Silvas, a 17-year prison employee who serves as a sergeant, said Tuesday that in addition to being one of the first California correctional facilities to feature an electrical fence, Calipatria State Prison was also the place in 2005 where one of the worst-ever prison riots occurred.
“I was on duty that day,” Silvas recalled. “In fact, it was on my yard.”
That memory and others were shared during a celebration of the prison’s 20-year anniversary that was highlighted by a five-member band consisting of correctional officers, a car show, a weapons display, games and even a tour of a Level 4 housing unit.
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More than an estimated 1,000 people showed up for the event that also provided free hot dogs and hamburgers to patrons.
Administrative Lt. Jorge Santana said that the Calipatria community has grown during the past two decades along with the prison.
But past troubles like the riot served to bring cohesiveness among those who work at the maximum-security prison where 75 percent of the inmates are serving life sentences.
“Those scars are what brought the staff closer together,” Santana said.
A tour of the so-called Charlie facility, where the majority of inmates are set for deportation, was toured by patrons, Santana said.
The inmates had what Santana referred to as “minimal movement” during the tour while the people saw certain areas of the facility.
“Right now we’ve got them all locked up,” Santana said.
Warden Leland S. McEwen praised the prison’s correctional staff for its involvement in the community as hospital board members, coaches and in other areas.
McEwen said he met his wife, Sherry, in 1992 at the prison when they were both correctional officers.
“I might be the warden,” McEwen said, “but she is the boss.”
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at email@example.com