by Lou Binninger
Five Yuba County Jail women recently earned high school diplomas while incarcerated. The graduates were Angela Villa, Amber Williams, Thi Nguyen, Carla Rincon and Marygen Matta.
The ladies benefitted from a partnership between Yuba County Office of Education (YCOE) and the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) to not only offer an adult education curriculum but a high school diploma option starting with the 2016-2017 school year. YCOE has offered adult education in the jail for years along with English proficiency and basic skills classes.
Assistant Superintendent Bobbi Abold and Captain Brandon Barnes put the project together and veteran YCOE instructor Carol Holtz assisted the students.
The expanded program also received help from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and its Educational Services Division. The agency helped streamline the process of obtaining transcripts so prior credits could be evaluated to see what each student needed to complete.
The course of study complied with California State Standards and College and Career Readiness Standards. The students were required to earn credits in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Health as well as Life Skills.
In order to serve inmates that leave custody but still need a diploma, the program is also offered at the Day Reporting Center (DRC) run by the Sheriff and Probation Departments. The DRC is a service center for people on probation and parole to obtain needed skills to succeed.
The jail offers additional classes as well on the following topics: computer keyboard, parenting, sewing, sexual and mental abuse, anger management, health and tobacco cessation, sexually transmitted infections, life skills, relapse prevention, the supernatural and Celebrate Recovery.
Presentations are made by Child Support and Child Protective Services. Local rehabs and shelters explain how to access their facilities. One Stop Jobs assists inmates and a new employment skills class will soon be offered by a retired businessman.
Other services are also available. Since 2008, Sutter-North Medical, Dr. Joseph Cassady and the jail have provided tattoo removal for both jail and juvenile hall residents. The program seeks to remove barriers to work and eliminate offensive messages leading to violence. More than 4,300 treatments have been performed in the jail, juvenile hall and the Sutter-North Surgery Center.
For years, the Sheriff’s Department has funded a fulltime substance abuse counsellor, Randy Inman, to interview and educate inmates to link them with residential rehabs, clean and sober living homes and shelters. Having an in-house advocate has eliminated a major communication barrier to those incarcerated.
The legislature’s decision to house more inmates in county jails versus prison presented an opportunity for local agencies, nonprofits and volunteers to help. Eventually, all inmates are going to return to the community. Community members have an influence in how that happens.
Pictured: left to right Angela Villa, Amber Williams, Carol Holtz, Thi Nguyen, Marygen Matta, Carla Rincon