HISTORY ACCORDING TO JOHN
Approximately 50 years ago (July 6, 1953) Governor Earl Warren came to Dvi to lead the
ceremony placing the "Time Casket" in the Cornerstone. This $12,000,000 institution was built
to house 1,200 young prison inmates between the ages of 18 to 25 deemed capable of rehabilitation.
I have found DVI's Warden Claude to be a sentimental person as well as a history buff. As
we talked about old times I found Claude more interested in DVI's history than most. It was
Claude's idea that there be a celebration of this anniversary by opening the time capsule and
then resealing it with the items from 1953 adding items from 2003. DVI is 50 years old, but
when compared to a place like San Quentin (150 years) we are not even middle aged. Still
if you think about it, DVI has its place in history.
In a 1953 newspaper article in the Tracy Press, I viewed a picture of Governor Earl Warren
(better known as a Supreme Court Chief Justice) leading the dedication. The Governor stated,
"I believe this day to be one of the most important in our state, With the opening of this
Institution, California is beginning the finest prison system in the world." The picture depicts
him at the Cornerstone just outside the Administrative Building east corner with a cement
trowel placing mortar over the cornerstone. By the way, Tracy Press Publisher Sam Matthews
states we still have the trowel locked up somewhere at DVI. I investigated and to this date it has
not been found. I figure that over the years someone thought it was an extra tool and either
placed it on a shadow board to account for it or took it to use for the captain's swimming pool.
(In the 70's it was joke that if you wanted weekends off you had ot go help the captain with
his swimming pool). Anyway the Department of Corrections named this prison for State
Senator Charles Hastings Deuel of Chico. He authored 1945 Legislation that established the
California Vocational Institution at an abandoned U.S. Army Air Force base near Lancaster,
California. Later that institution was renamed Deuel Vocational Institution (1951) and moved
to Tracy in 1953. The Senator passed away before the correctional facility was moved to
Tracy. However, his wife and daughter were present at the dedication according to pictures and
written accounts. In fact there were over nine hundred people attending the 1953 ceremony.
Besides the Governor, Speakere Rostrum, Senator Verne Hoffman, Assemblyman John J.
McFall, Tracy Mayor Irvine Jensen, San Joaquin County Sheriff Carlos Sousa, and
W. E. Staight President of the Tracy District Chamber of Commerce were pictured in the
newspaper accounts. I also was able to review the invitation list and found Senators,
Assemblymen, Wardens, Superintendents, and many other State and Local Officials were
invited. Business people from the surrounding areas were also invited and I noted some that
have streets, schools, and buildings named after them. The Cornerstone reflects the year
1950. I am told that a work strike occurred and I have viewed a picture of DVI surrounded by floodwaters (1950) which may have delayed the constuction and the opening. I was present for two floods that occurred in 1983 and 1997. I-5 as we know it today did not open until the
mid or late sixties.
Allen Cook was DVI's first Superintendent and had come from Lancaster. As present day
wardens, Mr. Cook got involved in the community calming the fears of Tracy area residents
that the prison might pose a threat to their safety. I read that he was elected President of the
Tracy Chamber of Commerce. DVI was touted as state of the art vocational training for
younger inmates. I was able to secure a document written by Mr. Cook to the public in 1959.
He describes the institution as follows, "D.V.I. was established as an intermediate security type institution to serve the youth group which fall between the juvenile schools of the Youth Authority
and the State prisons of the Department of Corrections. Its primary purpose is to provide custody, care, industrial, vocational and other training, guidance and reformatory help for
young men too mature to be benefited by the program of correctional schools for juveniles
and too immature in crime for confinement in prisons. The above statement of purpose is
taken directly from the California Penal Code. It does not provide any maximum or
minimum age limits for confinement in the institution, but wisely indicates the type of young men
who need the training. Again in the words of the Penal code, there may be transferred to
and confined in the Deuel Vocational Instiution any male, subject to the custody, control and
diciline of the Director of Corrections or the Youth Authority whom the Director of Corrections
or the Youth Authority, as the case may be, believes will benefit from confinement in such
an institution. Whenever by reason of any law governing the commitment of a person to the
Youth Authority or to an institution under the jurisdiction of the Youth Authority such person is
deemed not to be a person convicted of a crime, the transfer or placement of such person in
the Deuel Vocatonal Institution shall not affect the status or rights of the person and shall
not be deemed to constitute the conviction of a crime." Except for the last sentence the current
penal code still reads the same as it did in 1959 DVI was to fill a void in California penology.
It was believed that DVI was more a vocational, educational, training institution, than a prison.
There were 14 vocational trades, which included aircraft engine repair and maintenance.
Even in the 70's I can remember the control sergeant getting calls from people trying to enroll
their sons here. In 1954 the Pilot Intensive Counseling Organization (PICO) was established
at DVI. "This was a pure research program provided for legislative appropriation to determine
statistically the results of intensive counseling of inmates." DVI was only the second institution to
conduct this type of treatment. At one time I got extra money, sixty-five dollars per month to conduct "group", I remember this because it is the same amount of money I got for combat pay. I don't remember when it stopped, but I think it was for only one year. Officers volunteered to come in on their own time and take about 15 to 20 inmates into a TV room and just talk about
whatever. I believe in the early days it was more structured but it was on its way out when I got to DVI.
Mr. Cook also wrote about DVI's "Adjustment Center" (L-1, 2 & 3). To put it in a nutshell, these inmates were placed in there because they could not get along with their peers or could not adjust to institutional life. It was characterized as an institution whithin an institution having intensive counseling and most inmates returned to the main institution. Over the years these units have had several different mission changes and not all for the good. L-1, (and J wing) are currently an over-flow for Ad/Seg (K-wing). L-2 is a sensitive needs unit and the unit day room is a dormitory as nearly all-housing units are. L-3 houses general population inmates and has an overflow dormitory. The Adjustment Center is just history that may be forgotten. Another item
Mr. Cook writes about is "the Reception-Guidance Center" it was considered a vital part of DVI even though East and West Halls had not been completed yet. "This center fulfills a two-fold purpose of receiving inmates orm county jails throughout California and providing a diagnostic study of each inmate which is passed on to the Institution and used as a bbasis for further treatments." In the earlier days of DVI, the Department of Employment gave the general aptitude tests and paroles conducted pre-release interviews for the jobs. A three hundred-bed Reception-Guidance Center was planned to open in 1960. Two old timers, Joe Dooman (35 years) and Rocky Rocheleau, (27 years) said that K-2 & 3 housed these inmates, prior to
East Hall and West Hall. Over the years the Reception Center was closed and one unit was converted to a gang lockuup and the other was used as a protective-housing unit. Today's
Reception Center quite different, it has expanded beyond its old boundaries encompassing eight
previous general population inmate housing units all double cells or dormitory living. In the 1960's these inmates wore green pants and shirts. Today they wear orange jump suits. The Reception Center has primarily the same mission as when it began, however courts and medical mandates have attorney types lurking around every wheelchair or bedpan. Job interviews are a thing of the past replaced by board hearings of different types. When you compare the Reception Center of the 60's with a population of 300 to today's with well over 3,000. It is plain to most tht our mission has changed. The once touted academic and vocational training is becoming a faded memory. The only remaining vision, which is still intact, is the Prison Industry Authority.
Much like today the institution was divided into six functional divisions: Business, Classification & Treatment, Correctional Industries, Custody, Education, and Medical. The Classification & Treatment Division name and mission changed to just Program Division. It now encompasses the Educational Department. The word "rehabilitation" is a thing of the past replaced by protecting the public. Vocational, educational and PIA programs have been either cut back or done away with. If Mr. Cook could only see DVI now, he would probably shake his head.
Inmates coined the name Gladator School, in the late sixties. Young adult violent inmates were replacing the Youth Authority type inmates. Gangs became more organized and acted out violently, also, in those times DVI had more incidents than all other institutions put together. The DVI of the 60's and 70's was a reflection of society as it was a time of violence, unrest, and the emergence of radicals. DVI was known for its use of chemical agents during those days. Two Officers were murdered during this period. Both these officers are known to staff, as there is a memorial just outside the fence at DVI. Before DVI was moved here and was known as CVI an Officer Reymond Messer was also murdered on 8/11/1951. I believe his name should be added to DVI's memorial.
Our first Superintendent renamed to Warden was Robert Rees (1977-1987). The first female Warden was Midge Carroll (1987-1989). The first Hispanic Warden was A.A . Gomez (1989-1992) and the first female Hispanic Warden was Ana Maria Olivarez (1992-1995). The first African American Warden is our current Warden Claude E. Finn (1999-). We have two wardens who have become the Director of Corrections, Reymond K. Procunier (1966-1967) and Edward S. Alameida Jr. (1996-1999). Lloyd N. Patterson was the third Superintendent and the first I served under. Our leaders total nine in the fifty-year time span.
I remember when Corrections was under the Department of Health and Welfare. There have been so many changes in fifty years, WOW! While the motley crew of historians (retirees) and volunteers go over the plans for the anniversary, I have occasional flach backs (not drug induced) of the old DVI . The current location of main records was once the location of mainline visiting. The current visiting room was once the library. The awesome gym, where as an officer, I supervised inmates watching movies, boxing, playing basketball and weight lifting exhibitions is gone. It is now known as Z and Y dorm holding up to 690 inmates. DVI was the 7th institution built; when i arrived in 1972 there were 12. Today there are 33 facilites. Despite rumors of population decline DVI seems to be dealing with overcrowding and mission changes brought about by departmental needs. There is not much left in the present DVI other than the physical structure from the original mission the started in 1953. DVI has always risen to the occasion or need of the department. Hopefully in another fifty years the same can be said. There is a lot of missing history that has not included because of length an lack of facts, but this is one short version that will be documented.
If you want history go to the old timer breakfast which occurs on the first Saturday of each month. You will see retirees such as Officer Pete Peterson (1963-1988), Lt. Tony Sanchez (1957-1982),
Lt. Jack Yarborough (1960-1987), Lt. W.J. Fraker (1960-1991), Lt. John Mitchell (1964-1983),
JOHN'S FINAL THOUGHT
This is a very simplistic story, but a powerful message.
A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a
package; what food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a mousetrap!
Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, "There is a mouse trap in the
house, there is a mouse trap in the house."
The chicken clucked and scatched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell you this
is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me; I cannot be bothered by it."
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There! Is a mouse trap in the house."
"I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse." sympathized the pig, " but there is nothing I can do about it but pray; be assured that you are in my prayers." The mouse turned to the cow, who replied,
"Like wow, Mr. Mouse, a mouse trap; am I in grave danger, Duh?
So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected to face the farmer's trap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap
catching is prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did
not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the tra had caught.
The snake bit the farmer's wife.
The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows
you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the
soup's main ingredient.
His wife's sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.
To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer's wife did not get well, in fact, she died, and so many people came for her funeral
the farmer had the cow slaghtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.
So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern
you, remember that when the least of us is threatened, we are all at risk.