SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Raphaele Casale has what many might see as a pretty interesting, and challenging day job. For 11 years Casale has worked at San Quentin Prison. It’s work she clearly loves.
“My job duties are great,” said Casale. “I mean I get to work in the warden’s office, which I never thought I would.”
But off the clock Casale often stays within the walls of the prison as a volunteer. On any given Monday evening she can be found singing back-up vocals for one of the prison bands at weekly practice.
“It’s a creative space, and especially for people that are artists,” said Casale. “It’s a way that they express themselves.”
Casale also volunteers for prison programs like SQUIRES, San Quentin Utilization of Inmate Resources, Experiences and Studies. SQUIRES is a juvenile justice diversion program that brings at risk young people to the prison to meet with inmates, who then share with them the realities of prison life. Through San Quentin’s Youth Offenders Program, Casale also encourages young incarcerated men like David Jassy to express themselves with music. Jassy and others compose original songs using positive language and messaging.
“It’s so meaningful,” said Jassy. “To be able to work with music inside of prison and actually utilize the time to help others, it’s the best gift I can have to help others.”
Casale’s long term commitment to volunteering also inspires those who’ve been incarcerated longer, like Brian Asey.
“She’s Raphie, right,” said Asey. “I can’t really describe it in words because she does so much.”
Casale estimates she that has helped hundreds of those involved in the justice system. But she is quick to point out she’s benefitted too.
“To actually see people change their thinking,” said Casale. “So much so that they’re gonna actually be a completely different person leaving prison. I mean, how could you not support that?”
So for her commitment to helping those who are incarcerated see the most in themselves, and turn their lives around, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Raphaele Casale.