Paso Robles Boys School Prison Inmate Describes Gang Life

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Opposite Paso Robles Municipal Airport is a retired prison.

The property, which once housed the El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Center, could be converted for commercial use, possibly as a warehouse.

The former military base served as a training center for pilots during World War II.

After the war, Paso Robles bought part of the property to make it a commercial airport and the California Division of Juvenile Justice, then known as the California Youth Authority, bought the neighboring land.

The wartime wooden barracks have been replaced by mid-century modern buildings made of bricks, blocks and slabs designed to last 100 years, according to a photo caption in the Jan.30, 1954 edition of the Telegram-Tribune.

El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility opened in September 1947 with the then governor. Goodwin Knight on hand to dedicate what was commonly referred to as “the boys‘ school”.

The hope was that giving struggling young men a structured environment would help them reform.

But the facility, which closed briefly from 1972 to 1974 due to declining commitments and then reopened, has had mixed success.

Some neighborhoods took the opportunity to hit the reset button on their lives and get their high school diplomas and vocational training. A number worked on fire crews doing the heavy lifting of cutting the containment lines.

By the late 1990s, the culture of the El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Center had shifted from reform to punishment and sometimes brutality.

On December 24, 1999, The Los Angeles Times quoted San Luis Obispo County Chief Probation Officer John Lum as saying that the abuse was so widespread that he asked judges not to send wards to the courts. establishments.

“In many cases, we make them worse, which poses a real threat to society,” Lum told The Times.

According to the Times article, wards were punished at least eight times from 1996 to 1999 by kneeling in handcuffs on the gym floor, sometimes until their legs went numb. Some vomited or passed out, while others had to sit in urine-soaked clothes.

The Paso Robles plant closed permanently on July 31, 2008.

On October 14, a time capsule sealed in 1954 was opened in a ceremony hosted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In 1988, as gangs became more and more public aware, Telegram-Tribune reporter Phil Dirkx wrote a series of stories.

Black and Hispanic inmates outnumbered the white population in the California Youth Authority facility, and the majority of inmates came from urban areas where gangs offered security, status and cash.

Joe Quiroz, a gang expert on the team, told the newspaper gangs are a way of life. “It’s exciting to do shootouts, get shot and get high in the PCP,” he said.

Quiroz asked the inmates if they knew how they risked ending up. Most said “yes”.

“I don’t remember talking to a guy who’s been in gangs for over eight or nine years,” Quiroz said.

Phil Dirkx interviewed four inmates at El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility for an article published on February 6, 1988.

The following is an excerpted version focusing on an inmate with the gang name Donnzelle Ru. Her name appears with the spelling “Donzelle” on a street gang mailing list; the entries, which are dated 2005 through 2008, say it’s verified in a DJ Quik song, “Total Auto.”

1988 01-27 CYA gangs el paso de robles2567
Her name with the Treetop Piru gang was Donnzelle Ru. The 19-year-old was one of four inmates from the El Paso de Robles Youth Authority in California who were interviewed for an article on gangs for a 1988 article. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Donnzelle: Drugs, Uzis and hand grenades

Donnzelle Ru, 19, is also black and from Compton.

His hair was cut short and he wore a gold chain outside the collar of his sweater.

In Compton, he was a member of the Treetop Piru gang.

At El Paso de Robles School, he is a Shop Foreman in a Work Experience Program.

He said he would not be returning to his old neighborhood as he has a job waiting for him when he gets out.

“A lot of people want to stop (the gangs),” he said, “but they don’t want to lose their pride.”

He joined his gang when he was in college, but said he has been hanging around since he was in second grade.

“I grew up in it,” he says.

He doesn’t think street gangs will ever be wiped out.

The youngest in the neighborhoods are growing up wanting to join gangs like him, he said.

“The little children looked at us and said, ‘Can we spend some time with you? “”

He got into a big gang battle in 1985, he said.

A friend of hers bought a car from an enemy gang member.

The enemy gang then took over the car and beat up their friend.

Members of his gang have gathered at a neighborhood burger stand to plan their revenge.

Donnzelle Ru said he got his Uzi submachine gun and headed for the enemy gang’s neighborhood on his motorbike.

A friend in the back of the bike was supposed to use the Uzi, he said, but that raid was called off due to lack of troops.

“A lot of people really didn’t want to go,” he said. They eventually gathered enough people and returned to the enemy quarter.

This time the Uzi was left behind, but Donnzelle Ru, still had his .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

Other gang members had 9-millimeter, .38 caliber, and .25 caliber pistols.

They found enemy gang members hanging out at a house selling drugs, he said.

When the firing stopped, two people were injured.

The friend who bought the car was shot in the mouth, and another member of his gang was shot in the head.

This boy was looking out of a car window when someone else in the car shot out the window.

Donnzelle Ru said he was later arrested when members of his gang threw him at the police.

Obtaining weapons, like the Uzi, was not difficult, he said.

People trade guns for drugs and half of gang members sell drugs, he said.

People also traded hand grenades and dynamite for drugs, he said.

Drug traffickers beep their vendors, he said, and invest their profits in legal businesses such as record stores and hamburger stands.

But Donnzelle Rue is disillusioned with gangs.

“Your friends are snitching you and trying to score with your girlfriend while you’re here,” he said.

Related Stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

David Middlecamp is a third generation photojournalist and Cal Poly graduate who has covered the Central Coast region since the 1980s. A career that began developing and printing black and white films now includes a pilot’s license from drone certified by the FAA. He also writes the historical column “Photos of the safe”.


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