REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI
Right on. Well, my name's Matt Palmer. I'm the captain here at CCI (California Correctional Institution) on the level one yard. I've worked in corrections for 22 years. And this project is a big step. It's important. It's outside the box. It's exciting to see the look on the guys' faces out there, look of hope and change. A lot of them are shocked to see that some of us in here on camera and taking pictures, and it's a good way for us to interact, and kind of be part of the change of a culture. Things were different 22 years ago. Society was a lot different 22 years ago. There's the old lock them up and throw away the key type thing back then. And that's not where we're at today. And that's not the image we want to portray. So, as staff within the correctional setting, we have a heart. We do believe that people can change, and make something of their lives. And I believe the majority of us working for the department, we support that. And we know that a lot of these guys are getting out, they're going to be our neighbors.
We don’t want to portray an image that we just want to keep people locked up and throw away the key. Because that’s not what we believe in, especially as a department as a whole. Just like these guys out there, we have families. And so, we’re not really that different. Some choices may have been different, but in the end we’re all human beings, part of one human race. And yeah, like I say, I mean I’ve been around for many, many years in the department here. I’ve seen a lot of these guys that are out here from when they were younger, and it’s pretty amazing to see some of them start to take steps that they’re changing their lives, and taking it serious. And that’s what we have to do as a department, we have to ensure we’re providing them those tools that they can take advantage of. And we don’t want to see people dwindle away. We want to see them shine and just become something.
I started the department in 1998, and there’s a guy on my yard there that had just began his criminal career in the prison system at the same prison that I started at, and we’ve kind of worked our way through. I see he’s down to his last couple of years. So, we started at the same time and we both kind of retire close to the same time. But yeah, no I’ve seen some of the faces for many years over the state. And as large as we are, it’s really a small world because we see these guys day in and day out. You start to see … You learn little things about them, they learn little things about us. We have all levels of inmates here, level one through four. Four being the highest level. So, two of our facilities here are level four, maximum security. So for sure, like I say, being on this yard to do this project, it’s really unprecedented to see these guys of this level actually participating in something like this.
And you start to see them not so much as maximum security inmates, but just kind of being just people out here. And so that’s the cool thing to see. Seeing these guys out here, they’re not locked up in their cells, and they’re not out there in part of the everyday prison life aspect, it’s just kind of cool to see them actually … You just see a little glimmer of hope in their eye and they’re part of something, which I think it kind of gives them a sense of belonging. So, it’s cool. But I would say just in the last few years, you really start to see change in the way we do business as far as rehabilitation, and you start to see just a culture change in society which transfers into the prison system as well. It’s in our best interest to see these guys succeed. In a perfect world, I wish that the gangs would be eradicated, the drug problems would go away. But I really want to see these guys go out there and live everyday life with their families, and experience the little things.
Cut their grass, wash their cars, things that a lot of people take for granted. So, a couple of years ago I was at a training, and one of the things that was kind of a turning point in, I guess, my thought process for rehabilitation, our training was at the Academy where I graduated as an officer many, many years ago. I was standing outside and I was talking to a gentleman, and I didn’t know that later on in the day we were going to have … It was a training session put on, and it was by the Anti Recidivism Coalition, ARC. Well, the guy I was talking to was a prior incarcerated, and I had no idea. Never in a million years would I have thought that this is where I graduated as an officer 20 years ago or whatever it was, and I’d be standing here at the same place talking to a guy that was giving me training on rehabilitation, who I would’ve probably thought this guy was never going to succeed and get out.
So really it was kind of eye opening to me to talk to these guys and realize, some of these guys, they really do change. And then it just kind of sparked an interest in me that, I want to be part of what helps these guys change, and helps them do better. So was kind of a turning point for me. And I still remember, it was Sam Lewis, who is now running part of ARC. So working toward one goal, I think we’re going to see it evolve and get bigger, and bigger, and bigger over the years in our future. So it’s just awesome to be part of change, for sure.