The resoundingly appreciative response we have received for our COVID-19 relief efforts has prompted us to expand those efforts to eight additional prisons in California, including one as far away as the Arizona border. Work that began with a small handful of volunteers in May 2020 has now grown to include dozens of volunteers and staff, providing anywhere from a few hours to weeks or months of support, preparing shipments of more than 3,000 care packages at a time. Funded by a grant from an anonymous donor, the team recently delivered care packages to California Men’s Colony, Calipatria State Prison, Centinela State Prison, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, North Kern State Prison, and Wasco State Prison.
“We become numb at times. But it is gifts and acts of kindness such as yours that bring us back to reality, and let us know we are never really alone.“Sonny Aguilar, after receiving a care package while incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison
The contents of the care packages, which have been adapted over the course of the year, include essential supplies that are hard to come by in prisons at the moment: reading and writing supplies, stamps, envelopes, toothpaste, soap, cough drops, non-perishable food items, and information about COVID-19. To support the well-being and morale of corrections staff, we continue to provide food trucks at each prison to serve meals over a 24-hour period.
“What you guys have done is something that moves us deep down inside and gives us a sense of a brighter future.”Ernesto Sanchez, in response to care package deliveries at Pleasant Valley State Prison
We have now hosted food trucks and delivered over 50,000 care packages to people incarcerated at 18 California prisons. In addition to the aforementioned prisons, these include: Avenal State Prison; California Institution for Men; California Institution for Women; California Rehabilitation Center; California State Prison, Corcoran; California State Prison, Los Angeles County; California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran; Folsom State Prison; Pleasant Valley State Prison; and San Quentin State Prison.
This work has been well-received; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation publicly thanked Mount Tamalpais College for boosting morale among employees and we received hundreds of letters from incarcerated people.
“I didn’t think anyone cared about us in here,” wrote Levi Strong from Pleasant Valley State Prison. “Lots of people in here have nothing and no one so I’m sure it ment [sic] a lot to everyone else in here, not just me.” To read more letters from incarcerated men and women during the pandemic, visit our full library of letters.
“…underneath all the muscels [sic] and tattoos we just want to be loved and you guys showed us a little love today and it goes a long way.”Levi Strong, thanking Mount Tamalpais College for the care packages delivered to Pleasant Valley State Prison
In addition to care package deliveries across the state, we have also focused on the needs of the incarcerated population at our college site of San Quentin State Prison. For the past year, incarcerated people at San Quentin have spent 23 hours a day locked in their cells. Most outside programming is still on hold and in-person family visits did not resume until April 11. To address this isolation, we secured a grant from the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation in February 2021 to purchase 200 televisions for incarcerated people at San Quentin who do not yet own one, allowing them a means to stay abreast of the news and a form of entertainment.