Project Hope

The Project Hope program was created to protect people releasing from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic and the California communities to which they are returning. This voluntary initiative provides free hotel accommodations to people released from state prison who have a need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure or positive status.

Through Project Hope, individuals who are actively positive for COVID-19, or who are identified as having been exposed to COVID-19 while incarcerated, are able to safely quarantine or isolate upon release from prison. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), and California Department of General Services (DGS) collaboratively provide safe transportation, hotel accommodations, and meal service to all participants.

Project Hope is available to both state parolees and individuals released to probation supervision, depending on their post-release supervision requirements. It does not replace existing post-incarceration transition programs managed by the state, counties, and local service providers. .

To date, Project Hope has served over 600 individuals returning to the community.

Project Hope is available for incarcerated people whose release dates were expedited as part of CDCR’s efforts to increase physical distancing in state prisons, and for people returning to the community on their natural release date.

All required notifications are made to local public health departments to notify them of people releasing with active COVID-19 and those who are being released while on quarantine.

Expedited releases:
Patients who are in isolation due to active contagious COVID-19 infection will remain isolated and will not have their release date expedited until their case is resolved.

Patients who are in quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19 will be offered testing no more than seven days before release. Those who test positive will be isolated and will not have their release date expedited until their case is resolved.

Those who test negative will have their release expedited but will be referred to Project Hope with a medical recommendation for a 14-day quarantine period. They will be transported to their county of last legal residence and will not be permitted to take public transportation.

If someone refuses Project Hope and does not have an approved residence where they can quarantine, they will remain in custody for a 14-day quarantine, at which time if they are asymptomatic they will be released with no further recommendations to quarantine.

Natural releases:
CDCR does not have the authority to hold anyone in custody who has served their full sentence as defined by the law.

Patients who have reached their natural release date and who are in isolation due to active contagious COVID-19 infection shall be released with notification being made to the local health department and referral to Project Hope for a 14-day quarantine.

Patients who are in quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19 will be offered testing no more than seven days before release. Those who test negative shall be released but will be referred to Project Hope with a medical recommendation for a 14-day quarantine.

Patients who are releasing to quarantine or isolation status in the community will not be permitted to use public transportation upon release, but can arrange for transport via family and friends, CDCR, or other approved entities. All providing transport will be instructed to use appropriate precautions.

Who will be occupying the rooms?

People being released from state prison who have a need to quarantine due to confirmed direct exposure to someone with COVID 19, or those with a need to isolate due to having an active case of COVID-19 but who are asymptomatic or do not require significant medical care and can reside independently.

The program’s eligibility criteria exclude some people, including those required to register under sex offense laws, those convicted of arson, or those whose mental health designation while incarcerated was Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP), indicating long-term mental health treatment needs. For these individuals, CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) and Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP) work with both the releasing individual and the county to which they are returning to identify appropriate housing, including reentry programs, private residences, and emergency beds activated during the pandemic.

How does someone get a room?

The placement option is automatic and does not require the incarcerated individual to ask for services. CDCR and California Correctional Health Care Services work closely together at all institutions to identify those people who are due to be released, either on their natural release date or who have had their release date expedited. Prior to release, institution staff share information about Project Hope with the eligible individual. Institution staff, as a function of the pre-release process, ask the releasing individual if they would like to participate.

What coordination is being done with local public health and law enforcement agencies?

Before the scheduled release date, notification is made to county departments of public health as well as county probation offices if the person is releasing to probation supervision.

These agencies are provided information related to quarantine or COVID-19 status so they may make the appropriate accommodations for any expected interactions and monitoring.

If the identified county of release does not have participating hotels/motels, CDCR’s Community Transition Program works closely with the supervising probation or parole department to identify participating locations where the individual can be housed for their quarantine period.

Are participants tested prior to release?

All releasing individuals are offered COVID-19 testing no more than seven days before release, with the exception of patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 12 weeks and are now resolved (no longer contagious). Those who are resolved will be released without additional testing or recommendations to quarantine, but are expected to follow any shelter-in-place orders in place in the receiving county.

For people whose release has been expedited, refusal to test will result in a 14-day quarantine in custody, at which time if they are asymptomatic they shall be released with no recommendations to quarantine.

What services are provided?

Transportation is provided by CDCR directly to the hotel and participants receive three meals a day through the duration of their stay. DAPO staff work with participants to order meals from delivery services that provide no-contact drop-off.

CDCR also provides a hygiene kit to each releasing individual that includes a toothbrush, tooth powder, soap, and other hygiene items. An extra set of clothing is provided, along with five non-perishable box lunches (provided in addition to food delivery). Project Hope participants are provided contact information should they encounter any challenges. Staff are available 24/7 to resolve any issues related to Project Hope or its wraparound services.

Do participants receive medical screening?

CDCR and CCHCS do not provide health care after release; however, DAPO and local probation departments work with those they supervise to connect them with services in the community such as health care. Institution public health nurses also provide education to those being released on how they can obtain medical care in the community.

All people being released wear a cloth face covering when exiting the institution and take with them the additional face coverings issued to them while incarcerated. They are also provided COVID-19 educational information, including how to check for symptoms, how to quarantine/isolate if necessary, and contact information for local health departments.

The supervising probation officer or parole agent is in regular contact with participants and will assist in connecting them to medical care should the need arise.

Will there be security?

Local law enforcement agencies are aware of hotels participating in Project Hope should they need to respond. Probation departments are also notified of Project Hope participation. The supervising probation officer or parole agent is encouraged to have daily contact with the participant to provide oversight, encourage continued participation, and check in on the participant’s condition.

If a hotel does not have security on-site, CDCR will contact local parole or probation offices to assist to address any concerns.

What is someone leaves the hotel?

If someone is reported to have left the hotel, Project Hope staff will confirm with the hotel staff that the participant has in fact left the hotel. Upon receiving confirmation, Project Hope staff will notify the supervising agency. If the supervising agency receives notification that a participant has left the hotel, they should contact Project Hope staff using the contact information provided on the last page.

DAPO is not authorized to mandate quarantine as a special condition of parole because it does not relate to criminal conduct or future criminality (People v. Lent, 1975). All people releasing from prison are expected and encouraged to abide by the requirements in their county of release.

What is expected of participants?

Each person participating in Project Hope is provided with conditions of stay that will assist participants, CDCR, and the supervising agency in keeping participants, their families, and the community safe. These rules include:

  • No use of the hotel phone for the first 12 hours of stay to ensure meals can be ordered and any other concerns addressed.
  • No use of the hotel phone until after 10 a.m. each day, except for a medical emergency, to ensure Project Hope coordinators can make contact to order meals and address concerns.
  • Accept phone calls between 2 and 7 p.m. to address any issues concerning the ordering and delivery of evening meals.
  • Avoid leaving the room unless seeking medical attention.
  • If a participant does need to leave the room momentarily, such as to retrieve food deliveries, they must wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and wash hands before and after.
  • No visitors or overnight guests in order to keep participants, their families, and the community safe.
  • Participants must follow all hotel rules, policies and conditions.
  • No pets while residing in the hotels.

What happens after the quarantine period is completed in Project Hope?

Upon the completion of the 14-day quarantine period, the participant will begin their established reentry plans, including CDCR-funded transitional housing or other reentry programs. If there are concerns about the participant’s health, their stay at the hotel can be extended on a case-by-case basis.

How is this project funded?

In mid-March, Governor Newson took emergency action and authorized $150 million in funding to protect homeless Californians from COVID-19. $50 million was set aside to purchase travel trailers and lease rooms in motels, hotels, and other facilities for immediate shelter for homeless families and individuals. Costs for Project Hope are reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency pursuant to the State-Federal cost share.