Statewide Inmate Family Council / CDCR Meeting Minutes April 22, 2021
SIFC members attending
Beth Hall, Chair, Allison Walters, Secretary, Carol Hinds, Beneé Vejar, Mary Gonzalez, Berindina Hogue, Joanne Scheer, and Clara Garcia
Connie Gipson, Director, Rosemary Ndoh, Associate Director (A), Daniel Ross, Gordon Wong, Marjorie Cross, Peggy Andre, Sylvia Dumalig (EIS), Stephanie Jones (EIS), Heidi Dixon, Bryan Donahoo, Iserman, Hillary Iserman, Judy Kornell, Elizabeth Gransee, and Amy Casias.
General Meeting Information
The meeting was brought to order by Gordon Wong, who introduced CDCR Director, Connie Gipson.
The Director gave information on the upcoming prison closures. California Corrections Center (CCC), as well as the secure Level I yards at Tehachapi (CCI) and California Training Facility (CTF) will be closed in June 2022. Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) will be closed September 2021. This is part of the Governor’s plan to close two (2) state prisons to reduce taxpayer cost and decrease the prison budget. The institution population has been greatly reduced in the past ten (10) years due to legislation. The all-time high population was 173,479 in 2006 but today’s population was just under 91,000.
To effect a smooth transition during the closure of CCC the population will be taken back to committee for transfer.
There are currently only nine (9) COVID-19 cases, each in a different facility. The case levels follow the reduction of cases in the state. Vaccinations and mask wearing continue.
CDCR is working on a new re-opening plan to get to a “new normal” for programming and visiting. This is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.
Education, vocation and ISUTD are running in a limited capacity. Visiting is expected to increase in length and the number of visitors allowed. Family Visiting is expected to re-open.
The new SIFC members were introduced and gave very brief statements of their experience within CDCR and IFC. We are welcoming Mary Gonzalez from Avenal, Berendina Hogue from California Health Care Facility and Joanne Scheer from Mule Creek.
The requirement of a negative test within 72 hours of in-person visiting is becoming an issue particularly at the facilities with in-person visiting on both Saturday and Sunday. The availability of on-site (point of care) testing for visiting and the staff availability to do the testing was confirmed. The onsite resources are expected to cover 90% of the expected number of visitors. This may not be sustainable long-term which is why visitors are encouraged to get tested before arriving.
Point of care tests take only fifteen minutes for results to be returned. Those results are good for 24 hours. This may cover visits on two days depending on the time of the visits. Test results and data are reported to the visitor’s home county Department of Public Health which relays the data to the California Department of Public Health.
Free outside testing is provided in every county. The County Department of Health can provide a list of places offering free testing. Every county has different requirements i.e. if you can do repeated testing or if you need to be having symptoms. If the tester asks why you are testing on a repeated basis you can just state that the State of California is requiring it to enter a state facility without saying that you are visiting a prison.
Proof of vaccination does not play a role at this time. Discussion is under way between CDCR and the California Public Health Department if proof of vaccination may be allowed in lieu of testing in the future. There is no prediction how long testing will be required to visit. It is dependent on many factors including future surges or outbreaks.
Inmates are still required to be tested prior to visiting and again a couple of days after visiting.
Cancellation of visiting in a couple of facilities due to staff positives was based on the number of positives (three or more) and the time to do “contact tracing’ of those who were positive to make sure there is not a larger outbreak.
Covid risk assessment scores are given to every inmate. An explanation of the process was not available, but a response will be given at the next meeting. It is hoped to re-establish the Healthcare Subcommittee for the meetings in the near future.
Good conduct credit regulation changes have been submitted to Office of Administrative Law as an Emergency Regulation. They are waiting for OAL to approve. Once approved they will be posted on the CDCR website and open for public comment. The changes can be implemented as soon as OAL approves. The credits will be prioritized in release date order. Offenders within fifteen, forty five or sixty days of release will not get any additional credits.
Pending approval, the credit earning rate for violent offenders will be 33⅓% up from the current 20%. For non-violent second-strikers and non-violent third-strikers the rate will increase from the current 33⅓% to 50%. The good conduct credits are based on time left to be served.
The letter of commendation to be put in the C-file of LWOPs is still under discussion.
In person visiting has been implemented on a limited basis. There is a proposal to expand the time of the visits and the number of visitors allowed. It will be a transition through phases providing no increase in cases.
The two institutions which have two days of in-person visiting do not have video visiting. This was a result of surveys of the population, IACs and IFCs.
Video visiting with WebEx will continue during the stabilization of reopening but will eventually be discontinued. The distribution of tablets will provide video calling through the new GTL contract.
The infrastructure for the new system will provided in all institutions by GTL for the new systems. The site surveys for all facilities should be completed by of June 11. The schedule for implementation should be available in a few weeks. The goal is to have the program in all facilities by the end of the year. The availability to access services on the system will be privilege level based.
Family visiting will be opening in Phase III.
The Visiting Handbook was revised but will now have to be revised again. Visiting staff will trained again to provide overall acceptability standards. There is a monthly call with visiting staff to address issues and concerns.
VSA continues to have problems with account claiming. Visiting staff (SGT or LT) should be notified of the problem. If it is simple, they can investigate and claim the account for the visitor. If multiple accounts (different name or IDs) are found there will be a remedy ticket made and it will be referred to SOMS to merge the accounts.
Visitors should receive confirmation of a video visit within 72 hours after the close of request process (Wednesday). It is a several step process. Most confirmations are received Thursday and Friday.
Requests for visiting will be transitioning completely to VSA in the next few weeks. Complete information is available on the website and in the FAQs.
There was a vendor network outage the first week of VSA implementation, but it was not due to high traffic on the site.
The bylaws for local IFCs have been revised and approved. They will be sent to the facilities.
The budget is not confirmed yet but there were provisions for laptops, healthy menu choices and increased canteen resources.
Laptops will be initially for education and rehabilitation. The content will rolled out in phased approach beginning with use in classrooms and eventually allow use in living units. There will be a secured cloud environment.
Facilities will go online beginning January 2022. The first will be CCWF, Folsom, Lancaster, Mule Creek, RJD and VSP. Additional facilities will be added every six months with complete deployment expected in 2024. The laptops will be issued one per student.
The Correctional Food Administrator was not available to answer questions on the menus. The menus are set at the Headquarters level but facilities are expected to use local resources to provide the meals. The question was asked concerning how much deviation from the menu was allowed and who is responsible for oversight.
Canteen resources are being increased. There was a 10% spending increase requested in the budget as well increased staffing positions. Additional storage trailers were also requested. Healthier item choices are being offered.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.
The next meeting will be held: TBD