Program Guidelines for Independent Evaluator


Offenders with a Mental Health Disorder Independent Evaluator Appointment Program

Purpose:

The purpose of this program is to comply with Penal Code section 2962(d)(2) and Penal Code section 2966, which require the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to evaluate offenders to determine whether they meet the criteria to be treated as an Offender with a Mental Health Disorder (OMHD). Pursuant to these sections, the Board is required to hire independent professionals, as defined by Penal Code section 2978, which includes psychiatrists and psychologists with a doctoral degree is psychology (evaluators).

Upon appointment by the Board, evaluators shall provide independent evaluations to potential OMHDs in CDCR Institutions, state hospitals and county jails when there is a difference of opinion between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Department of State Hospitals (DSH). Evaluators may also be asked to provide independent evaluations by the Board when requested by an offender. These evaluations may be peer reviewed in order to ensure quality and thoroughness and may be later considered by a court of law. In addition, evaluators may also be subpoenaed to testify at superior court proceedings should the inmate challenge the Board’s decision.

Evaluator Panels:

The Board has grouped the 34 existing adult CDCR institutions located throughout the state and Patton State Hospital into 13 panels based on their geographic proximity to each other. Each panel will be posted on the Board’s website. The Board has designated Atascadero State Hospital as a separate panel – panel 14. The fourteen panels are identified on the Evaluator Panel page. Assignments to county jails are made based on the proximity of the jail to a CDCR institution.

The Board shall maintain a list of evaluators assigned to each panel. For an evaluator to be included on a panel, all minimum qualifications must be satisfied annually. Once an evaluator is offered an appointment, the evaluator must accept the appointment within 24 hours, unless a shorter time frame is required for an expedited case. All panel evaluators shall be appointed on a rotating basis from a randomized list.

Evaluators may apply for as many panels as they choose. However, evaluators may only be permitted to apply for the Atascadero panel if the evaluator applies for at least one other panel and regularly accepts assignments from the Board.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Referral by DSH and CDCR pursuant to Penal Code § 2978;
  • Submit a current resume;
  • Posses five years full time work experience in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders pursuant to Penal Code section 2978;
  • Possess and maintain a current, valid license in good standing with the California Board of Psychology;
  • Provide annual documentation of symptom free tuberculin skin testing and evaluation;
  • Meet the necessary requirements to be eligible for entrance to each of the panel’s facilities, and follow all institutional and hospital dress code requirements, including seasonal requirements for flu shots or wearing a breathing mask;
  • Attend the eight-hour OMHD orientation in full (including at least one hour regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act);
  • Annually sign and submit the OMHD Evaluator Participation Form;
  • Open and maintain an account in the Board’s Disability & Effective Communication System (DECS) database. The DECS database is a comprehensive repository of information related to each offender’s disabilities. Evaluators are to provide their own cost all hardware/software that will enable access to this database information; and
  • Open and maintain a “Watchdox” account by registering an email address for access to electronic email files.

Exclusions:

Pursuant to state law, evaluators shall not be California state government employees. Penal Code section 2978, subdivision (a) states that, “[a]ny independent professionals appointed by the Board of Parole Hearings for purposes of this article shall not be state government employees.” Therefore, no CDCR or DSH employees (whether full time, part time, or by contract) may be used by the Board for independent OMHD evaluations.

Removal From Panel:

If an evaluator demonstrably fails to review the offender’s DECS history in preparation for an evaluation, repeatedly misses the due date for reports, fails to complete OMHD reports in compliance with the standardized report format, or fails to meet in-person with the offender the matter shall be referred to the Executive Officer to determine whether the evaluator will be removed from one or all panels. If the offender refuses to meet with the evaluator, the evaluator shall document his or her attempt to talk to the offender in person.

If an evaluator is referred to the California State Board of Psychology for alleged misconduct, the evaluator shall immediately notify the Board of the referral. The evaluator may be suspended from all panels until the allegation is adjudicated, at the discretion of the Board. An evaluator disciplined by the State Board of Psychology will be permanently removed from all Board panels.

If an evaluator is charged with a felony crime in any jurisdiction, the evaluator shall immediately notify the Board of the charges and be suspended from all panels until the allegation is adjudicated. An evaluator convicted of a felony in any jurisdiction or failing to timely report felony charges to the Board shall be permanently removed form all Board panels.

In the event an evaluator fails to qualify for entrance into a facility, the evaluator shall be suspended from the specific panel(s) for three months to resolve the matter with the facility. If the matter is not resolved after three months, the evaluator shall be permanently removed from the specific panel.