What to Expect


What takes place when an inmate first arrives to the prison?
Upon arrival to a prison Reception Center, the inmate must go through the reception and classification process. This could take up to 90 days. Once all the inmate’s case factors are reviewed he/she/they will be assigned a classification score. He/she/they will then be recommended for appropriate placement at an institution based on his/her/their level. The inmate’s family location is taken into consideration, however, being placed near family is not guaranteed due to many other factors.

Can I call the inmate or can he/she/they call me while in the reception process?
While in Reception Center, the inmates are given a phone call within the first week and every month thereafter as part of the Reception process. These calls will be made collect to the account the family sets up, and are monitored by the institution. Inmates can also receive mail and writing supplies. Specifically, they can receive one hundred (maximum 100 per inmate) sheets of yellow or white lined writing paper (no spiral metal binding, no cardboard, and no plastic wrap), forty embossed/metered envelopes from the post office, forty stamps, and forty blank envelopes (40 maximum per inmate).

To send mail to the inmate, address your letters this way.

Name, CDC#
Facility, Building #, Cell #
PO Box ____
City, State Zip Code

Can I visit the inmate while he/she/they is housed in the reception center?
Upon completing the visiting application process and being an approved visitor you can visit an inmate in the reception center. Reception Center visiting takes place behind glass and is by appointment only. (For further information on visiting return to the Visiting Link)

How does the Department determine which institution an inmate will be housed in?
Below is a listing of the placement scores that determine which level an inmate will be placed in:


Except as provided in section 3375.2, each inmate shall be assigned to a facility with a security level, which corresponds to the following placement score ranges:

(1) An inmate with a placement score of 0 through 18 shall be placed in a Level I facility.
(2) An inmate with a placement score of 19 through 35 shall be placed in a Level II facility.
(3) An inmate with a placement score of 36 through 59 shall be placed in a Level III facility.
(4) An inmate with a placement score of 60 and above shall be placed in a Level IV facility.

Placement Scores are determined by a thorough review of an inmates case factors to include: age, crime committed and if violence was used, prior incarcerations, gang involvement, etc.  Each year an annual review is performed by a Counselor to determine if an inmate meets the criteria to have his/her/their placement score reduced. An inmate has the opportunity to reduce their score if they have been programming and have not received any disciplinary actions. In contrast an inmate’s score and subsequent housing level can be increased due to receiving disciplinary actions.

What is meant by security levels?

Level I – Facilities and Camps consist primarily of open dormitories with a low security perimeter.
Level II – Facilities consist primarily of open dormitories with a secure perimeter, which may include armed coverage.
Level III – Facilities primarily have a secure perimeter with armed coverage and housing units with cells adjacent to exterior walls.
Level IV – Facilities have a secure perimeter with internal and external armed coverage and housing units or cell block housing with cells non-adjacent to exterior walls.

After reviewing case factors and making a recommendation to a specific institution, the Classification Staff Representative (CSR) must approve “endorsement” to the institution. This process could take another 45-60 days.  The inmate must then wait for a bus seat and an available bed at the endorsed institution.

All of this information is provided in the California Code of Regulations, Title 15 – Crime Prevention and Corrections.

What are classification committees?

Each determination affecting an inmate’s placement within an institution/facility, transfer between facilities, program participation, work group, or custody designation is made by a classification committee.  Equal access and effective communication is afforded in all committee hearings.

Unit Classification Committee (UCC) – UCC is held for initial and subsequent program assignments/changes/transfers and composed of three members chaired by staff at the level of Facility Captain or Correctional Captain. Committee actions include:
Explain facility expectations with inmate;
Explain job/program availability and review inmate’s eligibility;
Place inmate on job or academic/vocational waiting list as appropriate;
Establish work group;
Establish custody level;
Explain appeal process and credit earning process, if eligible;
Answer inmate questions.
Inmates appear before a UCC at least annually to adjust the classification score and reevaluate his/her/their housing status.

Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) – This is the institution’s highest level of committee.  It consists of a minimum of three members and is chaired at the level of Warden or Chief Deputy Warden.  Events which require ICC review include: inmate behavior resulting in Administrative Segregation Housing; issues referred by lower committees; case by case reviews to determine eligibility for minimum facilities; review of Security Housing Unit term assessment and referral of cases for Departmental Review Board (DRB).

What type of privileges is an inmate entitled to while in reception?

An inmate is in privilege group U until he/she/they has completed the reception and classification process. During this process; there are no family visits; one half of the maximum monthly canteen draw as authorized by the secretary; one telephone call within the first week and every week thereafter; and no personal packages.  The inmate is informed of the specific privilege group and can give you this information. (California Code of Regulations, Article 3.5, Section 3044)

Privilege Group Criteria

Four privilege groups have been established which provide a graduated system of incentives to promote a desire to achieve positive goals.  Criteria for assignment to a specific privilege group shall be as follows:

Group A – full-time credit qualifying work/training program; diagnosed by a departmental physician or psychiatrist as totally disabled and incapable of performing a work/training assignment or partially disabled and assigned to a work/training program within the mental or physical capabilities of the partial disablement as determined by medical staff.

Group B – assignment to a half-time work/training program or involuntarily unassigned.

Group C – general population inmates who refuse to accept or perform in a work/training assignment.

Group D – inmates in special housing units who are not assigned to either a full-time or half-time work/training program (ASU, SHU, PSU)

Group U – reception center inmates under processing

Group Privileges and Restrictions

PrivilegeGroup AGroup BGroup CGroup DGroup U
Family VisitsYes1 each 6 monthsNoNoNo
VisitingYesYesNo Family VisitsNo Family VisitsNo Family Visits
CanteenMaximum as authorized1/2 as authorized1/4 as authorized1/4 as authorized1/2 as authorized
TelephoneYes1 every 2 weeks1 every 2 weeks1 every 2 weeks1 per week
Yard AccessYesYesLimitedLimitedYes
Recreation AccessYesYesNoNoYes
Entertainment AccessYesYesNoNoLimited
Excused Time OffYesYesNoNoYes
Personal Property Package4 per year, maximum 30 #s each4 per year, maximum 30 #s eachNo1 per year, maximum 30 #sNo

What can an inmate expect upon completion of the reception process?

Upon completion of the reception process the inmate will be endorsed and transferred to an institution that can provide the appropriate housing and programs suited for that inmate. Guidelines designated in the Department Operations Manual (DOM) Chapter 6: (Article 2) Case Considerations, (Article 3) Cumulative Case Summary, and (Article 5) Classification Process, are some of the most prevalent guidelines that determine which institution an inmate is housed at.