When Prison Guards Go Soft

When Prison Guards Go Soft
NEWS: Even California's powerful prison guards' union thinks more prisons are a bad idea.




"Five years ago, I had a lock on things," says Mike Jimenez, the president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. With his sunglasses, slicked-back hair, and trimmed beard, the 47-year-old looks more like an aging rock guitarist than the head of the nation's largest prison guards' union.
"Then I got questions with my own life," he continues. "I have a 19-year-old son. He was having interventions with law enforcement. Drug related. And I watched how the criminal system treated him. It's assembly-line justice. I was totally taken aback by it." He's since started to question the efficacy of locking thousands of low-level offenders up "in an institution where they become worse"�the very institution he and his fellow union members helped build.
Jimenez's change of heart has been reflected in the fates of the organization he heads. Five years ago, the ccpoa also had a lock on things. A top donor to Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, it was one of the most powerful labor organizations in California. In the 1990s, its tough-on-crime stances were routinely converted into legislation that ensured full prisons and new jobs, and made the guards the nation's best-paid corrections officers. Candidates who crossed the ccpoa often saw their political careers derailed by attack ads sponsored by the union.
Today, however, the ccpoa is at a crossroads. From the start of his term, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has treated the guards as a special interest group standing in the way of reform and has blamed them for many of the woes facing the state's bloated prisons. And in a radical departure from years past, when the guards routinely received generous pay boosts even in lean years, at press time, the union and the state were fighting over a wage increase.
As the ccpoa's relationship with its former allies has deteriorated, it has adopted some positions it once would have derided as dangerously liberal. Last year, it released a policy paper that called for rolling back some mandatory minimum sentencing, restoring judges' discretion over sentencing, and giving correctional officials more input in setting parole dates. It also advocated spending more on sick and mentally ill inmates, as well as reentry facilities for parolees.
Most surprisingly, the ccpoa has come out against Schwarzenegger's multibillion-dollar prison expansion plan, arguing it will lead to even more dangerous working conditions for its members. Jimenez told a state prison commission that he fears outnumbered guards will be overwhelmed by overcrowded prisoners. "We are sitting on the edge of what nasa calls catastrophic failure," he concluded. ccpoa has even filed an amicus brief in favor of an attempt by the Prison Law Office, a prisoners' legal rights group, to cap the state's prison population.
Critics say the union's new ideas are window dressing, a byproduct of its three-year showdown with Schwarzenegger. That may be partly true. But something extraordinary is happening inside the union, particularly behind the scenes. In 2002, the thuggish head of the ccpoa, Don Novey, was replaced by Mike Jimenez, who'd worked his way up the ranks since he'd become a guard in the 1980s after doing low-paying work in the oil fields. Jimenez, a Republican, came to the job with a more reformist agenda. And he has since been further radicalized by the events unfolding within his own family.
Jimenez speaks frankly about how his teenage son, Joshua, got into drugs, went to a boot camp in Utah ("it cost me every penny I made for six months"), was charged with a string of low-end felonies, dropped out of high school, and told his father he had nothing to look forward to in life.

1 in every 9 African American men between 20 and 34 is behind bars

1 in every 9 African American men between 20 and 34 is behind bars.

"I spent a lot of money, got him attorneys, went to great lengths to make sure he met the terms of his probation," recalls Jimenez. "But it occurred to me there're a lot of Joshuas who don't even know their dads. They get involved with the criminal justice system. It's a terrible reality. I realized there are a lot of kids in there who shouldn't be."
The realization completely changed the way Jimenez saw his job. "We plan to fail," he says of current correctional policies. "You can put all the police officers you want on the street, but if we don't give those kids hope of a future, of a life, of an ability to make something of themselves, they don't care about life. Nobody's willing to forgive anymore. And we are willing to lock people up for unreasonable periods of time."
Jimenez's revelation has trickled down the ccpoa hierarchy. Even Lance Corcoran, a longtime union leader known as a hardliner, now comes off like a bleeding heart. "I'm not saying I'm sympathetic to people who go to prison," he says, a little cautiously. "But I'm empathetic. I don't want them to suffer unnecessarily."
Corcoran says the union has been talking with prison-reform organizations, and the two sides have found some common ground that would have seemed impossible a few years ago. As he explains, "Safer places for their loved ones to live in mean safer places for our members to work."

Sasha Abramsky is the author of American Furires: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment.

A week of summer camp for children who have parents in prison.

Two members of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Odenton helped make a week of summer camp possible for 22 children who have parents in prison.

Photo by Donna M. Fellows – For The Capital
Joshua Malkiewicz and his older brother, Conner, from
Odenton Cub Scout Pack 769, watch as their
rocket launches from the launch pad, as dad, David,
and Robert Mencik from Boy Scout

Camp Amazing Grace, in its third year, was held this month at the Bishop Claggett Center near Frederick. The Rev. Phebe McPherson, Epiphany's rector, is co-chairman of the Prison Ministry Task Force of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, which sponsors the camp.

A member of the congregation, Maryellen Polvino-Bodnar, who was program director last year, coached the kids in fishing at the pond. The children also took part in a ropes challenge course, swimming, soccer, storytelling, magic, art, crafts and music.

The camp theme this year was "Make a Joyful Noise!" Funds, supplies and camp staff volunteers come from nearly 40 churches in the Maryland Diocese, including half a dozen in Anne Arundel County.

Cub Scout Pack 209, sponsored by Odenton Masonic Lodge 209 AF&AM, recently went on an Urban Pirate Adventure at Fells Point in Baltimore.

"We went aboard our pirate ship The Fearless and met the members of our crew including First Mate Peppercorn, Bountiful Bonnie and Red-eyed Sam. Our captain for the cruise was Cap'n Bones," said Debbie Huprich, pack committee chairman.

The boys and their families went on a one-hour adventure, touring the Inner Harbor and Fort McHenry area on the pirate ship. The Scouts and their siblings fired water cannons at the tourists on the docks at the Inner Harbor, in preparation for fending off an attack by a marauding pirate in a red speed boat, who wanted to take their treasure.

The Cub Scouts and their siblings also learned how to tie some knots and learned some history about Baltimore and its shipbuilding past.

The Scouts and siblings learned some pirate songs and learned how to talk and act like pirates.

"They helped First Mate Peppercorn take our treasure back from Red-eyed Sam after Sam announced that he was actually Slippery Sam and was stealing the treasure from us," said Debbie.

Sibling Caitlyn Dye provided a drink for Sam, which turned him into a very friendly pirate and allowed the crew to take control of the treasure.

All-in-all, although the weather was 97 degrees, everyone had a great time and really enjoyed themselves.

Other activities Pack 209 has planned for August include white-water rafting in the Poconos, another week at Cub Scout Day Camp, the annual Raingutter Regatta, and camping at Gettysburg during the Labor Day Weekend.

If you are interested in joining Pack 209, or would like more information about the pack, contact Committee Chairman Debbie Huprich at                410-969-7414        , or visit twww.packsonline.com/MD/209.

Odenton Baptist Church, located at 8410 Piney Orchard Parkway in Odenton, is holding its Vacation Bible School from 6-9 p.m. July 27-31.

The theme this year is Summer Olympics. Lots of fun activities are planned with songs, treats and prizes.

For more information, call the church at                410-551-9852        .

Fundraising Continues for Spiritual Life Center

Fundraising projects continue for the Spiritual Life Center chapel at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.

It has been over nine months since the prison break in October 2007, when the construction stopped on the Spiritual Life Center chapel.

Repair crews were needed to install additional security and new systems throughout the El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF).

Now, it is time to begin again with fundraising and construction.

Over $820,000 had been raised and yet another $100,000 is needed to complete the project.

The inmates are not only getting behind this project with construction labor, but this past week, sent $500 from the Jaycees project.

On June 21, EDCF staff and Central Kansas Prison Ministry volunteers held a garage sale at the First Christian Church. More than $1,000 was raised from that effort.

Individuals can visit the Web site of Central Kansas Prison Ministry at www.ckpm.org. Tours are also available.

Biker Update

Over 300,000 Christian bikers in organized clubs are wanting to be about God’s business. What could be a better plan than to mobilize the Christian Bikers of America to charge into the prisons with the Great Gospel Message?

Please consider sharing this vision and inform and encourage your club members at your next meeting to get involved.

Let us know if you would consider taking a leadership role at some of our events in your area or nearby regions. Some even plan vacations to attend in other states!

Stewardship Report: 2007

Youth Outreach



Champions for Today (CFT), is the youth outreach program of Bill Glass Champions for Life. Since 1992, Mike McCoy (former all pro Greenbay Packer) and his team of athletes have traveled the country speaking to thousands of youth in housands of schools. By using the effective school assembly format, former NFL players speak to junior high and high school students on their level, sharing personal experiences about pivotal issues youth face – such as drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, and peer pressure – and how faith in God helps. Sports stories and demonstrations grab their attention for the vital message.

Juvenile Outreach



Ring of Champions (ROC) focuses on youth at-risk in the juvenile justice system. The program is an alternative to juvenile detention for first-time offenders. During a ROC program, top athletes share the life-changing message during their performance. Participants then have the chance to be matched with a mentor for twelve weeks, to help them start their new life path on the right foot. Over the last six years, less than 8% of youth mentored in the ROC program returned to court. Without this intervention, the return rate is 70%.

Prison Outreach

SROI:    TOTAL POPULATION – 258,566    TOTAL UNITS – 434    


Since 1972, Bill Glass Champions for Life and a team of top athletes, entertainers, and volunteer Teammates have ministered toT millions of incarcerated adults and youth. For 35 years, Champions for Life Prison Ministry conducts 60+ weekend and day events in over 400 prisons in the United States and many other countries. Athletes, entertainers, and musicians perform for the masses on the prison yard, and share the life-changing message of Christ. Hundreds of volunteer Teammates are then able to minister one-on-one with the inmates, solidifying the impact. Since the Teammates are the ones who share with the inmates personally, they are the ones most blessed! Over 37,000 different Teammates have ministered in prisons over the last 35 years, The Teammates are forever changed because they are truly fulfilling the Great Commissions of the Lord to "the least".

It was great to be able to take my granddaughter, Katy, into prisons with me in DFW last November. I wanted to share with you her reaction:

"My heart is pumping and my palms are sweating. I'm nervous but I know I am doing the right thing. I feel as if there is a hand on my shoulder telling me everything will be alright. My shoes are removed, my personal belongings are taken from me, and I am patted down from head to toe. Safe. t passed the first test. Now it is time for the ultimate challenge. We head up to the fifth floor in a secured elevator with guards and the warden. The doors finally open as we reach our destination and all I can see is an ocean of orange. Men in jumpsuits, everywhere! I am freaking out. We are directed into one of the "pods" and are immediately locked in, literally, to incredibly close quarters with about forty or fifty men that have committed crimes I don't want to even think about. A familiar face walks in behind me and with a booming voice, gets everyone's attention instantly. `This man is fearless,' I think to myself. As he speaks he gets right to the point. He speaks words of encouragement, love, acceptance, and the greatest of all, the word of God. As I watch the inmate's eyes brim with tears and their hearts fill with hope and joy, I am filled with the presence of my Lord. We continued from pod to pod until the end of the day. I realized that day that the inmates thrived on those words. They really opened up and hundreds of them gave their lives to the Lord."

What a great young lady (a grandfather's unbiased reaction)! The first two months of 2008 are already looking great! Thanks for your prayers and support. You are a real friend.

I know you want to trust us to be good stewards of your stewardship. You can be certain that you get more "bang for the buck" with Bill Glass Champions for Life. You can know for sure that your generous giving is appreciated and used to the maximum good! We look forward to partnering with you in 2008 as we reach out to thousands with the life-changing message of Christ in schools, to kids in trouble and in prisons. Already responce for the first few months of 2008 are setting new records.

In Him As Always With Love,


San Bernadino WOC Prayer Request

Dear Weekend of Champions Teammates and CFL Prayer Partners:

Thursday, March 13, 2009 is the first day of the San Bernadino Weekend of Champions!!!

Please lift the weekend up in prayer daily between now and then:


1. We especially need God to protect all of the teammates and platform guest to have safe travel to the event!!!

2. We need the Holy Spirit to prepare the inmates hearts to receive the ministry and the Word of God!!

3. We need all of the plans for the Weekend to be successfully completed and implemented!!!

4. We all want the strength, power and guidance to do God’s will during the entire Weekend!!!

5. We want thousands and thousands of inmates, staff and teammates to be ministered to during the Weekend!!!

6. We are seeking God’s Perfect Will for the Event!!!

God Bless You!!!


Thank you so much for your support and prayers!!!








Bill Turner,

Southern California Executive Committee