COVID‑19 Response Efforts

Updated as of Jan. 6, 2022



Board of Parole Hearings/Parole Suitability Hearings

Due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) has been holding parole suitability hearings via video and telephone conference since April 2020. BPH continues holding parole suitability hearings via video and telephone conference until further notice.

Gov. Gavin 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 notified. 

Board of Juvenile Hearings proceedings will take place as scheduled via video conference only.

For more information, click here.

California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA)

Since the pandemic hit our community, CDCR and CALPIA have been strongly committed to responding to this public health emergency and to protecting both staff and the incarcerated population.

CALPIA takes the health and safety of our staff and incarcerated workforce very seriously and we value everyone working in our enterprises. CALPIA protects workers and follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in addressing COVID-19.

CALPIA is slowly reopening its enterprises and programs to meet CDC, CDPH, and local county guidelines and ordinances. 

Throughout the pandemic, CALPIA continued to operate essential enterprises like food services, laundry, chemical, health care facilities maintenance and other essential services.

All CALPIA staff and incarcerated individuals participating in CALPIA’s programs have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine and continue to follow CDCR and CCHCS protocols for testing and screening.  

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The incarcerated population is required to wear facial barriers when moving around the institution.

All unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees, contractors, and visitors working, visiting, or performing duties in a CDCR institution/facility shall wear an N95 mask while on CDCR institution/facility grounds and follow current testing directives. These requirements also apply to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees and contractors who have a pending or approved request for religious accommodation or reasonable accommodation for qualifying medical reason(s) for the COVID-19 vaccine, and those pending any disciplinary
action.

All fully-vaccinated employees, contractors, and visitors shall wear at least a procedure mask
while on CDCR institution/facility grounds, unless an N95 mask is required; those who do not comply face progressive discipline.

Exceptions to N95 and/or procedure masking requirements apply as follows:
1) While actively eating or drinking, if a minimum of six feet of physical distance is
maintained from all other individuals.
2) When alone in an office with the door closed.
3) When alone in a tower or enclosed control booth with no other individuals present.
4) When outdoors, if a minimum of six feet of physical distance is maintained from all other
individuals. An appropriate mask shall be kept on person at all times and shall be worn
walking or standing within six feet of others.

Required personal protective equipment is provided during required close-contact health care procedures.

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.

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.

California Correctional Center and Sierra Conservation Center continue to transfer incarcerated fire crew members to northern and southern region fire camps in a limited capacity. These transfers are occurring in accordance with the CDCR/CCHCS Movement Matrix. The incarcerated population who are not vaccinated or do not have an approved religious or medical exemption are ineligible for camp placement.

If an incarcerated fire crew member is suspected or confirmed to be positive for COVID-19, they are transported to the closest appropriate institution with celled housing for quarantine/isolation placement. Additionally, when a conservation camp is placed on quarantine, the incarcerated population housed at the camp will receive COVID-19 testing and daily healthcare screenings from nursing staff.

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.

Camps 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.

County jail intake

County jail intake has been suspended at Wasco State Prison (WSP) since Dec. 29, 2021 and will be suspended at least through the week of Jan. 10. After that, the situation will be re-assessed contingent on COVID cases at the prison. Intake at North Kern State Prison and for the female population remain open at this time.

CDCR worked closely with the California State Sheriffs’ Association and public health experts to develop a plan to resume intake in a controlled, limited manner. When open, county jail intake is prioritized for those counties identified as having the greatest need to create space in their facilities.

In an abundance of caution, and in collaboration with counties, the medical clearance process prior to transfer include COVID-19 testing and symptom screening prior to transfer, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during transfer, and a quarantine period upon arrival. All movement is being directed by the Patient Movement Matrix.

CDCR will continuously evaluate this process and will increase, decrease, or suspend intake in accordance with health care and public health guidance. When open, the following protocols are in place:

Selection

  • Priority will be given to counties currently conducting COVID-19 viral testing and in agreement to test upon admission approval and transfer within the time frames below and who complete a symptom screening the day of transfer.
    • It is required that test results be provided to health care staff at the RC prior to transfer.
  • Priority will be given to counties extremely limited on jail space.
  • Prioritization of which individuals to transfer will be at the counties’ discretion.

Testing

  • All incarcerated people will require proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test prior to transfer, including those who have previously been infected with COVID-19 and/or vaccinated for COVID-19. In the event someone tests positive after their COVID-19 case has resolved, see the “Positive test” guidelines below.
  • The test must be a viral test, either polymerase chain reaction, also known as PCR, or a rapid antigen test.
    • PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests must have a negative result within five days prior to transfer; point-of-care (rapid) tests must have a negative result reported within 24 hours prior to transfer.
    • Serology, or antibody, tests will not be accepted, as they detect only past COVID-19 infection, not active cases.
  • Individuals must be transported within five days of PCR test administration or 24 hours of rapid test administration.
    • If a test is indeterminate, it must be repeated.
  • Individuals who have tested positive on a viral test within the 14 days prior to transport will not be accepted unless criteria outlined below for “Positive tests” are met.
  • Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, regardless of their test results, will not be transferred.
  • Those refusing to test will not be transferred.
  • At this time, people who have been vaccinated must follow the same quarantine, testing, and transport protocols as those who have not been vaccinated, as there is not data yet to tell us if vaccinated people can get infected and become infectious to the people around them. If someone has received the first dose of the vaccine, RC health care staff must be informed so the second vaccine can be scheduled and administered at the RC.

Transfer

  • County medical staff shall send testing results for each transferring person (name, testing date, and results) in advance to RC health care colleagues prior to arrival.
  • A manifest of people transferring shall be sent in advance to the RC Classification and Parole Representative.
  • Transports shall occur within five days of PCR test administration (or 24 hours for rapid antigen tests), and only those with a negative test will be approved. Those testing positive will not be accepted unless they are medically cleared as noted in the “Positive tests” section below.
  • No transfer will occur out of quarantine or isolation areas.
  • COVID-19 symptom screening should occur within 24 hours prior to transfer.
  • All incarcerated people and transportation staff must wear N95 masks during transfer.
  • All new arrivals will be screened and tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and then multiple times while in quarantine.
  • All new arrivals will be quarantined in cell-based housing for 14 days after arrival in designated quarantine housing.
  • Arrivals will be released from quarantine after 14 days if they are asymptomatic and test negative for COVID-19 on or after day 12.

Positive tests

  • If the test is positive and the individual has a history of COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days, further coordination is needed prior to the individual being accepted for intake.
    • Re-positives within 90 days of initial infection generally represent the presence of non-infectious viral particles.
    • Re-positives after 90 days may represent reinfection and require careful evaluation to ensure they are not infections.
  • In the event an individual who has resolved from COVID-19 within the past 90 days has a positive test, jail staff will need to coordinate with the local health officer and with RC health care staff before the individual is cleared for intake.
  • Medical clearance by the county health officer (or physician designee) is required for individuals who test positive after their COVID-19 case has resolved. Documentation provided to the RC health care staff must include evidence of prior COVID-19 infection as well as evidence that the individual is not infectious despite having a positive test result. Examples of specific data elements are listed in the table below. Initial infections must have been confirmed by PCR. Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will not be transferred.

If an individual has a need to transfer from county detention directly to specialized housing for a higher level of care, advance coordination is required by the CCHCS Director of Health Care Services and Director of Health Care Operations and Corrections Services. The same testing, transfer, and quarantine protocols will be followed.

The transfer of individuals requiring any specialized medical or mental health housing to include, but not limited to, use of wheelchairs or dialysis treatment, need to be coordinated in advance prior to transfer. Coordination should occur with the RC Classification and Parole Representative (C&PR), Intake Control Unit, and CCHCS. Individuals with housing needs relative to developmental or physical impacting conditions needing accommodations should be coordinated as well. Please notify the C&PR’s office and the Intake Control Unit immediately with this information so appropriate housing can be identified in advance and coordination between county and institutional medical staff can occur.

Division of Adult Parole Operations

In order to protect the health and safety of California families and communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) is continuing to use adjusted supervision protocols as directed by health care and public health professionals.

Home Visits:

  • Home visits have resumed, but in a modified form.
  • Parole agents will usually not enter parolees’ homes but instead make contact at the front door,
  • Parolees and agents will practice physical distancing,
  • Parole agents maintain the authority to conduct anti-narcotic testing when necessary to maintain public safety; even though routine drug-testing is currently suspended
  • Agents may make telephonic contact or use other technology to keep in contact with parolees

Office visits:

  • DAPO will continue minimizing in-person parole office reporting
  • DAPO will continue to follow physical distancing guidelines.
  • All DAPO personnel and parolees must undergo screenings before entering a parole office.
  • Office visits with parolees will continue to be limited to:

–  initial / comprehensive interviews,    

–  critical needs,

–  statutory requirements/duties and

–  emergencies.

  • 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.
  • At the discretion of the agent, telephonic contact or other forms of contact through technology may be utilized for those who are sick or considered high-risk (i.e. 65 years and older, chronic health conditions).

General reporting:

Please note that COVID-19 infection rates will vary by counties, DAPO may find it necessary to impose tighter or more lax protocols in keeping with infection risks in different locations.

Any questions parolees may have related to COVID-19 prevention efforts should be directed to their Parole Agent. Contact:
Northern Region Directory
Southern Region Directory

Division of Juvenile Justice

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

Flu Vaccine Awareness

With flu season coinciding with a rise in COVID-19 cases across a large portion of the country, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever. CDCR and CCHCS raised flu vaccine awareness throughout the season with posters, videos on the DRP-TV Wellness channel. An FAQ of common questions about the Flu Vaccine was also made available to inmates.

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

To address COVID-19, CDCR has implemented a series of measures to keep staff, correctional officer cadets, and candidates safe during the application, screening, and Basic Correctional Officer Academy.

OPOS has limited the size and number of candidate groups for written exams and physical fitness tests and wearing masks is required (based on county mandate). The Background Investigation Unit continues to process candidates. Medical examinations are being conducted and online alternatives are being offered for the psychological screening interviews. Candidates will continue to be processed for upcoming academies to meet CDCR hiring needs.

We strongly encourage cadets to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before attending the Academy. If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine there will be a voluntary COVID-19 shot clinic during the first few weeks of the Academy.  Cadets who do not show proof of COVID-19 vaccinated record will participate in mandatory regular COVID-19 tests during their time at the Academy.  All cadets are provided masks that must be worn while on grounds and physical distancing is enforced throughout the Academy. Classrooms and common areas are being cleaned frequently.

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. 

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 has resumed transfers into the Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP), the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP), and the Alternative Custody Program (ACP), with protocols in place throughout to protect participants, staff, and the communities. Vaccination will not be required for transfer to these community re-entry programs.

Transfers to these programs are made using protocols outlined in the Movement Matrix. All transferring individuals and staff must wear an N95 respirator mask during transfer. CDCR works with each MCRP and CCTRP contractor to ensure they are following COVID-19 safety protocols, including physical distancing, disinfecting, and quarantine/isolation protocols for symptomatic or exposed participants. As part of these programs, incarcerated persons remain under the jurisdiction and responsibility of CDCR, to include ensuring any required medical attention is provided.

Oversight and Compliance

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.

Rehabilitative Programs, Religious Services & Education

Guided by public health guidelines and CDCR’s reopening plan, all institutions are once again offering some rehabilitative programming. Activities in socially-distanced groups are allowed and education is made available through both in-person instruction and independent study.

The Office of Correctional Education (OCE) is continuing to partner with colleges and universities that provide correspondence, live remote instruction, and in-person college at adult prisons. College coordinators and teachers are continuing to assist 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 facilities progress through reopening phases, law and recreational library services are able to resume allowing offender physical access to the libraries in small groups with social distancing.  Offenders who have legal deadlines within 30 days, continue to receive priority over non legal library users.

CDCR provides English Learners and students with special learning needs additional support with their coursework, through a specialized teacher.  Tutoring is also made available to students after school. In addition, standardized testing resumes as inmates and students are able to be administered exams in person. 

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.

Payments for Innovative Programming Grant (IGP) grantees will be distributed as scheduled. For information, email 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 will complete a daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and exposures

Individuals may not enter a state prison or office building at any time if they are experiencing COVID-related symptoms not caused by a diagnosed health care condition; experiencing unexplained/unusual fatigue, muscle/body aches, headaches and have not been vaccinated within the last three days; are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with anyone known to have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 or any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment in the last 14 days; or have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days.

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 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.

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

Unvaccinated staff at CDCR institutions are required to undergo twice-weekly testing. Vaccinated staff are not required to undergo routine surveillance testing. If an institution is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak (defined as three or more related positive cases), all staff are subject to twice-weekly testing regardless of vaccination status.

Any staff member who refuses to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing will be sent home without pay. In addition, an employee who refuses testing will also be subject to the employee progressive discipline process, beginning with a formal written reprimand.

Testing will continue for incarcerated people and employees who are identified as close contacts of active cases. Testing for inmates will also continue as described in the current movement matrix, as part of the in person visiting program, and prior to dental encounters.

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 another institution. 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 guided by the CCHCS Patient Movement Matrix.

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

COVID-19 Vaccine and Booster

CDCR/CCHCS have offered the vaccination to the incarcerated population and staff since December 2020. CCHCS is also offering booster shots to all eligible staff and the incarcerated population.

We have implemented the Aug. 19 CDPH order requiring vaccinations for staff and incarcerated workers in health care settings and are working to implement the Dec. 22 CDPH order mandating those in health care settings to receive the vaccine booster when eligible. 

On and after Feb. 2, 2022, the assignment for non-compliant registry providers, contractors, and applicable retired annuitants who have neither requested nor received a religious or reasonable medical accommodation will be ended.

You may see staff and population vaccination rates by institution on the Population Tracker. https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/covid19/population-status-tracking/

Visiting and Communication

CDCR recognizes visiting is an important way to maintain family and community ties. At the same time, our first priority is the health and safety of those who live in and work in our facilities. For the latest on in-person and video visiting reservations and COVID-19 precautions, visit CDCR’s visiting page.

As of Jan. 3, 2022, incarcerated persons must be fully vaccinated to participate in in-person or family visits, or have an approved religious or medical exemption. Unvaccinated incarcerated persons who do not have an approved religious or medical exemption will be restricted to video visits only until further notice. 

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