Deuel Vocational Institute — 10 miles southwest of Manteca — is a lot less crowded these days.
The prison built in 1953 was designed to hold 2,300 inmates. Today 2,211 individuals are incarcerated there.
Back in 2012 the prison held 4,000 inmates. It was accomplished in part by converting the gym to a massive dorm room with bunk beds stacked three high with barely enough room to walk between the rows.
That changed after a riot.
“You couldn’t see over them,” Jerome Price told Manteca Noon Rotarians Thursday during their weekly meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room. “Guards couldn’t see into the middle (of the room) from the catwalks.”
After the riot, the bunk beds were limited to two high.
Today, the gym is cleared of beds and is staying that way in the aftermath of Gov. Brown’s new rules for incarcerating felons that committed “low level” crimes not considered violent in nature to meet federal court mandates to reduce overcrowding at California’s 34 state prisons.
Back when the riot occurred, Price was on an inspection team from the Department of Corrections headquarters. Today he is the warden at DVI. It’s a position he’s held since 2012.
Price oversees the prison that’s on 782 acres and has an annual budget of $91 million. There are roughly 1,000 employees split almost evenly between correctional staff and support staff.
DVI has two missions. It serves as a reception center and to provide housing for Level I and Level II inmates.
As a reception center, DVI receives inmates being sent into the state prison system from 29 Northern California counties. They are processed over 90 days during which time they are evaluated. That includes personal interactions, criminal records, education, life history, as well as, medical and psychological histories. They’re then transferred to the appropriate prison.
Level I inmates include work farms and forestry camps. They are either first-time or low-risk inmates who have “worked themselves up in the system” by good behavior. As such it affords the inmate better living conditions and a few more freedoms than they would have elsewhere in the state prison system.
Level II inmates are those who are nearing the end of their sentence or those who have committed crimes that are less severe. They can be allowed on work details.
Inmates at DVI can work prison maintenance, food service and custodial jobs among others. Inmates also have the opportunity to earn their General Education Degree as well as take basic adult education classes. Career training classes include heating and air conditioning, auto body repair, and building maintenance to name a few.
DVI also maintains dairy farm with 1,600 head of cattle with 600 being milked on any given day. Inmates help process 162,000 gallons of milk a month that are shipped to other prisons throughout Northern California.
Price noted the biggest challenge is maintaining the 63-year-old prison facility.
The prison is looking for volunteers through its community outreach program. They are needed to help with a wide array of self-help programs that inmates can access from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous to Al-Anon and meditation programs.
Price noted DVI has efforts where prisoners help the community. One is restoring recovered bicycles that are unclaimed at law enforcement agencies such as the Tracy Police Department. The bikes from Tracy are repaired and distributed to kids through the Boys & Girls Club of Tracy.
For more information on the community outreach programs call (209) 835.4141.
Before being appointed acting warden and then warden in 2012, Price held several other positions at DVI including chief deputy administrator and correctional administrator.
He served in several positions at the Sierra Conservation Center from 2003 to 2011 and from 1991 to 1996, including correctional administrator, captain, lieutenant, correctional counselor and sergeant.
Price was a correctional lieutenant at the Northern California Women’s Facility from 1998 to 2003 and at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation headquarters from 1996 to 1998.
Price was a correctional sergeant at San Quentin State Prison from 1990 to 1991, where he was a correctional officer from 1986 to 1987. He served as a correctional officer at DVI from 1987 to 1990.
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