Quarterly Minutes

SIFC Quarterly Meeting Minutes – January 2022

JANUARY 28, 2022  2 P.M.

SIFC members attending were Beth Hall, Carol Hinds, Allison Walters and Clara Garcia.

The meeting was brought to order by Dan Cueva, Associate Director (A) of the Female Offender Program and Services (FOPS). Introductions were made of staff virtually attending the meeting.

Because meeting agenda items were discussed in the SIFC Visiting Work Group meeting and there was a substantial number of issues to be discussed, these were not discussed again in the main meeting. Please refer to the Visiting Work Group Minutes for additional information.

Dr. Bick, Statewide Director of Health Services addressed the current issues of COVID in the institutions statewide. The overall situation is constantly changing as new variants appear. The new variants infect people that are both vaccinated and have received booster shots. The goal overall is to protect both the population and visitors.

HEPA filters (more than 3,000) have been deployed in areas where people congregate such as treatment areas, classrooms/programming spaces and visiting. They have not been installed in dayrooms although there are other types of filters used with the HVAC systems. More HEPA filters are expected to be installed in the future. The units are freestanding and plug into a wall so they can be moved. There are technical calculations made to determine how large and how many filters are needed for an area based on the size of the area and the number of people expected to be using it. 

Booster shots are not going to be required of visitors. There are requirements from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that apply to staff for vaccination and boosters or an accommodation. There is a March deadline for that. Medical terminology can be confusing. The term “fully vaccinated” should be defined so it is understood by all whether it includes boosters or just the initial vaccination.

There needs to be standardization of proof of vaccination at the facilities for visiting. Can it be a copy or laminated, or must it be the original card? Depending on where you were vaccinated, the proof can be a different looking document. This will be addressed internally at HQ and information on acceptance will be sent to the facilities for consistency.

There have been approximately 14,000 new COVID cases in the population since Christmas with about 7,600 in the last two weeks. Today’s number is about 6,400 impacting all the institutions.

The isolation and quarantine times have been changed based on data from CDPH. The goal is to not keep anyone in these categories any longer than necessary. Quarantine and isolation now have ten-day limits with a negative test on the tenth day. Any person that tests positive is to be sent to a designated isolation housing unit. Those not testing positive but exposed to someone who has tested positive should be quarantined. If they are in an area where air is not being shared such as a cell the quarantine period applies to the individual, but if air is shared in the area it applies to that area or building. This leads to an extension of the quarantine period. 

There have been ten hospitalizations and at this time no deaths reported to be COVID related. 

Staff testing is directed by an order of the CDPH for employees that are not vaccinated. This will soon apply to those not vaccinated and boosted. Testing is mandated once a week but has been done more frequently. The conversation is continuing within CDCR and the other health agencies concerning the future of testing for both staff and the population: at what point will the testing be limited or unnecessary because of the way Covid has mutated?  The continued and frequent testing keeps the population in seemingly constant quarantine when it appears that COVID may be becoming endemic rather than pandemic. 

There is no timeline for resumption of regular programming and visitation. At the time in-person visiting is resumed there will be further direction regarding the amount of contact allowed. 

There was a request for an explanation concerning the variance in the amount of contact an in-person visit and a Family Visit. Per clinical guidance, an overnight Family Visit is to be treated the same as an overnight hospital visit and requires quarantine upon return to the housing unit. It has not been verified if all facilities are following this recommendation.

The question was asked if the new lower isolation/quarantine periods would also reduce the amount of time it takes to move from Phase I to Phase II to Phase III. This was not known and will be considered. 

Delays in visitor processing continue to be a problem leading to a shortened visiting time. The expectation of timely processing will be addressed in the regular Warden phone calls.

Vendor problems were reported and are being researched for additional options and solutions.

The switch to three regions for VSA appointments has increased the number of visitors able to access the system. Most of the appointments are still made in the first fifteen minutes of appoints being open.

No-shows are not tracked through VSA but through SOMS at the facility level. The availability of those reports will be researched. 

The problem of VSA appointments being cancelled after a Family Visit at Mule Creek is believed to have finally been resolved after several programming changes. It has not been tested because of the modified program but should not be a continuing problem when Family Visiting resumes.

Memos and directives are sent out by multiple departments and agencies. Memos are posted on the CDCR COVID update site and on the visiting page. They are also distributed to stakeholder groups including SIFC. It is a constant challenge to keep up with the ever-changing information and what is posted on social media. 

The new appeals process includes both what most people refer to as 602s and staff complaints. The emergency regulations regarding the appeal and grievance process went into effect June 2020. 

Complaints at the institutional level are ‘grievances’. If the answer is not accepted, it becomes an ‘appeal’ and is referred to Office of Appeals. It is a two-level process. That regulation became permanent in January 2022 and were accompanied by additional emergency regulations issued for the staff misconduct process. These are parallel processes.

About 80% of the complaints/appeals received are resolved at the first and second level because they involve policy and procedure complaints, not staff misconduct. 

About 20% report alleged staff misconduct.  Because it was complicated to process these complaints under a single system, staff misconduct complaints are now identified and moved to be processed under the second regulations, the staff misconduct process. There may be a referral to an investigator or to Internal Affairs. After investigation a decision is made if the allegation was sustained. 

Both types of complaints are submitted on a Form 602-1. This is screened and assigned a Grievance Log number. If it is determined that it is a staff misconduct complaint, the grievant is notified that it is being moved to the other system and issued an additional Staff Misconduct Log Number that will track it the rest of the way.

Complaints are accepted and processed on any version of the Form 602 and even on a plain piece of paper. Facilities had been provided with the new versions of the 602s dated 2018 and directed to begin using them after using up the old versions. After approximately nine months, facilities were directed to quit using older versions of the forms and only provide the new forms. The newest version of the Form 602 was issued in January 2022. The pamphlet that describes the new process was also made available and can be reordered from PIA.

A new team, the Centralized Screening Team, was also created to assist in the uniformity of reviewing grievances and provide consistency. 

It was reported that when tablets were initially rolled out to the first institutions, there were no fees to deposit funds to the Family and Friends account. There was a way to deposit funds to a specific person for them to download programs that had a cost. Mule Creek SP recently deployed the tablets. Families have stated that they were able to deposit funds at no cost when they set up their account before the deployment and the individual deposit option showed both on the site and the app but was not functional. Now to deposit funds, only the Family and Friends account is available. There are substantial fees to make a deposit (up to 33% depending on the deposit amount). The button to deposit to an individual has been removed. Customer service for ConnectNetwork and GTL GettingOut both say that funds now must be deposited to the Inmate Trust Account, and they must transfer it to another ‘tablet account’. This would impact those who have restitution if restitution is being levied on these tablet deposits.

When the kiosks were installed in the dayrooms the population was able to send free messages from them. The charge to respond was 25¢. Families complained to GTL the cost was supposed to only be 5¢ and some were refunded the overcharges. GTL corrected the charge this week saying the change was made at the request of the institution and they would not issue any further credits.

The staff member who was to answer these questions was not available for this meeting. The answers will be researched. The updated rollout schedule will be provided.

The Standardized Procedures Unit oversees quarterly package vendors. Vendors are not selected. Any business may apply to do business and provide services to CDCR. There is an annual application period. They must meet certain requirements including security and meeting pricing standards of Fair Market Value which is based on three large metropolitan areas. They must also show that they can handle the volume of business generated. 

There is a process to address concerns relayed to them about the vendors. It is a progressive disciplinary process for not being in compliance. If the violations continue, vendors can be removed.

Union Supply was brought to their attention in early 2021 regarding not being able to fulfill orders. This was found to be a supply chain problem. They were sending all products that they had in stock and refunding customers for the items not in stock. This was about one million dollars in refunds. The recent complaints have been regarding customer service. Customers are not able to speak to a company representative. They have also been substituting products without consulting the families or shipping the packages without items. Their online order site often says they have a product in stock when they do not. If it is a needed item, the recipient must then wait until the next quarter to try to reorder often imposing a hardship.

The Department Operations Manual specifies that vendors may not substitute products: they must fulfill or refund. CDCR does not assume any liability for packages but liaison with R&R units at the facilities and the supplier to resolve issues when they receive notice of problems.

All vendors are challenged with the same price hikes, supply and labor shortages effecting businesses providing items to the community. Many of the smaller vendors went out of business during the shutdowns further limiting competition.

Arts and craft supplies ordered as a special purchase are done through the institution. Each institution may have its own list of approved items and vendors.

There was a recent memo stating that there would not be an additional package in 2022. Even though the situation seems to be the same with the modified programs and curtailed programming, this seems to be more of a “normal’. There is now the addition of staff shortages which affects the ability to distribute the additional packages. First Quarter packages are still waiting to be distributed in some facilities.

An additional package was discussed by DAI, but at this time, will not be made an option. There is a possibility it may be reconsidered in the future.

Canteen inventory has been low with little available to Third Draw. Canteen has also been impacted by supply chain, pricing and staffing issues.

The pandemic and mandates restricting schools and other similar entities that provide food services to their clients are directly affected by the availability of supplies that CDCR has been able to obtain. During the restrictions, there was less competition for those items and CDCR had no problem getting the necessary supplies. With the resumption of in-person attendance at schools and universities, the competition for those supplies has increased which has also driven the prices up. In addition, staffing shortages affected the distribution of meals in the facilities. 

Changes had to be made in the serving processes for those institutions with large numbers in quarantine or isolation. In facilities without cell feeding, chow halls were closed due to this, and meals had to be distributed to the buildings. Because of the layout of the prisons, food services are often centralized, and this entailed the need for more staff and changing the entire delivery process. 

The three main sources for food products are Prison Industries Authority, Department of General Services (creates provider contracts) and by delegation. Shipping costs, particularly on products coming from outside the country, have increased exponentially, sometimes as much as 500%. This not only impacts the cost of food products, but ancillary products used in the food industry such as cans for packaging food produced here. There is a domino effect as conglomerates who control a large portion of food production and processing supplies/equipment increase their prices.

No matter what the market cost is, the nutritional standards are being met daily. This often requires the substitution of items within the meal on a temporary basis. This is decided on availability and in conference with healthcare to exchange proteins and meet the caloric intake. Modifications to meals must be approved at multiple levels and are always temporary. Under emergency situations (defined in Title 15), the facility can serve two cold meals and one hot meal. The hot meal must be either breakfast or dinner, but it is generally easier to modify the contents and protein source in the breakfast meal. 

Every facility on a modified feeding program must report daily. This is monitored all the way up to the Director. The daily amount allotted per incarcerated adult is $3.67. The daily calories for an adult male are 2,400 and for an adult female 2,000.

The next meeting will be in April with the date to be verified.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 P.M.