Our corrections officers make up to $107,000 a year,” said Delinia Lewis, associate warden for the California Institution for Women (CIW). “We would love to increase our workforce with people from the local community.”
Every other month, the wardens, accompanied by numerous associate wardens and high-ranking officers, hold meetings with their citizen advisory committees to provide updates and information about issues such as mental health, custody operations, COVID, and outreach programs.
Tuesday’s meeting at the community room at Chino Hills City Hall began at 8:30 a.m. with the men’s prison and was followed at approximately 9 a.m. by the women’s prison, and was one of the first in-person meetings to be held since the pandemic when remote meetings were held.
Warden James Hill of the California Institution for Men (CIM) said COVID has gone up from zero cases to 58. The COVID surge reflects what is happening in the broader community, he said.
Inmates who test positive are moved to the isolation units, he said.
Warden Hill informed the community that Gov. Newsom intends to close three institutions statewide.
He said the population at CIM has gone up significantly, from 1,800 to 3,162. “Despite the increase in numbers, we’re still able to provide programs,” he said.
Louie Escobell, chief executive officer for Health Care Services, said CIM has a mental health crisis unit which is used by other institutions that do not have such a facility. He said suicide watches have increased which has presented a challenge for the nursing staff because a one-to-one coverage is needed. He said the state is sending public health nurses to assist.
The 50-bed mental health crisis hospital is about three years away, he said.
Contractors that submitted bids for the project will do a walkthrough on Aug. 18, he said.
Acting Warden Jennifer Core said the inmate population is very low, at 860. The maximum capacity is 2,400.
She said a senior center is located at the prison because the population is aging.
Chino Hills resident Debra Ertel-Hernandez, who attended the meeting representing the Chino Hills 55+ Club, asked if members could volunteer to work with the seniors.
Acting Warden Core said CIW would welcome club members to speak at the prison’s senior center.
She said volunteers are encouraged to work with inmates in the various programs that are offered. Volunteers are required to fill out paperwork before coming on the prison grounds. The warden said 1 in every 4 inmates is 55 years and older.
Acting Associate Warden A. Juillet who handles Americans with Disabilities Act issues, said there are 159 inmates who are disabled and 54 must be housed in another institution that can accommodate their use of walkers and wheelchairs. The prison is getting ready to commemorate Suicide Prevention Week the first week of September with vendors, dunk tank and activities.
CIW had a COVID outbreak at the end of June when all units were placed on quarantine. There is now only a handful of inmates with COVID.
New community resources manager Ricky Dela Cruz talked about numerous education programs and encouraged residents to volunteer.
Associate Warden Lewis said CIW will improve the aesthetics of the front entrance and outside visiting area including updated signs.
Ms. Lewis provided the following email address to apply for a job: joincdcr.com.