CLAYTON, Calif., November 19, 2015 – For the 24th straight year, a number of representatives from Contra Costa County non-profit agencies were on hand Thursday at the annual Marsh Creek Detention Facility’s Toy Show to fulfill their kids’ Christmas wish lists. The representatives were able to choose from numerous newly handcrafted toys and bicycles refurbished by the facility’s inmates. These gifts are given to the children who are being served by these agencies during the upcoming holidays.
Along with the many displayed toys and bikes, the inmates decorated the Marsh Creek Detention Facility’s workshop to look like Santa’s own. Joining the non-profit-agency representatives were Contra Costa County’s Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata and Sheriff David Livingston, as well as numerous representatives from both agencies to celebrate this longtime agency partnership that benefits the community.
Both Superintendent Sakata and Sheriff Livingston gave their thoughts to the many attendees about the extremely successful partnership of the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) accredited shop classes being taught in a Contra Costa County Jail. “We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful agency collaboration that brings such value to our county,” said Superintendent Sakata. “With this project, these adult students will certainly bring a brighter Holiday Season to many children throughout our community.”
A small group of Marsh Creek Detention Facility inmates have been working on this project since the workshop re-opened in early October. They have been extremely busy fixing up used bikes to look and ride like brand new, and crafting colorful and beautiful wooden toys, such as, ball and cup games, spinning carousels, cars, doll houses, baby cradles, toy tractors, train sets, and more. All of the toy makers and/or bike mechanics are students in the Contra Costa Adult School, an accredited school directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), located within the detention facility.
CCCOE’s woodshop teacher Paul Turner hit the ground running, directing this project, soon after being hired on September 28. “On October 7, we opened the doors to the woodshop and bike shop,” said Turner, “It was like going into someone’s garage,” he laughed. “We had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, but luckily my small group of students had plenty of skills to produce more than 400 toys and refurbish 170 bikes by the time this event rolled around. I’m very proud of how hard they worked on this project.”
Non-profit organizations participating in this special event included: Bay Area Rescue Mission, Brighter Beginnings, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, El Cerrito Fire Department, Shelter Inc., The Salvation Army-Antioch Corps, Ujima Family Recovery Services/La Casa, and VESTIA.
During the 2014-15 school year, approximately 2,343 adult inmates (throughout the three Contra Costa detention facilities) were enrolled in classes ranging from academic programs, including basic literacy and GED preparation, to vocational programs, including woodshop, construction, and state-of-the-art computer training. By the end of the school year, 17 student-inmates received their GED and 23 received a high school diploma, and 34 students passed the California High School Exit Exam. In addition, there were 207 students who demonstrated learning gains in reading or math, and 122 students earned a certificate of completion in computer applications. Another course directed by the CCCOE is the DEUCE Program (Deciding, Educating, Understanding, Counseling, and Evaluation).
These three-part classes (90 days) focus on substance abuse prevention. Last year, 708 students completed at least one of the three phases, and 146 students graduated from DEUCE. The Parenting Inside/Out class teaches vital parenting skills to women and men, with 57 certificates issued last school year. Last year, the CCCOE opened a new re-entry class at the West County Detention Facility. The re-entry class offers workforce readiness, career exploration, soft skills workshops, and a nine-week cognitive-behavior-change program called Transitions. Currently, 46 inmates are enrolled in the re-entry course.
These classes help to provide education and skills needed for successful transition back into the community.