Sunday, March 25, 2007

CDCR Kicks Off First-Ever Chowchilla Family Express to Bus Children to Visit Incarcerated Mothers

New Gender-Responsive Strategies Program Provides Free Transportation to Help Better Unite Inmate Families

CHOWCHILLA - The first busloads from the Chowchilla Family Express arrived at the women's prisons here today, carrying children and family members of inmates, as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began a new program to help female inmates and their families remain connected during incarceration.

Funded by CDCR and Women and Criminal Justice with an $400,000 annual budget, the new bus program will bring children to their parents housed in Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) and Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) from various parts of California every Sunday. The program is in recognition of how valuable family reunification is to the welfare of children and the eventual post-prison success of inmates. The program will send an average of six buses each month from northern and southern California, and is currently scheduled through September 2007.

"We are excited about the Chowchilla Family Express because it provides yet another rehabilitative option for so many women offenders," said CDCR Associate Director, Female Offender Programs and Services, Wendy Still, who noted that the majority of those inmates are mothers. "This bus program provides unique opportunities for female offenders to reunite with their children, who are in most cases hundreds of miles away. We remain committed to extending our responsibility for female offenders beyond their incarceration to improve their chances of success when they return to their communities."

More than half of the women in state prisons never see their children during their incarceration. Some of the children traveling in today's event or future events have not seen their mothers in more than a year. National Institute of Corrections research shows that children who have regular parent visits demonstrate better emotional and social adjustment as well as a lower degree of juvenile delinquency. In addition, their parents demonstrate lower rates of recidivism and of higher rates of family reunification when they are released. An important part a female offender's rehabilitation is building and strengthening systems of family support and family involvement while she is in prison. Their support can enhance their eventual return and success in their community.

Planning for the new bus service began nearly two years ago, following the success of the Get on the Bus program jointly sponsored by CDCR and the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. That program began in 1998 but only operated on Mother's Day and Father's Day weekends. The Chowchilla Family Express expands that program.

"Visitation programs are a cost-effective crime prevention tool," said Eric DeBode, Executive Director for the Chowchilla Family Express. "By helping to maintain family bonds, the Chowchilla Family Express will help parents and children stay together and hopefully reduce the likelihood of people re-offending-and that's good for everyone."

The actual work for families and their children begins several months in advance of their trip. Trained volunteers meet with families to process the paperwork needed for prison visits. On the day of the trip, families and volunteers meet buses at various locations to travel to Chowchilla. The trip is usually a long one, and children are served breakfast, and given a bag of age-appropriate activities suitable for travel. When they arrive at the prison, they will spend several hours visiting, sharing a meal, and having a family photograph taken. This photograph often becomes one of the most treasured remembrances of the day for the mother and her children.

"This is a blessing because so many of the women have been estranged from their families for so long," wrote inmates involved in the Women's Advisory Council at Central California Women's Facility. "To reunite with your loved ones is a blessing."

Participating in today's event were Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who worked closely with CDCR and the Archdiocese to ensure funding; Wendy Still, Associate Director of CDCR Female Offender Programs and Services; Sister Suzanne Jabro, Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Eric DeBode, Executive Director of the Chowchilla Family Express; VSPW Warden (A) Tina Hornbeak; and CCWF Chief Deputy Warden Mary Lattimore.

Background: As part of its comprehensive female offender reform efforts, the CDCR created a strategic plan in 2006 to improve outcomes for female offenders. It implemented gender-appropriate operational practices, programming, medical, mental health and dental care, and "wrap-around" treatment programs and services. CDCR, using previously cited research, found that female offenders differ from their male counterparts in a variety of ways. For example, a female offender is likely to have been the primary caretaker of young children at the time of her arrest, to have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, and have distinct physical and mental health needs.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

CDCR Secretary Tilton Tours Centinela State Prison to View Overcrowding, Highlight the Need for Reform

CENTINELA - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary James E. Tilton toured Centinela State Prison, today with Warden Victor Almager to view the impacts of overcrowding, and highlight the urgent need for comprehensive prison reform.

"California's prison system is in the midst of a severe overcrowding crisis. Concrete steps must be taken immediately to fix the situation and protect public safety," said Secretary Tilton. "Centinela State Prison is experiencing many of the same problems as the prison system as a whole. California has nearly 17,000 inmates out of 171,000 living on double- and triple-bunks in gymnasiums, dayrooms, and other spaces not intended for housing."

Centinela State Prison currently houses 4,949 inmates, with nearly 120 inmates living in temporary emergency beds in dayrooms, gymnasiums and classrooms designed for rehabilitative activities. An additional 440 emergency beds are expected to be activated in the near future.

"This severe overcrowding places inmates and prison staff at risk. When inmates are spending the majority of their day in a cell or on a bunk, it increases tension inside the institution that can lead to violence," said Secretary Tilton. "By relieving overcrowding, we will give wardens tools to provide programming to those inmates who could benefit from them the most. We will also give them increased flexibility to better deal with those inmates who are causing the most problems."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a comprehensive prison reform proposal that will help to strengthen public safety by building and modernizing correctional facilities, reforming California's parole and sentencing structures, and placing a renewed focus on reducing recidivism through rehabilitation programs.

These proposals are designed to relieve overcrowding without prematurely releasing offenders by adding 78,000 beds in state prisons and local jails. It will also provide the space needed for education, rehabilitative programs, and medical, dental and mental health care. This comprehensive package will address California's high recidivism rates by funding programs to help offenders with drug treatment, job training and housing assistance.

The Governor's proposal also devotes $1.6 billion to build secure reentry facilities in local communities to help inmates successfully transition back into society.

Upgrades and expansions at Centinela State Prison are part of the prison reform proposals. Approximately $86.9 million is being proposed for construction, to add low- and medium-security beds (Level I and II) to the prison, which currently is a Level III facility. The proposal would add 590 beds, 400 of which would be dorm style, consistent with low security inmate use, as well as other associated construction on the site. The new beds will help eliminate the prison's use of temporary, emergency housing.

The Governor's budget proposal also includes approximately $472,000 in mitigation funding, to be split between the county, local cities, and local schools. An additional $21.3 million in infrastructure upgrades are also being proposed for water conservation equipment, expansion of the water treatment facility, storm drainage, and electrical work.

"Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a comprehensive prison reform package that provides much needed space in our prisons for programs that will better equip inmates for a crime-free life after their incarceration. Local communities, law enforcement, and elected officials must all be engaged as part of the solution to the problems facing California due to crime, and jail and prison overcrowding," said Secretary Tilton. "The Governor's urgently-needed prison reforms are expected to be acted on as part of the state budget, which will be voted on by this summer. With courts threatening to take over the prison system and considering forcing the early release of inmates, lawmakers must take immediate action to ensure that inmates are not set free before they have served their time."

View More on Governor Schwarzenegger's Comprehensive Reform Proposal at: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/PrisonReform.html

Monday, March 19, 2007

California Summit for Safe Communities Convenes to Discuss Solutions for Housing for Sex Offenders

SACRAMENTO - More than 350 state and local officials participated in the first-ever California Summit for Safe Communities today to discuss the challenges that communities face regarding the release and placement of High Risk Sex Offenders (HRSO) and Sexually Violent Predators (SVP). The summit was convened as a recommendation of the High Risk Sex Offender and Sexually Violent Predator Task Force, formed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 to resolve conflicts in finding suitable housing for sex offenders on parole. It was one of a number of recommendations toward developing a statewide system to improve policies related to the placement, supervision and monitoring of high risk sex offenders in local communities to enhance public safety.

The partners organizing the summit include the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Health & Human Services Agency, Assembly Member Todd Spitzer's Office, the California Apartment Association, and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Participants include representatives from cities and counties, local law enforcement, state agencies, mental health, social services, prevention services, and victims' organizations. The summit provides an opportunity for these various constituencies to discuss issues and specific concerns about placement of sex offenders in communities, and to develop collaborative solutions regarding HRSO and SVP community reentry.

Governor Schwarzenegger was the luncheon speaker at today's summit. The event also included presentations and panel discussions on issues such as:

  • Notification of sex offender placement, processes for placement and importance of placement;
  • Victim interaction with re-entry of offenders;
  • HRSO Task Force history, and the status of task force recommendations;
  • Sex offender management while on parole;
  • The private housing market and the relation to housing sex offenders; and,
  • Practices for ensuring effective notification and release.
"In order to better protect the public from sex offenders who are released after serving their prison sentences it is crucial that local community officials and law enforcement leaders are engaged in decisions about where they will live," said Jim Tilton, CDCR Secretary. "There are laws and policies in place that require sex offenders to return to their home communities when they are released. This summit is one more step in building a partnership that will help to ensure these offenders are placed and monitored in a coordinated manner so that they pose the least threat possible to public safety."

CDCR supervises approximately 10,000 parolees from state prison who are sex offenders, of which about 3,200 have been designated high risk. However, those 10,000 parolees represent only approximately ten percent of the sex offenders registered in the state. In addition to parolees from prison, sex offenders also re-enter the community through county probation and jail systems.

The summit was intended to educate the attendees on this population, build collaboration between state and local governments, develop alternative methods of identifying appropriate housing for sex offenders, and develop procedures that would incorporate opinions of local law enforcement. Sex offenders pose unique public safety problems, and are consequently subject to limitations and restrictions on where they can live, including the recently enacted Proposition 83, commonly known as Jessica's Law. Under its provisions, sex offenders are prohibited from living near schools, parks and other locations where children congregate. The summit provided an opportunity for interested parties to discuss successful strategies and challenges for implementing this and other new laws.

"Sex offenders are rightfully under the biggest microscope and on the shortest leash of any group of parolees," said Secretary Tilton. "Finding suitable housing for sex offenders will allow law enforcement to better monitor and supervise all sex offenders even after their parole term has ended."

The HRSO Summit was one of a number of recommendations made by the taskforce that CDCR has already put into practice. Others include:
  • Clinical evaluation of sex offenders within six months of scheduled completion of their sentences to identify those considered to pose a higher than normal risk to public safety;
  • Advance notice to local law enforcement before a sex offender is placed in an area under parole;
  • Use of the four-way "containment model" to supervise and restrict sex offenders on parole. That model includes strict supervision by parole agents, the use of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems to monitor the movements of sex offenders, mandatory therapy and the use of polygraph testing during personal visits by parole agents; and,
  • Creation of a Sex Offender Management Board, comprised of sheriff, police, district attorneys and other experts, to guide CDCR's policies regarding high risk sex offenders.
View more information on the summit, the Governor's HRSO Task Force, and other sex offender management resources at: http://www.gov.ca.gov/.

More High Risk Sex Offender Resources

Friday, March 9, 2007

Governor's "Reducing Recidivism Strategies Initiative" Funds Los Angeles Re-entry Program

New CDCR Grants to Assist Parolees to Reintegrate Back into Society

LOS ANGELES - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced today that it will award the Los Angeles City Community Development Department with a $1.2 million multi-year Intergovernmental Partnership Program Grant to assist the re-entry of parolees into the local community. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger allocated funding for this program in the fiscal year 2006-07 State Budget through his "Reducing Recidivism Strategies Initiative."
"This grant is part of a broader effort by the Governor and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce recidivism by supporting local community efforts that provide parolees with life-skills needed to succeed after incarceration," said Marisela Montes, CDCR Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Programs. "This grant to the City of Los Angeles is of one of 21 awards that the Department will be issuing to local communities to support collaborative and innovative re-entry programs."

The City Community Development Department, in partnership with community and faith-based organizations and the Los Angeles City's Workforce Development System, will be providing intensive discharge planning services including case management, employment, mental health, substance dependence, and transitional housing services. Services are aimed at assisting adult parolees to reintegrate into their communities.

As a pilot demonstration project, the initial focus will be linking ex-offenders, who have been trained in the State's Prison Industry Authority's carpentry pre-apprenticeship program, with employment opportunities in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's South Los Angeles Construction effort. PIA has the pool of trained, potential workers and the City of Los Angeles has employment opportunities through its construction program.

"We would like to expand the use of partnerships with government and community-based organizations and the Prison Industry Authority to help set parolees and ex-offenders on the right track once they are released," said Chuck Pattillo, Assistant General Manager of the Prison Industry Authority. "It is much more cost effective for us to give inmates a skill in prison that will allow them to be tax-paying, productive members of society, than to just send them back on the streets to re-offend and return. I am optimistic that Los Angeles' pilot program using PIA-trained carpenters for city projects might catch on across the state."

As part of his comprehensive prison reform package, Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing a $41.1 million increase in funding this year, from $52.8 to $93.9, for anti- recidivism programs including drug treatment, job training, and housing assistance.

View More on Governor Schwarzenegger's Reform Proposal at:

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/ssFactsNews.html

Marisela Montes, CDCR Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Programs

Friday, March 2, 2007

CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton Tours L.A. County Prison to Highlight the Urgent Need for Reform

Nearly 450 Inmates at CSP-Los Angeles Currently Double- and Triple-Bunked in Gymnasiums and Dayrooms

LANCASTER - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary James E. Tilton toured California State Prison-Los Angeles County today with Warden W.J. Sullivan to highlight the urgent need for comprehensive prison reform.

"California's prison system is in the midst of a severe overcrowding crisis," said Secretary Tilton. "With more than 171,000 inmates, we have been forced to house more than 17,000 inmates on double- and triple-bunks in gymnasiums, dayrooms, and other spaces not intended for housing."

CSP-Los Angeles currently houses 4,305 inmates with nearly 450 inmates living in temporary "emergency" beds in dayrooms, gymnasiums and classrooms. These areas are designed for much needed rehabilitative activities.

"This severe overcrowding places inmates and prison staff at risk, and impacts our ability to provide rehabilitation programs to those who could benefit from them the most," said Secretary Tilton. "The Governor has proposed a comprehensive prison reform package that provides much needed space in our prisons for programs that will better equip inmates for a crime-free life after their incarceration. The causes of our prison overcrowding crisis are complex, and the solutions proposed by the Governor are comprehensive. Lawmakers must take action to ensure that inmates are not prematurely released before they have served their time."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's prison reform proposals helps strengthen public safety by building and modernizing correctional facilities, reforming California's parole and sentencing structures, and putting resources in place to implement Jessica's Law. They also call for placing some low-level inmates and juvenile offenders in county facilities, closer to local support systems and family members.

These proposals are designed to relieve overcrowding and keep the most violent offenders behind bars by adding 78,000 beds in state prisons and local jails. It will also provide the space needed for education, rehabilitative programs, and medical, dental and mental health care. This comprehensive package will address California's high recidivism rates by doubling funding for programs to help offenders with drug treatment, job training and housing assistance.

"Governor Schwarzenegger is advancing urgently-needed prison reforms as part of the state budget, which is expected to be voted on by this summer," said Secretary Tilton. "With courts threatening to take over the prison system and considering forcing the early release of inmates, the time for action is upon us."

View More on Governor Schwarzenegger's Comprehensive Reform Proposal at: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/PrisonReform.html