Quarterly Minutes

SIFC Quarterly Meeting Minutes – January 2023


January 27, 2023  1:00 p.m. SIFC members in attendance: Beth Hall, Allison Walters, Kari Arzate, Cindy Jackson, Mary Gonzalez.

Meeting was brought to order by Jared Lozano and facilitated by Dan Ross. Some in attendance: Michael MaGee and Christopher Siino.

Prison closures

CDCR is looking for ways to ensure the incarcerated population retains as many programs and work assignments as possible. CDCR is committed to lessen the impact as much as possible.  Families are concerned about the movement of people.

CDCR is entering budget season and educating stakeholders to come to the best outcome. The process should wrap up around April.

Statewide Chair congratulates Jeff Macomber on his new assignment. Statewide looks forward to working with him and his staff and welcomes the new Statewide members. Chair thanks the assistance from the Ombudsman’s office.

Prior medical and SB1139 discussion can be found in minutes from visiting workshop of same day.


Dr. Bick is excited with the new cancer screening practices now offered to incarcerated people.  Select conditions being screened for are cancer of the liver, colon, cervical, lung, and breast cancer. Dr. Bick can monitor from his office the screening process and follow along Statewide, in any institution, a yard, or even a care team. The quality unit has made significant advances. 

In the equity, adversity, and inclusion initiatives medical is identifying sub-populations such as disabled, aged, women, different ethnic groups, the disadvantaged, etc… to help them do better mentally and physically. Medical is investigating discrepancies to identify and better assist those that need it.

Medical also has Wellness Registry, to stay on top of screenings, testing for valley fever, TB, and vaccinations. The goal is not to find cancer, but to prevent cancer to the best of their ability. The screening tests are hoped to identify prior to symptoms appearing, so to treat sooner.  Prostate is a test that is given on a case-by-case basis.

Covid state of emergency is ending February 1st. All restrictions will be relaxed. Test to program will continue to be offered for a while. Masks will continue in some medical settings and on a volunteer basis. Test to program for family visits is being considered. Prisons will continue to make masks available, including K95’s.

Press release from California Health and Human Services announced California is the first in the Nation to expand Medicare so incarcerated people can begin Medicaid prior to release. This will be a great benefit to the incarcerated person because they can begin Medicare prior to release and will be a huge help to the individual being released.  

Board of Parole Hearings

Jessica Blonien is the Chief counsel at the Board of Parole Hearings. When an incarcerated person is denied parole, he or she is often given requirements to meet that can’t be fulfilled due to the institution not offering or there is no availability to the offered course. Families want to help their loved one accomplish what is needed. Families and incarcerated people are then told the institution can’t verify, items not approved and will not scan in things like correspondence courses or book reports, etc. Families are also told to mail things in but it doesn’t end up in the person’s file. Families want to help and Statewide is asking CDCR and BPH to discuss this to find a way so families can help, and provide a list of acceptable items families can send in. Jessica said BPH is working on this right now. They have started using a decision making framework that is based on risk needs that are supported by science and not gut decisions. BPH is going to start revamping the regulations and is currently putting together a handbook titled All Things Parole. This will cover everything and they are already in the process of developing this. Where and how to submit documents will be covered. This will be available to all stakeholders.  It is recommended families currently mail your documents directly to the board a good 20 to 30 days prior to the hearing. BPH will mail an acknowledgment letter.  The letter will not itemize every item received but will send a letter saying they received your correspondence.  BPH wants incarcerated people to know a book report should not recap the book but rather how it helped him or her in life, how it helped change something; BPH wants the impact it made on the individual. BPH is also going to put videos on what to expect on the tablets, so the incarcerated people have easy access. These videos are from many perspectives such as BPH, attorneys, and formerly incarcerated people.

Administrative Review Process

Division 2 Title 15 sections 2153 and 2154 are most relevant to this.  Section 2153 says 11 months after a parole hearing where someone is denied parole and given a 3-year denial BPH will review the case. Turn around time for this review is somewhere around 3 weeks, the timeframe is not set in concrete and depends on if there are victims involved. If there are victims involved, there is a 30 day window for them to comment. If you have more than a 3-year denial, your risk rating is high, and if you have already filed a petition to advance, you have a new conviction, etc., you are not automatically reviewed. Section 2154 is the screening out individuals who will not be advanced. In Section 2156, gives more guidelines on who is screened out.

The 120 days after a person is found suitable is used for: the first 30 days the hearing is being transcribed and BPH is waiting to receive the transcripts, next the investigators at BPH go into the transcripts and look for the parole plans the incarcerated person talked about, they will use those plans as a basis to create the plans that will be ordered. Example: if the person says he wants to go to Francisco Home in LA, the investigator writes that down as choice #1. If there are more plans they are also written down as choice #2 etc. The investigator fills out a form and sends his findings to the Division of Adult Parole Operations. DAPO will then go through the plans and confirm everything looking for any restrictions, victims with requests not to live close, etc… While this is going on the BPH is also looking for errors of law or error of facts. BPH also looks at the central file.  Once this is finished, and the parole is still a grant, BPH makes it available for the Governor to review. The Governor only has 30 days to review. If the grant is for a murderer, the Governor has an additional 30 days past the 120 day review.

Pell Grants

Sarita Mehtani and Martin Griffin: Yes, Pell grants are coming back in July 2023. It is a very complex system and only available for incarcerated students that already have an AA degree. It is fully transferable and available for those students that want to pursue a BA degree. The college can and will provide assistance filling out the forms with the students. CDCR will not provide assistance with the forms. The college or University’s financial aid department will be handling all the paperwork related to the Pell Grant. Students that are enrolled in correspondence college will need to contact their college on their own to ask for help, they will  not be able to get help with the Pell Grant from either the institution or the colleges that come to the institution. Statewide asked if the college financial aid group that comes to help the students would be willing to run a workshop for any college student to go to, to learn how to fill the forms out. CDCR said they will reach out to the reps and see if they would be willing to do that.  CDCR’s goal is for all incarcerated students to obtain a college degree without charge.

There are seven programs, (institutions), that initially began, in cohorts of 25 students each semester, for example seven institutions, 25 junior and 25 senior students in each. Fourteen cohorts total and two groups each institution, or 350 total students to start.  Fresno State is at Valley State Prison and CCWF, Cal State LA is at Lancaster, and CIW, Sac State is at Folsom State Prison and Mule Creek, and UC Irvine is at Donovan.  There is work being done to also include  San Diego State to start a program at Calipatria, it takes a long time. CDCR is also hoping to include Humboldt State working with Pelican Bay. All the students have laptops. They access a secure network to work on and submit assignments through Canvas. They are looking to roll out many more laptops, possibly upwards to 5000 this summer, this will include high school and GED students.  There are over 300 courses on Canvas which include PowerPoints, video clips, and all their materials.

Twelve percent of California’s prison population is in college. Statewide asked why incarcerated students are required to get their GED first before taking jr. college classes, when a person outside does not. CDCR wants to have students using these programs to be serious about going to college and they are limited on space.


Melanie Bruns/Laurel from GTL/ViaPath:  Statewide first wanted to thank CDCR for the free phone calls, as it has helped many families with finances and having calls from their loved ones. Second, it is reported that families have many different complaints, such as having their account closed after they received their refund, no contact with their loved one, some people are afraid to ask for their money back because they think their account will be closed. GTL/ViaPath states they are not aware that there is any problem. They want more specific examples so they can look into the reported issues on a one on one case. They did say that they heard of something just that morning and it had already been fixed.

Concerning emails and pictures from families to loved ones that do not have tablets and these emails and pictures are then printed out in the mailroom and given to the incarcerated. The first issue is it is very difficult to set up an account, some people cannot find the institution their loved one is in and only through trial and error and help from friends, they manage to set up an account. The second issue is some institutions won’t print out the emails or pictures because there are no supplies to do so, or they just refuse to. Third issue, it is extremely hard to get ahold of anyone at GTL/ViaPath, and once they get through, you’re on extremely long holds and people are not courteous. GTL/ViaPath responded that they were aware of the first issue, but it has been resolved 100% as of January 3rd. There should be no problem with finding your loved one’s institution now. The second issue of printing emails and pictures was a problem, GTL/ViaPath couldn’t get enough ink or paper to the institutions in large enough quantities, especially the ink, however, since December they were able to get the quantities needed and institutions have supplies now. Some of the institutions have caught up with the back log of things to print and all the institutions should be caught up by the first week of February. The workload did impact the staff at the institutions. The third issue of customer service will be addressed. GTL/ViaPath was not aware of that and will address it.

 Some incarcerated people were charged 25 cents instead of 5 cents for items printed. GTL/ViaPath was able to refund those accounts without it being reduced by restitution. This was done in October and there are a few additional instances that came up they are taking care of as well. GTL/ViaPath said they also found some friends and family were also overcharged and these too have been reversed. Lastly, if prints are still in queue at an institution, they will not be refunded because they will be printed. 

Question concerning when the tablets are first given out, are there instructions on how to use them? GTL/ViaPath said everyone should be able to watch a training video on the DRP channel 1 to 2 months prior to receiving the tablets. When GTL/ViaPath is at the institution handing out tablets, they give the population a high level of instruction and point them to where they can watch more training videos on their tablets which are the help applications on the free part of the tablet.

Some friends and family cannot make appointments after claiming their account on VSA, it says there are internet problems to come back later. GTL/ViaPath said they were just made aware of this and have submitted a ticket to address this.

When will the remainder of tablets roll out? The updated calendar is currently being worked on.

Donations and DocuSign

Do all donations need to go through the DocuSign process? What is the turnaround time expectation when there must be signatures from headquarters?  Yes, every donation needs to go through the DocuSign process. There is no real turnaround time, however, it should be between 1 – 3 weeks depending on the type of donation.

Policy regarding IFC raising money

Is there a policy or any legal issues to raise money? Yes, the by-laws say it is not allowed.

Question: Can one of the institutions’ food sales be used for instead of raising funds for things like holiday decorations or treats, etc? No, all food sales profits must go to charitable organizations.

What can IFC do to have funds for events like holidays? CDCR does recommend local IFCs reach out to their Warden and CRM to find ways to accomplish what we need, want, and should do.  CDCR will also investigate what can possibly be done.

Population Management Unit

Nicole Danbacher: NDPF update, PMU continues to look at incarcerated population numbers, available beds in consideration of planned closures and deactivations.  They are also considering all the factors such as medical needs, ADA, program, and more.

Many families are concerned with the Bulldogs movement. If they want to go to NDPF, CDCR does not want to hinder anyone that wants to better themselves, and if they chose to go to a NDPF, they will try and make that happen, however, if the person says they won’t program or cause an issue, they will not be moved there. CDCR will not force anyone to go to a place they do not want to go to.

Why would CDCR send any incarcerated person to an institution that is planned to close? CDCR tries not to, but it can happen if they are waiting on a different place such as a temporary move. CDCR wants to limit the movement of incarcerated individuals.

Policies and Standardization Unit

Mark Tillotson: Update on policy regarding books and Vitamin supplements.

Concerning books: “No limit shall be placed on special purchase orders, to include books.” 

CDCR has given local institutions instructions and they will have 90 days to comply.  A memo did go out to the institutions. Concerning vitamins: Can only be purchased through the quarterly packages.