SIFC Quarterly Meeting Minutes – August 2023

August 4, 2023, 1 p.m.

SIFC members in attendance: Beth Hall, Allison Walters, Clara Garcia, Cindy Jackson, Linda Finney and Staci Phillips.
Meeting was brought to order by Deputy Director Jared Lozano. Noted FOPS attendees: Associate Director Jennifer Benevidez, Associate Warden Dan Ross, Captain (A) Carlos Santos, Correctional Counselor II Michael MaGee, and Lieutenant Theresa Ross.

California Health Care Facility (CHCF) Water Concerns

Water containing Legionella bacteria is still being reported. Out of an abundance of caution, 64 incarcerated people have been moved out of high-risk areas. The situation is being monitored closely and medical staff is on site if needed. Currently no one is sick. More cleaning is being done and more hyper chlorination is to follow. Currently water is still being distributed by the gallon to all people on site, incarcerated and staff.

Eyeglass Purchases

Currently only $100 max is approved for loved ones to purchase third party prescription glasses. Glasses must be mailed directly from a vendor. Incarcerated persons will send their eye prescription to a loved one to place the order and instruct the vendor to mail glasses directly into the institution. Samples of vendors are Costco, Zenni, and Lens Crafters. A Google search provides several options. SIFC shared concerns that it is highly improbable to get glasses under the $100 limit, especially when the prescription might include bifocals, trifocals and lens protection, etc. CDCR said the cost limit reflects the cost for glasses from PIA. CDCR wants to limit expensive designer glasses, but they will consider a higher amount that would cover such prescriptions as bi and trifocals. Incarcerated people can still get their glasses from PIA. Non-prescription sunglasses are now available for free through canteen.

Lung Cancer Screening Campaign

There is a campaign that will encourage incarcerated people to be screened for lung cancer. There were 13 incarcerated people that died in 2021 due to lung cancer. Unfortunately, lung cancer has little warning signs and grows secretly often with no signs. To catch the deadly disease earlier, CDCR will be putting out a questionnaire asking qualifying questions of persons over 50 that have smoked for more than 20 years. Signs can be unexplained weight loss and coughing up blood. Flyers will be posted and local IFC’s will be notified when the program commences.

Medical Staff

Dr. Bick said there is an overall medical staff shortage of about 30% due to labor issues. They are looking to hire and are holding hiring events. Dr. Bick reported that they are also looking for ways to work smarter and eliminate unnecessary workload.

DAI Special Projects- Controlled Substances Contraband Interdiction/ OIG Report

SIFC asked what CDCR is doing to address the concerns and recommendations presented in the OIG REPORT/Audit of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Controlled Substances Contraband Interdiction Efforts, released in January 2023. CDCR does admit that contraband is an endless ongoing task and both visitors and staff bring in contraband. They are working with the Wardens on conducting better searches. Urine drug tests are performed on certain workers, upon some rules violations and when there is reasonable suspicion.

It was reported that during COVID there was a 700% increase of drug findings through the mailroom. Drug dropping drones have also been reported. It was stated that there is a need for increased and better training and accountability. Requests for more funds will be needed to accomplish the tasks to fight contraband such as adding drug dogs, and electronic drug detection equipment.

Food Service Administration

Substitution of Food Items

SIFC inquired about food substitutions and asked why beans are served so often.
Mr. Eshelman said beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron etc. but they should not be served twice in one meal unless it is beans and string-beans. SIFC stated that not only do the meals have beans in the meal, but another item is often substituted with beans, so a tray can sometimes have two different servings of beans. Mr. Eshelman said there is a list of approved substitution items the kitchen may use to substitute. Concerns were shared that yes beans are good for a person, but often in excess the elderly cannot tolerate them. Medical reasons such as kidney problems and having a system that does not digest beans in such quantities is a concern. SIFC also asked if Food Services works with medical staff to create dietary menus for the aging population. Mr. Eshelman said they do and thanked us for the input, and he will take the suggestions back for consideration.

Quality of Food

SIFC asked who oversees the food that is provided by PIA because of repeated complaints of stale and moldy bread. Lance Eshelman said he meets with the head of PIA once a month. Mr. Eshelman knows of this issue and said the location of the prison can sometimes contribute to this problem. Coastal moisture and weather changes such as heat can also cause additional problems. PIA keeps the bread in room temperature areas. If the incarcerated person has stale or moldy bread, they should return it and ask for another sandwich. PIA welcomes the feedback.

Enterprise Information Services (EIS)

ViaPath Contract

The emergency contract is in place for one year with three 6-month extensions if needed. The new contract will require more guarantees and include improvements that CDCR is now aware are necessary. It will not be easy finding a replacement vendor due to how large the responsibility is.

ARCAID update

With the current contract situation, no more new programs will be added to the tablets and ARCAID will only be available to the incarcerated population through the Law Library and on education laptops.

Tablet accessories

Tablets are received with a screen protector. Earphones with microphones will be available in catalogs next year.

ViaPath staff

There are staffing issues that are being addressed. It is difficult to find enough qualified people to have two staff at each prison. GTL/ViaPath is realizing that they need more staff due to the volume of responsibilities.

Other tablet concerns

There are a lot of complaints about dropped calls, printing issues, pending texts and pictures, personal accounts not showing, or funds being lost and then reappearing hours or a day later, movies not being changed, and music not being added. These are ongoing problems that ViaPath is working on.

SIFC asked whose responsibility is it to set the time for phone calls at each prison. It was explained that each prison informs ViaPath of the allowable phone times for their facilities. SIFC asked if ViaPath could come to our next meeting and give us a demonstration and talk with us. Video visits have no notifications, people need to be on the app watching the video link for when it happens. SIFC asked for a demonstration when they come. CDCR requests ViaPath for weekly reports to better identify errors reported to them.

Damaged tablets and kiosk requests

If something happens to the tablet and it needs to be replaced, CDCR and ViaPath decide who is responsible. If the damage was caused by the incarcerated person, he or she will have to pay $299 for the replacement. There are many complaints that kiosk requests for help are not being addressed. ViaPath says to keep submitting the complaints and they will be addressed. ViaPath is to start providing CDCR with a weekly report of unanswered requests, needed tablets, repairs and site representatives’ schedules. This will be very helpful to the institutions and population as well.


Tablets are prison specific, so if someone is transferred, they will get a new tablet AFTER submitting a request at the kiosk at the new institution.