Friday, September 25, 2009

Inmate Susan Atkins Dies of Natural Causes

Chowchilla - Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) inmate Susan Denise Atkins, 61, who had been serving a life term for seven counts of first-degree murder, died of natural causes at 11:46 p.m. on Thursday, September 24, 2009 at the prison's skilled nursing facility. She had been on hospice status.

Atkins participated in five murders on August 9, 1969 when she, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian and Charles Watson murdered Abigail Ann Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Earl Parent, Sharon Tate Polanski who was eight months pregnant, and Thomas Jay Sebring. Atkins was also convicted for the August 10, 1969 slayings of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca along with crime partners Charles Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Atkins was also involved in the murder of Gary Hinman on July 25, 1969 along with crime partners Manson, Bruce Davis, Robert Beausoleil and Steven Grogan.

On April 19, 1971, Atkins was sentenced to death by a Los Angeles County jury and received onto California's death row on April 23, 1971 for seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was resentenced to life on December 18, 1972 when in that year, the California Supreme Court found that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the state constitution.

California did not have the life without parole sentence at the time.

California inmates who receive a sentence of life with the possibility of parole are entitled to parole consideration hearings after serving the legally required minimum term. Atkins' minimum eligible parole date was October 6, 1976. Her initial parole consideration hearing was on September 14, 1976 at which time she was denied parole. Between 1976 and September 2, 2009, she had been denied parole a total of 13 times. On July 15, 2008, the Board of Parole Hearings denied a recommendation for recall of commitment (compassionate release) for Atkins.

Atkins had been incarcerated at California Institution for Women for 37 years. She was transferred to a community hospital on March 18, 2008 until her transfer to CCWF on September 24, 2008 for housing in that prison's skilled nursing facility.

At the time of her death, of all women currently incarcerated in California, Atkins had been in prison the longest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CDCR Adult Parole's "Operation Eagle Eye" Identifies Parolees, Sex Offenders at State, Local Fairs to Ensure Compliance


SACRAMENTO - After wrapping up its first successful "Operation Eagle Eye" at the California State Fair and at the Gold Country Fair, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Division of Adult Parole Operations will next focus on identifying sex offenders and parolees at the Tehama County Fair.

The fair runs Sept. 24-27. Operation Eagle Eye was designed to enhance public safety at such large attractions by using existing GPS technology to ensure sex offender parolees were complying with the terms and conditions of their parole. Parole agents from the Sierra GPS Unit monitored the Gold Country Fair in Auburn and Redding GPS agents will monitor the Tehama County Fair.

"We are the nation's leader in using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track sex offenders," said Robert Ambroselli, Director (A), Division of Adult Parole Operations. "Using GPS in this manner is one of the many ways the Parole Division can enhance public safety."

Every sex offender on active parole has GPS monitoring as part of their supervision requirements. Any sex offender parolee who entered the fair zone set off an alarm notifying parole agents of their whereabouts. Once a notification was received, on-site CDCR parole agents tracked an offender's movement and investigated if any law, parole violation or any public safety issue existed. During the various runs of the fairs, CDCR parole agents received numerous zone alerts, which culminated in parolee arrests for violations of special conditions of parole.

"When it comes to the supervision of sex offenders, we cannot and will not compromise public safety," said Marvin Speed, District Parole Administrator. "Operation Eagle Eye was so beneficial to enhancing public safety that we will replicate the operation at other venues."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CDCR Sends Layoff Letters to 1,443 Employees

Follows last week’s announcement to Reduce Rehabilitation Budget

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today sent State Restriction of Appointments (SROA) letters to employees affected by a $250 million budget reduction in adult offender rehabilitation and other programs for inmates and parolees that were announced last week.

This is the first step in the layoff process due to reductions in response to the department’s plan to achieve a $1.2 billion budget reduction.

The rehabilitation program reductions will impact education, vocational, substance abuse, and other programs for inmates and parolees. This reduction represents over a third of the adult programs budget, and leaves approximately $350 million in the adult programs budget.

Overall, program-related reductions are anticipated to eliminate more than 1,000 positions, but because of existing vacancies, the number of actual layoffs is expected to be somewhere between 600 and 900, depending upon final labor negotiations. More SROA letters must be sent than the actual number of anticipated layoffs due to the complexities of the civil service layoff process.

Last week, termination letters were sent to eight contractors who provide substance abuse services inside the state’s prisons. These terminations affect 24 individual contracts.

CDCR is developing a streamlined rehabilitation model that is designed to reach as many offenders as possible with less funding. The department is working on strategies to shorten the length of in-prison substance abuse treatment, utilize long-term offenders as counselors and literacy tutors, develop alternative methods of delivering education, and increase community volunteer activities. The department is committed to attempt to minimize layoffs to the extent possible by reducing vacancies first.

Over the next few months, CDCR will be working with affected labor organizations to implement these changes. Final decisions regarding new program models will be pending those negotiations.

To see last week’s announcement and for more information on program reductions, visit:
http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/2009_Press_Releases/Sept_17_Programs.html

Monday, September 21, 2009

CIM Dedicates Officer Manuel Gonzalez JR. Memorial Highway With Ceremony


SACRAMENTO - The memory of California Institution for Men (CIM) Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez Jr., who died in the line of duty on Jan. 10, 2005, was invoked at a ceremony on Friday at CIM when a portion of a state highway was renamed in his honor.

CDCR Secretary Matt Cate joined CIM Warden (A) Aref Fakhoury, Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-32), and other local elected officials as State Highway Route 71 between State Highway 60 and Central Avenue in San Bernardino County was renamed the Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez Jr. Memorial Highway on Sept. 18. The dedication ceremony was postponed due the Aug. 8-9 riot that involved more than 1,200 inmates and required relocating them to other local adult and juvenile facilities.

"We are grateful to Sen. McLeod and others in the Legislature who stepped up to honor Officer Gonzalez, who will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of his family and his fellow employees," said Cate. "The naming of this highway in his memory will serve as a constant reminder of the dedication of our correctional employees and the dangers they encounter daily."

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod sponsored Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 11 at the request of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The resolution was co-sponsored by former Sen. Bob Margett (R-29) and Asm. Nell Soto (D-61). The resolution read in part: "Whereas, Considered a consummate professional, Officer Gonzalez was a well-respected and reliable employee who went beyond his duties in order to assist other staff members and worked diligently to make prison facilities more safe... therefore, let it be Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature hereby dedicates the portion of State Highway Route 71...as the Correctional Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr., Memorial Highway."

Officer Gonzalez joined the CDCR in 1988, serving the people of California at California State Prison, Corcoran, California State Prison Los Angeles County, and at CIM.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CDCR Reduces Offender Rehabilitation Programs

Headquarters Staff Reduced to Contain Costs and Increase Efficiencies

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is cutting adult offender rehabilitation programs, reducing headquarters staff and creating new efficiencies to save over $280 million in response to the department’s plan to achieve a $1.2 billion budget reduction.

CDCR will cut $250 million in rehabilitation programs for adult offenders, including estimated layoffs of between 600-900 employees. These reductions will impact education, vocational, substance abuse, and other programs for inmates and parolees. This reduction represents over a third of the adult programs budget, and leaves approximately $350 million in the adult programs budget. Spending related to rehabilitation programs at CDCR headquarters also will be cut by almost 70 percent, from over $54 million to approximately $17 million.

In addition to cutting rehabilitation programs, CDCR has reduced its overall headquarters budget by abolishing nearly 400 positions at a savings of approximately $30 million annually. The department has also incorporated new policies to reduce costs related to overtime, office leases and vehicle usage.

Last month, CDCR announced a new staffing model for its Division of Juvenile Justice division that reduces its workforce by 14 percent – or 400 positions – and saves about $30-$40 million annually.

“The new budget reality has forced us to make tough choices as we weigh population reductions, staff layoffs, and a significant cut to our budget,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “We must increase our efficiency and target our limited resources for programs most likely to reduce recidivism and keep our communities and our prisons safe.”

“We will be changing the way we do business to reach as many offenders as possible with less funding,” said Elizabeth Siggins, Acting Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Programs. “We are working on strategies to shorten the length of in-prison substance abuse treatment, utilizing long-term offenders as counselors and literacy tutors, developing alternative methods of delivering education, and increasing volunteer activities.”

Within the next few weeks, pending Department of Personnel Administration approval, CDCR will notify affected employees with State Restriction of Appointments (SROA) letters, which is the first step in the layoff process. Today, termination letters will be sent to eight contractors who provide substance abuse services inside the state’s prisons. These terminations will affect 24 individual contracts. By next month, CDCR will be issuing Invitations for Bids for the remaining in-prison substance abuse programs and working with Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agencies to amend and reduce the aftercare and Female Offender Treatment and Employment Program contracts.

Overall, program-related reductions are anticipated to eliminate more than 1,000 positions, but because of existing vacancies, the number of actual layoffs is expected to be somewhere between 600 and 900, depending upon final negotiations. These include:

  • Reduction of education-related positions, including teachers, librarians, supervisory and support positions, by approximately 30-50 percent, resulting in 600 -800 layoffs;
  • Reduction in substance-abuse related positions by approximately 30-60 percent, resulting in 50-100 layoffs. (These layoffs do not include contract employees who will be affected due to contract terminations and reductions.);
  • Reduction or delay in contracts for programs in the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) totaling almost $50 million; and
  • Savings in the Female Offender Programs and Services (FOPS), including delays in contracts and an associated reduction in staffing, totaling over $90 million.
CDCR is developing a streamlined rehabilitation model that targets limited resources on programs most effective in reducing recidivism, uses evidence-based principles in inmate assessment and program delivery, captures the skills of inmates and community volunteers to augment the capacity of rehabilitation programs, and attempts to minimize layoffs to the extent possible by reducing vacancies first.

The new model will (1) Promote General Education Development (GED) preparation of inmates and maximize the number of inmates anticipated to attain a GED; (2) Increase access to literacy programs so that inmates leave prison able to function on a job and in society; (3) Utilize trained long-term offenders as literacy tutors and as Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors; and (4) Increase space and nominal funding to support programs provided by community volunteers, including Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, victims’ awareness groups and other programs.

In-prison substance abuse treatment will be streamlined to provide three months (compared the current six-36 months) of treatment with an emphasis on aftercare in the community. The return to prison rate after two years for offenders who complete both in-prison and community-based substance abuse programs is 35 percent compared to 54 percent for all offenders.

CDCR is also in the process of developing non-traditional methods of delivering education that rely on the best practices in adult education which use a combination of classroom instruction and independent study. Additionally, we will be using more civil service Teaching Assistants and training long-term offenders with a GED or above to provide one-on-one literacy tutoring.

Over the next few months, CDCR will be working with affected labor organizations to implement these changes. Final decisions regarding new program models will be pending those negotiations.

New Adult Rehabilitation Model
Fact Sheet

Videotape Release: Actor Martin Sheen, Honorary Chair of Options Recovery Services, Visits Inmate Peer Alcohol and Drug Counselor Program at California State Prison, Solano

To read this article Click Here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corrections Standards Authority Funds Local Anger Management, Youth Violence Prevention Training

26 Counties to Receive $1.1 Million in Technical Assistance Grants

SACRAMENTO – The Corrections Standards Authority (CSA) today launched California’s Anger Management and Youth Violence Prevention Training and Technical Assistance Project that will provide $1.1 million in federal Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG) funding to 26 county probation departments for new or enhanced management and violence prevention training programs. The project will target youths statewide in juvenile halls, camps, ranches and on probation.

The JABG funds utilized for this project were set aside for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Reduction Intervention and Prevention (CalGRIP) initiative aimed at combating gang and youth violence. The Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy, which coordinates statewide gang and youth violence efforts, recommended that the JABG funds be used to implement an evidenced-based model of training in anger management and violence prevention for juvenile offenders.

“I am pleased to announce these grants to help counties reduce youth violence,” said Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and CSA Chairman. “We look forward to continue working with our local law enforcement partners to curb youth violence before it starts.”

The intent of the project is to provide probation departments with a sustainable anger management and youth violence prevention training so staff can deliver effective evidenced-based programming to youth. The funds will be used by probation departments to contract for services with qualified anger management and youth violence prevention training vendors.

The Corrections Standards Authority through the Corrections Planning and Programs Division (CPPD) develops, administers and evaluates programs designed to improve the effectiveness of state and local correctional systems and enhance public safety. In carrying out its responsibilities, the CPPD works closely with federal, state and local government agencies, as well as the private sector and nonprofit service providers, to foster collaborative approaches for addressing crime and delinquency. The CPPD provides extensive technical assistance and training to state and local agencies as well as grantees.

Click here for a list of Counties receiving grants

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Parole Denied for Inmate Susan Atkins

CHOWCHILLA - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) today denied parole for convicted mass murderer Susan Atkins during a hearing at Central California Women's Facility (CCWF).

Atkins, 61, appeared before the panel and will be eligible for another parole consideration hearing in 2012 (3 year denial). The BPH decision marks the 13th time that Atkins has been denied parole since 1976.

Atkins has been serving life in prison for her involvement in the 1969 murders of Gary Hinman, Abigail Ann Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Earl Parent, Sharon Tate Polanski who was eight months pregnant, Thomas Jay Sebring, Leno La Bianca and Rosemary La Bianca.

On July 15, 2008, the BPH denied a recommendation for recall of commitment (compassionate release) for Atkins.

Atkins was initially sentenced to death. That sentence, as well as those of 107 other inmates, was modified to life in prison with the possibility of parole after a 1972 ruling by the California Supreme Court that determined the state's death penalty statute at the time was unconstitutional.