COVID-19 Response Efforts

DAILY INSTITUTION POPULATION: As of August 13, there are 96,881 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons–a reduction of 17,437 since March 11, 2020



BOARD OF PAROLE HEARINGS/PAROLE SUITABILITY HEARINGS

The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) is holding parole suitability hearings via video and telephone conference until further notice.

Governor Newsom’s March 24 executive order ceased in-person parole hearings for 60 days, and granted the Secretary the authority to extend the prohibition by 30 days in order to protect the health and welfare of incarcerated people, board officers, legal counsel, and victims’ representatives. All affected parole hearing participants are being notified.

BPH began holding scheduled hearings through video conference only beginning April 13, consistent with Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 24 Executive Order.

BPH held 1,268 parole suitability hearings by video and telephone conference between April 1 and August 7.

  • 431 resulted in grants (34 percent), for all of 2019, BPH’s at-hearing grant rate was 34 percent
  • 837 resulted in denials (66 percent), for all of 2019, BPH’s at-hearing denial rate was 66 percent
  • 83 incarcerated people waived their hearing, 264 hearings were postponed, 114 stipulated to unsuitability, and 14 were continued.

For more information, click here.

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/

California Prison Industry Authority production

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. 

The hand sanitizer is being produced at CALPIA’s Chemical Enterprise located at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

CALPIA is producing reusable cloth barrier masks to meet some of the supply needs of staff and inmates. The masks are being produced at CALPIA’s Fabric enterprises at the California Institution for Women, Mule Creek State Prison, California Men’s Colony, Sierra Conservation Center, Correctional Training Facility, California Correctional Institution, and Centinela State Prison. CALPIA is now making 20,000 masks a day which are being distributed to all institutions for both staff and inmate use.

On April 2, 2020, CALPIA stopped all production other than our mission critical enterprises which provide food, laundry services, healthcare cleaning services, cloth barrier masks and hand sanitizer to the incarcerated population.  CALPIA does not know when it will return to full production.

Cloth face covering/Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The incarcerated population are required to wear a facial barriers when moving around the institution. Staff working or performing duties on institutional grounds are required to wear a facial barriers, those who do not comply face progressive discipline.

Those in the incarcerated population identified as critical workers are being provided surgical masks throughout their shifts.

Additionally, maintaining physical distancing requirements when moving about the institution for routine tasks is still recommended. These masks are not intended for direct patient care scenarios. Required personal protective equipment is provided during required close-contact health care procedures.

The incarcerated population are permitted to keep their CALPIA masks upon their scheduled release.

CDCR and CCHCS have established a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) workgroup to monitor and assess institutions to ensure staff have an adequate supply of PPE to immediately address COVID-19, 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.

For the recommended use of PPE by incarcerated persons and staff in a correctional setting during the COVID-19 pandemic, see the CCHCS Interim Guidance here.

Additional PPE guidance for staff can be found here. Additional PPE guidance for the incarcerated population can be found here.

Conservation Camp Program

The health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff continues to be our top priority. We will continue to work with our partners during this pandemic to balance that priority with being able to provide assistance to California’s wildfire prevention and response efforts.

Currently, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state’s Conservation Camp Program: one staff member and one incarcerated individual.

The California Correctional Center (CCC) in Susanville serves as the primary hub for providing training and placement of inmates in Northern California conservation camps. Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) in Jamestown serves as the primary hub for Southern California conservation camps.

On June 23, as a result of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases among the incarcerated population, CCC suspended all routine movement in and out of the institution and began a contact investigation. This includes the transfer of inmates to state conservation camps.

Based on information in the contact investigations, 12 conservation camps in Northern California were placed on mandatory 14-day quarantine in late June out of an abundance of caution. Quarantine for individuals or housing units is done for a variety of reasons, including potential exposure per the CCHCS public health guidance.

The incarcerated population housed at each quarantined camp are receiving COVID-19 testing and daily health care screenings from nursing staff at nearby institutions.

As of mid-July, 11 of these camps have been lifted from quarantine. Department medical staff determine which camps are safe to return to active service once test results have been confirmed and the 14-day quarantine process has been completed. CDCR expects that additional fire camps will return to action by the week of July 27 pending test results from each camp.

If an incarcerated firefighter is suspected or confirmed to be positive for COVID-19, they will be transported to the closest appropriate institution with celled housing for quarantine/isolation placement.

One conservation camp from the southern region has been placed on a 14-day quarantine period after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

To minimize potential COVID-19 transmission during required close-contact procedures with the population, all staff are required to wear all personal protective equipment in accordance with state and national health care and public health guidance. At all other times, the use of facial barriers are required to be worn by both staff and the incarcerated population to protect all those who live and work in our institutions and conservation camps, as well as the community at-large.

CDCR is continuing to support CAL FIRE with resources from our southern camp pipeline. SCC will continue to train incarcerated firefighters in order to provide needed support through both the northern and southern pipelines. The institution can train up to 120 persons a month to be assigned to the Conservation Camp Program.

Before transferring persons to camps from SCC, incarcerated firefighters will be tested for COVID-19. Additionally, all fire camp crews will continue to be screened daily for symptoms related to COVID-19. Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the incarcerated population at SCC.

When not under quarantine, conservation camps are still operating and housing inmates. Inmates continue to complete community service projects when not fighting fires; which include clearing brush and fallen trees, maintaining parks, and reforestation. Currently, individual projects are being completed on a case-by-case basis after review and approval by the camp captain to ensure health and safety guidance to address COVID-19 can be followed.

As part of CDCR’s overall effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at its facilities, including conservation camps, the department is educating staff and the incarcerated population on steps they can take to protect themselves from COVID-19, which include proper hand washing and physical distancing.

Construction projects

In March, CDCR suspended large-scale construction projects located within the secure perimeter of CDCR facilities to protect the health of contractors, incarcerated individuals, staff and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with the state’s phased reopening plan, the Facility Planning, Construction and Management Division (FPCM) has announced it will restart suspended design and construction projects effective June 2020.

FPCM is communicating with general contractors to provide timelines for resuming work, as some projects may be able to start more quickly than others.

As part of restarting design and construction projects, all on-site employees of general contractors and construction management firms will be verbally screened for symptoms and have their temperature taken before entering the facility; those whose workplace is outside of the screening location must self-certify daily to the screening questions. These employees will also wear a face mask when meeting with CDCR personnel and follow CDCR’s face covering policy when inside the secure perimeter. 

Some suspended projects are part of the Inmate Ward Labor (IWL) program, in which incarcerated individuals learn basic construction skills and earn certifications by working on construction projects in the prison under the supervision and training of journeymen in various trades. Prior to resuming an IWL project, IWL will meet with each prison to review projects to determine if any project modifications are necessary for incarcerated workers to work safely on the project.

Dental Services

The California Dental Association recommends that all non-urgent dental care be suspended. For the description of the American Dental Association’s definition for urgent/emergency services, visit their resource here.

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.

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.

Division of Adult Parole Operations

The Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) has adjusted supervision protocols in line with the Governor’s four-stage “Resilience Roadmap” to safely modify California’s stay-at-home order. DAPO continues to follow restrictions in place by local public health departments and justice system partners, including jails, courts and local law enforcement. Parole Agents continue to follow physical distancing guidelines, including but not limited to minimizing in-person parole office reporting.

  • Parolees are provided temporary reporting instructions upon release from prison, along with tips and best practices regarding hand washing, disinfecting, and physical distancing. They must call their assigned Parole Office within the first business day following release to speak with their Parole Agent or the Officer of the Day for instructions and/or assistance. Parolees who must register per sex offender laws, are homeless, or do not have access to a telephone must report to the parole office in-person.
  • DAPO continues to follow current precautions, including screenings, before entering a parole office, and limiting office visits to initial/comprehensive interviews, critical needs, statutory requirements/duties and emergencies. Telephonic contact or other forms of technology are being utilized for those who are sick or considered high-risk (i.e. 65 years and older, chronic health conditions).
  • As California is now in Stage 2 (lower-risk workplaces), home visits have resumed, but in a modified form. Parole Agents will make contact at the front door, practicing physical distancing. Telephonic contact or other technology will be utilized when necessary.  Routine anti-narcotic testing is currently suspended, but DAPO maintains the authority to conduct such testing when necessary to maintain public safety.

DAPO’s Adult Programs Unit has created a resource directory to share information about housing, employment, education, behavioral health, and other support services. Any questions parolees may have related to COVID-19 prevention efforts should be directed to their Parole Agent. Learn more here.

DIVISION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE

As of July 30, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has suspended new youth intake at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and the Northern California Youth Correctional Complex in Stockton.

“Our highest priority is the health and wellness of our youth and staff and this pause, in cooperation with county courts and probation, will help us accomplish that goal,” said Heather Bowlds, Director (A) of DJJ.

Intake of youth was suspended March 17 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and restarted on May 26. Since then, cohorts of no more than ten youth have arrived approximately every two weeks and were held separately from other youth while being tested twice for COVID-19 before being allowed to join the population.

This suspension will allow current active cases of COVID-19 to resolve before restarting intake in a few weeks.

As of August 12,  there are three active cases of COVID-19 within a DJJ facility and 65 cases have resolved.  DJJ is following isolation and quarantine protocols in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to address COVID-19.

DJJ began virtual visitation at all four of its youth facilities effective April 11. Video visiting appointments are requested by approved visitors for DJJ youth via a dedicated email address and scheduled in 30-minute blocks during regular weekend visitation hours. The visitation takes place on laptop computers placed on tables in standard visiting areas to give youth privacy and assure social distancing is taking place. Appointment requests are screened by staff to make sure that only approved visitors are utilizing the service. A successful trial of the program was implemented on March 27 at Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp in Amador County. A press release announcing the launch of the new program is available here.

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

Effective March 27, all staff, volunteers and visitors will be given the same health screenings in place at other state institutions, including temperature checks, prior to entering. All staff and youth are required to wear cloth face coverings, and have access to hand washing stations and sanitizers. Physical distancing is required at all times. All facilities staff is subject to testing for COVID-19 every two weeks until two consecutive rounds of testing show no positives.

Effective March 18, all volunteer programs are suspended.  When entering, all those entering any facility are given the same health screenings in place at other state institutions, including temperature checks.

The California Education Authority is continuing high school classes for youth in DJJ. As of April 7, all education provided is being provided via distance learning. The new school year resumed July 29.

DJJ encourages letter writing as a way to stay in touch and is increasing the number of postage stamps available to youth.

On April 14, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order addressing the release and reentry process at DJJ so that youth may be discharged safely and quickly. The executive order calls for all discharge and reentry hearings to be held via videoconference to minimize the youth and other participants’ exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, notification given to county probation departments, the court in the county of commitment, and the youth’s legal counsel will be shortened from 60 days to 30 days before the Board of Juvenile Hearings (BJH) discharge consideration hearing.

The order also allows for reentry consideration hearings—normally held in the county court—to take place at the DJJ facility where the youth is housed. This new timeframe does not impact victim notification, as they already receive a 30-day notice. Victims and victim representatives will be able to participate in the videoconference hearings.

Go to the BJH 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.

Release Actions and Reentry Resources

Since the global coronavirus pandemic hit our community, CDCR and CCHCS have worked tirelessly to implement measures to protect staff, the incarcerated population, and the community at-large.  This includes the biggest reduction in prison population in recent history, more than 17,500 since March, which has been done in a manner consistent with public safety, and for the health and safety of the population and our staff.

In its first round of expedited releases in April, CDCR announced the release of approximately 3,500 incarcerated persons who were due to be released within 60 days or less and were not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, domestic violence, or a person required to register under Penal Code 290. These releases were completed by April 13. The releases increased capacity and space to help with inmate movement, physical distancing, and quarantine and isolation efforts for positive COVID-19 cases. For frequently asked questions on the April release actions, visit our FAQ page here.

On July 10, CDCR announced additional actions to protect its most vulnerable population and staff from COVID-19, and to allow state prisons to maximize available space to implement physical distancing, isolation, and quarantine efforts. The department estimates 8,000 currently incarcerated persons could be eligible for release by end of August under these new measures, further decompressing facilities. For more information, read an overview of the release actions here: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/frequently-asked-questions-expedited-releases/

Any incarcerated person who is actively positive or who is on active quarantine status will not have their release expedited. We will continue to maintain custody of those patients until they have been identified as “resolved” by health care professionals and are medically cleared for release.

Those who have met their regularly-scheduled release date after serving their full term under the law who are either positive for COVID-19, or are identified as being in quarantine due to being a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, are being offered housing in the community through Project Hope. CDCR cannot hold anyone past their scheduled release date.

Project Hope is an initiative to provide hotel accommodations to people released from state prison, and who have a need to safely quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure or positive status, but do not have housing in place to do so. It is a coordinated effort of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Department of General Services (DGS) and California Office of Emergency Services (OES) to secure hotel and motel rooms to protect formerly incarcerated people who are at risk for homelessness or housing instability, and the communities to which they are returning. More information about Project Hope is available here: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/project-hope/

The department is also using a $15 million allocation of funds from Board of State and Community Corrections to expand existing contracts with community reentry programs for increased bed space. http://www.bscc.ca.gov/news/bscc-approves-covid-funds-to-help-house-up-to-8000-leaving-cdcr/

CDCR has established a network of community-based parolee reentry programs throughout the state. These provide support services, including substance use disorder treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, education, life skills, and help finding employment. Some programs also provide recovery and reentry housing.

Reentry housing is voluntary for most parolees who have an assessed need for services. Only long-term offenders mandated by the Board of Parole Hearings are required to participate in residential or transitional housing services. (Those offenders placed on probation are under the oversight of the county where they are released.)

CDCR’s parole system provides unique levels of service to the parolee based on the parolee’s individual needs and safety of the community. For more on parole services, see: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/parole/parole/parole-services/

All parolees receive two placement assessments – one prior to release and one after. If a placement assessment determines that the level of care does not match the assessed need, a referral to the appropriate level of care will be made. The offender is allowed to stay at the initial program until an alternate program is identified.

Long-term offenders are generally allowed to remain at the program until an alternate placement for a lower level of care is identified or until they volunteer and are able to transition back into a separate residence.

CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs contract with six regionally based contractors who then subcontract to provide reentry housing and wraparound services. DRP provides oversight of these programs contracted to provide services directly to the post-release population by reviewing program quality and monitoring key performance indicators. 

For those on probation, CDCR works with counties to ensure former offenders receive assistance finding reentry housing. Local governments are being encouraged to take advantage of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order which provides nearly $150 million to local governments to provide emergency shelter for homeless people or individuals at risk of becoming homeless.

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. Additionally, some specialty and routine care has been delayed as a result of both internal redirections and external closures. All canceled appointments will be rescheduled as soon as safely possible. Health care staff will continue to see and treat patients through the 7362 process.

CCHCS has issued COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Health Care and Public Health Providers. This document provides clinical guidelines related to testing, quarantine and isolation housing, and treatment to public health and health care providers in response to COVID-19 cases in the California prison system.

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.

HIRING AND ACADEMIES

CDCR and CCHCS are actively hiring for vacant positions. Guidance has been provided to staff on how to continue the hiring process by conducting remote interviews through web-based applications and phone calls, as well as in-person only when physical distancing can be maintained.

Human Resources exams staff are working to transition examinations to self-certification for as many exams as possible. For more information, visit https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/careers/ or https://cchcs.ca.gov/careers/

The health and safety of our staff, correctional officer cadets, and candidates is our top priority. To address COVID-19, the Office of Peace Officer Selection (OPOS) has limited groups of candidates for written exams and physical fitness testing, creating a backlog in the application process. Effective July 5, no further applications for correctional officer will be accepted. OPOS is working diligently to process current applicants through the process in an effort to again begin accepting correctional officer applications as quickly, and safely, as possible.

The Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center is running academies consecutively.  The most current Basic Correctional Officer Academy class will graduate on October 16, 2020 with the next class immediately following on October 20, 2020.  The Basic Correctional Juvenile Academy began on August 3, 2020. Please continue to check our website at joincdcr.com for updates.

Mental Health Delivery Services

The well-being and safety of the incarcerated population and staff within CDCR and CCHCS is our top priority. We understand how vitally important it is to deliver comprehensive mental health services within our institutions at all times, but especially during these extraordinary times of heightened uncertainty.

To mitigate potential spread of COVID-19 within California’s prisons, we have implemented a series of precautionary measures to limit movement of both staff and the incarcerated population between and throughout institutions, while the department’s dedicated team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nursing staff have worked tirelessly to continue to provide mental health delivery services. These include: limiting the number of participants in group programs to allow for physical distancing, issuing medication directly to patients in the living areas, providing mental health check-ins to patients during COVID-19 health care screenings that occur multiple times daily, and increasing our use of telehealth where group programs have been limited. 

Many of our institutions have remained free from COVID-19 among the incarcerated population, and many more have only experienced a very low number of positive cases limited to a single area. To limit the disruption of mental health service delivery for those institutions with none, or very few cases, where possible, we have adjusted group therapy services so they may be held with physical distancing measures in place. The incarcerated population is required to wear their cloth facial barriers while moving to and from these sessions. Staff are also required to wear facial barriers while on institution grounds.

To address the reduction of group therapy sessions available in some institutions, the department has increased the use of in-cell activities and telehealth where mental health services can be provided via live video chat with a clinician directly to the patient’s cell.

For those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and placed in medical isolation, CDCR and CCHCS continue to offer mental health check-ins directly to the patient at least twice daily. Staff are required to wear all personal protective equipment (PPE) recommended by state and national public health and health care directives when providing mental health check-ins.

For those mental health patients identified on quarantine status due to a potential COVID-19 exposure, mental health staff are providing services within the patient’s housing unit where they can protect patient confidentiality and provide services on a one-on-one basis. Staff and patients must wear required PPE while conducting these sessions.

CDCR and CCHCS understand the emergent nature of mental health services. We work diligently to reduce instances of mental health crises among our population, but if one does occur we immediately address the patient’s needs. Those that express they are in distress or seek assistance are seen within 24 hours by a mental health professional to determine if the patient requires a higher level of care. If a patient is determined to require a higher level of care, CDCR and CCHCS are working diligently to follow all transfer timeline and placement requirements while also adhering to COVID-19 patient movement and transfer testing requirements. 

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.

Operations / Oversight and Compliance

Out of an abundance of caution, and to ensure our state prisons are immediately prepared to address any COVID-19 case at an institution, all California state prisons have been directed to activate their Incident Command Posts, regardless of whether there are active COVID-19 cases at the institution. The ICP is a central emergency operations location where CDCR and CCHCS health care and public health experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information centrally in order to make decisions and provide guidance quickly.

From May 20 through May 22, 2020, Secretary Diaz toured seven institutions: California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC), California City Correctional Facility (CAC), California Institution for Men (CIM), California Institution for Women (CIW), California Rehabilitation Center (CRC), Wasco State Prison (Wasco), and North Kern State Prison (North Kern). Six of those seven institutions were provided approximately 30 minutes’ notice in advance of the Secretary’s arrival. Only CIM was provided more advance notice of the Secretary’s visit and inspection so as to ensure his visit would not negatively impact prison operations given the current restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the institution. The Secretary conducted these inspections in order to personally observe the efforts by the institutions and staff to address the unprecedented challenges presented by this pandemic and to observe the institutions’ COVID-19 practices. The Secretary observed that both inmates and staff are overwhelmingly in compliance with mandates to wear cloth masks and to maintain physical distancing. The Secretary is working closely with California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) to identify additional measures CDCR and CCHCS may take to address COVID-19.

On Friday, May 22, CDCR facilitated a virtual visit of CIM with the Prison Law Office to allow attorneys for the incarcerated population to see firsthand the concrete, extraordinary steps the institution has taken to protect all those who live and work in the prison. An in-person tour with the PLO took place Friday, May 29.

Captains or area managers within housing units at each institution are required to submit weekly compliance reviews in order to verify staff are following the mandatory COVID-19 protocols regarding physical distancing, wearing of masks by staff and the incarcerated population, dormitory housing units are separated by six feet in all directions, there are regular sanitation and best practices announcements over institution sound systems, increased cleaning/disinfecting, educational poster displays and television content, and availability of hand sanitizer in designated areas.

On July 21, CDCR notified wardens and chief executive officers that staff from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) would be tested for COVID-19. Because OIG staff members regularly visit prisons and other facilities to conduct audits and compliance reviews, plans are being developed to incorporate them into the CDCR employee testing schedule starting in August. OIG staff will continue their institution visits until that time.

Physical Distancing

The incarcerated population and staff have received information about physical distancing, and 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 physical distancing during yard time, and adjusting dining schedules where possible to allow for for smaller groups and additional cleaning and disinfecting of dining halls.

In addition to providing facial barriers and hand sanitizer to both staff and the incarcerated population, the following measures have been implemented to increase physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Educational materials have been continuously produced based on new guidance and direction from public health and health care experts through the inmate advisory councils, public announcement systems, via posters and flyers placed throughout the prisons, verbal directives from custody staff, and video programming broadcast to TVs throughout the prisons
  • In various areas where inmates must wait in lines—such as canteen lines and medication lines—the prisons have marked six-foot intervals on the ground to help inmates remember to continuously distance themselves from others.
  • Limiting the number of inmates in the dayrooms to ensure there is sufficient space for physical distancing.
  • Dining-hall schedules have been modified to limit the number of inmates in the dining hall to allow for better physical distancing
  • Throughout the day, announcements are made over public-announcement systems in some dorm locations reminding inmates to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rehabilitative Programs, Religious Services & Education

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.

The Office of Correctional Education (OCE) 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.

Under the direction of the Warden, school administrators and teachers coordinate with institutional warehouses to provide educational equipment, supplies and materials to students. While hardcover books are normally only permitted in classrooms, a temporary exception has been made for students to access educational materials for college, Career Technical Education, Adult Basic Education, and English Language Development courses in their housing units. This exception is at the discretion of the Warden, and may vary based on security concerns.

OCE partners with the California Community College Chancellors Office to provide face-to-face college at adult prisons. Institutions are continuing to support college classes as much as feasible so students have the opportunity to finish the semester. College coordinators and teachers are assisting with distributing materials and proctoring final exams. The goal of OCE and CDCR is to continue to support college classes as our response to COVID-19 evolves.

As usual, milestones will be awarded at the completion of a course and after successfully passing a final assessment.

During modified programming, legal library services will be available via the “paging” system, in which forms, copies, etc. are requested by inmates with Priority Legal User status and delivered to housing units via institutional mail. Recreational reading books are available for checkout using institutional mail.

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.

CDCR recognizes the importance of religion in the daily life and spiritual growth of incarcerated people. Religious services will be provided as in-cell services as an alternative. Chaplains will conduct individual religious counseling as appropriate while maintaining social distancing, and CDCR is working to provide televised religious services to the population.

The Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP) has developed Frequently Asked Questions regarding the California Reentry and Enrichment (CARE) grants. The purpose of the CARE grant program is to provide grants to eligible nonprofit organizations currently offering insight-oriented restorative justice, transformative, and healing programs in an adult correctional institution setting. The timeline of Requests for Applications will remain as-is, with applications due by 5 p.m. Friday, May 8. The grant period will begin Sept. 1, 2020, and end April 30, 2022. While at this time there are no date changes, programming status is subject to change due to COVID-19 measures.

Payments for Innovative Programming Grant (IGP) grantees will be distributed as scheduled. For information, email mailto:innovativegrants@cdcr.ca.gov. DRP continues to coordinate with program providers to develop alternative programming models.

Sanitation & Hand Hygiene

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 and disinfecting procedures in order to eliminate coronavirus.

Communal areas such as dayrooms, showers, restrooms and offices are cleaned between uses. Disinfecting frequency has been increased, including regular disinfecting of touch points (telephones, door knobs, desk areas, etc.). All cleaning practices will allow for physical distancing of staff and porters who are also provided ample cleaning supplies and protective equipment including gloves and masks.

Additionally, when a cell or bunk is vacated, the assigned inmate porter shall be responsible for disinfecting the space. For restricted housing units, cleaning is performed by staff.

Staff screening and precautions

All staff and visitors entering CDCR correctional institutions are undergoing a touchless temperature screening prior to entering the facility. This applies to CDCR state prisons and community correctional facilities.

CDCR and CCHCS have also 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 or fever. If the individual’s response is that they are experiencing symptoms, they will be restricted from entering the site that day.

CDCR makes every effort to ensure staff do not enter areas where they are not assigned. All staff are required to wear face masks while on duty.  In quarantined and or isolated areas, staff are required to wear additional PPE.  In addition no staff assigned to the area is allowed to enter the quarantined or isolated area. 

Testing for Incarcerated Population

CDCR has implemented at each prison an additional COVID-19 testing process that provides results within 15 minutes or less. This “point of care” rapid testing will be used to assist in the transfer and reception process at CDCR institutions, as well as high-risk patients where immediate knowledge of infection status is critical. All new arrivals will be placed into quarantine for 14 days and tested within 24 hours of arrival.

Please see the “COVID Screening and Testing Matrix for Patient Movement ” for additional testing information for the incarcerated population.

CDCR and CCHCS are actively working with state public health partners and other external stakeholders to produce faster testing results. This will greatly contribute to our ability to make rapidly informed decisions regarding housing, staffing, and treatment to protect all those who live and work in our state prisons.

CDCR and CCHCS have a testing strategy that is consistent with guidance provided by federal and state public health experts. The strategy remains flexible as we continuously reassess the overall dynamic of this virus and respond accordingly to the needs of each unique institution.

To view data about statewide testing efforts, view the population case tracker.

Testing for the incarcerated population is offered in the following circumstances, with the top priority always being symptomatic patients:

  • Symptomatic patients
  • Outbreak investigations
  • Arrival at Reception Center from county jail
  • Transfers out of Reception Centers and restricted housing
  • Surveillance testing

Consistent with guidance from state and local public health officials, CDCR is conducting surveillance testing of incarcerated individuals at all adult institutions. Surveillance testing is used to detect outbreaks in an early phase, even before the development of symptoms. Early detection and rapid outbreak response can limit the spread of infection and prevent morbidity and mortality. Additionally, with sufficient numbers of appropriately selected patients testing negative, an institution can demonstrate with confidence the absence of an outbreak.

This voluntary testing will be performed across multiple facilities at each institution each month. Priority will be given to asymptomatic individuals who have been identified as vulnerable or high-risk for complications of COVID-19. Such testing will give CDCR and CCHCS a baseline of cases as a preventive measure and for data-gathering purposes, as we work toward safely resuming operations.

We continue to look into the expansion of testing throughout the state while taking into consideration local county input as well as statewide mitigation and response strategies.

For more detailed information about testing protocols for the incarcerated population, view the COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Health Care and Public Health Providers.

Testing for staff

To further prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect those who live and work in our institutions, CDCR is requiring ongoing mandatory testing of all adult and youth institutions staff statewide, regardless of number of COVID-19 cases.

Staff at California State Prison-Solano, California Medical Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, San Quentin State Prison, California State Prison-Corcoran, and Avenal State Prison are now undergoing serial testing based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health and status of COVID-19 in the community. These guidelines require testing of staff every 14 days.

See the staff testing memo issued July 1.

CDCR and CCHCS have developed these frequently asked questions related to mandatory COVID-19 staff testing.

In coordination with California Department of Public Health, CDCR developed a staff testing plan for those who have been redirected to an institution due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The plan includes a quarantine period between the last day worked at the prison experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and initial testing, outlines use of telework and administrative time-off while in quarantine and between testing results, and health and safety protocols immediately after the return to their home institution.

Transportation/Receiving and Release protocols

All movement deemed essential that is happening within and throughout state prisons is being guided by the CCHCS Patient Movement Matrix which identifies testing and quarantine protocols before and after transfer.

We are taking precautions necessary to increase physical distancing during these transportations, including significantly limiting the number of inmates in-transit per vehicle and have provided staff and inmates at the institution with reusable cloth barrier masks to be worn during transportation.

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) until further notice. 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.

Moves to Department of State Hospital beds at Atascadero State Hospital, Coalinga State Hospital, and Patton State Hospital are allowed only for mentally disordered offender (MDO) referrals.

All Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees and inmates to California are suspended until further notice.

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.

California statute permits the Secretary to authorize temporary community leave for inmates from prison. To reduce risks of COVID-19 to all who work and live in the state prison system and our surrounding communities, there will be no temporary community leave approvals at this time. We will work to make communications available to individuals in these situations.

CDCR has communicated with county sheriffs about changes to the transfer of state prison inmates to county jails for mandated court hearings. Inmates leaving CDCR custody to be housed in a county jail for purposes of attending a court hearing will not be accepted back until intake is resumed. For those inmates held in county jail unable to return to CDCR custody, the Department will reimburse the supervising agency after five days pursuant to Penal Code 4016.5.

Inmates being transported for a same-day court appearance will be allowed to return to the CDCR institution but will be provided a mask and will be screened by health care staff upon return to the institution. The incarcerated population are permitted to keep their allotment of reusable cloth barrier masks produced by CALPIA upon their release after serving their full sentenced as defined by the law, and are encouraged to wear the mask while in the community.

Visiting and Communication

CDCR’s electronic messaging provider JPay extended inbound email print services to all institutions at a reduced rate through August 12. This service enables incarcerated people’s family and friends to use the JPay app to send e-correspondence, which mailroom staff then print and deliver with regular mail. Family and friends purchase stamps for this service. While this does not eliminate physical mail, this process reduces COVID-19 transmission risk and provides a way for incarcerated people to maintain contact with family and friends.

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.

Visiting is temporarily suspended 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 one), during normal visiting hours even during closure. CPMP staff are diligently working to ensure the participants’ 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. 

In recognition of the need for incarcerated people to have contact with their loved ones, the Division of Adult Institutions has expanded phone access for certain privilege groups. Access will be via current inmate phone equipment, with extra precautions taken to clean phones and allow physical distancing to limit possible exposure and transmittal of illness. Inmates on C Status (lost privileges due to disciplinary reasons) will remain on phone restrictions until C Status until that status has been completed or removed.

The following populations are allowed to make calls above their privilege group until further notice:

  • Inmates in Administrative Segregation for non-disciplinary reasons, designated Privilege Group B, are allowed one phone call per week (previously one per month; Privilege Group A are normally allowed one call per week)
  • People on “C”Status are allowed one call every two weeks
  • All other inmates in restricted housing are allowed to make one phone call once every two weeks (previously no phone calls permitted)
  • Reception Center inmates will be provided one phone call per week (previously one call within first seven days and one per month after)
  • Inmates in Psychiatric Inpatient Program settings will be allowed one call per week unless they are prohibited by the Interdisciplinary Treatment Team (with documented clinical justification).

CDCR partnered with inmate telephone network provider GTL to offer the adult incarcerated population three days of free phone calls each week in April, two days of free phone calls each week through the end of May, one free phone call each week in June, and two free phone call days in July.

Incarcerated individuals averaged 95,000 calls per day since visiting was suspended in March, an increase of 20,000 calls per day, or 27 percent, from pre-pandemic numbers. Since implementation, free-calling days have averaged 145,000 calls per day, an increase of 93 percent.

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.

Since the price reduction, approximately 10,000 incarcerated individuals at the five sites used this system to send and receive 1.5 million messages. This represents a 37 percent increase in messaging when compared to the month of March. The price reduction will continue through the duration of the pandemic.

JPay has also extended inbound email print services to all institutions at a reduced rate. This service enables incarcerated people’s family and friends to use the JPay app to send e-correspondence, which mailroom staff then print and deliver with regular mail. Family and friends purchase stamps for this service. While this will not eliminate physical mail, this process reduces COVID-19 transmission risk. This service is also a cost-effective way for incarcerated people to maintain contact with family and friends, which is especially important while visiting is closed.

In April, more than 32,000 messages were received. In addition to the messages, incarcerated individuals received over 35,000 photos and e-cards.  This service is available at adult prisons and juvenile facilities, and will continue into 2022.

Effective May 4, 2020, the Enterprise Inmate Communication (EIC) program currently piloted at Central California Women’s Facility, California Institution for Women, High Desert State Prison (Facility C), Kern Valley State Prison (Facility C) and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility will be temporarily expanded for those inmates who possess a JPay EIC tablet. Inmates with tablets will be eligible to access, free of charge, the following offers via the kiosk system, (all content will be reviewed prior to being made available):

  • Life Skills & Betterment: Up to 30 free videos focusing on teaching and improving life skills to help cope with challenges during and after incarceration.
  • Motivational Speeches: Six free audio recordings by Andre Norman, creator of the “Academy of Hope” series
  • Entertainment: One free video game per week for four weeks.
  • Effective May 12, inmates with tablets may also have unlimited free access to the News Stand application, which delivers daily updated news, for one month.

More information about JPay services is available in English and Spanish.

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