By F. Lee
CALPIA SEWING SUPERVISOR Veronica Preciado has been sponsoring rehabilitative groups at Mule Creek State Prison since 2017. To go along with her bachelor’s degree in human services and a desire to help others, she was encouraged to become a staff sponsor by a friend at the Centinela State Prison.
“It is very rewarding to see the change in people,” said Preciado, “especially to see youngsters go down in security levels when they apply themselves.”
Preciado sponsors 11 groups at Mule Creek, five afternoons and evenings a week across four yards, all after a full workday in CalPIA. Her groups include Self-Expression in Writing and the Lifers Group on Facility A; CGA, Power Source, Christian 12 Step, Islamic 12 Step, and Houses of Healing on Facility B; Victims Awareness Offender’s Program (in Spanish) on Facility C; and Power Source on Facility E.
The need for more staff sponsors is greater than ever, especially as the demands for more rehabilitative groups grow. Much of the difficulty in retaining sponsors has been due to scheduling of evening groups and long traveling distances.
Investing her time in rehabilitation has added to Preciado’s opinion of the incarcerated population. “They are people,” she said. “I believe they deserve a second chance.”
As a supervisor in CalPIA sewing, she treats all her incarcerated workers like employees, giving them work expectations and teaching good work habits, hoping that they take some of the learning with them when they parole. Another reason for second chances: the high cost for society just to keep the incarcerated in prison. With overcrowded prisons, mass incarceration has drained taxpayer dollars.
Attending rehabilitative programs is a powerful tool toward the incarcerated population getting out of prison. Also, taking advantage of the vocational opportunities while incarcerated helps in future successes. Skills learned through experience in vocational classes or working a job such as CalPIA, food service, or laundry has benefits. These opportunities lead to good work habits, references, and certifications. These tools lead to successful paroles.
As a Power Source staff sponsor, Preciado has the opportunity to work with the inmate-facilitated group by inviting guest speakers and supporting the facilitators. Power Source is a program for juvenile offenders to process their past trauma and change at the core level. This is done through meditation; dealing with anger; and understanding forgiveness, entitlement, respect, shame, and guilt. Resident Ivan Charles has been attending rehabilitative groups sponsored by Preciado since 2018, starting with Houses of Healing and Power Source.
“She shared a lot of good positive input in the curriculum and from her own perspective and the impact of crime and as a parent,” said Charles. “She encourages us to learn and get involved in our own recovery,” he added. “She will let you know if you are wrong.”
Encouraged by her willingness to put in the extra time, the population knows that without staff sponsors, no groups would exist. Sponsors like Preciado go beyond just being present in a classroom. Her unique perspective and positive listening skills provide a good role model for the class.
Originally Published in the Mule Creek Post