Institution Awareness

Institution awareness is a requirement while at the institutions as Volunteers and Program Providers are directly interacting with inmates. Please use good judgment and follow the following guidelines:

Do not assume, always ask.

There are safety and security issues in prisons that are foreign to most individuals, for example:

  • It is illegal to exchange any type of gift from inmates.  I.e soda, snack, or breath mint
  • Prohibited items within the institutions:
    • Chewing gum, pocketknives (regardless of size), cell phones, pagers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs)
  • Do not run while on prison grounds.
  • Also prohibited within the institution are:
    • Inappropriate displays of affections which include hugging or kissing an inmate
  • Never share personal addresses or phone numbers with an inmate.

When in doubt, don’t.

Consult the Self Help Sponsor, CRM, or program supervisor if there is a question or doubt as to the appropriate course of action. If the matter is urgent, consult a correctional staff member in the area regarding the policies on institution awareness.

Institution Awareness While in Correctional Facilities:

  • Inmates are felons serving time in prison.
  • There are incidents of violence.
  • Correctional staff members are responsible for controlling and regulating offenders.
  • Volunteers and program providers must obey orders and follow the directions from uniformed custody staff, CRM and CRM office Staff.
  • Volunteers and program providers must not interfere with the correctional staff’s responsibilities or the institution’s rules, regulations, or routines.
  • Always carry a whistle while on grounds.
  • Volunteers and Program Providers must know and clearly understand what service they are providing.  Staff must know and clearly understand the types of service volunteers and program providers are performing.
Instituion Awareness

No Hostage Policy

CDCR does not recognize hostages for bargaining purposes. All prison inmates, visitors, non-employees and employees should be aware that CDCR has a “no-hostage” policy. For further information regarding institution awareness please contact your CRM.  You may also refer to Penal Code Sections 5054 and 5058, and California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3304.

Personal Possessions

Volunteers and Program Providers may use state driver’s license or state-issued identification cards to gain access into prisons. Unless necessary, leave all other personal possessions in a locked vehicle out of sight (i.e. trunk) or at home. Upon entry the following personal items I.e keys, purses, lunches, wallets and briefcases will be searched. Please obtain permission before bringing medications on grounds and display medications openly.  Please minimize items brought into the institutions to what is needed while inside the prison.


Park only in designated marked areas. Failure to comply may result in losing the privilege of parking on institutional grounds.


Contraband are items that are not approved by the institution for inmates to have in their possession. These include but are not limited to guns, alcohol, knives, chewing gum, etc. Contraband is anything not approved by the institution for inmates to have in their possession.  The items included but are not limited to guns, alcohol, knives, chewing gum, etc. Please seek the guidance of a supervisor, the CRM, program sponsor or any uniformed custody supervisor when in doubt. All program materials must be cleared by the CRM prior to the allotted time frame.

Gates and Security

Officers stationed at gates are responsible for identifying and verifying all individuals passing through their area. Additionally, officers are responsible for conducting extensive searches on all vehicles, packages, bags that pass through their respective security area. When an officer at the gate is processing a line of inmates through the gate, do not distract or otherwise interrupt them during the performance of vital security functions.

/Sign-Out Policy

It is mandatory for all volunteers and program providers to sign in and sign out for every service/program. Following every shift, the list of volunteers and program providers will be verified and accounted for all individuals entering the institution. Failure to sign out may result in an unnecessary missing persons search.


Volunteers and Program Providers will be required to obey all orders, commands, directions, and instructions given by uniformed custody officers, CRM’s or anyone employed by the Department.  This is for the safety of volunteers and program providers, others and also for the institution itself. If volunteers and program providers aren’t able to assist during an emergency, do not interfere with uniformed officers responding to the emergency.

When inmates are ordered to “get down”, this does not apply to staff members, Volunteers or Program Providers.  Volunteers and Program Providers shall be in possession of a whistle at all times while on prison grounds. Blowing a whistle will bring an instant response for necessary assistance from all staff that are within range.