Monday, August 26, 2013

CDCR’s Responses to Hunger Strikers’ Demands


In May 2011, prior to two hunger strikes that year, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began revising its gang validation and Security Housing Unit (SHU) confinement policies and procedures. This effort resulted in the “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy,” approved and certified by the Office of Administrative Law on October 18, 2012 and filed with the Secretary of State. (http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/stg/)

The Security Threat Group (STG) policy addresses the concerns inmates raised during two hunger strikes in 2011. The STG program provides individual accountability of offenders; is behavior-based; incorporates additional elements of due process to the validation system; and provides a Step-Down Program as an alternative for inmates to demonstrate their willingness to refrain from criminal gang behavior.

Despite policy changes that had already addressed the concerns raised during the two previous hunger strikes, gang leaders initiated a third strike and made 40 additional demands. CDCR has already addressed the 40 additional issues raised by hunger strikers.

CDCR’S response to the five core demands

1. Individual Accountability.
Response: This issue has already been addressed through implementation and adoption of the STG and Step-Down programs.

2. Abolish Debriefing and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria.
Response: This issue is partially non-negotiable and has partially been addressed via the STG program.
The debriefing program will not be abolished. CDCR will always support offenders who want to disavow or disengage from the gang lifestyle. It is rehabilitation. This issue is non-negotiable. However, CDCR has created a Step-Down program that enables an inmate serving an indeterminate SHU term to earn his way back to a general-population yard without dropping out of his gang as long as the inmate refrains from gang behavior.
The criteria for active/inactive gang status as well as the housing location for gang affiliates have been modified by the STG program.

3. End Long-Term Solitary Confinement.
Response: This issue has already been addressed via the STG program. CDCR does not utilize “solitary confinement.” Additionally, the length of an indeterminate SHU assignment is now determined by individual inmate behavior. It is now possible for an indeterminate term to be reduced to 3-4 years. Moreover, STG associates will no longer be placed in a SHU based solely upon their validation.

4. Provide Adequate Food.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. CDCR has always provided food with adequate calories and nutrition to all inmates regardless of housing assignment.  In other words, SHU inmates eat the same food and receive the same portions as other inmates. CDCR’s food menus and portions are based on nutritional guidelines established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Science. CDCR’s Standardized Menu Review Team, made up of food managers and health care managers, meets regularly and addresses inmates’ concerns.

5. Expand and Provide Programming and Privileges for SHU inmates.
Response: This issue has already been addressed via the STG program through which more programming and privileges can be earned. CDCR has:
Approved proctors for college examinations.
Authorized requested clothing items (watch caps, sweat pants).
Authorized requested inmate property (wall calendars, art supplies and hobby items).
Authorized additional photographs for disciplinary free inmates.
Installed exercise equipment, including wheeled ab rollers and pull-up bars in the SHU yards.

Since October 2012, as part of the new STG program, CDCR has been conducting case-by-case reviews of all inmates serving an indeterminate SHU term based on their gang validation. As a result, nearly two-thirds of SHU inmates reviewed have been released to the general population.

Additional incremental privileges and programming are provided as part of the Step Down program.

CDCR’S response to the 40 supplemental demands

Note: CDCR had already addressed or was taking action on these issues before the start of the current hunger strike. For example, CDCR reviewed allowable property items for inmates housed in the SHU and authorized additional allowances in June.

1. Rescind all past Rules Violation Reports (RVR) issued during prior hunger strikes.
Response: CDCR will not rescind past RVRs.

2. Refrain from issuing RVRs during the current hunger strike.
Response: CDCR will adhere to its regulations that allow the issuance of RVRs for inmates participating in disturbances such as this which disrupt the orderly operations of an institution.

3. Refrain from moving hunger strike participants to Administrative Segregation Units (ASU) or removing their property.
Response: CDCR will adhere to its hunger strike policies and procedures to ensure the safety of the institution and contain the mass disturbance, including the re-housing of some participants and the removal of canteen items. This is non-negotiable.

4. Re-open the Facility D Visiting Room in Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Security Housing Unit.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. CDCR has returned the Facility D law library back to being a visiting room and has extended visiting hours.

5. Allow SHU inmates to make one weekly phone call.
Response: Additional phone calls are provided incrementally in the Step-Down Program, which allows SHU inmates one annual phone call in Steps 1 and 2; two in Step 3; and four annual calls in Step 4. Inmates in Step 5 have phone calls in accordance with general population inmates.

6. Allow all SHU/ASU inmates to possess hobby supplies and take an annual photograph without first having to be disciplinary-free.
Response:
In August 2011, CDCR began allowing SHU inmates who remain disciplinary-free to purchase hobby craft items and to take one photo per year to send to their loved ones and family members. These items are privileges and will not be granted if an inmate’s behavior violates rules and regulations.

7. Allow all prisoners to sell or exchange artwork without being disciplined.
Response: This is non-negotiable due to safety and security concerns.

8. Annually restock all of the SHU/ASU libraries using the CDCR budget or Inmate Welfare Fund.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. Recreational libraries have been restocked annually for the past four years.

9. Provide more rehabilitation and educational programs using the CDCR budget or Inmate Welfare Fund.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. In accordance with the “Future of California Corrections Blueprint,” academic teachers and vocational instructors will be added over the next two years.  This is also provided in the Step-Down Program.

10. Revise regulations relating to the limitation on inmate-owned legal materials to provide clarity and direction to staff.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. CDCR issued a clarifying memorandum dated June 5, 2013, regarding the regulations on inmate legal materials.

11. Allow inmates to donate old appliances to other inmates when they purchase a new one.
Response: Due to safety and security concerns, this is non-negotiable.

12. Increase the maximum canteen draw for D-status inmates from $55 a month to $65 a month.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. The Step-Down program allows inmates to increase their canteen draws.

13. Allow SHU and D-status inmates to participate in “charity food drives.”
Response: This issue has already been addressed. The Step-Down program allows inmates in Steps 3 and 4 to donate funds to local charities, pursuant to a memorandum issued June 5, 2013.

14. Allow SHU D-status inmates to possess a clear-cased typewriter.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. CDCR has authorized the possession of this item pursuant to a memorandum dated June 5, 2013.

15. Allow SHU D-status inmates to possess two approved appliances.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. CDCR has authorized the possession of two appliances pursuant to a memorandum dated June 5, 2013.

16. Allow ASU inmates to possess TV/radio appliances regardless of whether their cells have fire sprinklers.
Response: This issue has already been addressed in facilities where the infrastructure supports it. (Not all ASUs have electrical outlets at this time and cannot currently accommodate appliances.) It should also be noted that CDCR does not have a policy requiring fire sprinklers in cells with appliances.

17. Allow all life-term prisoners to have “family overnight visits” and not only those who have debriefed.
Response: CDCR does not have such a policy. State law specifies which inmates are eligible to have family, or overnight, visits. Family visiting is also governed by Penal Code sections 187, 192, and 243.4.

18. Provide better quality mattresses.
Response: The California Prison Industry Authority (CalPIA) provides mattresses in accordance with industry standards.  An independent, certified testing facility tested the mattresses produced and they were found to have met or exceeded the industry standard.

19. Provide boxer shorts with longer inseams (to at least 9”).
Response: CalPIA provides clothing in accordance with industry standards. Its boxer shorts have longer inseams than many other manufacturers’.

20. Allow SHU and ASU inmates to order an additional annual non-food special-purchase package in addition to the one food package currently allowed.
Response: This issue has already been addressed. Inmates in Step 4 of the Step-Down Program are allowed to receive two packages per year.

21. Revise the property matrix to allow SHU and ASU inmates to possess specified food and property items.
Response: This issue has already been partially addressed. CDCR is in the process of revising its property matrix to add additional items.  In the interim, a memorandum dated June 5, 2013, was issued authorizing the purchase and possession of additional items.

22. Refrain from utilizing CalPIA for food products due to poor quality.
Response: CDCR’s menus are based on nutritional guidelines established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Science and CDCR’s Standardized Menu Review Team meets regularly to address inmates’ concerns.

23. Raise food ounce servings by two additional ounces.
Response: CDCR’s food menus and portions comply with the nutritional guidelines established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Academy of Science. Inmates in the SHU receive the same food and portion sizes as other inmates.

24. Allow uncut R-rated movies.
Response: State prison regulations do not allow films with ratings other than “G”, “PG” or “PG-13” for either general inmate viewing or within the classroom.

25. Provide a minimum of 20 “quality entertainment channels” at PBSP.
Response: The number and type of television channels varies depending upon each prison’s geographic location. PBSP already receives 23 channels, more channels than any other state prison.

26. Utilize the Inmate Welfare Fund to purchase the infrastructure to provide the channels described above.
Response: The Inmate Welfare Fund is not authorized to purchase television equipment, digital antenna towers or pay cable television fees. It is fiscally irresponsible to expend more money from CDCR’s budget for this.

27. Install the promised dip and pull-up bars on all SHU and ASU yards.
Response: This issue has already been addressed in the SHU yards, where pull-up bars have been installed. However, ASUs are temporary placements for inmates and CDCR does not anticipate installing permanent fixtures in those yards.

28. Install weightlifting equipment on all general population yards utilizing the CDCR or Inmate Welfare Fund budgets.
Response: In 1994, the California Legislature deemed weightlifting a threat to other inmates, staff and the public and restricted access to weights. (Penal Code 5010) Because of safety and security concerns, CDCR does not intend to install weightlifting equipment on all general population yards.

29. Halt all “arbitrary” contraband watches. Halt the use of PVC tubes as part of contraband watch procedures. Provide inmates placed on contraband watch with the option of first being x-rayed.
Response: The first issue here has already been addressed; PVC tubes are not used as part of contraband watch. Halting contraband surveillance watches is non-negotiable.

30. Immediately remove Dr. Sayre as the Chief Medical Officer at PBSP
Response: This is non-negotiable.

31. Paint all CDCR prison cells that are bare concrete
Response: Painting all prison cells is not fiscally responsible.

32. Fix the flawed ventilation system at PBSP
Response: Temperatures in all inmate housing units are to be maintained between 68 and 90 degrees. PBSP plant operations staff evaluated the PBSP SHU and it is operating within this range.

33. Cut one foot off the bottom of the Lexan/plexiglass cell coverings
Response: Lexan/plexiglass covered cells are necessary as they are routinely used to house inmates who have a propensity for violence against staff or other inmates. CDCR is also subject to an order by the Occupational Safety and Health Board that requires such cells to be covered in such a way that fluids and projectiles cannot be launched.

34. Reduce inmate restitution deductions from 55 percent to 33 percent
Response: Title 15 regulations dictate restitution deductions. CDCR is not willing to undergo the process of amending a Title 15 regulation in order to lower restitution deductions at the expense of crime victims.

35. Order IGI (Institution Gang Investigations) staff to “stop being so extremely petty”
Response: CDCR Institution Gang Investigators are not “extremely petty.” They are focused on investigating criminal behavior and maintaining the safety and security of prisons.

36. Amend the regulations re: Administrative Rules Violations so that no restrictions can be imposed if the hearing is not held within 30 days of issuance and that the charges be dismissed if the hearing is not held within 60 days of issuance
Response: CDCR does not intend to change existing regulatory time frames codified in state law.

37. Amend the regulations re: Serious Rules Violations so that no restrictions can be imposed if the hearing is not held within 60 days of issuance and that the charges be dismissed if the hearing is not held within 90 days of issuance
Response: CDCR does not intend to change existing regulatory time frames codified in state law.

38. Order an independent audit of the IWF covering the preceding five years
Response: The California Department of Finance is statutorily required to conduct biennial audits of the Inmate Welfare Fund pursuant to Penal Code Section 5006.

39. Order that all Associate Wardens (with full and final authority to settle issues) conduct monthly meetings with general population,  SHU, ASU, and Death Row inmate representatives
Response: Institution managers and supervisory staff are mandated to tour each ASU and SHU housing unit on a weekly basis. The Warden has the responsibility to address local issues.

40. During any hunger strike negotiations, that a member of their mediation/litigation team and the press be present.
Response: While CDCR is committed to transparency and is willing to engage in discussions with various stakeholders, it is not efficient to have a member of the press present at every discussion.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 26, 2013
CONTACT: JEFFREY CALLISON
OR TERRY THORNTON
(916) 445-4950