OTAY MESA, Calif. (KGTV) - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is watching RJ Donovan Correctional in Otay Mesa to see if a program with its prisoner population will better prepare inmates for a day they are ever released.
“It’s an experiment,” said Mark Hill, who has been behind bars for 19 years.
Warden Daniel Paramo said the state prison is experimenting putting “general population” inmates in the same yard as inmates with “sensitive needs,” which could be their gang affiliation or the crime they committed.
Those populations have historically been kept separate because it has led to fights and other safety issues.
“Basically, it’s for inmates that decided to mature a little,” said Hill.
The prisoners earn the right to be on “Echo Yard” with good behavior, speaking with a counselor, attending classes, and performing jobs.
“We’re trying to get these guys ready to enter back into society,” said Paramo. “We’re telling these guys, ‘Hey, you’re in charge of your own destiny now. If you’d like to get released sooner, you have to earn it.'"
Paramo said integrating the inmates will better prepare them to deal with a variety of people if they are ever released from prison.
Part of the integration includes "perks" according to Paramo. Tuesday, the inmates hosted the prison's first talent show where inmates were allowed to perform a variety of schools in "Echo Zone Got Talent."