COVID-19 Preparedness

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April 1, 2020

  • As of April 1, 2020, six incarcerated persons at California State Prison-Los Angeles County, one incarcerated person at North Kern State Prison, and one incarcerated person at California Institution for Men in Chino have tested positive for COVID-19. See CDCR and CCHCS Patient Testing Tracker for the latest testing and case information for the incarcerated population.
  • There are currently 25 CDCR/CCHCS employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. See the CDCR/CCHCS COVID-19 Employee Status webpage for a breakdown by location.
  • CDCR has announced its plan to further protect staff and inmates from the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons.
    • CDCR will expedite the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a person required to register under PC 290 (sex offenses), or domestic violence.
    • Plan will create increased capacity and space to help with inmate movement, physical distancing, isolation efforts
    • The plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well as maximizing open spaces in prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options.
  • Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso released a video message to all CCHCS and CDCR staff.
  • CDCR and CCHCS have launched an internal patient registry to assist institutions in monitoring patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The COVID-19 Registry also tracks all individuals by risk.  The registry is updated twice daily and draws from multiple data sources, including the electronic health record system, claims data, and the Strategic Offender Management System to compile risk factor data.  This registry also includes release date information for each individual, in the event that individuals are to be considered for early release during the pandemic. This tool is not publically available as it contains personal health care information protected by medical privacy laws.

Executives and staff at CDCR and CCHCS are working closely with infectious disease control experts to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our operations. To ensure we are ready to immediately respond to any COVID-19 related incident, CDCR and CCHCS activated the Department Operations Center (DOC) in order to be fully prepared to respond to any departmental impacts resulting from COVID-19.

CDCR and CCHCS are dedicated to the safety of everyone who lives in, works in, and visits our state prisons. We have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to address communicable disease outbreaks such as influenza, measles, mumps, norovirus, and varicella, as well as preparedness procedures to address a variety of medical emergencies and natural disasters. 

Public safety is a top priority for CDCR, as is the health of our community. The department has been diligent in implementing proactive efforts to ensure health and safety, including recent actions to limit the risks and spread of COVID-19. Examples include limiting all non-essential or emergency transportations between CDCR facilities; screening all who enter the prisons; and suspending visits by the public. As a further protective measure, Governor Newsom issued an executive order recently directing CDCR to temporarily halt the intake of inmates and youth into the state’s 35 prisons and four youth correctional facilities. We are continuously evaluating and implementing proactive measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our CDCR population and the community-at-large safe.

BELOW IS AN OVERVIEW OF STEPS WE ARE TAKING REGARDING COVID-19

Expedited release and plan to increase space within institutions

On March 31, CDCR announced its plan to further protect staff and inmates from the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons.

CDCR will expedite the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a person required to register under Penal Code 290, or domestic violence.

The plan will create increased capacity and space to help with inmate movement, physical distancing, and quarantine and isolation efforts for positive COVID-19 cases.

The plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well as maximizing open spaces in prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options.

For frequently asked questions on this plan, visit our FAQ page here.

Expanded precautions at institutions and office locations


All staff and visitors entering CDCR correctional institutions will undergo a touchless temperature screening prior to entering the facility. This is in addition to the ongoing verbal symptom screening. This applies to CDCR state prisons and community correctional facilities. For guidance on this implementation, see the COVID-19 Facility Entrance Screening.

CDCR and CCHCS have implemented mandatory verbal screening for every person entering any work location, in line with screenings in place at prisons since March 14.  

Those attempting to enter a state prison or office building at any time are required to verbally respond if they currently have new or worsening symptoms of a respiratory illness. If the individual’s response is that they are experiencing symptoms, they will be restricted from entering the site that day.

All CDCR institutions have been instructed to conduct additional deep-cleaning efforts in high-traffic, high-volume areas, including visiting and health care facilities. Those in the incarcerated population identified as assisting with cleaning areas of the institution have received direct instruction on proper cleaning procedures in order to eliminate coronavirus.

On March 11, all CDCR institutions were instructed to order additional hand sanitizer dispenser stations. The purchased dispensers have begun arriving at the institutions and are being placed inside institution dining halls, work change areas, housing units, and where sinks/soap are not immediately available. These dispensers will contain the type of alcohol-based hand sanitizer recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help eliminate coronavirus. Additional dispensers may be placed in high-need areas where they can be monitored for safety and security of the institution.

Staff have been granted permission to carry up to two ounces of personal-use hand sanitizer. The incarcerated population is being provided extra soap when requested and hospital-grade disinfectant that meets CDC guidance for COVID-19.

CDCR and CCHCS have been actively monitoring and assessing institutions to ensure staff have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to immediately address any potential COVID-19 exposures, and to protect staff and incarcerated people. The workgroup will continue to collaborate and maintain open lines of communication with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to identify any deficiencies and ensure adequate supplies are available at each institution on an ongoing basis.

California Prison Industry Authority production

In an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) has begun producing hand sanitizer for use by both staff and the incarcerated population.

CALPIA is producing two types of hand sanitizer: Cleanse, which contains alcohol, and Cleanse – AF (Alcohol Free) which contains the active ingredient Benzalkonium Chloride. The alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be used in the sanitizer dispenser stations being directed into housing units, dining halls, work change areas, and other areas where sinks and soap are not immediately available. The non-alcohol based product is being produced for future needs.

The hand sanitizer is being made available to CDCR and CCHCS facilities and locations.  If CALPIA’s inventory exceeds the needs of those two departments, CALPIA will make the product available to other state agencies.

CALPIA worked with the California Department of Public Health and within two weeks was able to acquire the necessary licensing for relabeling, repackaging, and mixing. 

CALPIA has already started delivering the bottles to CDCR facilities.

The production of the materials will occur at CALPIA’s Chemical Enterprise located at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

Screening incarcerated population on entry into prisons

All incarcerated persons received into a Reception Center institution are placed into an automatic 14-day quarantine for monitoring. For more on CDCR and CCHCS quarantine protocols, visit our COVID-19 Status webpage.

Immediately upon entry, all inmates are screened for symptoms of influenza-like illness (lLl) including COVID-l9. The inmate populations that must be screened include, but are not limited to, those entering via reception centers, receiving and release locations and fire camps, and returning from court, a higher level of care, or an offsite specialty appointment.

The screening shall include asking an individual if they have a cough, fever and/or difficulty breathing, and taking their temperature. Based on the screening questions, temperature reading, and health care staff’s clinical judgement, the individual will either be placed in isolation, quarantine or other housing.

Social distancing

CDCR has implemented several practices to encourage “social distancing,” which is a strategy recommended by public health officials to stop the spread of contagious diseases. Social distancing requires the creation of physical space between individuals, minimizing gatherings, and ensuring space between individuals when events or activities cannot be modified, postponed, or canceled. Achieving space between individuals of approximately six feet is advisable.

The incarcerated population has received information about social distancing, and staff and inmates are practicing social distancing strategies where possible, including limiting groups to no more than 10, assigning bunks to provide more space between individuals, rearranging scheduled movements to minimize mixing of people from different housing areas, encouraging social distancing during yard time, and adjusting dining schedules where possible to allow for social distancing and additional cleaning and disinfecting of dining halls between groups.

Transportation/Receiving and Release protocols


Effective March 24, CDCR will suspend intake of all incarcerated persons into both adult state prison and Division of Juvenile Justice facilities for a minimum of 30 days. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order directing CDCR to suspend intake into state correctional facilities for 30 days. All persons convicted of felonies shall be received, detained, or housed in a jail or other facility currently detaining or housing them for that period. The order allows Secretary Diaz to grant one or more 30-day extensions if suspension continues to be necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of inmates and juveniles in CDCR’s custody and staff who work in the facilities.

CDCR has suspended transfers of inmates into the Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP), the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP), and the Alternative Custody Program (ACP) through April 6,2020. CDCR has taken this step to limit potential exposure of staff to COVID-19 during inmate transfers to the community. Additionally, as part of this program, incarcerated persons remain under the jurisdiction and responsibility of CDCR, to include providing any required medical attention. Releasing incarcerated persons to these programs could potentially expose them to COVID-19 in the community which would require their transfer back to an institution for medical care for non-emergent health care needs, increasing risk for potential exposure within our institutions.

CDCR has also suspended transfers of inmates to the Conservation Camp program until further notice. Inmate transfers previously initiated under the approved guidelines, who are currently on layover, will be moved to their final destination.

Department of State Hospitals and CDCR/CCHCS will not transfer patients between the two mental health treatment agencies for the next 30 days. All appropriate health care services will be provided to the patient by the current housing agency.

All Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees and inmates to California will cease for 30 days.

To mitigate workload when non-essential movement resumes, this cancellation of all non-essential inmate movement impacts movement only; classification committees and review processes will move ahead as normal.

While it’s required to have three staff members to make a quorum, it is only required, during this unique time, to have two staffers physically present in the committee room with the remaining committee member joining by call. All present in the room should practice social distancing.

Visiting

As part of CDCR’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, normal visiting at adult and juvenile facilities is canceled statewide until further notice based on California Department of Public Health guidance for mass gatherings. This includes overnight family visits and Division of Juvenile Justice visiting.

Institutions have been instructed to find opportunities to allow increased phone access for the incarcerated population so they may keep in touch with their support system, while also practicing social distancing and other infectious disease safety protocols.

At this time, legal/attorney visits are being held for urgent needs only. Hospice visits will no longer be held until further notice. Marriages will be postponed; those affected are encouraged to work with the institution’s Community Resource Manager regarding rescheduling for a later date.

CDCR’s inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL) has offered the adult incarcerated population three days of free phone calls each week through the end of April. There is no limit on the number of calls; however, each institution may limit time to accommodate need. The following days are designated for free calling:

Week 1: March 31, April 1, April 2

Week 2: April 7, 8, 9

Week 3: April 14, 15, 16

Week 4: April 21, 22, 23

Week 5: April 28, 29, 30

CDCR’s electronic messaging provider for the incarcerated population, JPay, is providing reduced-priced emails to those incarcerated at the pilot institutions and free emails for those inmates who cannot afford it. The five pilot sites that currently have the technology include: High Desert State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, California Institution for Women, Central California Women’s Facility, and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility. At some of these institutions, only certain yards currently have this technology. Details will be provided to the incarcerated population at the institutions.

The youth within the Division of Juvenile Justice already receive free phone calls and have begun using free Skype video calls for visiting.

Rehabilitative programs and volunteers

Non-CDCR/CCHCS/CALPIA staff will not be permitted to enter state prison until further notice. This includes people who enter state prison as volunteers, or to facilitate rehabilitative programs. Paid union representatives, and Inmate Ward Labor (IWL) staff will be permitted. CalVet representatives and contractors who work with institution staff to conduct interviews and provide forensic evaluations for incarcerated veterans to receive federal disability benefits for themselves and their families pursuant to Senate Bill 776 will also be permitted.

No rehabilitative programs, group events, or in-person educational classes will take place until further notice. At this time, all tours and events have been postponed, and no new tours are being scheduled.

Education

The Office of Correctional Education is working with institution principals, library staff, and teachers to provide in-cell assignments where possible in order for students to continue their studies, legal library access and educational credit-earning opportunities.

For those in our incarcerated population who need supplementary academic support, CDCR has encouraged Disability Placement Program, Developmental Disability Program, and Every Student Succeeds Act staff to coordinate with the institution instructor to provide additional assistance to enrolled students where possible.

Standardized testing has stopped until further notice, although we are encouraging education staff to continue to engage their students as much as possible to stay focused on their rehabilitation and positive programming during this time.

Recreation and Law Library Services will continue to be available to the incarcerated population even if physical access is restricted due to safety and security measures.

Religious programs

CDCR recognizes the importance of religion in the daily life and spiritual growth of incarcerated people. Unfortunately, the department has limited group religious programming for upcoming holidays such as Ramadan, Passover, and Easter. These services will be provided as in-cell services as an alternative. CDCR will provide the appropriate Ramadan and Passover daily meals to allow incarcerated people to observe their religious meal traditions, including appropriately beginning and breaking their Ramadan fast.

Chaplains will conduct individual religious counseling as appropriate while maintaining social distancing, and CDCR is working to provide televised religious services to the population.

Health care services

The health and safety of our population is of critical importance to CDCR and CCHCS. While our agency is working together to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, we will continue to provide urgent health care services. To reduce risks to both patients and staff, inmate movement will be minimized. In addition, some specialty and routine care may be delayed as a result of both internal redirections and external closures. All cancelled appointments will be rescheduled as soon as safely possible. Health care staff will continue to see and treat patients through the 7362 process and those with flu-like symptoms will be tested for COVID-19 as appropriate.

On March 20, CCHCS issued COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Health Care and Public Health Providers. This document provides clinical guidelines to health care providers in response to COVID-19 cases in the California prison system. View guidelines distributed to institution staff on March 20, 2020.

CDCR and CCHCS have launched an internal patient registry to assist institutions in monitoring patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The COVID-19 Registry also tracks all individuals by risk.  The registry is updated twice daily and draws from multiple data sources, including the electronic health record system, claims data, and the Strategic Offender Management System to compile risk factor data.  This registry also includes release date information for each individual, in the event that individuals are to be considered for early release during the pandemic. This tool is not publically available as it contains personal health care information protected by medical privacy laws.

Dental care

The California Dental Association recommends that all non-urgent dental care be suspended for the next 14 days. Effective immediately and until further notice, dental treatment shall be limited to Dental Priority Classification (DPC) 1 conditions (urgent care). For more information on what qualifies as urgent care, view HCDOM 3.3.5.4.

Specialty care appointments

In order to reduce risks to patients and staff, all non-urgent offsite specialty appointments will be re-scheduled to a later time. Telemedicine appointments will continue at this time.

Board of Parole Hearings/Parole suitability hearings

All in-person Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) adult parole suitability hearings are postponed for a minimum of 60 days. BPH is working to develop a process for conducting parole hearings by videoconference for all participants to attend, including incarcerated persons, attorneys, commissioners, and victims/victims next-of-kin. That process is expected to be in place by mid-April, per the Governor’s Executive Order.

Board of Juvenile Hearings proceedings will take place as scheduled via video conference only. Go to the Board website for more information. https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/juvenile-justice/juvenile-parole-board/

Division of Adult Parole Operations

The Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) is committed to the safety of the community, staff, and those in its care. Given the increased risk associated with the use of mass/public transportation and those under parole supervision deemed a high-risk population (older adults and those with known serious chronic medical conditions), DAPO will make some operational changes to support both staff and the individuals under their care and supervision, including suspending lobby traffic except for initial parole interviews and emergencies, and suspending office visits for those age 65 and older and/or with chronic medical conditions.

All parolees’ conditions of parole remain in place, with the exception of the items listed above. DAPO administrators and supervisors will assess all measures being implemented and adjust, modify, or waive required specifications as appropriate. Any questions parolees may have related to COVID-19 prevention efforts should be directed to their Parole Agent. Learn more here.

Modified Community Correctional Facilities and Community Reentry Programs

CDCR’s in-state contract facilities are conducting verbal screenings of staff and participants who enter the facilities. Those attempting to enter one of these facilities are required to verbally respond if they currently have symptoms of a respiratory illness.

Visiting has also been halted at these facilities until further notice.   

CDCR is committed to continuing education programs and limiting the impact our COVID-19 response has on positive rehabilitative programming for our Community Reentry Programs. Rehabilitative programs at the reentry facilities will continue with modifications made to class sizes to encourage social distancing, with some potential program closures. 

At this time, participants are generally restricted from leaving the facilities outside of mandated legal reasons, urgent medical needs, if they are employed in the community, or for critical reentry services related to those within 30-45 days of release.

Participants age 65 or older are only eligible for passes to go out in the community for emergency situations only.

Visiting has been canceled at the Community Prisoner Mother Program (CPMP) in line with recommendations from public health officials and the cessation of visiting at CDCR locations statewide. This includes scheduled off-site visits for children residing at CPMP with their mothers. Family members may continue to drop approved items such as diapers, wipes, baby food and baby snacks (for children under 1), during normal visiting hours even during closure. CPMP staff are diligently working to ensure the mothers’ and children’s needs are met and supplies are readily available with a surplus where needed. They are working closely with community healthcare providers and medical staff at nearby California Institution for Women to keep all required appointments for mothers and children. 

Division of Juvenile Justice

While physical visits have been suspended, beginning March 26, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will be providing free Skype virtual video visits to youth for approved visitors, starting at the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp in Amador County. DJJ is working to provide this service to youth at other facilities soon. Directions for approved visitors to download the free Skype for Business App on their smartphone or computer will be posted on the DJJ homepage in English and Spanish. There is no cost to create an account. The Skype application and a valid email address is all that is needed.

Directions will be posted around the DJJ facilities so that youth can share the information with their support system.

Effective March 18, no volunteers will be allowed to enter DJJ until further notice. All volunteer programs are postponed. Innovative Grant programs may continue, if grantees are able. When entering, all staff, volunteers and visitors will be given the same verbal health screenings in place at other state institutions.

The California Education Authority is continuing high school classes for youth in DJJ, while practicing social distancing.

We also encourage letter writing as a way to stay in touch and are increasing the number of postage stamps available to youth.

Board of Juvenile Hearings proceedings will take place as scheduled via videoconference only. Go to the Board website for more information: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/juvenile-justice/juvenile-parole-board/

For the latest on steps DJJ is taking to protect youth from COVID-19, visit the DJJ webpage here.

Construction projects

On March 20, 2020, CDCR suspended large-scale construction projects located within the secure perimeter of CDCR facilities. Limited construction activities are continuing as necessary to make work areas safe and protect construction areas from deterioration during the suspension. While the construction industry overall has been identified as an essential business/service under Executive Order E-33-20, the interest of CDCR as a construction owner is unique. Construction occurring at facilities under CDCR jurisdiction impacts the health and safety of thousands of employees and persons incarcerated in youth and adult institutions. The action to suspend large-scale construction projects was consistent with earlier preventive actions, such as the cancelation of visiting and volunteer entries statewide, and seeks to reduce and minimize the number of non-CDCR employees that enter CDCR institutions on a daily basis. These decisions are not made lightly, and are taken with the safety of all who work in, live in, and visit our facilities in mind.

Peace officer hiring and academies

Written peace officer exams are suspended until April 6, 2020. The health and safety of our staff, cadets, and candidates is a top priority. CDCR is taking all the available precautions to ensure a safe and healthy environment. These precautions include regular office cleanings, hand sanitizer/gloves when applicable, reduced testing and physical fitness group sizes, and social distancing.

The Basic Correctional Officer Academy (BCOA) that is currently underway has been accelerated to allow graduation to move from May 1, 2020, to April 7, 2020. The BCOA scheduled to start Tuesday, March 24, will be postponed for at least 30 days.

Population communication

CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz will be releasing regular video message updates directly to the incarcerated population. You can see the latest message from March 25 here.

Wardens, captains, public information officers, and other institution executives have been instructed to meet with their respective Inmate Advisory Councils either individually or in small groups where social distancing can be maintained. This is to encourage an open line of communication between the incarcerated population and the institution leaders in charge of their care in order to quickly and efficiently meet their needs.

To keep members of our population informed, we have created and distributed fact sheets and posters in both English and Spanish that provide education on COVID-19 and precautions recommended by CDC, which expand upon those advised during cold and flu season. We have also begun streaming CDC educational videos on the CDCR Division of Rehabilitative Programs inmate television network and the CCHCS inmate health care television network. Learn more here.

Additionally, we are providing regular department updates regarding COVID-19 response to the Statewide Inmate Family Council and all institutional Inmate Family Councils who serve the family and friends of the incarcerated population to ensure they are aware of the steps the department is taking to protect their loved ones housed in our institutions.

Communication and guidance to staff

CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz will be releasing regular video message updates directly to CDCR staff. You can see the latest message from March 25 here.

Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso released a video message to all CCHCS and CCHCS staff.

Only in-service training (IST) for range, weapons, and chemical agents qualifications and training shall continue as long as social distancing can be achieved. All other IST has been postponed until July.

We have worked continuously to keep staff informed of the evolving situation, including creating internal and external webpages with health-related information from CDC and California Department of Public Health on how they can protect themselves against COVID-19. We have also provided staff with California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) updates on personnel and work-related questions specific to the COVID-19 issue.

CDCR and CCHCS care for the health and wellness of its workforce and have been working to accommodate those who have been impacted by this evolving situation. We will continue to work diligently with CalHR and labor organizations on how we can best keep our workforce protected and provide for the safety and security of our institutions.

For more employee resources related to COVID-19, see our webpage here: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/information/.