Thursday, November 21, 2013

The holiday spirit of giving was showcased at the Marsh Creek Detention Facility Handcrafted toys and refurbished bikes by inmates donated to county's children-serving agencies

For the 22nd straight year, representatives from more than 28 Contra Costa County children-serving agencies were on hand at the Marsh Creek Detention Facility's woodshop to choose toys handcrafted and bicycles refurbished by the inmates. The items will be given to the children who are being served by these agencies during the upcoming holidays. The Marsh Creek Detention Facility inmates have participated in this project during the year, fixing up used bikes to look and ride like brand new and building beautiful wooden toys, such as, pull toys, doll houses, doll cradles, fire houses, fire engines, yo-yos, cars, rocking horses, rocking motorcycles, skill games, and many 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), which is located within the jail facility. 

(Left to right): Students in the woodshop class gather around the hand-crafted toys with their teacher Khaia McGill, Principal Angela Hatter, Director of Contra Costa Adult Schools Lynn Mackey, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ovick in the Marsh Creek woodshop.

This morning, the Detention Facility's woodshop certainly looked like Santa's Workshop, with its festive decorations and showcasing the beautiful toys and bikes. Along with the non-profit-agency representatives picking out presents, numerous county members of law enforcement and education were on hand. The morning featured remarks made by Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston and Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ovick. Both speakers thanked all those involved and reminded the attendees what a special partnership this program has been over the past 22 years. Sheriff Livingston introduced Khaia McGill, who is the new woodshop teacher at Marsh Creek. Along with her teaching duties, she will oversee the production of the toys and bikes for next year. Dr. Ovick finished by personally addressing five inmates who were on hand for the event: “Gentlemen, numerous at-risk children in our county will certainly have a brighter holiday season due to your craftsmanship with these bikes and toys.”

Non-profit organizations participating in this special event include: the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Contra Costa County Department of Social Services, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, El Cerrito Fire Department, George Miller Center-East, International Orphan Relief Foundation, La Casa Ujima, Lynn Center, Monument Crisis Center, Salvation Army, Shelter Inc., Sheriff Station Bay, and Solomon Temple M.B.C.

During the 2012-13 school year, approximately 2,895 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 and state-of-the-art computer training. By the end of the school year, 50 student-inmates received their GED and 36 received a high school diploma, and 13 students passed the California High School Exit Exam. In addition, there were 471 students who demonstrated learning gains in reading or math, and 786 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, 1,436 students completed at least one of the three phases, and 311 students graduated from DEUCE. The Parenting Inside/Out class teaches vital parenting skills to women and men, with 58 certificates issued last school year. The CCCOE just opened a new re-entry class in November at 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, 54 inmates are already enrolled in the reentry course.

These classes help to provide education and skills needed for successful transition back into the community.