The meeting was brought to order by Deputy Director, Kim Seibel. She thanked SIFC members for their work in maintaining communication between CDCR and families.
Many agenda items specific to visiting were addressed in the morning Visiting Workgroup meeting.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES UPDATE
Dr. Bick, Director, Health Care Services, gave updates on a number of policies and changes regarding medical and COVID-19 issues for visiting. Allowing children under two to visit in person may not change for a bit longer. The Center for Disease Control and the CA Dept. of Public Health have not changed their guidance for infants. It may relax soon if the current levels of transmission in the community remain low.
Unfortunately, positive cases are increasing both inside and out of the prisons. Currently 80% of the population is vaccinated, with the rate for those over 50 years old being 90%. There appears to be a high level of immunity inside the facilities.
Future changes will be made by balancing the necessary restrictions i.e., testing, vaccinations against depriving the population of opportunities to program and interact with family and friends. In the most recent Patient Movement Matrix the quarantining of those moving from prison to prison has been eliminated. This increases the risk of transmission.
Visitors are still required to have either a vaccination card or a negative test to visit. Applied to the population, the PCR tests have been acceptable for 72 hours and the Rapid test results for 24 hours. This has not been applied consistently by the facilities to visitors. This makes it difficult to time a rapid test if you are visiting two days in a row. If possible, for convenience, taking a PCR test is recommended. The testing strategy for visitors may change as they look at the variance between visitor and staff testing and how to best protect the population from infection.
The population is still being tested for various reasons. These include movement, certain jobs, being symptomatic, exposure to someone that was positive, and a certain percent are tested randomly. Continued testing is necessary to make sure an outbreak is not unnoticed when there are no apparent symptoms.
Facilities have been applying different restrictions for how close visitors may sit, if a kiss hello/goodbye is allowed and how photos are taken. Part of this is communication not being received by all facilities or their interpretation of it. A notice was put out recently that stated the institutions that have maximized ventilation (HEPA filters) should now be allowing the maximum occupancy level authorized by the Fire Marshall, unless there are other restrictions, such as custody, to be considered. Masking may still be required.
The staff testing is based on testing 25% each week so that all staff is tested each month.
VISITING SCHEDULING APPLICATION
There continue to be issues with the way new accounts are entered into VSA when families are claiming an account, or a person is being added to the account. ViaPath/GTL is not able to correct these problems and is directing families to call Visiting. Institutions can correct some minor things in SOMS. If not, they will create a ticket and submit it to the team at HQ for resolution. Training on how to search for an existing account and entering visitor info more consistently into the system will be part of the statewide Visiting Training in June. There are over 700,000 visitor accounts in VSA. They will be checking them for accounts that were created for children and duplicate accounts that can be merged.
It was asked if there was a possibility of being able to trade appointment types/days/times within the VSA system. Currently this is not possible, and they are not sure if it would be feasible to change this within the system.
With walk-in visits returning to most facilities visitors do not need to have a VSA account to visit without an appointment, only be an approved visitor. Incarcerated visitors must be vaccinated to receive a walk-in visit. This excludes those that have a medical or religious exemption from a walk-in visit also. It is the responsibility of the visitor to know if the person they want to visit on a walk-in basis has been vaccinated.
VISITOR APPLICATION UPDATES
Visitors are required to update their information if there are changes in name, address, or Law Enforcement contact or not more frequently than every two years. Some facilities have been denying visits while the update is being processed or asking visitors to complete a new, full application sent from the person they are visiting. The correct procedure will be in the Visiting Training so that all institutions are following the regulation properly.
Tablets are rolled out at five institutions: VSP, ISP, MCSP, CVSP and SOL. The next five to have tablets deployed will be CCWF, KVSP, HDSP, CIW and SATF. These were scheduled to be online in mid-June but that may be delayed due to COVID issues and supply problems for some of the electrical components. It is hoped that all five will be functional by July. All dates are subject to change.
The expected rollout schedule will be attached at the end of the minutes.
Installation of the infrastructure necessary to make the tablets functional varies from institution to institution. Many of the electrical systems are very old and do not have the capacity for additional ‘draw’ on the system. Meetings are held weekly with the involved workgroups and stakeholders to find options and solve the issues.
There is no data limit on the GTL tablets as data is not stored on the tablet itself, but in the cloud. This allows all messages, photos, videos to remain accessible. This also allows content that was denied to be reviewed and restored if deemed acceptable after an appeal.
INMATE TRUST ACCOUNTS
CDCR never established limits for deposits to Inmate Trust Accounts (ITA). Any limits to the deposit amount are instituted by the company being used to make the deposit. No deposit is available directly to a GTL tablet account. That money is moved by the population from their ITA to their tablet account for use for those services.
JPay tablets were part of a pilot program for five prisons (the five currently receiving the GTL tablets). Families could deposit directly to those devices. These tablets will be replaced by the ViaPath/GTL tablets. The Title 15 has been changed to reflect there may only be one tablet as part of the property allowance.
Pay LETTER PROGRAM
The contract with JPay ends at the end of June. This will affect the JPay ‘letter program’ that has been in place statewide for families to send messages to their loved ones. A disclaimer letter is being finalized now to notify the population of this change.
CDCR is also asking JPay to communicate with the families that this will be discontinued. JPay has a Terms of Service for Stamp Purchases and Email agreement on their site that states no refunds will be given for any purchased stamps. CDCR is working with their Enterprise Information System and IT teams to resolve this so that families are not stuck with unusable stamps. This will not affect being able to use JPay to deposit funds to your loved one’s account.
There will be no additional quarterly package this year. This is not a decision that is made at the facility level.
The affordability of canteen items was discussed in consideration of increased prices. Of particular concern is the price of water (since at some facilities, the water is not great to drink) but all canteen prices have risen. There are continuing shortages and limits placed on certain items. There are six regions for purchases. Prices for various items are determined by what is charged in that region for buying. Some areas have higher prices than others and cost is based on supply and demand as well as the quantity ordered.
In comparing canteen prices from 2014 to prices in 2022 not all prices have increased. Most have increased 5¢ to 15¢, but some have risen substantially, such as razors by 80¢ and ball caps by $2.90. A half-liter of water can vary in price from 24¢ to 59¢ per bottle wholesale. Retail the price for a 20oz bottle is approximately 80¢. A case of water at that price is about $20. There was a price increase of about 5¢ per bottle from 2014 to 2022.
What is carried in the canteens is an agreement between the Inmate Advisory Council and the Administration. While there are price variances through the state almost 60% of purchases are made through the state acquisitions program allowing bulk buying and leveraging the best prices. The rest of the canteen items are bid at least once annually and awarded to the lowest bidder to try to stay competitive. Each facility has a buyer. The markup on purchases covers the costs of staffing the canteen and equipment replacement.
The spending allowance was increased but wages have not changed for most categories of workers. When the pay has not increased this is a large percentage even for the smaller amounts.
INMATE PAY INCREASE
Inmate pay is set by the Secretary. An increase in pay requires the Department of Finance to initiate a budget change proposal for funding through the general fund. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reviews the proposal and makes suggestions to the Governor’s office. Recent successful proposals for increases include Plant Operations and skilled maintenance positions (Lead increased from 35¢ to 90¢ – labor went from 11¢ to 40¢) and Department of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP) increased the pay for certified Offender Mentors from 85¢ to $2. While this only affects a small segment of the population it shows that there is a process in place and pay increases are possible. It generally requires a year or two for the proposal to work its way through the steps.
NON-DESIGNATED PROGRAMMING FACILITY
The SNY population consists of Level II, III and IV. The last scheduled SNY Level II NDPF conversion will be July 2022 at SATF. Currently, Level IV yards (with the exception of EOP) remain either GP or SNY.
There remains great concern about the movement to NDPF and the information in recent memorandums stating the changes in consideration of varying factors when making housing changes.
The purpose of these changes is to allow everyone equal opportunity to education and rehabilitation programming regardless of their affiliations. This is to accustom everyone to how the ‘real world’ functions; that you do not deny yourself an option based on the fact that someone different from you is exercising that same option. The population cannot choose where they go but do have some input into the process. The total number of transfers being made was not available. Much of the change will be made as transfers from reception centers are placed in facilities they might not have been sent to before, based on their case factors.
If someone chooses to not program, be disruptive or violent, there are disciplinary policies in place to move them to more restrictive housing with less availability of programs. There is no designated facility as all case factors will be considered before transfer.
The meeting was adjourned at 3 p.m. All these topics will be discussed and reviewed in the next few weeks. It is hoped that there will be changes sooner than our next meeting.
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 29, 2022.
Below is the most current tablet rollout schedule: All dates are subject to change.
|CTS Start Date||CTS Go Live Date|
|CTS Start Date||CTS Go Live Date|