Friday, March 23, 2007

Plan to Keep the Honor Yard Program at L.A. Prison Demonstrates CDCR's Commitment to Rehabilitation

Governor's Reforms Will Help Expand Rehabilitation Programs for Inmates Statewide

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will continue the Honor Yard Program at a Southern California prison, where inmates commit to living free from violence and drugs, despite population pressures that threatened its future.

The Honor Yard Program at California State Prison-Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC), created in 2000, is a voluntary program where inmates pledge to follow prison rules and not engage in gang activity, violence, illegal drugs and disruptive behavior. Honor Yard inmates submit to mandatory drug testing and participate in vocational, educational, juvenile diversion, life skills, and other rehabilitative endeavors.

"The principles of inmates taking responsibility for their rehabilitation in Lancaster's Honor Yard Program are ones we'd like to see in every general population unit in the state," said CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton. "Severe overcrowding has hampered our efforts to provide positive activities and rehabilitative programs to inmates who may benefit from them. The environment created by the Honor Yard Program reflects my goals of reducing violence, improving prison and public safety, and reducing recidivism."

The future of the Honor Yard Program became uncertain when last fall, Los Angeles County supervisors cancelled the Department's contract to house up to 1,292 offenders at the Pitchess Detention Facility, creating a critical need for additional Reception Center beds and further exacerbating overcrowding in state prisons. Moreover, the cancelled contract made CSP-LAC the only prison available to house parole violators from Los Angeles County, who must be housed within 50 miles of the county in keeping with a class action lawsuit (Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger). As a result, two facilities at CSP-LAC have already been converted from general population housing to Reception Centers.

Despite the pressures, CDCR is committed to retaining the Honor Yard Program at CSP-LAC.

"When our desperate need for beds put the program in jeopardy, there were many concerns from lawmakers, inmates and their families," said Secretary Tilton. "I was encouraged that so many people expressed their concerns about the value of the Honor Yard and the need to keep it."

The Honor Yard Program at CSP-LAC will remain intact on Facility A and not be relocated to another prison. This also will provide a workforce for the main kitchen, the Prison Industry Authority laundry program, and other work/training assignments that provide valuable rehabilitation opportunities for inmates on the facility.

To accommodate the changing inmate population and to comply with Valdivia court mandates, CDCR will also increase the number of Reception Center beds by converting several housing units on Facility D. A Reception Center processes incoming felons and parole violators returned to custody from local counties. Diagnostic tests, medical and mental health screening, and literary assessments are conducted to determine inmates' institutional placement.

Facility D has a substance abuse treatment program that will allow parole violators with short terms to receive drug treatment and an Enhanced Outpatient program for maximum-security inmates in need of mental health services, to ensure compliance with other court mandates.

"We have nearly 60,000 inmates in our prison system with less than three years to serve on their sentences. It is not a good use of taxpayer money to just warehouse inmates with no meaningful programs, and then send them back on the streets with $200 and a bus ticket," said Secretary Tilton. "It is important to help inmates who will be released into our neighborhoods by giving them the tools to change. I will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature to come up with solutions that will address overcrowding and provide more rehabilitative programs in order to reduce recidivism and improve public safety."

Learn more about Governor Schwarzenegger's comprehensive prison reform package at: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/news/PrisonReform.html