Job training provides path out of prison
by Michael Langley
May 30, 2014 | 5973 views | 4 4 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deuel Vocational Institution Warden Jerome Price congratulated 61 students on May 9 who earned their GED diplomas and career technical education certificates in auto body repair, building maintenance, computer literacy, American Sign Language and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.  Courtesy photo
Deuel Vocational Institution Warden Jerome Price congratulated 61 students on May 9 who earned their GED diplomas and career technical education certificates in auto body repair, building maintenance, computer literacy, American Sign Language and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Courtesy photo
When Warden Jerome Price first worked at Deuel Vocational Institution in 1987, the state prison had vibrant vocational training programs for prisoners.

By the time Price was appointed warden at DVI, 23500 Kasson Rd., in December 2012, those programs were long gone and the prisoners were unprepared to get jobs after their sentences were served.

“These inmates are coming back out in the community, and you want them to be viable citizens,” Price said in an interview Friday. “You want them to be able to work so that they’re not looking at when you go to work and go in your house and take all your property.”

Almost immediately after Price took over DVI, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation asked wardens around the state if they were interested in job training programs at their prisons.

Price said he volunteered DVI to become an incubator for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, or HVAC, certification courses and training in auto body maintenance, building maintenance and computer literacy.

“The HVAC program I’m really proud of. After you do an 18-month program, you get the certificate for that. Inmates can, when they parole, get a job in the construction industry,” the warden said. “Auto body is another one. That will give them a trade that they can go out there, work and get a viable living.”

Harriet Salarno, whose daughter was murdered at University of the Pacific in Stockton on Sept. 3, 1979, is the chairwoman of Crime Victims United of California. In an interview Wednesday, Salarno said all California prisons should have vocational training like the programs at DVI.

“You can’t open the door and let them out and they can’t get a job,” Salarno said. “If they don’t have a job, they’re going to go back to their lifestyle.”

That lifestyle, according to Price, regularly includes an average fourth-grade education level among prisoners, lack of motivation to work and exposure to other criminals.

“We’re trying to provide them literacy, the ability to get jobs when they get out, education,” Price said. “We try to establish a work ethic that, regardless of where they are, when they leave they can go out and get a job and have some of those skills that we develop here in the institution.”

Price and Salarno both said that rehabilitation must be part of the prison experience.

“Our biggest challenge is the culture change. Trying to get them to understand that if you apply yourself in education and learn to read and write, it opens up a world of opportunities for you,” the warden said. “You have inmates that are gang-related and trying to influence them to get in their program. We try to combat that by having programs. When you can take them out of that area, it keeps the pressure off for them to get involved in that aberrant behavior.”

Price said everyone at DVI is committed to serving the community of Tracy and the state at large.

The day of Price’s interview, DVI housed 2,677 prisoners. He hopes vocational training will change the outcomes for criminals paroled back into the community around the prison.

“I’ve got 27 years in the department and I even used to be a counselor. In talking with (prisoners who came back), they said, ‘Man, we can’t get a job because we’re ex-felons,’” Price said. “In our rehabilitation program, we’re trying to establish that — have a good work ethic, respect your elders and your neighbors. Tolerate the different ethnic groups, because we have them all out there in the community.”

Price, who spent portions of his nearly three-decade career at San Quentin, Sierra Conservation Center and other postings, said that the latest program added to DVI prepares prisoners for specialized work cleaning hospitals.

“DVI used to have some serious vocational programs. It was important for me to get it back online,” Price said. “We’re doing a good job out here at DVI. And we’re passionate about it.”

• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at or 830-4231.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 01, 2014
being locked up 24/7 is hardly a reward. Helping these folks to a better life is in everyone's best interest. Kudos to the warden!
July 01, 2014
I applaud and give honor to those leaders like warden Price at DVI and Harriet Solarno who have transcended barriers of hate and forgiveness and replaced them with wisdom. If anyone does not see that human kind deserves the optimal opportunity of redemption that person is imprisoned in themselves continuously accusing the brethren. Without the power of God we are all defeated. I hope that the programs that give our brethren the opportunity to re-enter society with their heads up will be the integral part of our prison system.
May 31, 2014
The average diploma cost $150.00 not including books per student, a vocational degree on the average 18 month course on the real low end $28,000 per student if my math is correct $1,717,150.00. Another government waste of tax payers money. Bet the tax payer had nothing to say about this waste as usual
May 30, 2014
I really struggle with these sorts of programs. On the one hand I don't like the idea of criminals returning to the streets without the tools to do better. On the other hand I abhor the idea of rewarding criminality. There are many law abiding folks who are either struggling to get by and/or are unemployed who can't get free job training but we offer it free to felons. If I ever end up homeless getting myself into jail would look like a fairly attractive option.

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