Wednesday, February 18, 1998


Children who have lost their hair because of illness have found new friends through a program that allows California inmates to donate their hair for children’s wigs.

Inmates in California prisons who cut off their long hair to comply with newly adopted grooming standards can send their braids and ponytails to a company in Florida that makes the small wigs. In this "everyone wins" arrangement, the inmates will benefit from knowing they have helped a group of children, and the children will get a hair replacement that allows them to look good and feel good about themselves.

"We are encouraging any inmates who are interested to participate in this program," said C.A. Terhune, Director of the Department of Corrections. "It’s a chance for many of these men and women to do something positive for society, even from their prison cell."

The program was launched last month, and already inmates are responding. Already seven inmates from Calipatria State Prison and six from Wasco State Prison have sent their hair to "Locks of Love," a non-profit organization headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As more inmates clip their hair to meet the new requirements for short hair, additional donations are expected.

The donated hair must be at least eight inches long, washed, dried, braided together and packaged in a plastic bag. The inmates each receive a note of thanks from the organization, which then makes the wigs and hair pieces. These are provided free to deserving children throughout the nation who are suffering from long-term illnesses such as cancer that cause hair loss.

New grooming standards were adopted to promote inmates’ personal hygiene, to protect public safety and to improve prison security. The new grooming standards require that inmates keep their hair clean and short (no more than three inches), without any patterns shaved into their hair. The standards also prohibit beards and limit the size and length of mustaches and sideburns. Fingernails may not extend more than 1/4 inch beyond the end of the finger. Female inmates must have short hair or wear it up so that it does not extend beyond the bottom of the shirt collar. The standards also prohibit body piercing and limit female inmate’s jewelry and makeup.

Tuesday, February 10, 1998


More than 1600 inmates and 130 staff from the California Department of Corrections have been dispatched to help battle flooding in 14 northern and central California counties.

The inmates are filling and loading sandbags, sandbagging levees and structures threatened by breaks and rising floodwaters, cooking hot meals for flood fighters and evacuees, and helping out where they are needed.

In many counties, the inmates have been on the job since flooding began last week. They remain on alert during this period between storms, while many continue the hard work needed to protect lives and property.

In Monterey County, more than 75 inmates have been working to keep the Pajaro River from flooding, with each of the five crews filling 10,000 sandbags a day. They are repairing levees, cleaning up after mud slides, and removing trees and debris from the roadways. Another 100 inmates are staged at the Monterey County Fairgrounds ready to respond wherever they are needed. Seventeen inmates are staffing the mobile kitchen at the Fairgrounds, feeding hundreds of flood workers daily.

In San Joaquin County and surrounding areas, more than 300 inmates are positioned to be dispatched to trouble spots. Two crews (a total of 36 inmates) are reinforcing levees on the 8-mile Tract, another two crews are sandbagging at the Farmington Dam overspill, two more crews are working to strengthen the Liberty Island bridge levee, and another crew is bracing the Upper Andrus Island levee.

The inmates are normally assigned to one of 38 conservation camps, or minimum security prisons, located in rural areas throughout the state. The camps house almost 4,000 inmates.

Inmates serve their sentences at conservation camps after passing a highly selective screening process and rigorous training. A typical camp inmate has an average sentence of two years and will spend about eight months in camp before parole.

When not fighting floods, inmates are dispatched to other emergencies and non-emergencies including fires, earthquakes, wildlife habitat preservation and graffiti removal.

It is estimated that by using inmates, state and local governments save millions of dollars that otherwise would be paid to accomplish the work inmates perform.

Thursday, February 5, 1998


Inmates from the California Department of Corrections (CDC) have been dispatched to Marin County where they are rushing to build a protective berm around a power plant threatened by rising flood waters. The Ygnacio sub-station, owned by PG&E, is located about five miles west of the San Rafael Civic Center.

More than 300 inmates from 18 crews are working around the clock to help save the endangered power plant. They arrived earlier today from CDC Conservation Camps in central and northern California.

Similar inmate crews came to the rescue during the 1997 floods when they constructed a berm around the small town of Meridian in Sutter County.

The minimum security inmates are normally assigned to the conservation camps located in rural areas throughout the state. The camps house almost 4,000 inmates and are operated jointly by CDC and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Note: The inmate crews are staging out of the San Rafael Civic Center. CDC and CDF officials can be contacted there for additional information.