El Valle’s Goal: Be Better Today Than We Were Yesterday

It’s too bad you can’t see the faces of the residents here in this dorm of the El Valle Detention Facility as they cheer on one of their own, who just won a prize. The men are excited that their fellow resident earned the award through an innovative coupon reward program.

“This a big game changer,” says Administrative Lieutenant Jorge Romo.

Started in early 2023, the coupon program is a way to recognize residents who excel in behavior and cleanliness, allowing them to earn coupons that turn into rewards that they can enjoy.

“It serves two purposes,” says Facility Administrator Francisco Venegas. “Number one, it shows people in our custody that we care about them and that we want to thank them for the good things they do while they’re here. And secondly, it became a promotion that made them feel good about themselves, made them understand that they could trust us because we were looking for their betterment.”

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Jorge Romo, Administrative Lieutenant.

“And with this type of program,” agrees Lt. Romo, “the non-citizens have a lot more respect for our staff as well. We’ve created a culture here where we can talk to non-citizens, not talk at non-citizens.”

El Valle’s coupon program has also extended into another phase: a reward system for staff members. After meeting certain criteria, staff are awarded a credit coupon, which can be redeemed right away or accumulated with several others to be redeemed later for a larger prize, all available in a facility store. Earning many coupons also qualifies staff to enter a drawing for a day off.

“We’ve seen positive feedback from staff as far as them getting something on the spot,” says Lt. Romo. “They were already doing these things. It’s kind of good just to get an ‘Attaboy!’ every once in a while, that, you know, the warden appreciates them a lot, that the staff here appreciate them a lot.”

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El Valle staff store.

“It’s something that is caught on,” Administrator Venegas says. “The staff understands what it takes to get a credit coupon. It’s definitely working and building the morale.”

“We have a great facility here,” speaks Lt. Romo. “Our operation is second to none. We’re not ready to sit on our laurels. We always want to be better. So, that’s our goal for the day: Be better than we were yesterday.”