SoCal Connected on KCET

This segment is scheduled to air Wednesday, June 18 at 8 p.m.

Thousands of inmates are housed in Chino Prison, just 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Just beyond the barbed wire fences, guard tours, and orange jumpsuits, there's a small group of inmates enrolled in one of the toughest prison rehabilitation programs in the world.

Some inmates are convicted bank robbers and drug dealers hoping for a second chance at life through the prison's 18-month long training program. That's where the Marine Technology Training Center comes into play. The rigorous program trains felons in deep-water diving.

Through the program, inmates are able to learn technical forms of diving, swimming, and other skills. But it's not all fun and games -- 8 out of 10 divers don't make it through graduation.

Since 2011, 90 men have been accepted to the diving program and 45 have graduated, as KCET's Lata Pandya reveals.

Fred Johnson is the director of Chino Prison's Marine Technology Training Center. In 2011, Johnson gave "SoCal Connected" a sneak peek of the facility, which trains inmates to become more than just expert divers.

"They haven't had a sense of value, and I think that's the primary thing we give these guys," says Johnson. "We give them a sense of value and self-worth and a belief that they can achieve anything. The diving is secondary."

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