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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New warden at California Men's Colony settles in

Warden Elvin Valenzuela sits at ease behind a large, orderly desk at the California Men’s Colony.

At 6 foot 3 inches tall, his hulking figure dominates the office, but his voice remains steady and calm as he talks without reservation about the daily operations at the prison.

Later that day his presence commands the respect of inmates as he ambles through the prison yard of the West Facility, with inmates nodding in acknowledgement as he passes. Meanwhile Valenzuela banters with staff, jovially.

Valenzuela said the medium/minimum-security prison, which houses 5,041 inmates and has a staff of 1,900, is distinctive because of how well inmates manage themselves. Based on his 19 years of experience in other prisons, he believes the inmate culture is less hostile than at other facilities, mainly because many of the prisoners want to stay at California Men’s Colony and not be transferred elsewhere.

An array of vocational programs, self-help groups, educational classes and better paying jobs than at other prisons keeps inmates busy and out of trouble, Valenzuela said. “I’ve never seen as many inmates getting along,” said Valenzuela. “They are not going to the yard dressed combat ready because the inmates themselves don’t want it that way.”……New warden at California Men's Colony settles in | Local News | SanLuisObispo.com

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