Visiting Work Group Minutes

SIFC Visiting Work Group Minutes – April 2022

April 22, 2022  9:00 a.m.

SIFC members in attendance: Beth Hall, Carol Hinds, Allison Walters, Clara Garcia

Meeting was brought to order by Dan Cueva. Dan Ross facilitated the meeting.
Hopefully this will be our last online meeting. It is hoped that we will be back to meeting in person next quarter.

VISITING SCHEDULING APPLICATION

VSA issues continue to be a problem with families unable to claim accounts. Random people are showing up on accounts that are unknown to the families or Loved Ones not showing up on their account. These matters are handled by the visiting staff at the facility internally; ViaPath is unable to resolve the problems. Staff have instructions on how to enter and update the data into SOMS. They will be covered again in the upcoming Statewide Visiting Training. Most of the problems have to do with variations in the way names are entered into system.

Specific examples were given to determine if they were a local issue for facility staff to remedy or if it was something that needed to be brought to the attention of ViaPath. Some of these issues are referred to the HQ person that liaisons with ViaPath for additional info. The team is working to make an instruction sheet to post on the CDCR visiting information page, so families know who to ask for corrections if there is a problem.

There are still two facilities that VSA visiting appointments are canceled when SOMS shows a housing change to Family Visits. This was thought to have been fixed by changing the housing designation before the last COVID-19 closure but reoccurred again as visiting and Family Visiting started back up again. This will be checked and fixed again.

HEPA FILTRATION

There are a few institutions with have power issues that do not allow them to install the number of HEPA filters needed to bring visiting back to full pre-Covid capacity. These facilities may limit the number of visitors allowed to three instead of five, to allow more of the population to have an in-person visit. Those facilities were not named.

PHOTO PROGRAM

Photos should be available at all institutions as long as there are ample equipment/personnel. Some places only have photo ducats sold through the canteen and not available at the processing area. Statewide consistency is being worked on (also part of the training).

MINOR VISITORS

Another issue to be addressed in training will be the acceptance of the Minor Visitation form. Previously the form was on a plain sheet of paper. The new version available on the CDCR site has a box around the notarization portion of the form.  A couple of facilities have rejected the new form as “invalid” and refused visitation to the minor. Both versions contain the exact same information and are acceptable.

There has been no memo on allowing children under two years into Family Visiting. It is stated on the CDCR website that there is no age limitation for those visits. Over the age of two requires a negative test or a vaccination card. The site will be updated to include more specific language.

FAMILY VISITING

There had been questions from families regarding the variations in the time given to Family Visits in different places. The DOM says that Family Visits are 46 hours long, but some facilities have longer times. Every facility has a different demand and capacity for FVs. In places where there are units available and less demand visits are more frequent and, in some places, longer. All facilities have to schedule FVs to meet the 180-day frequency provision.

There is really no way to give priority to families to reschedule Family Visits when they have been cancelled due to shutdowns. Many facilities are putting cancelled visitors back in place at top of the list to rebook.

Recently there have been comments from families regarding FV Coordinators asking for donations of basic health/sanitation items such as dish soap, paper goods, cleaning supplies. Families have also reported that when they bring items for such donations they are split between all the units and not just used for that family.

There should be budgeted funds to supply those items. There is no requirement for families to donate such items, but donations are appreciated.

A memo was distributed that changed how medication would be distributed to the population during Family Visits. It requires them to leave the FV unit and receive their medication at the designated location. This was required to bring distribution within State and Federal standards and electronic record-keeping. More medications are being given to the population as KOP (Keep on Person) and a ‘packet’ can be made up for the FV time period. They are working on limiting the escorts to controlled and injectable medications. There is the ability/right to refuse the medication which is documented by healthcare staff not custody staff.

DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS MANUAL POSTING

Facility Supplemental DOMs should be accessible to the population in the law libraries and sections which affect families/visitors (mail, visiting, Family Visiting) should be available to IFCs and for review in the visiting areas.

There have been and are many changes to policies/rules/regulations making it almost impossible for staff to keep up with all of them that affect families. It is important for IFCs and visitors to know of the changes or ask for the applicable directive being applied especially if it has a negative effect.

VISITING TRAINING

There will be a statewide day of training for all visiting staff. This is a Friday and there will be no visiting on that day. This training should help to bring consistency to visitor processing and the application of Rules and Regulations. Clothing will be addressed with emphasis on colors (there are NO disallowed colors, only combinations) and tightness (including leggings). Additions to this session will include Family Visiting, VSA and Video Visits processes and how to correct VSA account issues. A series of posters demonstrating ‘disallowed items’ is expected to be produced for display in processing areas. Visiting is an important factor in rehabilitation. Strong ties to family and community increase success both inside and after release.

VISITING VENDING

There are four prisons (CCC, HDSP, CTF and SVSP) that currently do not have active vendors. There is either no contract in place or the vendor is not fulfilling the contract. The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) has the first right to give vending contracts in any state or federal building/facility. Covid shutdowns greatly affected vendors who suddenly no longer had business. Facilities without a vendor can get a “third-party contract” but those are subject to cancelation if DOR subsequently contracts with a different vendor.
The lack of vending adversely affects all people in visiting but in particular the elderly and those with health conditions such as diabetes. CDCR is considering alternative ways to provide food in the visiting rooms.
Another vending issue was not using all the current machines in the visiting room because of the lack of outlets/electric capacity now being used by HEPA filters. Most facilities were built to meet the need of very basic electric draws and have no way to easily increase the capacity for additional appliances/machines. The HEPA filters take priority to increase visiting capacity safely.

STATEWIDE INMATE FAMILY COUNCIL

The application process for SIFC is being reviewed and reformatted.

STAFF SHORTAGES

Staff shortages are having a severe effect on facilities statewide. The attrition rate due to retirements, promotions, resignations, etc. is surpassing the recruitment rate for new custody staff. The Academy was closed during part of the pandemic but recently graduated a new class. Not as many candidates are applying to CDCR and many candidates leave the program before completion. They are taking a multi-faceted approach to streamline the recruitment/application process and get more candidates into the academy and staff on the line. Even with the increased effort it is expected that this situation will last for quite a while.
Part of the efforts include consolidating some yards to reduce staff needs such moving Ad-seg to a nearby facility and eliminating MSF yards.

HANDICAP PARKING

There had been problems with several facilities saying that visitors were not permitted to use the Handicap parking spaces closest to the Visitor Processing center as they were in the Staff parking lot. Headquarters will be sending direction to the facilities regarding appropriate use of those parking spaces.

PACKAGES

Union Supply recently discontinued third-party ordering of In-cell Hobbycraft supplies stating it was at the direction of CDCR. The ordering process varies from facility to facility, with some allowing ordering by both families and the population and others only allowing orders by the population through a handicraft coordinator. This will be further researched.

NON-DESIGNATED PROGRAMMING FACILITIES

The subject of NDPF and memos regarding housing changes not considering STGs or affiliations was briefly addressed and will also be an agenda item in the main meeting. Families are concerned about the possibility of negative impact on their loved ones. The families’ concern is that it’s not their choice to be dispersed amongst the population and it may not be successful.
The direction of CDCR is rehabilitation and to get people more access to programs and to rehabilitate themselves. There should be no exclusion from programming based on where you are from or associations. Everyone should have equal access. People are not segregated in the community and the goal is to get the population ready for the community.

Meeting was adjourned at 11 a.m.