IMPERIAL COUNTY â€” The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) honored the Imperial County Sheriff and Correction Probation Departments with the highest recognition award, the Challenge Award, in recognition of the Inside/Out College Program during the November 22 board meeting.
CSAC represents county government before the California Legislature, state administrative agencies, and the federal government.Â CSAC places a strong emphasis on educating the public about the value and need for county programs and services.
While Californiaâ€™s 58 counties â€“ ranging from Alpine with a little more than 1,200 people, to Los Angeles with more than 10 million â€“ are diverse, many common issues exist. CSACâ€™s long-term objective is to significantly improve the fiscal health of all California counties so they can adequately meet the demand for vital public programs and services.
â€œThe highest level award that CSAC can give is the Challenge Award, a program that is dear to my heart, because I came from the stateâ€™s corrections department,â€ said Matt Cate, executive director for CSAC.
CSACâ€™s annual statewide program honors innovation and best practices in county government. This year, CSAC received a record number of entries (279) and a record number of counties entering (41) the four population categories. An independent panel of judges with expertise in county programs selected the award recipients.
â€œEducation makes a huge difference in the lives of people who are trying to go from a criminal life to a normal life,â€ said Cate. â€œWhen the application from Imperial County was received with the Inside/Out Program we saw it as a unique approach and one that we hope other counties will model.â€
Working jointly with the Sheriffâ€™s Office and the Probation Department, Imperial Valley College offers an innovative program that gives county inmates an opportunity to start their college education.
The first-of-its-kind in California, Inside/Out brings 15 â€œinsideâ€ students, incarcerated at the Imperial County Jail, and 15 â€œoutsideâ€ students from IVC, together as a class.
â€œI have to admit that when this program was presented to me I was scared like you wouldnâ€™t believe,â€ said Sheriff Raymond Loera. â€œMixing students from IVC with students who are incarcerated was nerve-wracking, however by far it is one of the best programs I have ever had a pleasure to work with.â€
Chief Probation Officer Daniel Prince said the program was a success due to team effort and the numerous partnerships as well as staff members.
“The reason why we call it the Challenging Award is because we challenge other counties to follow your example,” said Cate.